How to Build a Soffit Box with Recessed Lighting The Family Handyman

How to Build a Soffit Box with Recessed Lighting The Family Handyman

Add interest to a bedroom or kitchen by building a soffit with drywall, wood trim and rope lights.

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The big picture

If youre bored by a plain boxy room, take heart. You dont have to rip apart walls and ceilings to make the space more inviting, better lit and more dramatic. The simple soffit project we show here will do all that. A soffit is a dropped section of ceiling thats usually positioned along the walls. It creates a multi-height ceiling, which in itself adds a visual feature. But even better, it offers a perfect home for lightinggeneral lighting for the room as a whole and recessed lights for practical uses like illuminating closets and reading, as well as for highlighting artwork and display shelves.

In this article, well show you how to dramatically improve any room with a soffit and lights. Well walk you through a simple soffit building method that leaves the existing ceilings and walls intact, so theres no messy drywall repair work. And well show you how to install electrical fixtures and run wires inside the new soffit so you wont have to open up walls for the new electrical work.

If youve successfully tackled any simple carpentry project, such as building a deck or installing utility shelves, youre more than qualified to handle this project. Most of the project is just a matter of cutting 2x4s and plywood to length and screwing them into place. Start to finish, you can complete this project in two easy weekends.

Youll only need everyday carpentry tools, including a 4-ft. level, circular saw, screw gun, jigsaw and a miter saw for accurate cuts on the trim.

Youll also need basic electrical skills to complete the wiring (see Planning the Wiring).We wont show in this article how to set new electrical boxes, run new wires or install the fixtures. If youre unsure about these details, hire an electrician. Apply for an electrical permit before you start.

Soffit details

Designing your soffit

Our soffits are 8 in. high and 28 in. wide, and theyll fit in any room with 8-ft.or higher ceilings (as long as the door and window trim is at least 10 in. from the ceiling).You can make soffits wider or taller to suit larger rooms if you wish. But the 8-in.height is the minimum needed to handle the depth of the recessed lights. The 28-in.width is about the minimum needed to position recessed lights far enough from walls to effectively light wall-hung features. Larger rooms may benefit visually with upsized soffits.

We added three wood trim bands to finish off the soffit (Figure A).Choose wood profiles, types and finishes for these that match or contrast with the rooms other trim. Our trim is lightly stained 3/4-in. thick maple.

The lighting fixtures in our soffit are of two types: rope lighting for unobtrusive mood lighting and recessed soffit fixtures for specific lighting tasks. Rope lightings all the rage among designers. Its cheap, and it can be cut to length for shorter runs or spliced together for longer ones. Special splicing connections and end caps make that easy. Measure the inner perimeter of the soffit to determine how much rope light youll need. The home center will carry lengths from just a few feet to dozens of feet. The rope light is controlled by two three-way switches so the light can be flipped from either the bedside (for those midnight bathroom runs) or from near the door.

Recessed lights are perfect for specific lighting tasks (see opening photo). Youll need to select trim rings and bulbs designed for your purposes. Well say more about that in Selecting Recessed Lights, .

Before you start this project, draw a simple wiring scheme to plan your lighting.

Add interest to a bedroom or kitchen by building a soffit with drywall, wood trim and rope lights.

Don’t have an account yet?

Sign up today for FREE and become part of The Family Handyman community of DIYers.

User Comments

The big picture

If youre bored by a plain boxy room, take heart. You dont have to rip apart walls and ceilings to make the space more inviting, better lit and more dramatic. The simple soffit project we show here will do all that. A soffit is a dropped section of ceiling thats usually positioned along the walls. It creates a multi-height ceiling, which in itself adds a visual feature. But even better, it offers a perfect home for lightinggeneral lighting for the room as a whole and recessed lights for practical uses like illuminating closets and reading, as well as for highlighting artwork and display shelves.

In this article, well show you how to dramatically improve any room with a soffit and lights. Well walk you through a simple soffit building method that leaves the existing ceilings and walls intact, so theres no messy drywall repair work. And well show you how to install electrical fixtures and run wires inside the new soffit so you wont have to open up walls for the new electrical work.

If youve successfully tackled any simple carpentry project, such as building a deck or installing utility shelves, youre more than qualified to handle this project. Most of the project is just a matter of cutting 2x4s and plywood to length and screwing them into place. Start to finish, you can complete this project in two easy weekends.

Youll only need everyday carpentry tools, including a 4-ft. level, circular saw, screw gun, jigsaw and a miter saw for accurate cuts on the trim.

Youll also need basic electrical skills to complete the wiring (see Planning the Wiring).We wont show in this article how to set new electrical boxes, run new wires or install the fixtures. If youre unsure about these details, hire an electrician. Apply for an electrical permit before you start.

Soffit details

Designing your soffit

Our soffits are 8 in. high and 28 in. wide, and theyll fit in any room with 8-ft.or higher ceilings (as long as the door and window trim is at least 10 in. from the ceiling).You can make soffits wider or taller to suit larger rooms if you wish. But the 8-in.height is the minimum needed to handle the depth of the recessed lights. The 28-in.width is about the minimum needed to position recessed lights far enough from walls to effectively light wall-hung features. Larger rooms may benefit visually with upsized soffits.

We added three wood trim bands to finish off the soffit (Figure A).Choose wood profiles, types and finishes for these that match or contrast with the rooms other trim. Our trim is lightly stained 3/4-in. thick maple.

The lighting fixtures in our soffit are of two types: rope lighting for unobtrusive mood lighting and recessed soffit fixtures for specific lighting tasks. Rope lightings all the rage among designers. Its cheap, and it can be cut to length for shorter runs or spliced together for longer ones. Special splicing connections and end caps make that easy. Measure the inner perimeter of the soffit to determine how much rope light youll need. The home center will carry lengths from just a few feet to dozens of feet. The rope light is controlled by two three-way switches so the light can be flipped from either the bedside (for those midnight bathroom runs) or from near the door.

Recessed lights are perfect for specific lighting tasks (see opening photo). Youll need to select trim rings and bulbs designed for your purposes. Well say more about that in Selecting Recessed Lights, .

Before you start this project, draw a simple wiring scheme to plan your lighting.


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