Kitchen Lights Recessed Lighting Made Simple

Kitchen Lights Recessed Lighting Made Simple

Kitchen Lighting 101

If its time to update your kitchen lights, you may be wondering what your options are.

Recessed lighting is ideal for kitchens, and its whats included in most new homes.

Lets look at a few options for replacing your old lights with modern recessed lighting .

Kitchen Ceiling Types

The first thing you need to do is identify the type of ceiling you have, so that you know what your options are.

Flat Ceiling Type

If your kitchen ceiling is flat, it probably has one or more light fixtures mounted to its surface.

Updating it to recessed lighting is fairly simple.

It involves removing the old fixtures, installing the recessed lights, and repairing any ceiling damage left over from the old light fixtures.

Soffit Ceiling Type

If your home was built between the 1970s and the 1990s, you may have a soffit ceiling with a raised portion in the center. This was built to accommodate fluorescent tube lights which are covered by plastic panels.

Option #2 Leave the Soffit Open

Remove the old lighting and install recessed lights inside the raised ceiling, and around the outside of the soffit if needed.

With either option, the ceiling will most likely need to be refinished by a drywall professional and then painted.

Number of Recessed Lights

When determining the number of recessed lights your kitchen needs, think in terms of general lighting and task lighting .

General Lighting

General lighting is what provides the overall brightness in the room.

Since kitchens require a higher level of brightness than most other rooms of a home, you may need a few more lights or brighter lights than youd use in other rooms of the same size.

Task Lighting

The number of task lights needed (if any) will vary based on the layout of the general lights (which Ill address next). Depending on the shape of your kitchen, the layout of your general lights may eliminate the need for any additional task lighting.

Think of task lights as fillers to address any surfaces that will not be adequately lit by your general lighting.

Besides recessed lighting, under cabinet lighting and pendant lights are a few other options that are excellent for task lighting.


Whenever possible, the layout of the general lights should be an even pattern according to the shape of the room. The formula for spacing kitchen lights is the same as any other room.

If task lights are needed in addition to the general lights, place them directly over the work areas. Dont worry about aligning task lights in a pattern. I also recommend putting them on a separate switch from your general lights whenever feasible.

Type of Recessed Lights

Depending on where you live, the type of lights you install in your kitchen may be restricted by local energy codes.

For example, here in California, all of the lighting we install must meet the requirements of Title-24, a set of efficiency guidelines mandated by the CEC and updated every three years.

In the past, this was very frustrating because the only type of lights that met the efficiency requirements for kitchen lights were fluorescent.

Needless to say, it was hard to get excited about installing new fluorescent lighting. Except for its efficency, theres nothing else appealing about it.

Thankfully, LED technology has become exceptional (and affordable), and easily meets the efficiency requirements.

Size and Brightness

When it comes to brightness, its not the size of the recessed light that matters.

What actually matters is the performance of the fixture or lamp it uses.

This means that you need to calculate how bright each light needs to be first.

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