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I have a basement office that I intend to put a drop ceiling in. I was also planning to use the can lights that rest on the drop ceiling track itself rather than between the floor joists above. How would I rough in these can lights in this scenario since the drop ceiling supports won't exist until after drywall is up? Also, are there better alternatives for lighting?

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2 Answers 2

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Not an electrician.

My first thought would be to do the rough in by putting an electrical box on the actual ceiling. In this box wire your conventional wire to a short length of romex. The romex then is wired to your fixture when you hang the drop ceiling.

I don't think conduit would be required for the supply to these boxes, but it's not covered in my "Alberta Electrical Code Simplified" Doing a quick google finds that NM is fine for above suspended ceilings. What is frowned upon is running the wire just on top of the support tracks.

My thought is that romex is more tolerant of being bent, and since you can't guarantee it be secured within 1 foot of the fixture, whatever you put in should tolerate bending.

I also know that when fiddling around with hanging ceiling you bump tiles into things.

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Also not an electrician...

There are two ways to go about this. The one I see in commercial buildings (where my job is just low-voltage telephone & networking cables) is conduit to a junction box and then (typically) armored cable to the individual fixtures. I think that's overkill for residential for a bunch of reasons, including the much shorter distance between the drop ceiling and the rafters/floor above/etc. But the equivalent here would be conduit or NM to junction box(es) in the ceiling and then NM to the individual fixtures. Note that any NM except for the last bit going down to the fixture needs to be secured - can't just lie on top of the grid/tiles. Unlike a solid ceiling, with a drop ceiling you can install junction boxes above the ceiling, because it is removable without tools. For ease of assembly, if I did it that way then I would (a) install fewer-but-larger boxes so that I could run multiple fixtures from a single box and/or chain one box to the next (i.e., either way only one run going back to the switch) and (b) connect the NM for each fixture to the boxes before installing the ceiling grid. Leave a few feet extra, coiled up, on each NM section so that you don't have to worry about running short. Then, after installing the grid, you connect each fixture to its section of NM.

The second option is a separate NM run from each fixture back to the switch box. That is simpler than multiple boxes above the ceiling, but you do have to watch out for box fill issues where everything comes together.

Keep in mind that the usual NM chain between fixtures doesn't work so well here because each section of NM would need to be secured a foot or two above the ceiling between fixtures - and once you do that, you are probably better off with boxes.

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  • At the moment I have a ceiling box with power going to a switch box and coming back to the ceiling box. I was hoping I could just cap that until I'm ready to install lights but I'm not sure I can consider that "roughly installed" since I wouldn't be running any of the light legs yet Feb 14, 2021 at 19:51
  • I think it would be easier to attach the cables to the junction boxes before putting up the supporting grid than after. Feb 14, 2021 at 23:42

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