What Is the Minimum Distance Apart for Recessed Lights?

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Sleek and modern, recessed lighting is an excellent way to brighten a room without installing an intrusive light fixture. The most important part of installing recessed lights is putting them where they'll work best for you, but there are some general guidelines about recessed lighting's distance from the wall and from other light fixtures. Keeping them in mind will help you plan and execute a functional and aesthetically pleasing lighting project.



To calculate how far apart to install recessed lights, measure the height of your ceiling. Divide that number by 2 to determine spacing. If, for example, your ceiling is 8 feet high, place your lights 4 feet apart.

Start With a Plan

Before you start cutting holes in your ceiling and running electrical wires, sketch out your lighting project on paper. Measure your room and create a scale drawing of it, adding in your furniture, countertops and other features of the room. This will let you see where your lights will fall with respect to your specific layout and let you tweak the design.


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You may, for instance, have specific needs when planning the recessed lighting placement in the kitchen. Here, you may want to place your first light over the sink, stove or island to provide ample task lighting and then space the remaining lights around that starting point. While this is a good plan in kitchens and bathrooms, it's not the best for your living or family room.

If you have a favorite reading chair in the living room, you may be tempted to place a light directly above it and then work your way around the room. Remember, though, that you may want to re-arrange your living room furniture in the future. If you do, your lighting scheme may suddenly look out of place and function poorly. In this case, Light Up recommends placing a light in the center of the room and planning the rest of your layout from there.


Recessed Lighting Spacing Calculator

Generally, lighting professionals like those at Capitol Lighting recommend following the ceiling height rule for spacing recessed lights. According to this rule, you should divide your ceiling height by 2 to determine how far apart to space your lights. If, for example, your ceiling is 10 feet high, you should space your lights 5 feet apart.


To avoid shadows in corners and along walls, install lights within 1.5 to 3 feet of them. This rule can also serve as a basis for spacing your lights. Some experts recommend leaving a space between light fixtures that is twice the distance from the wall to your first light. If you place a light 2 feet from your wall, your remaining lights should be 4 feet apart from each other.

Depending on the size and shape of your room, following all of these guidelines may prove impossible. If so, don't worry. The most important rule about installing recessed lighting is to do what works for you.


Tips and Tricks

When installing recessed lighting, never assume that less is more. It's far better to add too many lights than too few. If you're concerned about having too much light, install a dimmer switch so you can have bright light when you need it and create a subtler ambiance when desired.


It's also wise to consider consulting with an electrician when planning your lighting layout. You'll need to know where you have wires and where you need to run more. An electrician can help you identify potential problem areas and make sure your current electrical system can safely handle additional lights. He'll also keep you building code compliant so you don't get into trouble with your local code enforcement officials.



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