Recessed Lighting Buying Guide

Recessed lights are some of the most modern additions to the lighting fixture universe, with their use coming in handy for brightening up rooms while also acting as decorative pieces.

Recessed Lighting-Buying Guide

But even with their practical uses, installing them in the wrong space can turn out to be detrimental, resulting in an otherwise outdated living area. Below, we discuss what to look for when buying recessed lighting to ensure you get the most out of these fixtures.

Consider the Types of Trims

Trim refers to the decorative molding around the opening of your recessed light. These moldings come in different options, with some examples being:

Baffle Trims

The baffle trim is one of the most common options on the market, with its design incorporating ridges that help absorb light from your fixture while also reducing glare. Baffle trims are often available in black and white options, with the former coming in handy in minimizing glare, while the latter helps reduce the appearance of holes in the ceiling.

Reflector Trim

Reflector trims utilize the baffle trim style, with the main difference being their mirrored surfaces that maximize the amount of illumination in a room. This helps you get more light out of your recessed fixtures. In addition to their mirrored surfaces, some options also utilize tinting in their style options.

Eyeball Trim

The eyeball trim is also referred to as the adjustable or directional trim. Due to its flexible movements, it allows you to change the direction of your light based on your needs. This trim is often utilized for wall washing or accent lighting.

Wall Wash Trim

The wall wash trim comes with a lid covering half of the light, allowing you to focus your illumination in a given direction. This type of trim also works well in highlighting specific objects like paintings or your fireplace.

Shower Trim

A shower trim comes with a tempered glass lens over the light, protecting it from elements such as moisture. Due to this, they are often used in areas such as bathrooms, allowing you to get enough illumination in steam-prone conditions.

Gimbal Trim

The gimbal trim resembles the eyeball trim, with the main difference being that this option primarily stays flush with the ceiling. When the gimbal is pivoted fully, its housing helps you block some of the light from your bulbs.

Open Trim

Open trims come with two options, with the first being bulbs that are flush with the ceiling, while the second option utilizes bulbs that are nearly flush with the ceiling. Due to these styles, this trim provides unrestricted illumination from your bulbs.

Pinhole Trim

Pinhole trims are designed to mimic a pinhole camera. It covers up the majority of the light, leaving only a small central sphere to illuminate the light.

Decorative Trim

Decorative trims are created with additional design features, helping you add more character to your recessed lighting.

Square Trim

Last is the square trim that comes in a square shape. It is one of the most modern trim styles that you will find on the market.

What Type of Recessed Housing Do You Need?

Housing refers to the protective safety surrounding your recessed lighting, which plays a crucial role during installations. These are grouped into multiple categories as described below:

New Construction Housing

This type of housing is ideal when building a home or adding a room to your house. It will especially come in handy where the drywall or sheetrock has been removed or has not been installed.

Remodel Housing

Remodel housing is suited to properties that have been built or where you cannot access the area where your recessed lighting will be installed. This type of housing is installed into the ceiling through the sheetrock or drywall hole, with clips helping the remodel housing stay in place.

Airtight Housing

Airtight housing helps in reducing the airflow between the conditioned room and the unconditioned space above, which is often the attic.

Slope Ceiling Housing

Slope ceiling housing allows the light from your fixture to be angled into a sloped ceiling.

Shallow Ceiling Housing

Shallow ceiling housing comes in handy for ceilings with 2 by 6-inch joists.

Check Your IC Rating

The IC rating refers to insulation contact that determines whether your housing needs insulation during the installation process. IC-rated housing will, for instance, be safe to install in areas where it is likely to come into contact with insulation. This will be helpful in areas where the insulation runs over or up to the housing. An example of this is attic spaces. Non-IC rated housing will, on the other hand, need clear zones or buffer areas around the housing to avoid any setbacks.

Types of Recessed Lighting Finishes

Like numerous lighting fixtures, recessed lights also come with various finishes. To get the best pick, consider the existing finishes in your home or areas where your recessed lighting will be placed. If, for instance, your indoor hardware has silver or nickel finishes, consider a trim with contemporary finishes.

Many types of ceilings blend in with white recessed lighting finishes, making this suitable for multiple rooms. Other finishes that you can look into include black, bronze, silver, chrome, and nickel. Trim finishes can be swapped out with ease without changing your housing, making it easy to customize your fixtures over time.

