I am looking into installing recessed lights in an existing house. Because we have insulation in the attic, I am looking at IC rated, remodel housings. Here in the US, I am finding that the 5" and 6" diameter housings are the most common, but I tend to like better the smaller 3", or maybe 4" models.

Given that context, what are downsides of smaller diameter recessed light housings (3-4"), compared to larger ones (5-6")?

2 Answers 2


There really isn't any downside that I'm aware of.

Bulbs are a concern, although that applies to any type of light: are they readily available? Can you get them from your local big box store, or do you have to resort to a speciality lighting store, though special order, or from some obscure site on the internet?

Regardless of light size, providing the appropriate number of lights, in the appropriate positions, and with the appropriate bulb beam angle (using flood vs spot) is important. I actually discussed that in depth on my answer here: Is there a good rule of thumb for how many lights you need in a room?

  • 1
    Check available wattages as well as do they have the bulbs at all. I've noticed that for some of the track lighting fixtures that I have they don't seem to make the 60 watt bulbs I used to use - only 50s. Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 17:14

I usually see the smaller lights used as accent lighting, over a mantle or in an alcove.

I would be cautious using them widely, if only for resale reasons.

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    I think this answer needs more detail. What "resale" reasons? How is the sale of the house affected by the size of pot lights? I do agree though that proving adequate lighting is important, but that has nothing to do with the size of lights and everything to do with using the appropriate number, bulb type (flood vs spot) and positioning.
    – gregmac
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 19:33
  • @gregmac - You are correct, the size of the light shouldn't matter. However, if one size is commonly used (regionally), people may be put off by something that is different. I've seen people pass on a house because of the color of the rooms. Hello people, it's called paint!
    – uncle brad
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 19:49

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