How to Install Recessed Lights in a 2-Story Home [Image Included]

By William K. Arner •  Updated: 10/05/21 •  8 min read

Installing recessed lights is easy when you have access to the attic. But if you have a two-storied house, you won’t have attic access from the first floor. Even a single storied house can have no attic access. In such cases, installing recessed lights will require much more time and work.

Detailed instructions given below will help you to know how to install recessed lights in a 2-story home. If you have prior experience in electrical work, then the installation will be a lot easier.

How to Install Recessed Lights in a 2-Story Home?

Getting Things Ready

As this is a big project, you will require a plan before starting the project. A well-organized plan will help you to do the project cleanly. Let’s do down the list of what should be included in your plan.

Required Tools

You will need a lot of tools in various steps of this project. The necessary tools are – step ladder, wire, wire caps, pencil, measuring tape, ruler, utility knife, wire strippers, stud finder, wood-boring drill bit, drywall saw, hole saw, hole saw dust bowl and gloves.

Choosing the Lighting Type

Recessed lights have different types. When there is no attic access, widely used types are recessed lights with remodel housing and LED wafer lights. Both types can be installed on your ceiling from the finished side of the room.

Choosing the Lighting Type 2

LED wafer lights have a significant advantage over remodel housings that is wafer lights are very thin. So, when installing LED wafer lights, you don’t have to worry about where the studs are. The studs will be an issue when you are installing can lights.

Required Lights

You will need to determine how many lights you want to install in your room. An easy way is drawing your room in a 3D modelling program on your computer. Else, you can also sketch your room layout on paper.

Required lights

After the drawing is done, you can plan the required lights. One of the popular rules of placing lights is using half the ceiling height as the distance between each light. Maintain a distance from the wall according to the lighting fixture size.

For a bigger room, the rule mentioned above will not work. For example, if the room size is 10×10, the above rule will show you more lights than required. In this case, you have to rely upon the required lumens to find out how many lights you will need.

Marking and Drilling Holes for Lights

Knowing how many lights you need, you can start measuring and laying out the spots for the lights. Those spots will help you to drill holes in the required places later. You have to go through the below procedures before marking and drilling holes.

Avoid The Studs

This precaution is for you if you are going to install can lights that have remodel housing. Avoiding studs is necessary for installing remodel housing. This type of light fixture needs some extra space above the ceiling.

Avoid The Studs

A stud finder will help you to find the outside edge of a stud. Mark the places where the studs are. This will help you to avoid studs when plotting locations for drilling holes.

If you choose LED wafer lights to install, then the studs will not cause any problems. You can easily fit an LED wafer light under a stud.

Make Right Sized Holes

A hole saw will be the best option for drilling holes in this case. But choose the right sized hole saw that matches the size of your recessed lighting fixtures. This will give you a tight fit when installing the lighting fixtures.

Make Right Sized Holes

Start drilling with the lowest speed to avoid kickback. A hole saw has a higher tendency of producing kickback. This can cause an accident if you start your drill at a higher speed. If the hole saw has hooked teeth, run it in reverse. This will prevent grabbing from the hole saw.

You can use a dust bowl while drilling with the hole saw. It will prevent dust from falling to your body and floor and make your work clean.

Finding Power Source for Lights

Now you have entered into the electric portion of the installation of the lighting. First, you will need a power source to make the recessed lights illuminating your room.

Before starting, make sure to turn off the breaker switch related to the room you are working in. Also, wear gloves for extra security. Let’s see how you can find a power source for the lights.

Existing Power Source

Having an existing power source in the ceiling is the easiest option to install a recessed light. You can replace a pendant, chandelier or fluorescent light fixture with your recessed light. This will help you to use already existed wires to feed power to the recessed lights.

Existing Power Source

If there is no existing power source, find a power outlet controlled by a switch. Open the switch to see where the wires for powering the outlet are going. The cables can either be going up and over or down and over.

Switch Controlled Power Outlet

The wires are going up and over means you have wires above your ceiling. You don’t have to run a new wire from the switch. Determine where the cables are above the ceiling space. Tap into those wires for powering the lights.

When the wires are going down, you have to run a new wire from the switch to the ceiling. Kill the hot lead first that is powering something down.

Switch Controlled Power Outlet

While running a new wire, cut an opening into the wall below the ceiling. Also, cut an opening into the ceiling near that opening. These openings will help you to get a clear view of your floor joist. Drill through that joist to run the new wires. You can use a spade bit or flex bit for drilling.

Remember to save the pieces that were made while you were making ceiling openings. Those pieces will help to patch the openings later.

Wiring the Recessed Lights and Finish Installing

After you have found a power source, the next thing you have to do is wiring the lights. There are two different situations in wiring the lights. I am mentioning them below.

Using Existed Wires

You can find existing wires from previous lighting fixtures or a switch controlled power outlet. For such situations, You don’t have to run new wires from the switch.

Using Existed Wires

Use the existing wires or tap into the wires for wiring the lights. Always tap into a wire that is connected to a switch. Otherwise, controlling the lights will not be possible.

Running New Wires

You have to run new wires above the ceiling if you have no existing wires. In this situation, you have to do more work than the previously mentioned situation. You have to make several openings in the ceiling and drill holes into the joists.

You should make ceiling openings next to the joist where the wires will cross over that joist. Otherwise, directly run the wires to the recessed light hole if no solid joists are blocking the way.

Running New Wires

When drilling a hole through a joist, you have to do it carefully without weakening the joists. Follow building code requirements for drilling holes.

Installing the Recessed Lights

All recessed lights have a junction box where the wire connections are secured inside the box. Opening the box, you will find push-in wire connectors. If not, you can find push-in wire connectors in the market.

The push-in connectors make connecting the wires easy. Just strip the wire that you want to connect and match colors while connecting. So, all the hot wires will go to one connector, neutrals will go to another connector and so on.

Installing the Recessed Lights

Don’t punch up the light fixture through the hole yet even after you have connected all the wires. Turn the power on to see if the lights are working. If all lights are working correctly, you can finally punch the fixture up.

Patching Drywall Holes for Final Touch

The final work is to cover the openings you have made into the wall and ceiling. If you didn’t have to make several holes in the ceiling, you don’t have much work left after installing the lights.

Use the pieces you saved earlier to patch the drywall. There are many ways you can patch drywall. You will find a lot of videos on YouTube about this topic. Choose the one that you find the easiest to do.

Conclusion

The recessed lights give an aesthetic look to your room. Considering this, you might want to install recessed lights in your 2-story home. The above guide will help clear your confusion about installing recessed lights in a 2-story home.

Consultation with an electrician is recommended if you are not confident with your electrical work. For any queries, you can reach me through the comments down below.

William K. Arner

William K. Arner is an expert on lighting & indoor gardening. He has 12 years of research experience in lighting products and indoor gardening. William likes to collect different types of lighting & gardening products like grow lights, indoor-outdoor lights or automotive lights, and test them in different ways. He likes to write his experience as tips and reviews about lighting related products so that people can choose the best and perfect one for them.