5 Mistakes to Avoid When Installing Recessed Lights in Your Basement

A person screwing in a bulb to a recessed lighting fixture.
  • Intermediate
What You'll Need
Pot lights
What You'll Need
Pot lights

Recessed lights used in a basement, or anywhere in a home, can create a certain mood or a feeling of increased space. If used directionally, they can highlight certain areas or objects in a room and give a very dynamic feel. Installing recessed lights in a room you are building or refinishing is definitely an achievable goal for the do-it-yourself person, but there are certain problems to avoid while undertaking this task. Here are five considerations and mistakes to avoid when installing recessed lights in your basement.

1. Not Checking Insulation Rating

When you are placing recessed lighting into a ceiling in a basement you need to consider where the light fixture is placed and what the light fixture is near. Because the recessed lighting actually penetrates into the ceiling or wall, it will often be placed near insulation. This may or may not be the case with your particular install, but it is most certainly something you need to be sure of beforehand. If your recessed lights will be placed near insulation, you must purchase lights that are IC house rated (rated to be near insulation) to avoid the risk of fire. There are also special covers you can buy for your recessed fixtures that will keep insulation away from the heat.

2. Using Improper Spacing

A common mistake made when installing recessed lights in a basement is not using proper layout and spacing techniques when installing the lights. It is important that you do not place lights too far apart or too close together when creating your design. There are suggestions for how to space certain sized recessed lights for optimal effect. For four-inch lights, it is recommended that you space your light fixtures at about four feet apart. Accordingly, you would place six-inch lights about six feet apart.

3. Installing in Concrete or Plaster Ceilings

Because of the difficulty of installation and the poor effect it seems to have, it is not recommended that you install recessed lighting in a plaster ceiling with intricate molding or in a concrete ceiling. It is suggested that for these types of ceilings you use a chandelier or tabletop lighting.

4. Choosing the Incorrect Bulbs

When installing recessed lights in your home, there are different types of bulbs that will work better for different types of situations. Bulbs are rated in a system that utilizes letters to categorize the type of bulb. For instance, "A" bulbs are incandescent and are best used for general washes of light, whereas type "R" bulbs are reflective and come equipped with a reflector attached to the back of the bulb itself. Make sure the bulb you buy is right for the job you want it to do.

5. Not Knowing Your Codes

When undertaking any electrical do-it-yourself venture, it is important to familiarize yourself with the electrical code compliance required in your area. For your safety and the safety of all who are in your home, it is important to follow these rules. For instance, there will usually be code that determines how close you can run the wiring for your recessed lights to the outside of your wall so that it is protected from screws and nails. It is important to know all of this information before you install your lighting.