Can Lights for the Master Bedroom

Jim Cox
by Jim Cox
4 Materials
4 Hours

Step by step on the mechanical side of the can light installation. I did not include electrical instructions. These may vary from location to location, so it's best you check your local codes, and PLEASE verify the wiring in your home!

Here's a real estate listing photo of my master bedroom from 2016. The ceiling fan and three bulbs were on a common wall switch. The fan and lights had to be activated by pull chain. The fourth bulb fixture in the back did not work.

First I decided where I wanted my cans installed. I wanted them far enough away from the ceiling fan that they would not 'strobe' while the fan was rotating. I measured 4' left and right of the existing ceiling fan box in the center of the room, and then 4' forward and backwards.

I turned off power to the light circuit, strapped on my headlamp and headed up to the attic. I moved the cellulose insulation aside at the locations mentioned in the previous step. I drilled a 1/4" pilot hole in the ceiling drywall for each location.

Back in the bedroom I put my can light hole saw in my drill. Set your drill for HIGH speed, it will have less torque, and there will be less chance of spraining your wrist. Use the speed control on the trigger to keep RPMs as low as possible. Use the pilot hole from the last step to start the larger hole. This saw can be purchased at Lowes.

This is the second room/time I've used this hole saw. It has paid for itself in time and aggravation saved vs using a jigsaw or keyhole saw.

Here's a nice clean hole in my lovely outdated popcorn ceiling ;) BTW the better job you do cleaning away the insulation in the attic, the less vacuuming you'll do on the carpet below

Here are the cans I'll be installing. These are IC-rated (Insulation contact) construction light fixtures. The cross braces are designed for new installs. Tabs at each end of the braces hold the cans securely against the drywall before you nail them in, and there's less chance of an air leak after they're installed. Remodel fixtures use fingers around the can to hold it in place, and are not as secure.

Note the round knock-outs on the junction boxes intended for clamps and armored cable, and the square knock-outs designed for Romex cable. I will be using the round knock-outs and clamps with Romex, our local inspectors do not consider this a violation of the 2017 code. (it makes for a better install, and is easier to work with. The clamps are $0.50 each and worth the time saved!)

I pre-wired more than half the Romex. It was much easier in my 82° garage than the attic at 105°!!

Back up in the attic, I line up the can with the hole to adjust the braces as best possible before I slide it into place. J-box cover removed. These cans came with push-in connectors already installed. Normally I avoid these connectors, simply a preference. But, since the current draw on this project is so low, I'm sure they'll be fine for years to come.

Slide the tabs under the joists, and nail in place x4

Here's the first can with power wire, switch leg, and the cable to the next can. All electrical connections for this J-box are complete. Can you see the handwritted "10" on the power wire (in red Sharpie)? That tells me what breaker, in case I'm ever up here again working on this. I also wrote a 10 on the inside of the light switch faceplate/cover.

Put the cover on, tighten the set-screw for the cross braces, and tighten the cable clamps.

Here is a properly installed can as viewed from the bedroom. We won't need to adjust the height of the bulb, so we can ignore the wing nut. At the bottom you can see one of the brackets used to hold the cover in place. I won't be using covers as I purchased LEDs with built-in covers.

If your can has a red plastic plug in the socket to prevent construction debris, remove it. Screw in the pigtal, then connect your LED lamp. Compress the V-shaped springs and line them up with the brackets in your can and install the lamp.

Here is the can closest to my closet. Does anyone know how to clean popcorn ceiling? ;) Nope, not getting rid of it... not worth the time and effort to me. The LEDs fit well against the ceiling.

Now go turn on the power and test!

After you verify everything works, shut off power again, go back to the attic and staple down your Romex. Cover up your fixtures with insulation. If you don't they'll radiate heat into the room all summer and draw it out in the winter. This is why the IC rating is important.

Here is my master bedroom after a recent repaint to a basic white, with the four cans lighting things up. (My next headboard is still in the design phase). You can also see the ceiling fan upgrade which was wayyyyyyy overdue. I called this project 'medium' difficulty due to the electrical knowledge required. I did the entire thing in four hours with a few water breaks (it was July after all) I used less that 50' of Romex, so you'll have plenty of the roll left over. This is the second room I've done in this 1970s house and still have more than half the roll.

As always, comment if you have an idea or suggestion that will help someone else

Suggested materials:
  • Romex cable ($38 / 250 ft)   (Lowes)
  • Romex clamps ($4/pk of 10)   (Lowes)
  • Hole Saw ($22)   (Lowes)
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