How To Remove Old Recessed Lighting Cans

What's your least favorite part about new home improvement projects? One of ours is worrying about getting rid of what's already there. Some of the best examples of this are with lighting. A lot of times when you want to put a new light fixture in, there's an old, outdated one in your way. This is just as true for recessed lighting as with any light fixture. We have figured out the best way to remove old recessed lighting cans so that you can get it done as easily as possible!

Removing recessed lighting cans is a fairly easy process. It can vary slightly depending on what kind of housing and attachment method the fixtures you're removing have. Either way, there are a few steps to follow to get the job done efficiently:

  1. Prepare to remove the old cans.
  2. Take out the trim.
  3. Remove the can.
  4. Properly take care of the wiring.
  5. Figure out what to do with the hole.

It's important to learn how to complete this project in depth. You have to make your safety the priority if you're doing it yourself. It's also very helpful to know what exactly goes into a project like this because it can help decide if you should hire someone to do it. Learning the process will also give you an idea of how much that person should be charging you. Make sure that you keep reading down below to learn everything you need to know for this project.

Grey and white ceiling with recessed lighting, How To Remove Old Recessed Lighting Cans

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Steps For Removing Old Recessed Lighting Cans

Having to remove old recessed light cans isn't the worst thing in the world to happen. Of course, that can depend on why you are removing them. If you're removing them because you're placing new recessed lighting of the same size, then it's probably actually a blessing. This means that the electrical is already set up for your new lights and you don't have to get a headache figuring that out or pay someone to do it. It's best to break the whole process down.

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A detailed photo of recessed lighting inside a living room

1. Prepare To Remove The Old Cans

The majority of this step is making sure that you have the proper equipment to do the job safely and dealing with the electricity. It's very important to make sure that you shut off the electricity before attempting any work on the lights. It's also highly recommended that a licensed professional be hired to at least handle any wiring or electrical work.

You shouldn't need too many tools to remove the old light fixtures.  You'll need a ladder to work safely. Even if you have lower ceilings and it's only a step ladder. You might also need a flat head screwdriver to help with releasing any of the clips. Gloves and safety goggles are also good ideas in case any drywall dust or anything falls onto you while working.

The last tool you should need is a voltage tester. Use this to make sure there is absolutely no electricity running to the fixture before you work on it. 

Click here to shop for voltage testers on Amazon.

2. Take Out The Trim

Taking out the old recessed lighting can first requires you to take out the inner part of it, also known as trim. First, carefully make sure that it is cool enough to touch since this is where the light bulb has been. Then remove the light bulb. Next, use your voltage tester to double-check that you are safe to proceed. 

How Do You Remove Old Recessed Light Housing?

There are generally two different types of trim: screw-in and spring-loaded. Removing these different kinds requires slightly different approaches. For screw-in trim, gently turn it counter-clockwise and it should start to loosen and then release.

Removing an old can recessed lighting

With the spring-loaded trim, you'll want to use your screwdriver. Place the screwdriver gently between the trim and the ceiling. Slowly bring the screwdriver down and the trim will come down until it fully releases. With this step be careful not to damage the ceiling. There may also be clamps at the top of the trim that you need to press together to fully release it. 

3. Remove The Can

Now that the inside of the can is exposed, you can remove the whole thing from the ceiling. You will need the flathead screwdriver again for this job.

How To Remove Can Light Housing From Ceiling? 

On the walls of the can, there will be four strips of (usually) black metal. They should stand out. Somewhere on each of these black metal strips should be a notch. It might be at the bottom of the strips or on them somewhere else. 

Gorgeous white can recessed lighting

Place your screwdriver into this notch, or slot. Gently applying pressure should allow that clamp to release. Then you just have to repeat this step for the other three clamps in the can. Then you can slowly remove the can from the ceiling, just be aware that the wiring is still attached. 

4. Properly Take Care Of The Wiring

Once you pull down the old can you will see the wiring. It should be connected inside of a junction box on top of the fixture or just attached to the top. Carefully remove any electrical tape or untwist any connectors and separate the wires. Once this is done you can set the old recessed lighting can off to the side to be disposed of properly later on. Now it's time to decide how you are going to safely take care of the wiring in the ceiling. 

Electrician changing the wiring for the lights

If you plan on placing a new fixture immediately then you can just leave it for a minute as you get the new lighting can. You'll want to put electrical tape over any exposed wiring if you aren't putting a new fixture in right now. Also, make sure the put tape over that breaker in the breaker box so it cannot be turned on. If you plan on closing up the hole you'll want to have the wire safely removed so it's not a danger in the ceiling. 

5. Figure Out What To Do With The Hole

A man placing can for the recessed lighting

If you're putting a new recessed lighting can in the place of the old one, then you don't have to worry about this. Simply install your new light fixture and you're all set. If that's not the case, then you'll want to fill it in. You can patch it on your own or hire a professional.

How Do You Replace Recessed Lighting Cans?

Replacing your old can is not only an easy process but also saves you from having to deal with taking out the wiring. Once the old lighting can is out you can install the new one. The first step is to attach the wiring to the new can. Simply attach the wiring as it was attached to the old can and use connectors so that the wires are safely in place. Once the wiring is done you just have to push the new can into the hole and the clamps will activate and lock it into place. 

Wooden paneled ceiling with recessed lights

If the new recessed lighting can is a different size than the old one you will have to make some adjustments. Do this either by cutting the hole to make it larger or finding a way to fill the gap with a smaller fixture. For the smoothest process possible, you should make the new recessed lighting can the same size as the old one. 

Finishing Touches

Grey and white ceiling with recessed lighting

Removing old recessed lighting cans isn't an incredibly difficult job. This is especially true if you are replacing the old fixture with a new lighting can. The majority of the problems that can occur deal with the electric wiring. However, it's very important to make sure this is done correctly for you and your house's safety. Once you have the old fixtures take out, and the new ones put in, you can sit back and enjoy your new lighting.

To learn more about recessed lighting make sure you click on the links below!

How To Reduce Glare From Recessed Lighting

How Far Apart Should Recessed Lighting Be?

Can You Put Recessed Lighting In A Garage?

A man installing a 100W light for the recessed lighting, How To Remove Old Recessed Lighting Cans

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