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How do I install uninsulated halogen can lights?

I would like to install some recessed lights in my living room. I've done this sort of job in houses with an attic directly above the room to be lit, but this particular room is a challenge I've not dealt with before--above the living room is a bedroom roughly the same size.

One thing working to my advantage is that there is already one light in the room, and I could have a row of lights in that same bay, which shouldn't be a huge challenge. The main concern for me is how I can move wires across joists. Ideally, I'd be able to accomplish this without having to do any patching afterwards.

Is this doable? Can you recommend a general approach or any specific tips?

  • I think this answer will help. – Steven Jul 8 '12 at 3:09

There's two main parts to it:

  1. Long flexible drill bits. Home Depot and Lowes sell them.
  2. Cut access holes as needed and patch them afterwards. Since you're installing recessed lights, I would think the holes for the lights should give you enough access most of the time.

Some (most?) flex drill bits allow you to remove the bit from the drill (after the end of the bit gets where its supposed to go) and attach a wire to it and use it to pull the wire through. Such as this:


Another option is if you want to drill into the skipped joist bay from both sides (the existing light and the new light). I could imagine shaping two coat hangers (or similar bendable but stiff wire) into shapes where one could hook the other in the skipped bay and then pull it and an attached pull string through. A combination of a hook and loop perhaps.

You should think about the size and location of the holes you will drill in the joists. A larger hole will make wire pulling easier but reduces the strength of the joists more. There are rough guidelines/rules of thumbs.


  • Philip, thanks for getting me started. The main challenge for me is that I want to skip a bay. Just pushing romex through, I doubt I'll be able to find the next hole very effectively. Even with fish tape, this would be a challenge, no? Does this make an access hole (and thus patching) an inevitable conclusion? – Ray Jul 8 '12 at 2:51
  • Those are creative ideas I'm willing to try out. Would you mind adding them to your answer? – Ray Jul 9 '12 at 10:05
  • Ray, you'd be surprised what you can do with fish tape. You could also try using those coat hangers to help work the fish-tape through the next hole. It's all about how much time and frustration you are willing to tolerate; electricians cut access holes because time = money, and it's often cheaper to pay plasterers. But if it's your time... – Alex Feinman Jul 10 '12 at 13:24

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