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Recessed Lighting Buyer's Guide, Part 2

Recessed Lighting Buyer's Guide, Part 2

Picking the right size and type of recessed fixture covers just half of the decisions you need to make. With the technical choices out of the way, it’s time to decide the finishing touches.  Part two of this guide covers trims, bulbs, and some general input on how to space out your lights for the best affect.


We went over the pros and cons of 4-inch versus 5 and 6-inch fixtures in part one of our guide.  Some people may choose to mix and match fixture sizes to achieve the right light. To avoid making your ceiling look like Swiss cheese, we suggest using 4-inch fixtures in areas where you want focused light like on a certain plant, piece of art, or your kitchen sink. You would basically line up 4-inch fixtures with the edges of the room while evenly spacing 6-inch fixtures towards the center of the room to maximize the overall light.

Step 1: Measure out your ceiling joists.

Regardless of which fixture sizes you choose, you will need to find and map out your ceiling joists. Any recessed lights installed will need to be mounted to the joists, with the light falling in between them. Be sure to include the location of each piece of furniture. To evenly light a space, place your first can light in the dead center of a room and evenly space out your lights from that point. If you need more light in a specific place, install your first light there; then evenly space the other lights around it.

Step 2: Start at the center & evenly space

The spacing between each light fixture is determined by your ceiling height, simply divided in half. So if you have a standard 8-foot ceiling, then your lights should be 4 feet away from each other. To avoid harsh shadows that make your ceiling seem lower, keep your lights about 3 feet from any wall as well.

(Other) Step 2: Or start at a focal point & space out your lights from there

Lighting Tip: Adding recessed lights in your kitchen? Set your recessed fixtures 18 to 22 inches from your kitchen cabinets to avoid unwanted shadows. 

The décor in your room also plays a part in the layout of your lights. Coupled with the lumen output of your chosen bulbs, a dark-colored room may need lights closer together while a brighter room may benefit more from lights spaced farther apart. You can always choose to “overlight” your room and use dimmer switches to control the light levels.

Trim Options

When it comes to trims—the only part of the fixture you’ll see—you have a number of choices. Some trims are quite lengthy, reaching deep into your can light with special interiors to affect the light output.


Baffle – Most commonly used, the baffle trim’s interior ridges soften the light and minimize glare.

Open – Open trim is a standard trim that gives your recessed fixture a finished look.

Reflector – This trim has a mirrored interior to boost the output of your lights.


Eyeball – An eyeball trim works like a track light. The bulb sits in the eyeball which can swivel to provide adjustable, directional light.

Wall Wash – A wall wash trim would cover half of the fixture’s opening, pushing all of the light to one side. These trims can rotate 360 degrees and give you the right angle to bathe your wall with light.


Lensed – These are frequently also wet location trims. The included clear or frosted lens covers the fixture’s opening, diffusing the light and shielding your bulb from exposure to moisture and general weather. You would typically use these trims in recessed lighting for porches or showers, but they are also used in closets.

Those are just the usual suspects. Other trims include the pinhole trim for a super focused spotlight or square trims for rooms with a modern design. There are various color options as well, like chrome, bronze, or nickel trims. Many homeowners choose white-colored trims because it helps reflect light outward, making the light appear a little brighter. A black trim absorbs light, softening the light’s appearance.

Bulbs Sold Separately


After you have picked the size, type, and trim for your recessed lighting fixture, you’re still going to need a light bulb. Recessed lighting fixtures most often use halogen or LED bulbs. The bulb shape can vary greatly, ranging from the accent lighting of MR16s to middle-of-the-road BR30 and BR40 bulbs to the flood light nature of PAR38s. Regardless of which bulbs you choose, you should pay attention to details such as lumens, wattage, and especially the color temperature of each bulb. You will probably want warm white, 2700 Kelvin for relaxing in your living room, den, or bedroom while using cooler and brighter, 3000 Kelvin bulbs in task areas like the kitchen or bathroom.

Do you feel ready for your remodel or is it back to the drawing board? Feel free to ask your questions or make suggestions in the area below. Find our latest advice, DIYs, and how-to ideas on our Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. Lighting doesn’t have to be hard, so call our 1000Bulbs.com staff at 1-800-624-4488 during normal business hours for easy, everyday lighting solutions. 

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Recessed Lighting Buyer's Guide, Part 1

Recessed Lighting Buyer's Guide, Part 1