Recessed lighting is standard in new homes, so how much does recessed lighting cost to have installed in an existing home? The answer is of course it depends, however it typically ranges between $400-$700 for an average bedroom in a single-family home. In this post, I’ll explain the factors that affect how much recessed lighting will cost to have professionally installed in your home.
Products and Materials
The job materials that cost the most are the recessed housings, the LED light modules, and the dimmer switches. Other materials will include NM-B wire, connectors, switch boxes, plastic sheeting and misc. hardware.
LED Recessed Lights
The cost of a LED recessed light assembly (housing + LED module) can range from under $20 to well over $50 each depending on the specifications, type, and features. With more expensive fixtures your’re typically paying for better optics or smart features like adjustable color temperature.
A basic LED dimmer switch will cost around $25 plus the cost of installation. A more advanced “smart” dimmer can range between $45-$75+ and sometimes require additional hardware such as a wireless bridge.
Specific Room Conditions
One of the biggest expenses of professional installation is the cost of the team; skilled labor. The following conditions will likely affect how long an installation will take:
Installing recessed lighting in rooms with tall ceilings will generally take more time, and subsequently cost more. Special equipment such as adjustable ladders or scaffolding may be needed to safely perform the installation.
What’s above the ceiling?
Attic space is certainly the preference when it comes to running the wires. Even if it’s not accessible, having a space between the ceiling and the roof means the wiring is run on top of the joists rather than drilling through them. This saves time and minimizes ceiling cuts.
Another room above complicates things a little. The wires can’t be run over the joists so they’ll need to be run through them. This is done by drilling a small hole through each joist, and fishing the new cable through each one across the ceiling. Extreme caution must be taken to prevent accidentally hitting a pipe or anything else that’s running between the floors while drilling.
The roof directly above is a similar situation to having a room above. It’s especially tough because the ceiling will likely have insulation sandwiched between the ceiling and roof which makes fishing cables difficult.
A neighbor (Condo) above you most likely means you have a fire-rated ceiling and the recessed lights will require an enclosure to be installed around each one. This can more than double the cost of installing recessed lights in lower-level condo units.
Is the room pre-wired for Lighting?
A cable is needed that runs from a wall switch to the recessed lights to power and control them. If an existing ceiling light is being replaced by recessed lights, that circuit can likely be re-purposed for the recessed lighting. If not, a new cable needs to be run across the ceiling, down the wall, and wired to a switch. The cost for this will likely depend on the distance of the run, and whether or not there is access above to fish the wiring down the wall.
Use an existing switch or install new?
Is there a switch available that can be used for the new recessed lighting? If so, it will usually cost less than if a new one needs to be installed. If there’s a switch that operates a half-hot receptacle, that’s usually a good candidate to re-purpose for your lights.
Other Cost Factors
There’s a few other factors that may impact the cost of recessed lighting:
Drywall is the fastest and easiest to work with. Locating ceiling joists through drywall is fairly simple, it’s easy to cut, and for those reasons installation cost can be less than other surfaces.
Plaster walls and ceilings (aka lath and plaster) means cutting the holes for the lights will be more difficult and time-consuming than drywall. Plaster is hard and brittle to work with, and cutting holes is often a two-part process; First cutting through the finished plaster layer, and then the wood or metal lath behind it.
Wood ceilings like tongue-and-groove can be difficult and costly to install lights in for two reasons. First, locating the ceiling joists accurately is very difficult through wood, so positioning and finding clearance for the lights can take a lot of time. Second, cutting large round holes through the wood ceiling is tedious and the stakes are high if you make a mistake.
Age of the Home
The age of a home can impact the cost of recessed lighting installation. Older homes (Pre-1978) may have asbestos ceilings, lead paint, aluminum wiring, or existing wiring that is not up to code – any of which can add cost to a project.
Paint touch-up may be needed following the installation of new lighting. If rooms have existing lighting that will be removed, those areas where the old lighting has been removed will likely need to be repaired and painted as well.