How to Replace Square Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting was a popular trend in the 1970’s. Its out-of-the-way design perfectly matched the modern look of homes from that time. However, it has not aged as well as it could and many people are opting to remove recessed lighting.

To replace square recessed lighting, make sure you have turned off all power to the room in question. Then, remove the current metal light fixture. Patch the hole in the ceiling and extend the cables before attaching the new fixture. 

In this article, we will cover all the steps involved in this process. This job can be done in an afternoon by one person and doesn’t require any special tools. With such an easy process, there is no reason not to replace square recessed lighting if you’re not happy with it.

What Types of Houses Have Square Recessed Lighting?

As stated above, recessed lighting was very popular in the 60’s and 70’s in the United States. Many homes were changing over to modern, sleek styles instead of ranch-style. Recessed lighting fit well into this style of home.

Recessed lighting was also a hold-over from the mid-century modern period of architecture in design. This style was defined by its characteristic polished look with very little outcropping. Light fixtures were one of the first things to go.

As time has gone on, recess lighting has fallen out of fashion. It has been replaced by elegant fixtures and tasteful track lighting. This may be why you have chosen to replace the square recessed lighting in your home.

Safety Considerations

When working with household electrical power, it is always a good idea to take safety as seriously as you possibly can. 120 volt alternating current power is incredibly dangerous, so taking a few steps to ensure you stay safe will pay off in the end.

It is a good idea to wear gloves whenever you are working with anything that may have an electrical current. Gloves will insulate you and make sure that your bare skin does not touch any of the wires. They are not foolproof, but they are worth wearing just in case.

When working with electricity, always be sure to turn the power off in the area of the house you are working in. This will give you the relative confidence needed to complete the job correctly. In the first step, we cover exactly how to perform this essential safety check.

Step 1: Turn Off Power to the Room

Before you begin any work on this project, it is imperative that you turn off any power in the room. This is done at the circuit breaker box which is usually located in your garage or basement. This box will be full of a series of switches that will turn power on and off.

To turn off the power to the room you are working in, turn on the recessed light and flip the switches until it turns off. This is the best way to find out which switch controls it if you are not sure. Label the switch for future use.

You could also just turn off power to your entire house if you are not entirely sure and don’t want to risk it. By switching off all the fuses in the breaker box, you can be sure the power is off in the recessed light fixture. Be sure to remember to turn the power back on when the job’s over.

Step 2: Remove the Current Fixture

The can fixtures that sit inside the recessed lighting will have to be removed in order to put new ones in. These can-like liners usually are surrounded by a square piece that fills the recessed part of the ceiling. This will either have to be unscrewed or unglued.

If you have to unglue the can fixture, this can be done with a thin, flat putty knife. Using the sharpest edge of the knife, work it under the lip of the can fixture. Then, wriggle your wrist back and forth to work the fixture away from the wall.

You may also have to remove the light bulb before you get the fixture out. This should be done anyway since you will have to pull the entire light works down.

Step 3: Choose a New Fixture

You will have to decide which kind of lighting you want to put in before you get started. Some types of fixtures will cover the hole of the recessed lighting but others will not. Which type of fixture you get will determine how much work you have to do.

Light fixtures can change everything about a room. The lighting is one of the most important things in interior design and can make a space look bigger or smaller, or warmer or colder. Planning this out thoroughly can make all the difference.

Depending on how confident you are in your construction skills, you may choose to get a new fixture that will cover the hole. Patching the ceiling can be a complicated process best left to a professional if you are not sure you can do it.

Step 4: Install the New Fixture

The installation of the new fixture is going to be a determining factor in whether you need to patch the ceiling. If your new fixture is big enough to cover the hole, you will not need to patch it. You will, however, need to extend the wiring.

If there is enough slack in the wires, you can simply pull them down enough to connect with the new fixture. If not, you will have to do a wire splice. Twist the old cables and the new ones together and insulate them with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing.

Recessed Light Conversion Kits

Because of the ubiquitousness of recessed lighting in the 1970’s, many companies have developed recessed light conversion kits. These are meant to completely cover the recessed lighting hole and allow you to put in the new fixture.

The issue with recessed light conversion kits is that they can be a little more pricey. They are really only meant to convert one recessed lighting fixture at once. If you have a lot of this type of lighting to be changed, you may want to do it yourself.

Related Questions

Can I use LED bulbs in recessed lighting?

If your recessed lighting has a medium thread bulb base, you can put any kind of light bulb you want in there. This is, of course, as long as you have matching wattage and power specifications. Do not put a bulb with mismatched wattage in any lamp base.

How do I remove a ceiling light without screws?

If your ceiling light does not have any visible screws, it may be glued or puttied in or the screws could possibly be hidden. Check around the fixture for signs of any kind of latch or switch. These may be hiding the screws. If you can’t find them, try prying it out gently with a putty knife.

How do you fix a loose hanging light fixture?

If you have a light fixture that is starting to come loose, it is a good time to check all your fixtures. Tighten any screws around the base or look to see if any putty is starting to fail. If it is, you may have to remove the entire thing and reinstall it.

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