Recessed Lights DIY

October 27, 2019

I am a Do-It-Yourselfer but honestly there are some projects that are too intimidating to me- tearing down a wall for example, repositioning plumbing. I WOULD have included installing recessed lighting on that list but not anymore. With the drop ceiling that I currently had installed in my basement I didn't have to even screw anything in. It was beyond simple and easy. I will admit it was tedious at times but I didn't struggle with the complexity of the project.

To get an idea of how much I saved doing this myself check out this quote I received below. For supplies and labor I would have been charged $1,550!!!! I did this myself for only $267.77 which included 18 can lights, 250ft of wire and 18 LED flood light bulbs. I really have no idea how this contractor figured he would be needing $950.00 for supplies. Interesting, eh?

Cerrowire 600v, grounded, jacketed wire 250 ft.
6-in White Recessed Lighting Housing and Trim 6-pack

Cable Ripper
Voltage Tester
Coax Cable Stripper

If you have a drop ceiling and electrical work done in the last 25 years installing recessed lights is probably within your reach.

First, remove your current light fixture. BEFORE DOING ANY ELECTRICAL WORK MAKE SURE YOU HAVE TURNED YOUR POWER SOURCE OFF. You can either turn electricity off at the breaker box or at the light switch. I prefer to use the breaker box because then there's NO WAY someone can accidentally turn on a light switch while I'm working. Also using a voltage tester is a smart idea. Just place the tip of the tester to the wire you are testing. If it lights up, it's got power. Don't touch!

If you already have your old lighting removed skip to installation six photos down.

I had florescent lights. If you do too here's what to do. First take off the screen. There should be a lever near the edge of the glass. That should drop the glass down on one side exposing the light bulbs inside.

Remove the lights. To remove florescent light bulbs you just turn them so that the two metal prongs are vertical then pull out.

Remove the cover that houses the electrical wires. Squeeze the center releasing the tabs and remove metal case.

The wires are underneath. Remove the orange or yellow caps and untwist the wires.

If there are screws holding the wires in place, unscrew those and remove them as well. These are the wires you'll be using to connect your new lights.

Push the wire through the opening after you've loosened the clamping screws. Now you can remove the fixture completely by just pushing up on the fixture and tilting to one side and angling out of the drop ceiling framework.

Now onto the recessed lights! If you're installing on existing drop ceiling framework purchase this Recessed Lighting Pack. It includes the right connectors to install on your current drop ceiling frame. See photo below. I had to push mine back a little to make it easier to rest my cans on the metal frame. You can slide the expander bar as wide as you want to accommodate your ceiling.

There's a box on the side of your cans which house all the necessary wires. Remove the two circles on top with a flat head screw driver bending the circles back and forth until they pop off.

Should look like this now.

Open up the metal box by lifting the metal clip on top. The wires you will be connecting are inside.

Measure out how much Cerrowire wire you will need to stretch from one recessed light to another taking into account any obstructions you might need to work around. Cut that wire accordingly. I cut mine longer than I needed. My father (an electrician) said that a lot of times fires start because wiring gets pulled free from its connectors and that can be from wire that's not long enough and stretched too tight. So don't be frugal here. Give yourself some extra breathing room.

Now take your cable ripper. Place it over the ends of your cable with the pointed center dug into wire and the end of your wire touching the top of the ripper.

Pull up on the ripper quickly so that the pointed metal rips the outer covering.

Now use your coax cable stripper and strip the ends of white and black wires by about 5/8".

So now take that wire and insert it into one of the holes in your metal wiring box.

Attach the corresponding colored wires to the corresponding quick connectors in the box. White (neutral) goes with white (hot). Black (hot) goes with black (hot) and Green (ground) goes with Copper (ground). To attach the wires using the quick connect plastic piece just put the end of your exposed wire in the hole next to the first wire and push it the whole way in. You shouldn't have any uninsulated wire exposed. And it should be locked into the quick connect so that you cannot pull it out.

Your connection should look like this.

Repeat with Green/Copper.

Repeat with black.

Now that you have your wires connected it's time to place your light into the recessed ceiling framework. If you're using the same recessed light pack I recommended you should be able to just clip/place the lights on the metal frame. No screwing needed. That way you can move the lights back and forth if you need to adjust.

Now take the wire you freed from Step 1 (the wire that used to go into your florescent lights). It should also have the same black, white, copper wires inside. Strip those ends the way you did with the Cerrowire earlier.

Place it into the second hole in your recessed lighting wiring box.

Attach the corresponding wires with the corresponding quick connect connectors. Insert the wires next to each other. Green/Copper.



Push all those wires into the metal box.

Close the lid so that it snaps shut.

Now take the circle template that came with your lights and trace it onto your ceiling tiles. I had to make mine 3/8" larger to make it easy to fit over my lights but the trim should take care of any small gaps.

Cut out your circle. I was able to just use scissors with my tiles. But if you have thicker tile you can also try a drywall saw.

Place your ceiling tile in the drop ceiling framework so that it fits around your recessed light. You should be able to slide it back and forth or left to right if you need it to better fit in the hole.

The trim can now be installed over the tile. My trim attaches to the lights with these spring hooks. Just take each hook and place it into the keyhole.

Now screw a light bulb in.

Now install your next light the same way you installed your first light. Connect it using the Cerrowire sticking out of the metal box of your first light. I only added 6 lights per circuit. In all, I had 3 circuits available and 18 lights total.

It should look something like this when you're all done.

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