How to Install Recessed Lighting in Finished Basement


Recessed lighting is an increasingly common lighting option today! These modern lights have a flush appearance with your ceiling or wall. This type of lighting can be customized to suit your needs. If your recessed lighting needs include installing them in a finished basement, we’ll break down everything you need to know about installing them! 

While recessed lighting is often installed during construction, it is possible to install them in finished rooms. To do this, a remodel fixture housing is used, which allows you to convert an existing light fixture into a recessed lighting housing. Apart from the recessed lighting’s housing, the trim, and bulb complete this type of lighting fixture.  

In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown on recessed lighting and the various considerations you need to keep in mind when installing this type of lighting in your home. Then we’ll guide you through the installation process for this modern lighting solution! 

The Low-Down on Recessed Lighting 

Recessed lighting is a term used to refer to lights that have been installed directly within a ceiling, wall, or surface. Recessed lighting is a great lighting option for homes due to the area of light coverage it provides – this is why it is a good choice for basement areas with limited or no access to natural light. 

Unlike some home lighting options, it is possible to space out recessed lights in a ceiling or wall to get the maximum light coverage possible. Due to the nature of these lights, you can space them out uniformly in any area of the house according to your very own specifications. This is a lighting option you can tailor to your home’s needs! 

There are three main components that comprise recessed lighting, and you’ll need to keep all of them in mind when choosing this lighting option for your home. The first component is the housing, which is the bulk of the lighting fixture that is ‘housed’ within the ceiling or wall to give the lighting fixture a recessed appearance. 

This is an important component, as it also ‘houses’, for lack of a better phrase, the fixture’s electrical connections. When it comes down to installing this component, there are two ways you can go about it. The method you decide to go with depends on the relevant surface you want to install the recessed lighting in and the surface’s state of construction. 

The first method to install recessed lighting is done while your home is still under construction. For those working with walls that have not been completed in terms of construction or attics where there is easy access, new construction lights will be used. 

However, if you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume you’re looking to install recessed lighting within a basement where the construction of the walls has already been completed. In order to do this, you will need to make use of remodel fixtures, as these allow for you to install them via the finished side of the wall or a ceiling that is not accessible via the attic. 

While the housing is arguably the most important component in terms of installing recessed lighting, the other components are also necessary! The second major component that comprises recessed lighting is the trim you decide to get, which is a predominantly aesthetic consideration. Here, ‘trim’ refers to the portion of the lighting fixture that is visible on the surface of the wall or ceiling. This is a decorative component and may include features such as shades or reflectors.

In fact, in addition to the wide area of coverage it provides, the trim of recessed lighting is another advantage to this type of lighting. You have a lot of control in terms of the style and functionality of the recessed light when you know about all the various trim options that available. That is why it is important to select the right trim for your specific needs. 

For example, if you want to use recessed lighting in an area with mirrored surfaces, such as a shelf, you’ll want to use a reflector trim, which maximizes the production of light and directs it downwards. However, if you want to use recessed lighting in a living area, you can use baffle trims to provide a softer light. There’s a trim for every need, which means this is an important aspect to consider. 

The third and final component needed for recessed lighting is – you guessed it – the bulb! The bulb is what will ultimately provide the light, of course. While recessed lighting can be used to get maximum light coverage in an area of the house, the type of bulb you decide to get still plays an important role. 

When all three of these major components come together, you have recessed lighting! This type of lighting is not only practical in terms of modern homes, but they’re highly functional too. However, to get the most out of your recessed lighting, you need to ensure you install them correctly! Before we get to that, there’s another important aspect you need to keep in mind! 

The Insulation Consideration 

Now that we’ve outlined the three major components that comprise recessed lighting, there’s another crucial consideration you need to keep in mind when finding the right recessed lighting for your home. This consideration comes down to whether or not your home is insulated and whether you plan on insulating it in the future. 

Like with installing recessed lighting post-construction, homes can also be insulated after the fact with certain methods. When homes are insulated during construction, fiberglass is typically used. When finished walls need to be insulated, cellulose insulation is blown in through carefully cut holes in the wall. 

Regardless of which method you use to insulate your home, if your home is insulated or will be insulated in the future, you need to use a recessed light that is IC rated. The IC rating of a lighting fixture refers to an Insulation Cover rating, which advises you on the suitability of this type of lighting fixture in a wall or ceiling that is insulated. 

This is an important safety consideration to make! While not all homes are insulated, there are many benefits to insulating your home. From maintaining optimal indoor temperatures in your home to saving on your energy bill and reducing your carbon footprint, the advantages of insulation go on. 

If your home is already insulated (or you plan on insulating it in the future due to the great benefits), you will need to ensure that you install IC-rated recessed lights. These can be found online; however, you’ll also be able to enquire about this type of recessed light at your local lighting and/or hardware store. 

Installing Recessed Lighting in a Finished Basement 

So far in this article, we’ve covered the basic components that comprise recessed lighting and how these can be customized to suit your needs – from how the trim affects the lighting to installing them in unfinished or completed walls. 

Now it’s time to look at how to install recessed lighting in your finished basement! We’re going to work backward here, starting with the bulb and ending with the installation process for the remodel recessed lighting fixtures. Let’s get started! 

The Different Bulb Options for Your Basement’s Recessed Lighting  

We’re looking at bulbs first because, regardless of the fact that it plays a crucial role in lighting your basement, it’s the easiest one to choose! The trim you settle on will alter the effect of the light provided by the bulb you decide to get, as discussed earlier. Luckily for you, we’ve outlined the different types of recessed lighting bulbs for your consideration!  

