What Size Recessed Lights Do I Need?

Thanks to their stealthy design, recessed lights suit any room, but there are many variations. One of the variants in recessed lights is sizing, and aspects of your space determine what sized recessed lights you’ll need for adequate illumination.

The Size Of Recessed Lights You’ll Need

Finding the right recessed light size can seem intimidating since there are multiple options, but it all depends on the type of lighting you require, the size of your room, and the light output. The size indication of a recessed light ranges from 2 to 8 inches, which is the diameter measurement without the trim.

The inch label indicates the diameter of the roof hole needed to install the light. Since the trim isn’t included in its measurement, you’ll want to bear that in mind when spacing your lights, as it typically adds an extra inch.

2- And 3-Inch Recessed Lights

These small-sized recessed lights aren’t a common choice for homeowners as the light produced isn’t strong enough for everyday lighting because you’ll require many lights if you do. 2- and 3-inch recessed lights are mainly used for minor task and accent lighting due to their ability of focused lighting.

2-inch and 3-inch recessed lights as decoration lighting

These two sizes will function well if you need lighting for or underneath your cabinets or have certain architectural features or artwork you’d like to highlight. A good rule of thumb for these smaller lights is that if the area you’d like to light up is small and close, 2 or 3 inches can work.

When you’ll need this size:

  • Accent lighting for special features like artwork
  • For small task lighting needs, such as inside cabinets

4-Inch Recessed Lights

4-inch recessed lights are a common choice, but only for certain spaces. 4 inches can work for a small room with low ceilings for general and ambient lighting, but you will require more lights, so it would be best to opt for a bigger size for ambient and general use.

4-inch recessed lights for small room

These lights are still on the small side; therefore, they won’t suit large spaces, but if you need task or accent lighting, this size is perfect. A good spot for 4-inch recessed lights is in cabinets or closets. Like the 2-and 3-inch size, 4-inch recessed lights work to highlight specific features, but on a larger scale.

Another lighting option for 4-inch recessed lights is wall washing. Wall washing is lighting that illuminates the wall, making the space appear larger and reducing the appearance of imperfections, all while creating an even lighting scheme.

When you’ll need this size:

  • Larger task lighting, such as beneath cabinets and in closets
  • Larger accent lighting
  • Ambient and general lighting for small rooms with low ceilings
  • Wall wash lighting

5-Inch Recessed Lights

5-inch recessed lights have a better chance of lighting up a larger area than their smaller predecessors and will require fewer lights. 5-inch lights aren’t all that common, but they are helpful if you want the light to appear smaller while still providing ample illumination.

You can also use this size as task lighting, such as focusing on kitchen counters, but you might want to skip accent lighting. The 5-inch diameter produces light that covers a broader area than 4 inches and below– which will hurt your eyes if the lit zone is too close!

When you’ll need this size:

  • Ambient and general lighting for small and medium rooms
demo box to compare different sizes of recessed lights

6-Inch Recessed Lights

Your best option for everyday ambient lighting is the 6-inch recessed light. Since this is the most common size, you can find many more designs and variants. You’ll need 6-inch recessed lighting for comprehensive coverage because it distributes even illumination over a large surface area.

Small rooms will only require one or two lights with a large lumen output, which makes this option cost-effective. You can use 6-ich recessed lighting anywhere in your home, including living areas, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways.

The larger the room, the more lights you’ll need. 6-inch lights won’t work well for task and accent lighting because the light covers a large area and would be too bright.

When you’ll need this size:

  • Ambient and general lighting for small, medium, and large rooms

7- And 8-Inch Recessed Lights

If you need to cover an enormous area and you want to use recessed lights, you’ll want to use 7- and 8-inch recessed lighting. These recessed light sizes typically produce more watts and lumens, which equals extra bright lighting.

7-inch recessed lights for large room

You’ll want to avoid using more than one of these sizes in small rooms because they would be too bright. You’ll need 7 or 8-inch lights for large spaces with high ceilings. You’ll find these size recessed lights in commercial areas like galleries.

Mansions will also benefit from these large-diameter lights. These sizes are not suitable for task and accent lighting.

When you’ll need this size:

  • Ambient and general lighting for large and extra-large spaces such as mansions
  • Ambient and general lighting for commercial spaces like offices and art galleries

Recessed Lights Housing Size

The size indication of recessed lighting refers to the diameter of the light, but you’ll also want to consider the size of the housing that sits within the roof. Your housing size options include standard, shallow, and canless. Your choice of housing will depend on the condition of your ceiling.

Standard Recessed Light Housing

4-inch recessed lights have a standard housing of 5 and a half inches. 5- and 6-inch lights have a housing of 7 and a half inches. You can use any housing size if your ceiling has no joisting issues, but if you do, you’ll need to opt for shallow housing.

Shallow Recessed Light Housing

If you have joisting issues where the space between the drywall ceiling and the beam is too narrow for standard recessed lights, you’ll need to buy ones with shallow or canless housing. 4-inch lights with shallow housing are typically 3 and a half inches long, and 5- and 6-inch lights are 5-and-a-half-inches.

shallow recessed lights for little space

Canless Recessed Lights

If you barely have any room beneath your ceiling, you can opt for canless recessed lights that don’t have extended housing. These canless options clip into the roof, meaning they still require a hole, but no depth is needed for their functionality.