I installed two new recessed LED light fixtures using 4" new construction IC housings. The problem is that both fixtures are not flush against the ceiling after installation, they are dipping down on one side 1/4" or so.

Am I doing something wrong? Is my 1990's(Minnesota, USA) ceiling drywall too thick or something? Do I need a different fixture? I'll rig something up with tape/glue/etc. if necessary but I like the fixtures so don't want to return them. How can I get these fixtures flush with the ceiling?

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I've tried removing the fixtures and reinstalling with the same results. The housings are as close to the drywall as possible and secured under and to the sides of the ceiling joists. The housing itself does slide into the hole in the drywall about 1/4" I would guess but does not completely go into the room; I'm not sure if this is typical or not.

The mechanism to secure the fixtures into the housing seems somewhat unique to me. It has clips that use friction to install, but will collapse if you turn the fixture clockwise to uninstall. It is best explained via an image:

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  • Fixture: Commercial Electric 4 in. Recessed Soft White LED Can Disk Light Link 1 Link 2
  • Box: Halo T24 New Construction 4 in. LED Recessed Housing Link 1

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  • Are you adverse to glueing them in place? Mar 31, 2014 at 0:06
  • @Oxinabox - I would if that would work. What glue would work best and how would I prevent it from squeezing out the sides and looking bad? The fixtures are LED so I'm not too worried about glueing them up for 10 years.
    – dpollitt
    Mar 31, 2014 at 0:09
  • 1
    I would not glue them. I've had to remove a number of recessed fixtures over the years to replace bad sockets and transformers.
    – Steven
    Mar 31, 2014 at 0:15
  • Well, that's a crummy retention system if I've ever seen one. Especially given the existence and reliable function of the standard "spring-in-a-clip" recessed lighting retainers. But your new cans don't seem to have the clips, so just returning the lights for ones with springs won't fix your problem. You'd have been better off with standard cans and "retrofit" LEDs, I think, since those each tend to have the clips and springs. Thanks for showing us these so we can beware of them and avoid them...
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 31, 2014 at 0:59
  • I have a question: could it be that the can (housing) was installed too low in the joist space, leaving the trim hanging? Looking at the pics this doesn't seem to be the case, but I didn't know. I ask this because when I retrofitted a light switch box I did the opposite and put it too far in - easy to fix but a big lesson learned. Thanks.
    – John
    Feb 29, 2016 at 0:33

3 Answers 3


The symptom of the gap you have in all my experience with recess lights have been the rough in housing has room for deflection. As you push the trim in place, the rough in pushes up also under the tension of the lens going in and it stays pushed up until the lens bottoms out on the ceiling and is released. The housing relaxes back down and creates the gap.

I have had some success minimizing the gap by twisting the trim slightly after the trim is meeting the ceiling. Twist it in the direction that keeps the tension fingers out on the lens. The wrong direction may allow the tension fingers to collapse for removal and you are back to square one.

If that does not work to your satisfaction, I have glued the rough in down to the drywall so it is stable enough to not rise when inserting the trim.

Blue tape the finished drywall to keep it clear of the adhesive you choose to use, it can be practically anything. Construction adhesive or painters caulk would be my choice. Push up on the rough in to expose the gap if possible of the upper drywall surface and rough in lip. Inject a lot of the tube in the space, it will be messy, have paper on the floor. Let the rough in back down, more may ooze out, keep it clean remove tape and let dry for a while. A day or two will work, longer the better, then try to reinstall.

  • I would like to report back that I have mostly resolved my problem. The housing that I used was quite firmly installed and nailed twice into each joist, so I was a bit skeptical of this solution. I ended up essentially just shoving the fixture into the housing hard a few times until it was acceptably flush. I choose this as the accepted answer because I do think you are correct and this was likely my issue.
    – dpollitt
    Apr 18, 2014 at 14:08
  • 1
    What a coincidence. I have renovated my cousins bathroom and when it come time to install the light trims one out of five had the same issue. I injected gap at the opening with a painters caulk which holds really well as an adhesive. It has been setting for 2 days and we will see how the fix holds. Glad you got it tight.
    – Jack
    Apr 18, 2014 at 16:24

As Jack explains in his answer, the problem seems to be that the rough-in deflects upward as you are pushing the trim in and then returns to its at rest position after the trim is in place.

The trick is to keep the rough-in from moving upward.

Consider drilling two small holes about an inch above the bottom lip and on opposite sides of the rough-in. Attach an eight inch strip of flexible strapping or something similar (flat, strong, and not prone to stretching) using sheet metal screws through each of those holes. Allow the straps to hang down.

Installation will be a two person job. Have someone pull those straps downward and then outward to hold the rough-in at its lowest point. Then you push the trim kit in while your helper maintains the tension. the rough-in may even slide upward a bit once the trim is in place and the straps are released, pulling the trim even snugger. You can then trim off the pieces of strap sticking out with a utility knife.

You could make this a one person job if you are willing to put two anchors in the plasterboard of ceiling to hold the straps in place. Once the trim is installed,the anchors can be removed and the holes filled and paint touched up.


Just chiming in here because I had this problem too and this was one of the only threads that I could find that discussed the issue. My problem was definitely the housing can shifting upwards and I was pushing the light into place.

All I did was take two strips of electrical tape, stuck one end to the interior of the housing and ran it vertically down and around the lip of the housing and drywall hole, sticking the other end on the ceiling. This provided just enough resistance to secure the housing in place while I pushed up on the light. When it was almost completely flush I just wiggled the electrical tape and pulled it out. Didn’t leave any marks, no mess. The electrical tape was sturdy enough to pull out without it ripping but probably would have been fine if I had had to cut it with a utility knife.

  • I did something similar. I used some pull-string, and pulled down on the string as I pushed the fixture up.
    – Geoff
    Feb 22, 2023 at 18:54

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