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What You Need To Know About Pot Lights or Recessed Lighting

By Mike Holmes

Mike’s Advice / Home Renovation

Friday, May 29th, 2020 @ 4:13pm
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Pot lighting, also known as recessed lighting or high hat lights can bring a lot of brightness to dark, shady rooms. A pot light is installed directly into the ceiling line, meaning the mechanisms are completely hidden – all you’ll see is the bulb and the outlining trim. The flush to the ceiling profile can be a must in spaces with low overhead but I find it is a good option to provide evenly distributed lighting to almost any space.

Pot lights came into our world and opened up a wide range of enhanced lighting options for our homes. Gone were the days where we had to rely on that centre light hung in the middle of the room mixed with lamps. With pot lights, we got lower cost lighting into our homes that went with more contemporary ceiling designs. But there are pros and cons about pot lights, and you need to consider your options as to where and when you should use them.

Examples of pot lights in bathrooms. Left: Acorn Communities | Right: Precision Custom Homes

Types Of Pot Lights


Pot lights are available in different sizes, from 4” to 6”. You can also choose your color temperature (daylight, warm, cool). When you upgrade to LED recessed lighting, you don’t have to worry about changing your light bulbs for years. Most LED bulbs will last you upwards of 50,000 hours.

Many retailers also carry options for recessed light trims. 

Where Should You Install Pot Lights?


Great option for kitchens

Pot lights work great in a kitchen to create some much needed task lighting above countertops where you need to see things a little more clearly. Now, I think there are some great examples of light fixtures over an island that can enhance your kitchen, so this is where your personal style comes into play. 

You could even mix hanging lights with recessed lighting that can provide different lighting options, and still give you full coverage for any task required like in this design from Effect Homes.

RELATED

There are many ways to light a kitchen. I break it down on the article: Ways To Light Your Kitchen.

Recessed Lighting in the bathroom

Recessed lighting also makes a lot of sense for the bathroom. You can even have them installed above your shower – as long as you get the right kind. By that I mean choosing lights that are meant to be used in a wet zone. You’ll want to select one that has a good quality trim that will resist not only water but vapour as well. Believe me, when the water flows, you don’t want it getting anywhere near your lights. But when you choose the right light, and have them installed professionally, they’re totally safe.

Photo from Duvanco Homes

Create a Home Theatre

A home theatre with pot lights is another area that makes a lot of sense – you don’t want your big screen to be obscured by a glass chandelier, after all.

Highlight A Wall with Pot Lights

Pot lights are a great idea to “wash” a feature wall, especially a fireplace wall, bar or a wall that has artwork.

Photo of Holmes Approved Homes builder Horizon Pacific.

Recessed Lighting Outdoors

I have small LEDs all around my deck. They last and they do the job. If you have an outdoor grill or kitchen you definitely want to have lighting around that area to avoid any accidents.

RELATED

Some awesome ideas to upgrade your deck or patio.

Living Room Lighting

Recessed lighting is a great way to brighten up a living room. Like I mentioned above, you can choose to highlight artwork or a feature wall, or have them installed throughout your living room. Pot lights offer a clean, streamlined look in a home.

Photo from Omega Homes.

Basement Pot Lights

Most of the basements are usually poorly lit so they do benefit from pot lights. In the basement, recessed lighting can illuminate the entire area, and are a good option to maximize floor space that would usually be taken up my lamps.

Basement design from Emerald Park Homes.

Concerns About Pot Lights


If you’ve watched my show, you might notice that if we have to install pot lights near an attic zone, we often use bulkheads. This lets us cut into unused & insulated space, without touching the attic. By doing this, we leave the lights out of the cold zone, and prevent the issues you would see with moisture.

If you do install recessed lighting into a ceiling that goes into the attic then make sure you are using vapour-proof boxes that seal into the vapour barrier and help prevent moisture from leaking into the attic.

Light bulbs generate heat. That’s not a big deal in a table or floor lamp, since they are used in well-ventilated areas. But in a recessed light, that’s tucked into a floor or ceiling cavity–that heat needs to escape, or the fixture will overheat and a fire could start.

Stay away from recessed lighting if it means cutting into attic space. It can lead to major heat loss.

Be very sure you are using the correct type of recessed light for your application. Photo from Wastell Homes.

Don’t attempt installing Pot Lights On Your Own


Because pot lights are being promoted as so easy to install, a lot of DIY enthusiasts or weekend contractors think they can do the job. They buy the wrong type of fixtures, or run too many on a circuit and they end up with an accident waiting to happen.

Electricity is something I never mess with on my own. I’ve been in many homes where the homeowners hired a handyman to install their pot lights. But before you even drill a hole, you need to make sure you’re bringing in an electrician to run the wires properly.

Pot lights can bring a lot of much needed brightness to your home. If you’re planning to retrofit your home with recessed lighting this year, make sure they’re installed by a pro, and think about getting LED compatible pot lights throughout your home; not just for the future but for today.

I have homeowners tell me they do their own electrical work at home, and they’re not electricians. That makes me nervous. Every electrical job needs to be inspected. When you try to do the work yourself, you’re jeopardizing your home, and the safety of your family. Hire an electrician, they know what’s code, they know how to do the work properly, and they’ll make it right for you. For more on electrical safety, here’s an article on how to protect your home from electrical fires.

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