Light Up Your Room: DIY Guide to Wiring Pot Lights in Existing Ceiling

Installing recessed pot lights, also known as can lights, is an easy way to dramatically enhance room lighting and create a modern, stylish look. With some basic DIY skills and the right tools, you can add these lights without major ceiling demolition.

This guide will walk you through the key steps for safely wiring new pot lights in an existing drywall ceiling while minimizing tear-out and patching. We’ll also cover lighting layout planning, fishing cables, connecting fixtures, troubleshooting tips, and more. Let’s get started transforming your space!

Veiligheid eerst

When dealing with electrical wiring, safety should always be the top priority. Be sure to:

  • Turn off power at the breaker before starting.
  • Test wires with a non-contact voltage tester to confirm.
  • Use a stepladder for ceiling access.
  • Wear safety goggles when cutting.

Hulpmiddelen die u nodig heeft

  • Draadstrippers
  • Fish tape
  • Spanningstester
  • Hacksaw blade
  • Hammer
  • Stud finder
  • Gipsplaten zaag
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Drill/driver

Planning the Layout

Carefully mapping out pot light placements is crucial for getting the desired lighting effect. As a rule of thumb, divide the ceiling height by two to determine ideal spacing between lights. For example, a 10 ft. ceiling would need lights 5 ft. apart. Also consider:

  • Task lighting over work areas
  • Accent lighting to highlight artwork
  • Ambient lighting for general illumination

Use grid paper to sketch a lighting plan, marking exact fixture locations based on room measurements. Having a well-thought-out map will make installation much easier.

Item Spacing Rule
General illumination pot lights Ceiling height / 2
Undercabinet task lighting (LED strip) Every 2-3 feet
Accent lighting (wall sconces) Flanking artwork or architectural details

Cutting Ceiling Slots

Pot lights require housing cans recessed into the ceiling. But instead of tearing up drywall to insert new-construction housings, we’ll cut narrow slots for old-work (remodel) housings.

  1. Turn off power at the breaker.
  2. Confirm wires are de-energized with a voltage tester.
  3. Measure and mark slot locations based on your lighting plan.
  4. Set depth guide on drywall saw to avoid cutting joists.
  5. Carefully cut slots using a drywall saw.
  6. Insert remodel housing into slots.

Pro Tip: Cut slots along joists rather than across them whenever possible. This provides more stability for the pot light housing.

Cutting a ceiling slot

Use a drywall saw to carefully cut a slot for recessed light housing.

Wiring and Connecting Fixtures

Low-voltage pot lights involve slightly different wiring than typical 120V ceiling fixtures. Here are the key steps:

  1. Run 14/2 or 12/2 NM cable from the breaker to switch.
  2. Use fish tape to pull cable through joist bays to each housing.
  3. Connect black (hot), white (neutral), and ground wires using push-in connectors.
  4. Install LED trim kits.
  5. Attach trim to housing and enjoy the light!

Be sure to connect black-to-black, white-to-white, and all ground wires. Consult a local electrician if you are unsure of any wiring steps.

Wiring recessed light housing

Connect wires from cable to push-in connectors inside housing.

Choosing Pot Light Trims

The trim finish and lamp type determine the lighting effect. Consider:

  • Open trims – General wide-beam illumination
  • Baffle trims – Reduced glare
  • Wall wash trims – Up/downlighting for vertical surfaces
  • Adjustable eyeballs – Directable accent lighting
  • LED lamps – Energy efficiency and long life

Combine different trims across fixtures for both task and accent lighting. A lighting designer can provide guidance on trim selection.


  • Turn off power at the breaker before wiring.
  • Only connect wires when power is OFF and confirmed with a voltage tester.
  • Do not install non-IC-rated housings touching insulation.
  • Ensure all wire connections are secure inside housing box.
  • Handle energized wires carefully to avoid shocks.
  • Check local building codes for any regulations.

Improper electrical work can create fire hazards. Consult a qualified electrician if you have any doubts.

Testing wires with voltage tester

Always confirm wires are de-energized before handling!

Tips voor het oplossen van problemen

If your newly installed pot lights fail to turn on, try these troubleshooting checks:

  • Verify the circuit breaker is switched ON.
  • Check all wire connections are secure inside housings.
  • Test wires for voltage to confirm power is present.
  • Inspect push-in connectors for failure or burn marks.
  • Ensure trim contacts are clean and making good contact.
  • Check LED driver and lamps are functioning (replace if needed).

Still not working? You may have a wiring error or faulty component. Have an electrician inspect and test all thuis circuits.

In Summary

Installing recessed pot lighting involves planning, safe electrical procedures, and some drywall modifications. But the payoff is worth it. Just follow the key steps:

  • Map out fixture locations and cuts
  • Carefully cut ceiling slots
  • Fish cables to each housing
  • Connect wires securely
  • Install trims and lamps
  • Troubleshoot any issues

With the right safety gear, tools, and methods, you can create a gorgeous lighting effect that takes your room to the next level. Just exercise caution, follow local building codes, and don’t hesitate to call a professional electrician if needed.

Did you find this DIY recessed lighting guide helpful? Let us know if you have any other questions!