Taking Down a Recessed Fixture

Ceiling recessed lighting is a sleek and unobtrusive way to illuminate a room. However, if an alternative lighting scheme is desired, it may be necessary to remove the recessed lights. Moreover, many homeowners opt to do without recessed lighting altogether because certain models are such inefficient energy wasters.

DIYers typically remove recessed lighting by removing the housing, replacing it with a remodel (or old-work) box, cutting the wires inside the box, and finally covering the box with a blank ceiling box cover. This method is widely used because it is convenient, quick, and produces minimal debris. However, the ceiling plates that are left behind can be painted to blend in.

All but one of the holes in the wall where the recessed lights are installed can be covered up with drywall if the lights are wired together. In order to ensure the safety of the entire series, only the first remodel box is installed. This allows the circuit to stay active in case it is used to power other components.

It is unsafe to leave live electrical wires that have been terminated within walls or ceilings. All wires must be securely capped inside of a rated electrical junction box.  

The enclosure must be removed from any walls or ceilings. When installed, the box's bottom must sit flat against the wall or ceiling. You can't put drywall or any other finish on the box's cover plate. There needs to be clear and easy access to the plate.

Dead wires can be left in the ceiling or wall, but it's best practice to remove them entirely if at all possible. This prevents the wire from being accidentally energized in the future.

  • Update the electrical junction box in the ceiling.
  • Round, blank, non-metallic ceiling box cover
  • Wire nuts
  • Adhesive tape used in electrical wiring
  • Painting the ceiling
  1. At the main electrical panel, disconnect the circuit for the recessed lighting. Taping the breaker switch with painter's tape will keep it from being turned on by accident.

  2. Take out the light bulb from the ceiling fixture by rotating it counterclockwise.  

  3. Set up a stepladder below the ceiling fixture. Take off the lighting garnish Most recessed light trims can be removed with a putty knife and a little prying. The clips can be released by giving them a straight down pull with your hand.

  4. Both new-construction and remodeling projects will use recessed lighting.

    A recessed light installed during a renovation is secured to the ceiling drywall and can be removed without climbing into the attic. A recessed light in a new building is installed between two joists inaccessible from the floor.

    There are a few different kinds of remodel lights, but most of them use a clip system that exerts pressure from above with the help of a spring. These clips can be loosened by prying at the metal tabs inside the lamp.

    After the ornamental trim has been removed from a remodel light, the bottom of the fixture will reveal a lip. The light fixture housing is secured to the ceiling by pressing on its lip and the upper clips (with the ceiling drywall in the middle). A recessed light installed in a new building will not have this lip.

  5. Test the wires using the non-contact voltage detector while the light is dangling from the ceiling opening. You can either unscrew a door or flip open a spring clip to access the light's tiny box.

  6. Turning the wire nuts counter-clockwise will disconnect the wires from the light fixture. To remove the cables, unscrew the retaining ring from the clamp.

    Cutting the wires is often the simplest option if the light won't be used again.

  7. Connect the wire to the outlet in the ceiling's back box. If you have already snipped the wire, you can remove another 3–4 inches of sheathing with a cable ripper. Remove the wrapping and wrapping paper. Never cut the wires!

  8. Twist a wire nut onto each wire's end (do not use a single wire nut for multiple wires). Tape the wire nuts to prevent them from coming loose

  9. Drop the box from the top of the room Turn the screws on the ceiling box's attachment wings using the cordless drill while firmly holding the box in place with one hand.

  10. Screw the blank plate onto the box using a manual Phillips screwdriver.

  11. Turn on the circuit breaker to see if the circuit works. Leave the circuit on if it is being used to power anything else. If not, turn off the breaker; there's no point in leaving the circuit on.

  12. Most plastic blank plates are white or slightly off-white, making them an acceptable match for a white ceiling. Cover the blank plate with ceiling paint that closely matches the rest of the room.

A recessed light from a recent building project is suspended between two nearby joists. At each of the four joist attachment points, two bar hangers are fastened.

Before the ceiling drywall is put up in a new construction, a light fixture is hung. The recessed light needs to be taken out before a drywall patch can be installed over the ceiling hole. You will need a flashlight, hammer, and screwdriver, as well as access to the attic, to take out the recessed light.

Even if the attic is inaccessible, the light fixture must be relocated. In most cases, gaining access to the light's frame requires cutting a square hole in the drywall. The bulb can now be retrieved from the loft. If not, the light fixture would be too big to fit through the 6- to 8-inch round opening in the ceiling, even if it were detached from the joists.

  1. The breaker must be switched off.

  2. Take out the light fixture's cover and bulb.

  3. Find and mark the joists on either side of the light fixture using a stud finder. Standard joist spacing is 14 1/2 inches from edge to edge.

  4. Make two more parallel lines, this time spacing them 14 and a half inches apart.

  5. Drywall can be cut with a jab saw, jig saw, multitool, or reciprocating saw along drawn lines. Take out the drywall patch

  6. Remove the recessed light bar hangers from the joists by prying out the nails.

  7. Take the lamp housing off and disconnect the wires.

  8. Reduce a sheet of drywall to a 14 1/2-inch square (or any other suitable size).

  9. Plywood strips measuring 3 inches wide by 14 inches long should be added to the hanging seams when patching a large hole in drywall. Half of the strip's width should be exposed from within the ceiling. Screw the strips into the drywall in an upward direction.

  10. Cover the ceiling in tape, mud, sand, and paint.

Get in touch with a licensed electrician if you need help severing wires or turning off power at the main electrical panel.  

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