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how do i install ceiling lights (no previous ones)

how do i install first time ceiling lights (finished ceiling)


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Posted 2013-10-16T18:26:51+0000  by tdkatz tdkatz

Hey tdkatz,


Thank you for your question and welcome to the community!


Depending on what type of light fixture you want installed in your ceiling will determine how it can be installed.


No matter which type of lights you want, you will need to access the rafters above (assuming this is a wood frame and not concrete) to run wires to power everything up. Also, breaking that wire in the form of a light switch on the wall is equally as important to control your fixtures.


The planning of where, how many, and even who will install the wiring and fixtures are important. I say this because even if your skill level or electrical knowledge can place lights in the ceiling, you will need to make sure you are installing them safely.


If you plan on installing more than a few lights in even one room, you will need to create a clear path in the ceiling to run your wires. Having to bore holes in the rafters are unavoidable, but you can reduce the number of them with a proper layout, such as a quick sketch.


If you have an existing wire nearby, you can tap off of it, as long as it won't overload or interfere with it. Again, having a switch running first before it goes to the fixtures will help in this regard.


Any large amounts of lights will most likely need to be on a new circuit, rather than an existing one. And as always, consult an electrician for any specific questions like local codes.


Since you didn't mention to us how many and what kind of lighting you want installed, I'll go over some in more details below. All will require the information I just mentioned above in order for them to work properly and safely.


One type of lights, recessed can lighting, can be installed in existing ceilings in the form of a remodeling housing. These are simple to install, but you will still need to run wire to them. Click on the image of one below for a comprehensive guide for installation choices.

Remodeling Recessed Housing


Another option would be installing a fixture that simply is surface mounted over the ceiling. These can range from anything to large chandeliers to a small ceiling fan. All have one thing in common, having a junction box installed first.


A good start and foundation for these types of light is making sure the junction box you use is heavy duty enough to support the weight of whatever fixture it is holding up.


One that works for all types of lights in shown below, called a fan brace. You would cut a hole in the sheetrock like the recessed light shown above, except this time the bar expands and fastens into the ceiling rafters. Make sure all electrical wires are run through to it first safely.


This type of fan brace will support any type of fixture hung on it as doesn't exceed 70 lbs. for a fan and 150 lb. for a fixture. Plus, its one of the few boxes out there that gives great support while not having to cut so much sheetrock off your ceiling too.


Was there a certain type and number of fixtures that you wanted? Let us know where and how and if you know you can use existing wiring nearby, and we can get a more detailed solution for you.


I hope this information has assisted you, and let us know if you have any additional questions,


Posted 2013-10-16T19:14:37+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Thank you for your reply. I was looking to install a simple light fixture in the ceiling. There is already a switch in the wall which controls a plug. On one floor, I have access to the the cieling thru the attic. On the floor below, I have a regular ceiling and no access without breaking through. I was looking for information on installation for these two areas. Could you tell me what kind of junction box and wiring i would need, and how to actually wire it. thank you.

Posted 2013-10-20T14:06:31+0000  by tdkatz

You are very welcome.


Since there is a switch there on the wall, you can control the lights from it. You'll need to make to sure that by adding a light on the switch, that the circuit isn't being overloaded. And as stated earlier, always work with unenergized wires by turning off the power to the switch from the breaker panel.


Once you find this out, you can run a wire from the switch, behind the walls and the ceiling. You will need to remove the switch and open up the junction box for running the new wire from it to the fixture. You can do this with a drill bit or taking a flathead screwdriver and popping out the knock-out in the back of the box (if it is plastic).


As I stated before, you will need to get access to run wires through the rafters in the ceiling. You state two different types of floors, so approaching them can be a little different but they'll require mostly the same install methods.


In either case, you may have to remove at minimum a small portion of drywall in the ceiling/wall in order for you to run the wire. Also, you'll most likely encounter drilling into the top frame of the stud wall so the wire can run from the wall over to the ceiling. A drill bit that has a diameter slightly larger than the wire will do the trick for you.


The only main difference between the one fixture where you have access in the attic. You can use the drill bit to go in the rafters so the wires go in between them rather than over them. This is a safer way to install the wires. With the ceiling that doesn't have access, you'll need to remove drywall and drill as well.


Using a drywall jab saw to cut into the sheetrock and remove small areas will be your best bet. Also, having a stud finder will greatly assist you in finding frame members (studs and rafters) without cutting unneeded amounts of drywall.

