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.


Hey everybody, Jeff here again. And today, we're going to talk to you about the importance of doing lighting in your kitchen properly, like where to put the lights on the ceiling. That's a common question that comes up a lot. So you can see these, these are some down lights that I installed here when we raised the ceiling. So, these are LED wafer lights actually, and they're only about a half-inch thick. And so, we don't use cans anymore. We just cut holes on the try wall, and we put the LED wafer lights up. But a question we hear quite a bit from people is, how far apart am I supposed to put the lights? Where do I put them?How far in front of the cabinets do I put them? And so, we've done a lot of experimentation with that over the years, and I can tell you that many builders get it wrong. In fact, I had never once yet walked into a kitchen in any project and seen that they've got the spacing of these lights correctly.

♪ You're Mr. Right ♪
♪ My Mr. Right ♪
♪ Too good to be true. ♪
♪ You're Mr. Right ♪
♪ My Mr. Right ♪
♪ Too good. ♪

And by the way, I just wanted to remind you, if this is your first time here on the channel, welcome, we're glad to have you here. And you might wanna go ahead and hit that Subscribe button down below and then hit the bell icon next to it so that you can get alerted every time we produce new videos. We generally upload videos once a week, and we have all sorts of topics covering all areas of remodeling that you're going to run into and all sorts of engineering disasters. Okay, so I wanted to just take a minute here and show you. I came up with his plan here, this drawing, and it basically shows a bird's eye view if you were looking down from the unit up above as to what is going to happen on the ceiling here. So, if you see all of these brown things here, this represent wood pieces. These are the furring strips or the strapping, the ceiling strapping that we're going to put down. So these are two by fours that we're going to lay flat up against the ceiling, and we're going to drill them into the concrete. Now here's our disk lights here, and I'll show you those in a minute. The disk lights are what we have to use. We actually call them wafer lights, they're LED wafer lights, and these will fit in a 1 1/2 inch space that's up in there, and we'll pre-wire their little cans, their tiny, little power supply cans. We don't use the big cans anymore for recessed lighting. These disks just clip into the holes that we're going to make in the drywall here. And if you notice here, I make my spacing three feet from every wall. And this is where a lot of people drop the ball in kitchen lighting.

We just went through this at my friend's house. The electrician came in and put, like for example this light here, just inches away from the front of the cabinet. And when you do that, it creates too much of a harsh shadow that goes down onto the counter, and you'll end up with darkness underneath your counters. So the way you overcome that is you have your lights out three feet from the wall, and that creates a nice wide dispersion pattern of lighting. It's very simple. There's not a whole lot of rocket science to it, but so many people drop the ball on this very important point. Make sure your lights are at least three feet away from the wall. Not two feet away from the wall. You don't wanna be 12 inches away from your cabinet. You wanna be 24 inches away from the front of your cabinet here. Okay, so you're looking at the nearly completed remodeled kitchen that we did. And these are of course the cabinets that we put in, and here's the granite countertops, and the limestone backsplash. So I wanted to point out to you about the lighting here. And I'll show you on my drawing there that I made, if you recall,we did four lights. So there's gonna be two over here, and two more lights over here. And you'll recall that I mentioned that we always want to make your lights come out 36 inches from that wall, from the back wall. And same with over here, these two lights here, they start off, that first light right there is 36 inches off the back wall. The reason why you want it like that is so that the light can be, let me swing off to the side to show, so it can be 24 inches away from the front of the cabinet. That's where you want your light to be. Same with over here, this light here is 24 inches off of that cabinet. So I want you to take a look at here.See how we have them here? These here are actually spaced 24 inches from the cabinet. That's my rule of thumb. I always try to be 24 inches in front of the cabinet. And the reason why is these lights have a big down pattern. That's why they're called down lights.The light spreads as it goes down, right? And what happens is it comes down and it hits the bottom of this cabinet,and it'll make a shadow here on the counter.

But you'll notice on my counter, there's no shadow there.That's because I have the lights movedfar enough in front of the cabinets here. So that when the light shines down and it goes all the way to the back corner here, and it doesn't cause me any dark shadows. So we're going to show you other kitchens in this video that were done highly improperly where you'll have dark shadows right here just simply because they had the lights too close to the cabinets. Now typically I see a lot of builders that put the lights 12 inches in front he cabinets, and that simply is not enough. Alright, so, if we look at this light here, this is another one where it was 24 inches in front of this cabinet here, and as you can see, the lighting dispersement there is nice and bright all the way back into that back corner there. So we have no shadow. The only place where you're gonna see a little shadow is on the corner unit here. So if you look here at this corner unit and follow the light down, you could see only at the very back cornerdoesn't even get a little bit dark. There's nothing you could do about that because you'd have to really be out far.

But in order to keep everything pretty even here,evenly spaced, that's the only pointyou're gonna have a problem.So, our rule of thumb to keep in mind is 36 inches off the back wall, which puts it 24 inches in front of the cabinet. That's our rule of thumb that we always like to go by. And so we try to keep everything symmetric. We try to keep a nice grid. Four lights is really all you needin a small kitchen like this.If you have a bigger kitchen,say something bigger than eight by 10, then you could probably go with six lights, but I'm still not sure you would even need it. You can experiment with that too.

Continued in video


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.

Add new comment