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I am installing a drop ceiling with pot lights as part of remodeling a portion of my basement. Since I am refinishing the entire room (newly framed walls), it seems like I have a catch 22:

  • I need to get the electrical rough-in done before I put up drywall (including the wiring to the pot lighting fixtures in the drop-ceiling)
  • However, I have always seen drop ceilings installed after the drywall is up, which means I cannot mount the pot lights in the ceiling/wire for them unless I mount the grid (or some portion of it) for the drop ceiling first.

Can I wire up a portion of the grid for the suspended ceiling before drywalling and leave gaps around the edges slightly bigger (~1/8" - e.g. 3/4" gap for 5/8" cement board) than required to insert drywall, or is this a ludicrous suggestion?

Or, is the wiring for pot lights in this situation typically addressed as part of the final inspection? I was not planning on having any additional junction boxes between the panel and the pot lights (all splices to supply multiple lights are supposed to just be inside of the boxes on the pot lights per my submitted plans). Since a portion of the wire run from the breaker panel to the pot lights will be concealed by dry wall for another room (I am finishing the other room at the same time under the same permit) which means the cable would be run from the panel and dangling near where the pot light will eventually be mounted for the rough-in inspection in this case.

I plan on calling my inspector to see what is acceptable, but what is typical practice in this situation?

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Just leave a tail hanging at the location of the first light can. Tape the cleanly-cut end (in case someone does something stupid at the panel) and let the inspector know what's up. Everything after that can be addressed at final inspection.

The same situation (and solution) applies for bathroom vanities and other fixture-only (no box) lighting.

  • I prefer to cap the hot wire in a 'provisional' line like this with a wirenut before taping - rather than just taping - to prevent shorting from the wire being banged around and "just in case". I then use that nut later when I actually make the tie into the junction box or first fixture. – brichins Jun 28 '17 at 22:41
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There are 2 types of pot/can light fixtures - remodel cans (sometimes called "cut-in" or "drop-in" cans), and "new construction" cans. I have always seen "new" fixtures used when possible, especially if the framing is open for pulling the wire.

Which kind you chose for this sort of project depends on how you prefer to sheetrock, and what the inspector is going to be happier with. Typically, the inspectors and electricians I've worked with want all the electrical rough-in complete before sheetrock goes up - but neither of category has to worry about cutting the sheetrock correctly as you do. If you use the remodel cans, the inspector may want you to pull (or just leave open) some of them so he can see how the connections are being made.

  • Remodel - inserted into circular holes cut into existing sheetrock

  • New construction - attached to the framing prior to sheetrocking, with circle holes cut in the sheetrock as it's placed.

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    The areas behind drop ceilings are able to be inspected even at the end of the job (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dropped_ceiling). I have only seen new construction cans as rated for drop ceilings since they can sit on the T bars whereas remodel cans would cause most ceiling tiles to sag over time. – statueuphemism Jun 28 '17 at 22:06
  • @statueuphemism Thanks for the link; I'd only ever seen/heard this type of ceiling referred to as "suspended", and I too have only ever seen the supported cans used there. In my experience (western US) a "dropped" ceiling means a framed ceiling lower than the original framing would allow, usually as a shortcut to hide damage or utility lines. Agree that a suspension system allows inspection at any stage; with the normal system height and it being a basement project, I has assumed this was not what was meant. – brichins Jun 28 '17 at 22:39

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