How To Install Can Lights in A Drop Ceiling

A drop ceiling, also called a false ceiling or second ceiling is a secondary covering that is suspended under the actual ceiling. This structure may seem counterintuitive, but it is actually very useful. Sometimes you may have to run exhaust pipes (from Air Conditioners) or wiring from the main power switch. 

A false ceiling can help to cover up these kinds of messes and keep them away from your attention. In addition to these, a drop ceiling can be customized to fit your design which may not be available for a drywall.

How To Install Can Lights in A Drop Ceiling

Most importantly, a drop ceiling can be fitted for illumination. A great choice for lighting under a drop ceiling is recessed lights or can lights. These lights are fitted directly with the wall, so a drop ceiling is a great choice as the ceiling itself can be adjusted to fit it properly, and maintaining the utility is also relatively easy. 

But how do we do this? This guide will help you get an idea of how to install can lights in a drop ceiling.

Things You’ll Need

Before we begin, there are a few items that you will need. The work is a bit more complex than your general repair and disassembly. You will need a few tools to help you unscrew bolts and attach wires as well

  • Electric Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire Cutters & Nuts
  • Pry bar or crowbar
  • Ladder       
  • Utility Knife

How to Install Can Lights in A Drop Ceiling Step by Step Guide

There are many reasons you may want to install new ceiling lights. With the installation of ceiling lights in a drop ceiling you can increase illumination in your room. 

It also has an aesthetic factor depending on your taste or design. In any case, you can install can lights in a drop ceiling by following this guide.

Step- 1: Find the Right Lights

The first step is to identify what kind of lights you need. Be mindful of the fact that the drop ceiling itself has plastic coverings or supports. 

As such, if your light is too power-consuming i.e. produces a lot of heat, it may melt or weaken the plastic supports. This may cause it to be a fire hazard or even crash the entire structure. 

LED lights are a great choice as they are not that energy-consuming and emit a lot of light. The best of both worlds.

can light

Step- 2: Layout Your Lights

It is important to visualize where you are going to be installing your lights before you get to work. This way, there will be minimal time loss and maximum efficiency. 

You can map out where you want the lights to go and what kind of light you are using will influence your decision here. 

Also, keep in mind the illumination from the lights and the ambiance it will generate. After you have an idea, you can get to work!

Step- 3: Establish supports

The lights will hang or fit under the actual ceiling above the drop ceiling. The drop ceiling itself cannot support the weight of the lights itself. 

Therefore, you will need to install wire supports to hang the lights without compromising the structure of the drop ceiling. 

Install wire on the corners of the tiles where the light will be installed. This helps to hold the light in place. Install supports for all the lights you planned to place. 

Step- 4: Cut Holes

Trace the outlines where the lights will pop into place on the drop ceiling. You will need to cut out proportional holes in the ceiling so that the transition is seamless.

 Any imperfections can be covered up with a wider frame. Still, take your time to measure it correctly. Make sure you are placing the traces at the center of the tile to maintain symmetry.

Step- 5: Position the Lights

Now is the time to place the lights. Use your ladder to open the panel next to the one you are placing the lights in. 

Place the lights into the placeholders and attach them to the supports over the frame you placed previously. The frame supports the weight of the bulb attached to the real ceiling.

Step- 6: Wire the Lights

Trace out the shape of an electrical box on the wall you the electrical switches to be. You need extra holes in the ceiling wall for the wires to pass through. 

The wire should be color-coded so follow the instructions provided by the lights. Do not connect the wires to any existing wiring or the main box.

If you are unsure about this step, it is better to call an electrician to do the wiring. It is not advisable to work with electricity if you do not know what you are doing.

Wire Can Light

Step-7: Finish Up

Tidy up the installation and fix the panels of the lights and wiring. Make sure that the bulb is fit and the structure of the drop ceiling is secure.

If you followed these steps, you successfully learned how to install can lights in a drop ceiling.

Read also: Can You Cut LED Light Strips?

Frequently Asked Question

Can You Install Recessed Lighting in A Drop Ceiling?

Yes, recessed lights are a great choice to install in a drop ceiling. They can blend in with the aesthetic of the room as well as provide ample lighting and ambiance. Moreover, recessed lights are less power-consuming. So, it is a great idea to learn how to install can lights in a drop ceiling.

How Do You Hang Lights in A Drop Ceiling?

Can lights or recessed lights can be installed by adding support wires with the main ceiling. This is because a drop ceiling cannot always bear the weight of the entire structure. So, it is safer and also more secure if you install the lights with the help of a wire, securing it.

How Do You Hang Something Heavy on A Drop Ceiling?

Heavier objects require extra support to prevent them from falling off or swinging around. This is achieved by adding wires to the frames and attaching those wires to the ceiling. The drywall provides the lumbar support, and the wires prevent the drop ceiling from carrying all the weight of the object.

Is It Cheaper to Keep Drywall or Having a Drop Ceiling?

It is relatively cheaper to go with drywall. A drop ceiling can be more aesthetic, but it will cost you even more in labor and expertise. Moreover, if you are not running multiple exhaust or wires over your head, you necessarily do not need a drop ceiling. It also depends if you plan on adding more lights. You will need to also know how to install can lights in a drop ceiling.

Should Recessed Lights Be Wired in Series or Parallel?

It doesn’t affect the overall outcome. A series circuit may lose some amperage at the end of the sequence but is much more convenient as you can use one switch for all the lights. Households usually install lights parallel because individual usage may vary. Choose whichever suits your needs and environment.


A drop ceiling can be expensive, especially in a household where its usage may be limited outside of aesthetics. A few wires don’t look unpleasant in the kitchen even without a drop ceiling. However, it looks better with a nicely placed false ceiling. 

A lot of it comes down to your ability to know how to install can lights in a drop ceiling. As always, you can always hire an expert to do it for you, but where’s the fun in that?

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