You’ll traditionally find recessed lighting in family rooms, kitchens, or living rooms because it’s a general or ambient lighting. The lights get installed in cans, and you set or recess them up into the ceiling, and the lights are all linked together. This allows you to turn on one light switch and operate all of them to light up the entire room. They’re inexpensive, practical, and easy, and this leads many people to wonder what the cost to install recessed lighting is when they do a living room or kitchen remodel. They allow you to evenly light an entire room with a single fixture, and they work well with a broad range of design styles.
It’s common for people to install between four and six recessed lights to fill a room. The average cost to install recessed lighting ranges between $800 and $3000 from start to finish. To install six recessed lights, you’ll spend around $2,160. This includes both the costs of the lights themselves and gimbal trim. If you add a dimmer switch or you want to know the cost to install recessed lighting on a slope, you’ll spend closer towards the $3,000 mark.
Per fixture, you’ll pay between $240 and $480. The national average for the light price is $360 when you choose to have a professional install them. The bulbs you pick out, trim, and the type of housing you have will all influence your cost to install recessed lighting, but it’s always a good idea to get a few quotes before you settle on a company to make sure you’re getting the best price possible.
If you want to know more about the cost to install recessed lighting, this in-depth guide is for you. We’ll go over the cost to install recessed lighting by house style, type of bulb, trim, size, labor, cost to replace them, and more. By the end, you’ll know whether or not this is feasible for your budget.
Recessed lighting creates a modern and chic look that fits into several design aesthetics and decors in both residential and commercial buildings. Library Lights by Melinda Young Stuart / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
How Type of Housing Influences the Cost to Install Recessed Lighting
It’s important to note that not all recessed lights are the same. Whether or not your home is a remodel or new construction, the ceiling’s architecture, and what is above the ceiling all factor in. The bulbs sit inside a housing better known as a can, and the housing can differ. How much insulation you have in your ceiling and how much space you have in the ceiling also come into play.
If you choose airtight recessed lighting, it creates an airtight seal around the can. This stops air from flowing from one floor to the other. This can help with energy efficiency, and it’s popular if you have different zones between the floors. But, you don’t want this type of lighting if you use a pellet stove or wood stove to heat your home because you need airflow. The light can cost ranges between $12 and $60 per can.
Your cost to install recessed lighting will depend on whether or not you pick IC-Rated or Non-IC Rated lights. A light with an IC-Rating allows you to install it in a ceiling and touch the insulation. The cans can get hot, and some types of insulation will warp, metl, and emit VOCs while others are prone to catching fire. If you plan on adding insulation to your ceiling or you have insulation in your ceiling, make sure you choose an IC-Rated light. Per can, you’ll spend between $12 and $80.
If you’re building a new extension and you’re wondering about the cost to install recessed lighting, there are a few things you should know. You can change the framing when you choose the lights and there isn’t any insulation installed yet, so you have more flexibility. Since you can plan for the entire installation, you won’t find many options in new construction cans. Instead, you can plan out the frame, lights, space, where to put the insulation, and whether it’s airtight or not. Lights will range between $10 adn $60.
Not every ceiling has insulation in it, and some ceilings have insulation that doesn’t fill the cavity. If your insulation stays at least three inches away from the can, you can install non-IC Rated lights. They can cause any insulation they come into contact with to melt, smoke, and emit VOCs. These cans range between $15 to $90 each, and you should only pick them if you have no plans to insulate your ceiling in the future.
When you’re trying to figure out the cost to install recessed lighting into your existing ceiling, they have to be specifically made for remodels. You can get them designed for areas that are against insulation, sloped, or where there isn’t any insulation, or they are shallow. You do want to talk to a professional before you order your light cans because they can give you advice on which is the best pick for your project. The costs run between $10 and $80 per can.
You can frame your ceiling to several depths, and older homes may have no more than two inches between joists. This leaves no room for insulation, and they don’t have the space for standard recessed lighting because they need five or six inches at a minimum. Instead, you’ll need a shallow can. This can lower your cost to install recessed lighting if it’s the case because these cans cost between $15 and $50 each.
Vaulted ceilings have a very dramatic construction with slopes that taper to a peak, and it’s possible to install your lights on these slopes instead of having a single hanging fixture in the center. A standard can for your lighting won’t work here because they can’t conform to your ceiling’s slope. Instead, you’ll have to get a sloped can. They install at an angle that matches the ceiling, but they’ll drive up your cost to install recessed lighting because they range between $30 and $120 per can.
Trim Type and Recessed Lighting Cost
White trim is very popular because it blends seamlessly into the ceiling, but you can find trim that helps them stand out without blowing your cost to install recessed lighting budget. May 14, 2014 by osseous / CC BY 2.0
White trim that blends into your ceiling is popular when you’re figuring out the cost to install recessed lighting, but there are a huge range of trim types available. They all have different price points too, and using a trim with different colors can draw attention to your lights. They can also impact the light’s output. For example, dark matte can absorb the light while polished chrome amplifies it.
