I'm installing downlights in the hallway of my apartment, the hallway has a 90 degree turn and along one of the sides I have been lucky, no joists in the way. I cut the first hole along the other side but have hit a joist which spans the whole length smack bang in the middle of where all the lights would go. Has this happened to any of you before, what are my options? Thank you in advance!

  • thank you for the suggestion @crip659, unfortunately the hallway is quite narrow - so it would show :/ but that might be something that I just have to live with Aug 22, 2022 at 14:37
  • That's a fair point @isherwood, the problem is that I've actually already picked the lights that I want, and they're not shallow. But compromise seem inevitable and I will take this option into consideration, thank you! Aug 22, 2022 at 23:13
  • No probs, I'm talking about a light which is roughly the size and shape of a coke can - it gets recessed into the ceiling, so there cannot be anything the other side of the ceiling in the area that it is being installed. The problem that I have is that there's a joist exactly where the light needs to be pushed up into, does that help clarify or have I misunderstood something? Aug 24, 2022 at 16:20
  • Oh. You don't say anything about recessed lights in your question. "Downlight" doesn't imply recessed. I see the tag now, though.
    – isherwood
    Aug 24, 2022 at 16:22
  • Downlights are recessed, if they aren't recessed and they're surface mounted then they aren't downlights, they're spotlights. That being said, I could have been more clear and used the word 'recessed' for the avoidance of ambiguity :) Aug 24, 2022 at 16:29

3 Answers 3


Could you alternate the lights on either side of the joist so they follow a zigzag pattern and avoid the joist?

Downlights in zigzag pattern along hallway

If you've already done one section in a straight line and don't want to patch your holes, you'll end up with a break in the pattern which you may not like at first but might not be noticeable by anyone else.

Downlights in zigzag pattern along half the hallway

Or maybe you can come up with an alternative pattern that looks intentional, for instance four lights in a square above each doorway.

  • 1
    Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to sketch this out - it really helps me visualise what my best option might be... I suppose a third option would be to have pairs of downlights either side of the joist Aug 22, 2022 at 23:08

In the old days this would have been a big problem. But there are LED lights available now that don't require a big recessed can like old incandescent lights did. For example, this Halo light from Home Depot:

Halo light

only needs 1.25" clearance for the light fixture. With 1/2" drywall, that means only cutting 3/4", and you may not even need that if you can arrange it so that the fixture straddles the joist. The key is that the junction box is separate and the output from the junction box is low voltage, so the cable from the junction box to the fixture does not have to be enclosed the way it would need to be if it were 120V.

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    You can also improvise a spacer between ceiling and lamp base.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 22, 2022 at 15:18

Cutting joists is not recommended. However, joists are typically only 1.5 inches wide, so moving your box/hole a few inches to miss the joist is a good option. If this creates a problem for your pattern/rows, you may need to move other holes you've already done.

For any holes where you may encounter joists, it's a good idea to "look before you leap" - mark the row/pattern, then use a stud finder to locate joists or other elements you need to avoid in the ceiling before you start.

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