Jim Cox
Jim Cox
  • Tutorial Team
  • Springfield, MO

Can Lights in a Home-built Rustic Light Fixture

10 Materials
2 Hours

Ok so the Edison bulb fixture wasn't bright enough for my kitchen to cook, but it looked so cool! I added a couple of can lights with a pull chain so I could turn them off when needed. I'm going to try to show you how to build the fixture with just the cans and then you decide which type of bulb you like more - or both. I hope to keep this up to code by using the existing ceiling box as an outlet. WARNING: Check local codes, and if you have ANY doubts, contact an electrician. Always make sure power is off before working on any electric circuits.

Please look at my original post for more info just in case...
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
If you're starting from scratch, here's a 12" x 32" box I made out of a single 1x4 with mitered corners held together with staples. Very easy to make.
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
I added two cross braces (16" apart for my ceiling joists would have worked better)
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
Stained the box with Minwax Espresso. Matched the reclaimed wood I was using for the cover. Let it dry overnight. I now have about 20 minutes in this box.
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
I made a cover 12" wide out of three pieces of fence board cut 32" long to match my box. I used some scrap 1x2 to hold the cover together. BTW I love my staple gun! Note the circles drawn to cut the openings for my can lights. Use the template that came with the lights for marking your circles. Once you have the holes with a jigsaw or keyhole saw the cans just pop in.

Drill a few pilot holes around the perimeter of your cover, I used 4 holes. Remember your 1x4 box is actually 3/4" thick, so you want the mounting holes for your cover 3/8" from the edge to go into the box properly.
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
I added two "L" brackets to help me attach to the ceiling since I spaced the cross braces too close together. I used no. 8x1/2" sheet metal screws for the the attachment here, and then drywall screws thru the ceiling into the joists.

VISIT YOUR ATTIC! Know where your joists and wires are!! And always make sure power is OFF!
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
Here's a typical electric box. I put a pull chain switch in the back of it by drilling a hole in one of the knockouts. Again this was me adding the can lights to an existing fixture. This switch ^^ could be completely optional.
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
Here's the inside of the box with three NM (or BX) style cable clamps. I used old computer cords to wire this up. Behind the wire nuts there is a wire tying the box itself to a green wire via a ring terminal and a screw.

 Colors on various cords can be confusing. Here is the standard.

HOT - BLACK ( can be Brown on imported devices)
NEUTRAL - WHITE (can be blue on imported devices)
GREEN - Green is ground the world around

The three prong male cord to the right of the box will go into the new outlet we are going to install in the ceiling (note it must be more than 6' away from any water to be non-GFCI) This cord will power the can lights. Max length on this cord per local home inspectors is 6' and we're way below that.
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
Here is a pic of the can light I used, complete with junction box (green arrow). I removed the knockout (red arrow) and installed a clamp, this entire cover came off. Using the color codes in the previous step I wired the same three colors inside the can's junction box . My cans were bronze instead of white. These cans are "IC" rated, which means they can touch insulation (insulation contact) and not create a fire hazard.
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
Put a cover on the junction box inside your light fixture assembly. Make sure all cable clamps are secure.
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture

Wire your outlet according to local code and correct color. In this house RED is hot for this box.

Note that RED/HOT goes to the brass screws
Note that WHITE/NEUTRAL goes to the silver screws
Note that BARE/GROUND goes to the green screw.
can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
Here is the outlet attached to a ceiling box cover, and the cover installed - ALL WHILE POWER IS OFF! Look at that nasty drywall :/ You can see where the original fixture was, and all the flying insects that got trapped inside. National code says the outlet cannot be recessed more than 1/4".

Sorry I forget to get a pic of the can lights in the cover.

can lights in a home built rustic light fixture
Mount the box on the ceiling, plug in the cover and attach to the original wooden box. Turn on power at the breaker and then flip the light switch. This is what I have now. Notice that you can see the color difference between the 2700° Edison pendant bulbs and the 3000° can lights.

Again, this is basically part two of my kitchen light project. The can lights, box, switch, and cover are basically their own light fixture. You could skip the Edison bulbs and go straight to the cans. A 3rd can would fit nicely, but I have plenty of light now with the 6 bulbs (all LEDs, 8W each, 48W total) If you look closely you'll see the hole in the center, and the pull chain. I turn off the cans at night and dim the Edison bulbs a bit. Makes my tired old kitchen cozier. Make your box any size you want, use as many cans as you like. Total cost for this project (including the first half) about $90. Without the Edison stuff, about $60

Post any questions, comments, or suggestions you might have : )

Suggested materials:

  • Electrical Box $2  (Lowes)
  • Electrical Box cover  (Lowes)
  • 1x4 lumber  (Lowes)
See all materials

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