Can Light Installation

DEAR MIKE: I would like to replace a small light fixture in an upstairs hallway with a recessed can light. How do I take care of this? -- Dennis F.

DEAR DENNIS: Recessed lighting is an excellent way to update the look of a room, or in your case, a hallway.

You can buy two types of can lights, one for new construction and one for remodeling. In this case, buy a remodeling can light.

The difference is in how they mount in the ceiling. A new construction can is secured to the ceiling joists while a remodeling can is secured to the ceiling drywall. In most cases, you can install the remodeling can without going into the attic.

You can also buy "IC" or "Non-IC" fixtures. IC means insulation compatible and that insulation can be in direct contact with the can. Since you are installing this can in an upstairs hallway with an insulated attic directly above, I would use an IC-rated fixture.

Recessed can lights come with boxes containing electrical connections. A typical light fixture doesn't have its own box, but rather is secured to a box that is mounted in the ceiling.

Turn off the power to the circuit at the main panel and make sure the power is off. Remove the old fixture. You will be left with the box in the ceiling and the wires that are secured to it.

You will need to remove the box from the ceiling without damaging the wires. The wires will be secured to the box with either a cable connector or by the box itself.

The box will be mounted to a ceiling joist or a cross block. It may be screwed in or nailed in. Remove the screws if it is screwed in.

If the box is nailed in, you will likely need to cut the nails that attach it to the joist. A reciprocating saw works well for this, but be careful not to damage the wires. Slip the blade in between the box and the joist and cut.

It is OK to damage the drywall in close proximity to the box because the trim kit on the recessed can should cover it up. The reciprocating saw cuts quickly and can get out of hand fast. Just watch the wires.

With the box free, unscrew the clamp in the cable connector or pry up the ear that holds the wires to the box.

The remodeling can assembly will be in the shape of an "L." On one leg will be the light can and on the other leg will be the electrical box. This shape makes it easy to make the electrical connec- tions and slide it into the hole.

The can will have a template to help in cutting the hole. You may have a small challenge here. Since the old box was attached to the joist, the clearance for the new recessed can might be tight. You may have to move the can away from the joist slightly to get the can to fit.

The lip of the can and the trim will cover a small gap. Hold the template to the ceiling and mark around it with a pencil. Push the wires out of the way and use a drywall saw to cut on the line.

The box that is attached to the recessed can has a cover on it that snaps off. Inside are the wires that you will need to connect to the wires in the ceiling. Use a cable clamp and secure the cable in it (there won't be lots of wire to work with). The clamp should be secured around the cable's sheathing and not the wires inside of it.

Attach the black hot wires together, the white neutral wires together, and the green or bare wires together. Use wire nuts for a snug connection and snap the box cover back on.

Insert the box end of the fixture into the hole in the ceiling and rotate the can so that the lip of the can rests flush against the ceiling. Use a standard screwdriver and, from inside of the can, push the retaining legs up until they snap into place. The retaining mechanism will place force against the attic side of the drywall and hold the can in place.

Screw in the appropriate size bulb. There is a depth adjustment bracket held in place with a wingnut inside of the can that adjusts how far inside the can the bulb will rest.

When you are satisfied with the depth, remove the bulb, insert the trim kit, and re-install the bulb.

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