This is the most common ribbed interior light, and it’ll allow you to cast a full, wide light beam around your room. They come in a huge range of finishes, and you can make them stand out or blend in beautifully. Your lights shouldn’t be changeable or positionable with baffle trim, and it adds a subtle texture. It creates a soft and quiet appearance, it this trim costs between $10 and $40 each.
Decorative trim ranges from very elaborate to very simple, and the style and manufacturer will play into the final look. You’ll find ones that look like decorative moldings you usually find on coffered or tray ceilings, or they can look like elaborate plasterwork. It works well with historic homes to help draw attention to your lighting. Since there are so many options available, the cost to install recessed lighting with decorative trim varies. It’ll range between $20 and $200.
If you want to create a spotlight, use eyeball trim. This trim can move around, and it’s nice in galleries or in areas of your home where the focus can change like in the family room. The trim will rotate right with your light, and you can easily cover parts of it to create spotlights. This is one of the most versatile options available, so this can drive your cost to install recessed lighting up. On average, you’ll pay between $10 and $100 each.
Gimbal trim works just like eyeball trim. You can position the bulb any way you like, and you can aim in anywhere. The collar of the trim can block some of the light to create a wall wash. Gimbal trim comes with a flat bulb casing instead of the round casing you get with eyeball trim. In turn, the gimbal is a more contemporary option that costs between $20 and $60 each.
The collar on this trim will go all around your light’s edge, and the light gets a glass lens covering. The lens is waterproof, and it comes clear, frosted, or textured. You can seal it to make it airtight or leave it open, and it makes your light look more diffuse. If you want to soften areas like in your kid’s bedroom instead of light the area below, this is a good pick. The cost to install recessed lighting in this style will range from $15 to $150, depending on the lens style and finish.
Open trim allows the collar to sit flush to the ceiling’s top. The collar will extend out to the ceiling instead of over it, and this means the light hole has to be bigger. The light and trim have to have a perfect fit to avoid gaps, but there’s a 0% chance that it’ll produce shadow cast on the ceiling outside of the light’s collar. The price range is between $10 and $60 each.
If you love your existing room setup and you don’t plan to change it, this trim style could be very useful. It allows you to create a spotlight on a single area. It narrows down the beam of light that comes from your fixture, and it forms a spotlight directly below the light. Pinhole trim ranges between $10 and $50 each.
You get a very subtle collar with this trim that sits on top of the ceiling. It has a very polished interior that is reflective and not ribbed. It’s not positionable, so this means that the lights cast a wide pool around your whole room. It’s nice for something eye-catching but not overly decorative, and it costs between $10 and $80 each.
Shower trim for your lighting is a modern bathroom idea that is water-resistant. It has a broad range of lens styles, and they all use tempered glass to make them safer. You can get clear, frosted, or textured designs, and they cost between $15 and $150 each.
Shower lights are excellent additions to your decor, and it’s one that many don’t think about when they do remodels. They allow you to light up every space in your room.
Better known as scoop or elbow trim, surface adjustable trims can change your light’s direction. The trim will pull down from the collar, and it can extend out to a 70-degree tilt. It also rotates 350-degrees, and it’s popular for illuminating specific areas in your home or for spotlights. They can lower your cost to install recessed lighting because they only cost between $20 and $60 each.
This type of trim will cover 50% of your light, and you can direct the light that is left to one particular spot like a painting. You can get fixed or gimbal wall washer trims. They’re a nice choice if you don’t plan on moving it around or you want to highlight a specific area of your home. They cost between $20 and $60 each.
Bulb Type and Recessed Lighting Cost
Although the bulb type will impact your cost to install recessed lighting, almost all lights will take a broad bulb range. CFL and LED lights are the two most popular types available today because they last the longest and have the most options available.
Short for Compact Fluorescent Lights, they resemble fluorescent light bulbs and have mercury in them. They are slightly smaller, but they allow you to maximize your brightness output. This is a very energy-efficient choice that lasts a long time. You do have to recycle them correctly because they contain mercury, and a pack of six lights will cost between $22 and $50.
These lights utilize compressed mercury vapors to produce the light, and the lights can range in color and brightness. Some lights will only use fluorescent bulbs, and they’re very long-lasting. They can give you a nice output for years after you install them, and this can help to control your cost to install recessed lighting. You can’t throw them in the trash due to the mercury content, but they cost between $15 and $35 for a six pack of bulbs.
This is a subtype of incandescent lights, and they use a filament with halogen gas to produce light. The gas allows the lights to burn longer and brighter, and this makes them a great choice if you need very bright lighting. You also have to recycle them due to the halogen content, but a pack of six will cost between $20 and $60.
These types of lights are less common, and many areas don’t allow stores to sell them. Electricity passes through a filament to produce light, but they burn out quickly. You can choose from a range of brightness levels and colors. Despite this, they won’t drive up your cost to install recessed lighting by much because a pack of six will cost between $20 and $35.
LED lights allow a current to continuously pass through them to produce a glow, and they’re extremely popular due to their energy-efficiency. The light bulb comes with different colors coating them to produce cool or warm lighting. They can last for years, and they can produce daylight-colored light that is great in dark spaces. You’ll pay between $20 and $35 for a six-pack of bulbs.