Incandescent Bulbs 

In terms of lighting technology, incandescent lighting is considered the oldest technology we still use today. These lightbulbs function with a filament. However, this type of lighting is known to get hot while generating light. In fact, only 10% of the energy incandescent bulbs consume actually converted to light. The rest? You guessed it: heat! While it could work, it may not be the best option for your home. 

Halogen Bulbs 

Halogen bulbs are rather similar to incandescent bulbs as they both function with a filament. However, the filament in this type of lighting is encased in a capsule that contains what is known as halogen gas. While these lights last longer than their incandescent counterpart and burn slightly brighter, they get even hotter! Again: they could work, but there might be a better option. 

Compact Fluorescent Lamps 

CFL lights (or Compact Fluorescent Lamps) utilize a twisted tube that is filled with gas. As electricity reacts with the gas in the chamber, the tube begins emitting light. However, due to the twisted tube shaping of these bulbs, they might not be the perfect choice for your recessed lighting. Ultimately, it depends on the trim you decide on! However, there’s one more type of recessed lighting bulb for your consideration…  

LED Bulbs (Light Emitting Diode)

In terms of lighting technology, LED is the newest type of bulb featured on this list. LED lights are becoming increasingly popular due to the many benefits they provide users. Not only are these bulbs an energy-efficient lighting option, but they’re also a long-lasting bulb – all in a compact bulb! LED lights could be the perfect solution for your basement’s recessed lighting! 

The Best Trims for Your Basement’s Recessed Lighting 

The trim of recessed lighting plays an important role in creating the atmosphere you’re looking for in certain areas in your home. When it comes down to the best trims for your basement, it really depends on how you plan to use your basement space! 

Not only does your trim conceal the recessed fixture that is behind it, but it also directs your light the way you want to use it. Even the color of your trim plays an important role. The darker your trim, the more you will diminish the brightness of your light. In a naturally dark area like a basement, you’ll want to use a trim with a lighter color – such as clear, white, or chrome. 

We looked at briefly earlier in this article. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most popular trims and the advantages of each. That way, you can make an informed decision when settling on the right trim for your finished basement’s recessed lighting.

Type of Trim Functionality
Baffle TrimThis is one of the most popular trim options in homes due to the minimal glare it provides by absorbing light. The interior surface of the trim is ribbed to do this. 
Reflector Trim The interior surface on reflector trims is smooth, which helps refocus existing light and improve the efficiency of your lighting. 
Open TrimThis type of trim is known for its low-profile design. This trim will fit perfectly around your light, giving a truly recessed appearance to your lighting. 
Eyeball TrimThis unique trim gives your recessed lighting some new functionality. With the ability to alter the light’s direction, you have more options with lighting spaces like your basement. 

Installing Recessed Lighting in a Finished Basement with Remodel Fixtures

The first step to installing recessed lighting in your finished basement is selecting the housing for your lights, in addition to the trim and bulbs. When you’re installing recessed lighting in a finished basement or upgrading the fixtures in the basement to this modern type of lighting, you’ll need to use remodel housing. Luckily, there are plenty of options

Once you’ve got your housing, trim, and bulb sorted out according to your lighting needs, you’re almost ready to begin. You will need to repeat this process to update different lighting fixtures to recessed lighting. To do this, you’ll need a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, a voltage tester, drywall saw, and a drill with a hole-saw bit. 

Step #1: Remove the Old Fixture 

When working on your basement lighting, you should switch off power to that area in your house. Once you’ve done this, you can safely remove the relevant lighting fixture. Once you have done this, you will need to remove the junction box, which is above it, in the ceiling. While doing this, you must be sure you don’t damage any wires – you’ll need these later. You might need to use the saw to separate the junction box from the joist it is attached to. 

Step #2: Cut a Measured Hole 

Your new lighting equipment that’s ready to be installed will come with a circular template. This template is for you to trace onto your ceiling and is typically between 4 and 6 inches in diameter. Once you’ve traced this onto the ceiling, you can use the saw or drill to cut along this circle. The trim will cover this edge later. 

Step #3: Complete the Wiring 

Those wires we mentioned earlier? You’ll need to connect them to the junction box on the light by clamping the wires to the box. You may need to strip insulation from some of the wires in order to wire them together. The guide to the wire’s color-coding will be included. To test your wiring, turn the power in this area back on and use a voltage tester to ensure the fixture works as it should. 

Step #4: Secure the Housing 

Before you do the last steps, you should turn the power to the basement off again at the breaker switch. When inserting the housing into the hole you’ve cut, you’re going to need to use a screwdriver to secure it. There are clips along the edge of the fixture’s housing. Using your screwdriver, you can push these clips outward so that it secures the housing within your home’s ceiling. 

Step #5: Trim and Bulb, Time! 

Depending on the trim you buy, there might be specific instructions regarding attaching it to the housing. Generally, this is very simple due to the template you used to cut the right size hole for the fixture and trim. Once you’ve secured the trim, it’s time to screw that bulb in! 

You might need to repeat this process a few times, depending on how many fixtures in your basement you plan to convert. Once you’re done, and you switch the power back on, you’ll have a perfectly lit basement. 

Final Thoughts

In this article, we looked at installing recessed lights in a finished basement. The sheer customizability of recessed lights makes them a great addition to virtually any room in your house, including your basement. Luckily, you can add recessed lights to your home long after the construction has been completed using a remodel lighting fixture, which is simple to install.

Recent Posts