6 in. Fixed Jab SawStudSensor EDGE Stud Finder


At any chance that the wires can be accessed without having drywall around it, I'd strongly recommend to use wire staples to secure them to studs/rafters. These are sold in our electrical department, and simply are hammered into the wood frame.

1-1/4 in. x 9/16 in. Graphite Metallic Steel Staples (450-Pack)


The wire you use is largely based on what you have now. In other words, if you have a 14 gauge wire, you'd need to stick to that. If you have 12 gauge, then use that for your power cable.


You can check the breaker panel for the circuit feeding it to find out what wire is needed. 14 gauge wire is needed for a 15 amp circuit, and 12 gauge is needed for a 20 amp circuit. Again, making sure that the circuit you will power these new lights on won't overload your existing circuit.


We carry both types of wire in a form called non-metallic (Or NM) Romex. It comes in various lengths, measure out how much you need, so you can get the right amount.


Each one carries one white, one black, and one bare copper ground wire. I'm assuming you are doing a single pole (no more than one light switch controlling the fixture), so I'm giving you info on this kind of wire.


We sell it in 15, 25, 50, 100, 250, or 1000 foot lengths. Below is an example of both gauges. Click on either one for pricing and more information.



As for the junction box, the best one to use I already explained to you earlier in this thread. Use it for both fixtures. It's strong enough for hanging a ceiling fan, should you ever want to install a heavier junction box in the future. You can click on the image for it above in my first response and it can give you more information regarding it.


Use this type of junction box I showed, since its easier to install than a typical nail-in box and it supports much more weight. Plus, this box requires the least amount of drywall to be removed. Use your jab saw to take out the diameter of the junction box in the ceiling. The box will go directly in the middle between the rafters, so using the stud finder or knowing where the rafters are are very important.


The hanging bar has teeth that expands and it go in between the rafters without the need to fasten it into them. The more you turn the bar, the better it will hold the fixture. Once the wires are in place, they go through a knock-out hole in the top of the junction box.


To prevent the wire from getting damaged from the knock-out, you will use the hit lock connector provided in the junction box. Yours will look like the one below, just in black.

When you state you need a simple light fixture, I'm assuming you are wanting a pretty simple flush mount fixture. Some, as well as a very simple keyless fixture, are shown below.


Almost every fixture will have wires or screw terminals to power it up. Any black wires coming off the fixture will connect to the black wire from the wire you just ran (brass screw on a keyless fixture). Any white wires coming off the light fixture will connect to the white wire on your Romex (silver screw on a keyless fixture).


Your bare copper wire coming off the fixture (some have it, some don't) would connect to the bare copper wire from your Romex. If the fixture doesn't have a ground wire, you can attach the ground wire from the Romex to the crossbar in the fixture. Most have a green screw to attach.


This is a safety wire, so it doesn't conduct electricity unless the circuit is overloaded and prevents you from getting electrocuted from improper wiring/overloading.


Lastly, you'll need to connect the wires into the switch. If this is for a single pole application (one switch controlling the fixture), then all you are connecting to the switch are the black wires. Make sure one black wire goes from the switch to the fixture. All white wires and ground wires connect to their respective wires. Your switch may have a ground screw (green), you can attach a ground wire to it.


This is how to essentially how to install new fixtures, but there can be some unseen variables that can occur (pipes in the wall, etc) that we haven't gone over. As long as you turn the power off to your circuit at the breaker, and you aren't overloading it, you can install lights in both areas.


Let me know if you have any further questions,


Posted 2013-10-23T13:17:00+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Everything should fallow NYC NEC Code. in NYC we are using only bx wire armored.

Posted 2013-11-02T01:25:13+0000  by Matt90

Hey Matt90,


Thanks for joining us here on the community!


Yes, everyone should follow the NEC code. Since there are various versions, like NYC, it can be sometimes confusing to the DIYer for knowing specifics.


I know in some areas in and near Chicago, that they call for BX/MC armored cable too. It does reduce the amount of frays, but it can be tricky to fish it through the walls...but if its code there, use it.


I'm from a county near Atlanta that was very stringent with following codes and having final inspections. However, we used non-metallic Romex that was acceptable.


In short, follow codes and know your local rules and regulations. That's precisely why I stated earlier in this thread to consult a local, licensed electrician to ensure you are safely getting the job done right.


Thank you for bringing up this fact, and I hope to see you again on our posts.



Posted 2013-11-02T13:30:14+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL


Posted 2013-11-02T21:37:42+0000  by Matt90
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