Video /
Dec 2, 2019

What is the Secret to Installing Kitchen Recessed Ceiling Lights?

It’s all in the measurement

Professional remodeler Jeff Ostroff shares his best practices for installing recessed LED lights in the kitchen ceiling in order to avoid harsh shadows. 

Instead of using standard kitchen lighting that requires large recessed cans, Ostroff uses a newer type of surface mount wafer LED light that connects to a small square can that clips into holes in the drywall. This saves space as well as avoids the cost of the recessed can and its installation, Ostroff says. 


The recessed lights Ostroff uses have a “big down pattern,” meaning each light’s area spreads as it moves further from the bulb. If the lightbulb’s position is too close to the cabinet, he says it will hit the countertop below and cast harsh shadows. Because of this, he recommends installing lights 36 inches from the wall and 24 inches away from the cabinets, which is double the 12-inch measurement that builders frequently use. By moving the lights further forward to meet his 24-inch rule of thumb, builders can create more even countertop lighting. 


With this spacing, Ostroff says the kitchen will accommodate four lights for a standard sized kitchen and six lights for a large one.

Watch the video to learn more and see examples of good and bad lighting installations.


Jeff: Although the LED wafer lights are far cheaper and easier to install than real cans, the photometrics are very poor, and pretty much incapable of delivering the 50 foot candles minimum on the countertops required by IES and NKBA standards. You can download free light meter apps to check yourself. A more focused narrow flood or spot PAR downlight can will do the trick but no more than 12" in front of upper cabinets in order to deliver the illumination without the cook's head in the way! Narrow beam angles minimize scalloping on the upper cabinet faces.

If lights are 3' off the wall and the person is 27" off the wall everything in front of the person will be shadowed. The 2' rule would work better in these situations. Sorry. The 3' rule would work well were people won't be working.

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