How to Replace Recessed Lighting Covers

recessed light in ceiling
What You'll Need
Measuring tape
New covers
Measuring tape

Decorative recessed lighting covers can put a new face on worn or unattractive canister lights, and other recessed fixtures. They are very easy to install, and provide an affordable alternative to updating the entire fixture. Covers come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and finishes, though they are most commonly built to fit over circular fixtures.

Step 1 - Measure the Fixtures

Before purchasing recessed lighting covers, measure the fixtures they will be covering to ensure a proper fit. For circular fixtures, measure the widest part of the circle going in both directions, as though creating a large “t” shape. This will be the measurement used to determine what size of cover you'll need.

Step 2 - Purchase the Cover

Purchase a cover that matches the décor of the room where it will be installed. If there are multiple recessed lights in one room, it is generally best to use covers of the style for all of them, and to cover them at the same time. Snap on or twist on covers are the easiest to install, and are the best option for simplifying the project, as they require no alterations to the existing hardware, and virtually no tools will be required to complete the project. Check the packaging for installation type prior to purchasing the covers.

Step 3 - Remove Old Trim

man working on a recessed light

Whenever working with a lighting fixture, it's best to turn off power before beginning work. Turn on the light, go to the circuit box, and flip the breaker. If the light turns off, you have successfully cut power to the recessed lighting fixture. Remove the bulb from the fixture. Use a flashlight to examine the fixture—how is the old trim connected? Are there screws or tabs visible? Once you've located the method of installation, it's time for the screwdriver. If the trim is screwed on, use the screwdriver to carefully remove the trim panels. If it's a snap on, look for a push-button indentation below the tabs for easy release. If there's no method for easy release, gently pry at the snaps themselves until the old cover comes off. Be patient with this process, as damage to the surrounding ceiling or to the fixture itself could result in many hours and dollars worth of work.

Step 4 - Install the New Cover

Most circular cover kits come with an inner can ring, a detail ring, and a glass insert. Snap the inner ring onto the fixture itself, then replace the light bulb. Place the glass insert along the bottom edge, and screw the detail ring onto it until it is flush with the ceiling. If screws are required for the inner ring, use self-tapping screws and carefully attach around the recessed light fixture per the cover kit's instructions. Repeat for all lights in the room, first checking to make sure that there is no power at the socket before beginning work. Restore power to the room at the breaker box, and enjoy your finished result!