Basement is 550 sq ft. 11x50 with a 7 ft ceiling. Am planning on using recessed LEDs since the ceiling is already completed.

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    I dunno. What are you doing in your basement? Movies? Reading? Growing pot? I think we need a lot more details here.
    – DA01
    Feb 22 '16 at 16:23

11' x 50' is a rather odd shape but lighting it is done like any other space, first and foremost consider what you will be doing and where you will be doing it. Is it one big entertainment space? Is it a combination media area (tv on one side) and play area? Is part of it an office that will need task lighting? Before even considering how many or how bright the fixtures are, imagine yourself using the space.

One common rule of thumb is 1.5x the square footage in incandescent watts, i.e. if you are lighting up all 550 sq feet you will need about 825 equivalent watts, or 14 60 watt fixtures. If part of it is just a media area that won't need a great deal of light you can reduce the fixtures in that section and focus on the other areas.

Edit for future-proofing: to consider this in lumens, a living space is best lit with 20 lumens per square foot and LEDs that range from 750-850 lumens per fixture would therefore require 14-15 fixtures to fully light the area.

  • +1 Intent of use is going to be the main factor in where, and how many lights are placed.
    – Tester101
    Feb 22 '16 at 15:20
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    Does that work anymore considering he might be using LED lights? Equivalent lighting can work but he must consider lumens, not watts.
    – Rob
    Feb 22 '16 at 15:26
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    I did say equivalent, but sure let me be clear. Also, a quick rule of thumb for lumens is 10-20 for living spaces, and 30-40 for task spaces. So in this case 20 lum/sq.ft. would be 11000 for the basement, or 14 800 lumen fixtures (a typical 60w equivalent LED)
    – Jeff Meden
    Feb 22 '16 at 15:30
  • I agree with the advice about planning based on usage. But if he wants pretty full and even illumination, one row of floods in cans will leave shadows near the walls. Two rows will need more than 7 cans for the length to avoid pools of bright then dark.
    – bib
    Feb 22 '16 at 15:31
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    @bib I agree the best layout would probably be more fixtures than that unless he can exclude some areas, i.e. adjacent to the stairwell if there is one midway in the space or adjacent to the media wall where the TV is going to be. Pulling 14 fixtures into grouped areas of say a 2x3 grid and a 2x4 grid based on use would be practical.
    – Jeff Meden
    Feb 22 '16 at 15:38

This would be for an even distribution of light for the space with fixtures that are around 700 lumens (the ones for calculations use 11W) - something similar to these:


At a 20 fc lighting level throughout the space (18 total for 198W):

20 fc layout

At a 30 fc lighting level throughout the space (27 total for 297W):

30 fc layout

Lighting isn't a set item, even these numbers shown include a lot of independent variables. The fixtures used (look for their lumen outputs) will change just how many you would need to create a sweeping, uniform light level. However if you then want some features to be illuminated for focus, such as the bar, you'd need to consider this and have higher lumen fixtures throughout that area or closer spacing of the fixtures. Also, even the finishes of the walls, floor, etc. can affect the lighting or diminish it.

20-30 fc is probably a good level to go by for general lighting that will allow you to do anything in your new room, but you can include dimmer switches if you'd also like.

Based on the comments, I've included even lower fc levels that might suit the situation a little better intentionally for just sitting around and watching tv. Again though, you'll never be able to get more than this overall level, but if you went higher you could always dim it down.

And the last point to remember here is that lighting is a gradient. Directly under the lights throughout will always be the brightest spots and this will fade out towards the walls. The reason you use additional lights is to create a uniform room wide lighting level. When you get down to the lower quantities, you'll still get an average fc level of what is shown, but it will always be darker the farther that you get from the lights (the corners and such as shown in the 5 fc range).

15 fc:

15 fc layout

10 fc:

10 fc layout

5 fc:

5 fc layout

  • 1
    Note: Foot-candle (fc) is equivalent to 1 Lumen per square foot (lm/ft²).
    – Tester101
    Feb 22 '16 at 17:57
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    I have to think that all of these 20-can suggestions are from someone who makes a living selling lighting. The last basement I finished (in my last home) had 350 square feet of finished space and was well lit by 6 60w cans (that I actually downgraded to 40w since the space was almost always used for TV watching and the 6x60 was overkill). If this were an office or craft studio or something, I could see needing this many lights, but for anything less (tv watching, relaxing, etc) no way.
    – Jeff Meden
    Feb 22 '16 at 18:09
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    @TFK 15fc is too much for watching TV, which is one of the stated purposes per OPs comment below, and yet you suggest something twice that anyway? Sorry don't mean to offend, but that's nuts.
    – Jeff Meden
    Feb 22 '16 at 18:30
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    @JeffMeden Sure, and I agree with you. My living room where we watch tv is rectangular shaped (about 350 sf) and has only a single ceiling fan/light to the far left of the room. Although it probably puts out 2400 lumens (4 bulbs), only that half of the room is mainly lit. This works wonderful for watching TV and general lighting, but it's impossible to do anything else on that other end of the room without turning on lamps and such. It's better to design a system that can be adjusted for multiple uses rather than focus on a singular one and try to supplement it later on.
    – TFK
    Feb 22 '16 at 18:45
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    @JeffMeden There's nothing wrong with lots of lights, especially if they're controlled in smaller groups, and on a dimmer. A simple toggle switch to turn on/off 20 lights is not very useful in a residential setting. Small groups of lights on dimmers, allows the space to be more versatile. The more lights there are, the more even the lighting.
    – Tester101
    Feb 23 '16 at 22:36

Hard question to answer with so little information, but I'll bite.

5x2 or 6x2 grid, spaced equally. (2 across because your ceiling is low.)

Consider splitting them into "this half" and "that half", depending on your usage.

Put them on a dimmer.

  • Right now there are only 3 lights in there...old 60 watt lights. They light the room up just fine. Beginning to create the man cave...you know, bar and place to watch the football games.
    – Scott
    Feb 22 '16 at 15:13
  • Well, then - You can find your way around by the light of the neon beer sign and the TV. No need for actual light fixtures at all. ;^/
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 22 '16 at 20:05

Here's a good description for full light. But, it depends what you're after. Do you want to be able to read everywhere or do you want the typical cave-like feeling (I mean "drama") of recessed lights.

28 or 22-lights (for full light) may seem like a lot & it is & it's a huge waste but aside from low profile surface fixtures I'd agree that it's your only best option for such a low ceiling. You might be able to cut the number down to 20, 18 or maybe 16, but the height of the ceiling limits the light's fan or spread pretty severely.


OP has probably finished this project years ago. But it you do this today you should consider LED strip lights. Search for images of "basement LED strip lights" to get some ideas.

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