Can You Install Recessed Lighting Without Housing?

Recessed lighting adds a perfect decorative element to the appeal of your home. They are as practical as they are beautiful but installing the large housing structure above the ceiling comes with reservations. So, can recessed lights be installed without the need for this complication? We've done the work to bring you the answer. 

Yes, you can install recessed lighting without housing. You can get this done by a certified electrician or choose to do it yourself. Before you jump into the DIY project, make sure you have basic wiring knowledge and tools at hand. A recessed light installation without housing includes the following steps:

  • Drilling a hole for the light 
  • Wiring the light junction box to the main power supply 
  • Attaching the light with the help of tabs

Of course, there is more to cover for a process that requires working with wires. If you want to do it yourself, you need to familiarize yourself with what you will commit to installing. For an in-depth look at the steps and honest advice regarding housing with a light, keep reading ahead. 

Recessed halogen lamp and reflection in the washbasin mirror, Can You Install Recessed Lighting Without Housing?

What Is Housing In A Recessed Light?

Recessed lights are present in hollow cavities right in the ceiling. As the lights direct downwards, there is a need for a supporting fixture in the background. Modern recessed lights come in a one-piece structure, using small tabs for support.

However, traditional designs are a two-piece assembly, one of which is the housing. The housing sits above the ceiling and holds each part of the fixture in place. It connects with the power supply and works for many different ceiling types due to its various designs. 

Why Prefer A Recessed Light Without Housing?

Ceiling with recessed light bulbs, How To Change Recessed Lighting Bulbs [Step By Step]

There is no denying that a housing structure is the best anchor you could give to a recessed light on the ceiling. However, we often see consumers looking for a model without it due to its potential disadvantages:

  • Housing structures call for the need for large holes in the ceiling. Thus, there is a greater possibility for air leaks through the wallboard. Air leaks not only cause temperature variations but also affect utility bills. 
  • The installation process becomes increasingly complicated with a large number of lights. 
  • It's tough to install a housing structure in houses without an attic. 
  • A recessed light without the housing costs comparatively less.

Can A Handyman Install Recessed Lighting?

Yes, a handyman can install recessed lights. If you know basic wiring systems and electricity protocols, you may perform a DIY installation method. The average cost ranges between $800-$2000, depending upon the model, the number of lights, and their rates. 

How To Install Recessed Lighting Without Housing?

You need basic wiring knowledge to really nail the recessed light installation process. With an attic or a power supply nearby, it is achievable with basic home supplies. If there is a need to pass wires through joists or establish wiring connections from scratch, consider hiring a professional.

Nevertheless, here’s how you can install a simple recessed light with no need for housing and complicated power connections. 

Tools Needed

  • Stud finder
  • Tape measure 
  • Hole saw/drywall saw
  • Pair of wire strippers/pliers
  • Screwdriver 
  • Pencil

Plan The Layout

Draw a scaled-down version of your room and point where you would like to place the lights. For symmetry and an effective wiring system, keep lights at a distance of at least 6 feet. If you have a smaller place to accommodate, let it be half the ceiling height. 

Now grab a pencil and a tape measure, and lay down the exact position for the lights on the ceiling. Once you are through with deciding how you would like it to be, cross-check the following requirements:

  • If you have an insulated ceiling, energy codes demand the fixture to be at a distance of at least 13 mm from combustible materials. 
  • The US Department of Energy also necessitates the need for an IC-rated fixture for insulated ceilings. All other fixtures should be airtight designs.
  • Use a stud finder and locate all framing studs throughout the area. Mark them with a pencil for future references as you do not want your holes to overlap a joist.

Cutting The Hole

Do not expose yourself to any live power during the job. Before beginning, switch off the breaker supplying power to the area where you will work. 

Grab a hole saw to cut the hole for the light in the ceiling. Attach the unit to a hole-saw dust bowl that allows the drill bit to protrude out of it. This measure helps prevent the dust from falling all over. 

Alternatively, you can use a drywall saw. In that case, make sure you tape a template to mark the measurements of your light on the ceiling. Since the saw relies on manual precision, there is a chance for error in the diameter of the hole.

Wiring Light Fixtures

Before you install any wiring with the lights, keep the national electricity codes under consideration. Then do the following:

  • Extend the cable wire you will connect to the light from a power source to the switch box. 
  • Carry it to the location of the can and throw it downwards. Ensure that you have sufficient inches suspended in the air to carry on with the process.
  • Get your pair of wire strippers or pliers and cut off the insulation of the wire. 
  • Separate the junction box that comes with the light and open one of the sides with a screwdriver. 
  • Start running cables through by color-coding them with the connectors. Black goes into black, white into white, and ground into ground. 
  • Cork the box back in the light by compressing the notches connecting the two pieces. 
  • Screw back the side you separated earlier.

Testing The Structure

Ideally, you now have the junction box connected to the light suspending from the ceiling. At this stage, make a power test. Switch on the breaker and see if the lights are working fine. If not, there has been a mistake during the wiring process. 

Attaching The Hole

Take the box and place it inside the hole on top of the ceiling. Now open the tabs on the fixture and slide it into the ceiling. Make sure it is firm in its cavity.

Turn the power back on, and there you have it. A brightly lit room, thanks to the recessed lights you just installed. For a visual representation, here is a YouTube video to help:

How Do I Keep My Recessed Lights From Falling Out?

You can perform a simple DIY to keep your recessed lights from falling out.:

  • Turn the main circuit breaker off and unplug the lightbulb from the fixture. 
  • Pull the plastic away from the housing to view two to four springs holding the trim to the fixture. 
  • Detach the trim from the fixture by unhooking each of the strings keeping it in place. Use a pair of pliers if necessary. 
  • Grab a wrench and tighten each of the screws that connect to the housing. 
  • Once the structure is secure, put back each component in its original place. 
  • Turn the power on and test the structure.

If the issue persists, there is likely tension in the strings or damage in the clamps. Get an electrician to handle it.

How Do I Remove Old Recessed Lighting Trim And Housing?

Photo of brand new flood light bulb being held by female hand with recessed ceiling light mount in background

To remove old recessed lighting trim and housing, turn the power breaker off and climb a ladder to reach the lights. The steps following are:

  • Rotate the bulb in the fixture counterclockwise to unscrew it. 
  • Depending upon the type of trim, look for springs or screws holding the trim in place. Remove the connection to release the trim.
  • Now, climb up the attic to get access to the housing.
  • Disconnect all the wire connections from the junction box.
  • Unscrew all attachments to the housing to release it.

Final Takeaway

Recessed halogen lamp and reflection in the washbasin mirror, Can You Install Recessed Lighting Without Housing?

Get drilling on your recessed light installation project right away. However, remember that some work is better left to the pros. Do not try experimenting if the process feels uncomfortable. Good luck! 

Before you go, do you have other concerns? How about the types of recessed lighting? If you're looking for some ideas, check out our post here

Do you need advice picking recessed lighting for a sloped ceiling? We also offer some answers in that area. For more information, check out our post here. Until next time!

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