Install Lighting in a Suspended Ceiling

suspended ceiling tiles with drop lights
  • 5-15 hours
  • Advanced
  • 100-1,000
What You'll Need
Measuring tape
Drywall saw, stab saw
Lighting fixtures
Wire nuts
Dust mask
Protective goggles

Installing lighting on a suspended ceiling can be an intimidating process, but there are many options, even if you want to do it all yourself. Of course, you can install lighting that does not even touch the ceiling, like railing lights that run around the perimeter of your wall, close to the ceiling. You can also consider wall-mount lights. Then, there is the good old-standing lamp. However, if you are set on installing something like recessed lights on your suspended ceiling, take a look at the following option of doing it yourself.

Step 1 - Mark the Spot

ceiling tiles

Put on protective goggles and dust mask before starting any work to protect from any debris, especially as you are dealing with material above your head.

Remove the desired ceiling tile and place on a bench or saw horses. With your measuring tape, find the ideal location for your light and mark it accordingly with a pencil. Are you using multiple lights or one central fixture? You also want to make sure that you place the lights in a place that is convenient for the wiring. Make sure you know where the power source is, how long the wiring is, and which switch or outlet will be used.

Place the light fixture housing on the ceiling tile where you have marked the desire spot. Draw a circle around the light, keeping the pencil as close as possible so the hole is the correct size.

Step 2 - Cut the Hole

cutting a hole with a drywall saw

During this step, you should wear protective goggles and dust mask if you have not done so already. Using the drywall saw, stab the tile where you have marked the circle, and cut out the entire circle from the tile. Put the light housing into the hole and fasten securely with the provided clips.

Repeat steps one and two for as many lighting fixtures as you have chosen to install.

Step 3 - Wire the Light

Wire the light to the desired power source. If you have put the lights up and incorrectly judged the distance to a power source, it may be possible to run an extension cord to a nearby outlet, but this will be an inconvenience as you will need to monitor the connection and unplug it on a regular basis.

Step 4 - Put Everything in Place

Put the ceiling tile back in its place and trim any unnecessary unevenness. Add the light bulb and enjoy.

Many commercial lights come with their own hanging wire, so in addition to clipping them to the tile, you can hang them from the ceiling bar for extra support. For small, round lights, you could potentially use a wire hanger to attach the light to the support beam above the ceiling. The hanging wire will help protect from accidents, especially in an earthquake-prone environment.