Recessed Lighting Buying Guide

Whether you refer to them as can lights, pot lights, down lights or recessed lights, they are all the same thing. Recessed lighting refers to the light fixtures that are "recessed" in your ceiling.

At Lighting Direct, we want to make it easy for you to understand recessed lighting and find the perfect lights for your home. Browse through our Recessed Lighting Buying Guide and learn a little bit about sizes, styles and different installation types to make your shopping experience easier.

If you have any questions during your shopping experience, our certified lighting experts are here and ready to help, so give us a call.

Recessed Lighting Buying Guide

The first part to understanding recessed lighting is to know the different components. With most recessed lighting fixtures, there is a "housing" and a "trim". While the housing lives inside your ceiling, the trim is the exposed part of the fixture that is visible from your room. We will go into a bit more detail on these two components below.

Recessed Housing
Recessed Housing

Recessed Housings

Recessed housings may look unfamiliar, but they are the primary component to a recessed light fixture. The recessed housing sits above your ceiling and is rarely seen after the initial installation. It is important to know which type of housing will work with your application. There are two main types of housings: New Construction Housings and Remodel Housings.

What are new construction housings?
  • Although they are referred to as "New Construction Housings", they are not only limited to new construction applications.
  • Select a new construction housing any time you have access to your ceiling joists.
  • These mount directly to the ceiling joists.
What are remodel housings?
  • "Remodel Housings" are to be used when you do not have access (or limited access) to the area above the ceiling.
  • These do not mount to the ceiling joists.
  • Remodel housings attach directly to your ceiling material through a hole bored in your ceiling..
What size housing do I need?
  • Recessed housing sizes refers to the diameter of the opening in your ceiling.
  • The most common size trims for residential homes are 4" and 6".

Recessed Trim
Recessed Trim

Recessed Trims

Unlike the housing, there are many directions you can go with your trims. The "trim" is the part of the light fixture that you will see everyday when you look up at your ceiling.

What types of recessed trims are available?
  • Trims are available in a wide variety of styles and shapes. 
  • Many of the trims are specific to a desired lighting effect.
  • Trim types are detailed in the sections below
What trim sizes are available?
  • Trim sizes range from 2" up to 10"
  • The trim size refers to the diameter of the opening in your ceiling.
  • The most common size trims for residential homes are 4" and 6".

Recessed Trim Styles
Baffle Trim

Baffle Trims

Baffle trims are the most common choice among recessed trim options. They are most often found in black or white, but are available in a variety of other colors and finishes. The ridges of the baffle trim are designed to minimize the reflective surface of the trim to reduce glare.

Lens Trims

Also referred to as shower trims, lens trims protect the "guts" of the light fixture from moisture. In addition to being used over a tub or shower, lens trims are often used in outdoor spaces to protect the fixture from the elements as well as bugs and insects.

Adjustable Trims

Also referred to as directional trims or "eyeball trims", these trims allow you to aim the light in a certain direction. Directional trims are most commonly used to hightlight a certain feature of your home, such as a fireplace, artwork or a certain wall.

Reflector Trims

The polished surface of a reflector trim maximizes the light, creating a very bright effect. This extemely bright light is often desired in commercial applications or kitchens with very high ceilings.

Wall Washer Trims

Wall washer trims are designed to provide more control of the light emitted from the fixture. These allow you to "splash" light on a single wall or direction and minimize the amount of light in the other direction.

Square Trims

These are not as common as round trims, but square trims are popular in certain parts of the country. Similar to their round counterparts, these are also available in a number of different style and color options.

Decorative Trims

Decorative trims are becoming more and more popular. These can be used to easily spice up a current fixture in your home or be used with a new installation. In addition to decorative finishes, trims with accent crystals is a growing trend.

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