How Big and how Bright Should Recessed Lighting be?

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Recessed lighting is a prevalent type of light finish in modern architecture today, rightfully so because these lightings come with many benefits. For one, the lighting does not interrupt the visual space because it is nicely tucked in the ceiling.

It is capable of giving any room that feeling of spacious due to the wall washing effect.

When considering investing in recessed lighting, you often find yourself wondering just how big and how bright these lightings should be?

The ceiling height and room square footage will determine how big and bright a recessed light should be. A 10-foot ceiling would require a four-inch diameter recessed light. A simple formula that entails multiplying the square footage to the candle footage determines the amount of brightness needed in a room.

When you are looking to update the lighting in your space and perhaps get something new like recessed lighting, it is good to do your research on the amount of brightness you want, the amount of energy you want to use, and the size of the recessed lighting you want to use.

How Big Recessed Lights Should Be


Recessed lights come in three primary sizes: six-inch diameter, the most common size, four-inch diameter, and seven-inch diameter.

Before deciding on the correct recessed light diameter for your space, you need to factor in the size of your room.

Or at least the size of the area you want lit. How big is it?

The second thing is to determine the ceiling height or the height from the ceiling to the extent you wish to lite.

If you are working with an eight-foot ceiling, then consider getting a recessed light of seven-inch diameter. This light can be a great addition to brighter those kitchen countertops.

A four-inch diameter recessed light suits a ten-foot ceiling, while a six-inch recessed light diameter would work perfectly in most spaces since it is the average size available.

With the size of light for your space, knowing how to space the recessed light in your ceiling is essential to avoid overlighting or underlighting the room.

How to space recessed lighting

Properly spacing your recessed lights can enhance the home’s interior design and feature architectural design details, along with proving the necessary amount of light needed for different unique spaces in the house.

However, coming up with the correct spacing for your recessed light can be a hassle. That is why the criteria highlighted below can come in handy to take the uncertainty out of the decision.

Every recessed light comes with spacing criteria specified by the manufacturers to help you calculate the correct spacing for your unique ceiling height. 

The spacing criteria is a number you multiply with your ceiling height to help you determine the maximum distance allowed between two recessed lights.

Here is the formula:

Ceiling height * spacing criteria = maximum distance between recessed lights

After determining the space between the light, you can decide on the layout you want, depending on your style. When installing the lights, remember not to hit the ceiling joint.

You cannot install recessed lights on ceiling joints. You can use a stud finder to determine the location of ceiling joints.

How Bright Recessed Lights Should Be

Now that you know the size of the light diameter and how to space them on your ceiling, the next task is to decide the amount of brightness you want.

Choosing the amount of light needed to create a well-lit space can be a challenging and complicated task.

But there is a simple way of doing it using some basic calculations. The first thing you need to know is the lumen output of the light source, which most people call wattage.

Lumen, in simple terms, is just the amount of lights sent out by the light bulb. In other words, it is a simple measurement of how our eyes perceive light wavelength.

Next up, you need to determine your room square footage and the Foot Candle needed. The former is a simple room length by width calculation, while the latter is the light brightness one foot away from its source.

There are plenty of reference charts available with suggested foot candles needed for every space.

Now to determine how bright your space should be, you need to calculate the lumens required. Multiply your room square footage by the room foot-candle required.

Lumens = room square footage * Candle foot

All lighting comes with the number of lumens or watts advertised on their label. You can use any wattage equivalence chart to translate the number of lumens per number of watts for reference.

What to Know Before Buying Recessed Lights

Deciding to go with recessed lighting can be a brilliant investment to make for your home because of the very many benefits that are associated with this type of lighting.

But now, you make that intelligent investment even smarter by assessing these recessed lighting prerequisites.

What Do You Want to Light

The versatility of recessed lights can provide for any unique type of lighting you want to achieve. Whether you want general lighting for your living space or task lighting for your kitchen or reading area, the lights have you covered.

Even when you consider accent lighting to highlight that treasured art piece you own, recessed lights can cater to that need.

One thing to remember is the candle foot and how it will differ from space to space. Candle footage will be different for your hallway, corridors, living area, kitchen, and study room.

Remodel Fixture Versus New Construction Housing

Recessed lights hang from your ceiling by a system of supports. And depending on whether you are remodeling the fixtures into an old building or including them during the construction of a new one, there is a unique system for both.

When you are remodeling recessed lights into the house, they are supported by metal clips passed through the ceiling. For new construction, you can screw or nail the fixture’s frame to the top.

Insulation Compatibility And Airtight Fixtures

Suppose you plan on having your recessed lights installed in an insulated ceiling.

Then it would be best if you considered getting recessed light housing that is IC rated, which means you can install the fixture housing in direct contact with the insulation.

Otherwise, you will need to build a cover to protect your insulation from lighting housing.

Aside from being IC rated, your recessed light housing should also be airtight (AT).  AT rated recessed light housing will prevent your housing heating from escaping.

It is vital for your recessed light housing to meet both these standards or at least one of them. The good news is that most available products for housing recessed lights have at least one of these ratings.


Remember, you will need to bore holes on your joist to easily feed wires from one post to the other through the ceiling, depending on the pattern you want to achieve.

 Recessed light connections are made in junction boxes connected to the fixtures. For type, Romex wiring goes for fixtures with built-in Romex clamps in their junction boxes. 

For any other cable-type wiring, go for fittings that have a corresponding clamp built-in.

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