There are several bulbs that fall into the low-voltage category. Generally speaking, these bulbs use less electricity or wattage to produce a lot of light. LED bulbs are the most popular, but you can find CFL’s that also fit. You have to double-check and make sure the bulbs are labeled low-voltage if your cans require it. This can drive your cost to install recessed lighting up because a six pack can cost between $25 and $50.
The cost to install recessed lighting will heavily depend on the labor portion of the project. If you plan to DIY it, you can really cut your final costs. However, this can be dangerous if you’re not sure what you’re doing. The costs will fluctuate, depending on what is above your ceiling and the ceiling’s depth. The cost to install recessed lighting below an attic or during new construction can be less expensive at around $100 per light than if you want to install them on sloped ceilings or between floors at $200 a light.
Your electrician will inspect your wiring and ceiling before they start the installation process, and they’ll give you recommendations on the type of can you need. They’ll draw up a plan with a template to show where they’ll position your lights in the room, and they’ll outline where the switches have to go.
Next, the electrician will drill holes into the ceiling for the lights. They run wires from the circuit box to the ceiling to the lights. They hook the lights together so that the wires run from one to the other, and they push or drop the cans in. They add the trim or collar to the exterior before connecting the wires.
On average, your electrician will charge between $40 and $100 an hour to complete this project, so you can see how this can make your cost to install recessed lighting go up. It takes between 1 hour and 1 ½ hours per can to install them.
For a remodel, you’ll pay around $150 per can to install them, and new construction halves this price to $75 per can. So, if you’re remodeling, the cost to install recessed lighting is around $225, plus the trim and the can. If you want gimbal trim that is $50 each, this brings your total up to $1,650 to install six cans. New construction puts your labor costs around $150 per can, plus the lights and the trim to make your grand total for six cans around $1,2000.
Cost to Replace Old Bulbs
On the other side of the cost to install recessed lighting, you have to consider the cost to replace them. This cost will fluctuate depending on how accessible the lights are. If you’re going to use the same size lights that are easily accessible, you’ll pay around what you pay to install them in a remodel. Per can, this works out to around $225 plus your labor costs, trim, and the light. Removing the old lights and swapping them out won’t take more than a few minutes per can, unless the old lights are challenging to remove. If they are, this can add to your cost to install recessed lights by $25 to $50 per can.
Additional Features to Improve Your Lighting
There are several nice features you can opt into to make it easier and more convenient to use your lighting, but they can increase your initial cost to install recessed lighting. Since these are optional, you want to carefully weigh your options if you’re on a strict budget.
- Dimmer Switch – Recessed lights are ambient lights. However, it’s possible to install a dimmer switch with them. Almost all recessed-style lights will work with this switch, and it’ll cost you around $50 to install a three-way light switch.
- Wireless Controls – You can control some recessed lighting using a remote, your phone, or through voice. This capability will boost your cost to install recessed lighting by around $100 a light, but the installation costs are the same. You should still wire them to the wall to give yourself a backup if something happens or you have a guest who doesn’t have access to the controls.
- Wall Panel – If you don’t have a wall panel in your room, adding one will help you control your lights better. They come in several sizes, and many of them include standard and dimmer switches. You can upgrade any existing panels you have, and adding it is between $50 and $100. The cost will depend on how many switches you want wired.
Where You Can Find a Professional to Install Recessed Lighting
Using a professional to install your lighting is much safer than trying to do it yourself because they’re prepared for anything that may come up, and this can help control your cost to install recessed lighting. Jordan in training by Beam Media / CC BY-NC 2.0
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is recessed lighting?
Recessed lighting are fixtures that sit flush to their surface or mount directly into the ceiling. They light up the area right below them without spreading. They work best in minimalist designs or rooms with low ceilings. You should arrange them four to six feet apart, and you can create mood lighting by installing a dimmer switch.
2. Does recessed lighting add value to your house?
Generally speaking, the cost to install recessed lighting is worth it because it will add value to your home if it’s well done. It can help make it more functional. However, this type of lighting usually doesn’t work well for historical architectures.
3. Are can lights and recessed lights the same thing?
There is no difference between the two because they’re just different names for the same type of lighting style. You could also hear people calling them pot lights or high hats. The different names can be location-specific, but any electrician will know what you’re talking about with both can and recessed lighting.
4. Where do recessed lights work best?
You can technically install recessed lighting anywhere, but your location will help dictate the overall cost to install recessed lighting. They work best in the living room and kitchen. You want to install them between 12 and 18 inches from your wall, and they should be between four and six feet apart.
5. Can you install recessed lighting without a professional?
Yes, you can install it by yourself to help cut the cost to install recessed lighting. You do have to have the correct materials and tools on-hand. You’ll have to follow any and all building codes, and you’ll want to use proven installation techniques. If you don’t, your new lights could be a fire hazard, and inspectors could impose penalties on you if they see them.
Figuring out the cost to install recessed lighting means taking several factors into consideration during your budgeting process. We’ve outlined the biggest things you want to keep in mind when you’re figuring out your cost to install recessed lighting, and you can apply it directly to your situation to get an accurate estimate.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.