Other Factors to Consider When Buying Recessed Lighting


The size of your recessed lighting will depend on the trim you opt for and the functionality of your lights. Trim size generally depends on the aperture measurement, which is the opening in which light shines. The standard trim size will often be a 6-inch aperture, with this often seen in residential spaces. Currently, newer trends favor the 3-4 inch aperture, with their use seen across residential and commercial areas.

While the smaller sizes appear to enhance the sleek appearance of any space, make it a point to consider your size to function ratio. The smaller the aperture, the greater it will be in highlighting specific areas in your room, with the downside being that it will not help illuminate a room. Overall, consider the function that your trim intends to serve and the square foot of your total area.

The Spacing and Layout in Your Room

Since no two rooms are the same, considering the layout and spacing in your room, there will be other factors to keep in mind when getting recessed lighting. To help with this, consider aspects such as the use of your lights.

Do you need lights for task lighting, ambient lighting, or decorative lighting? What size do you intend your lights to be, and what is the total space of your area? How many lights do you plan on buying? Based on these questions, consider possible layouts that your recessed lighting would work well with.


Functionality will also be another factor to consider, based on what you intend to use your recessed lighting for. Consider these things:

  • If you need recessed lighting that offers safety features, shower trims or wet-rated trims will be your best option. These often come in handy in showering areas or outdoor spaces where lighting fixtures could benefit from safety measures due to damp conditions.
  • For general lighting, consider the color and shape of your trim. Baffle trims are some excellent examples of lighting as these absorb excess light and minimize glare.
  • Adjustable trims will come in handy when you want to highlight specific features in your room. This will allow you to aim your light and control illumination on particular areas while dimming out other parts of your room.
  • Recessed lights can also work with dimmers, where the proper switch allows you to get the flexibility you need. These can provide accent lighting, allowing you to complement your primary light source. Recessed lights installed in one area will also work well with dimmer zones, allowing you to get the right amount of illumination in specific areas of your space.


While recessed lighting is affordable, some factors may cause your price to vary. These include:

Installation Cost

Installation costs will vary depending on whether you undertake your lighting project by yourself or need professional installation, with the latter likely to increase your overall budget. To ensure you get affordable help, do thorough research on various companies while also asking for referrals from friends and family.

The Number of Lights

Rather than estimating your cost based on individual lights, consider the overall number of lights you expect to install in your space. Measure out your area to get an accurate price for your lighting needs.

Energy Usage

Last is energy usage, with this option coming in handy for long-term use. LED lights are good examples to look into if you plan on reducing your utility bills in the long run, since these require less energy to run while also being cheaper to maintain. However, these will often come with a high price point due to the advancements provided. Keep in mind that some regions also require a permit to install LED lights, requiring you to consult local legislation for your energy needs.

How High Is Your Ceiling?

Your ceiling height may not seem like much when getting recessed lighting, but it will be another essential item to consider when getting your installation done. Generally, your lights should be closer when your ceiling is low and have more spacing when your ceiling is high. In addition to this, let your lights have a spacing of at least two feet apart between each light. Ensure that this distance also applies to lights close to your walls.

The Type of Bulb

Recessed lighting bulbs also come in different options, with each suited to specific purposes. Consider aspects such as:

Energy Usage

Various types of bulbs come with different energy usage requirements, with examples such as LED and CFL bulbs consuming less energy over time. This allows you to save costs in the long run while also keeping your maintenance costs low.

Easy To Replace Bulbs

Some lighting fixtures work well with standard bulbs, allowing you to replace them with ease. Others will, however, call for special bulbs when they get damaged, increasing your replacement costs in the long run.


The voltage in your light fixtures will also determine how bright your space is and the overall energy consumed. Line voltage light kits will, for instance, allow you to use the standard voltage. Others, such as low-voltage kits, will provide energy savings, but they will often come with a high initial purchase cost.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing the correct type of recessed light can prove challenging, especially when you are new to buying these light fixtures. Narrowing down your options will be your ideal starting point; consider options such as the size of your bulbs, the role they will play, and the type of trim you prefer. With these basics in mind, getting the best-recessed lighting will no longer be a challenge.