How to Cut Holes for Recessed Light


Recessed lighting offers room lighting without the obtrusive look of hanging lights. To install a recessed light, you need to cut an opening into the ceiling material of your home. Drywall and acoustic ceiling panels are two common types of ceiling material you will encounter during the installation of recessed lighting. Cutting both types of material uses the same tools; the main difference is the amount of time required to cut the hole in the material, as drywall is more dense than ceiling tiles.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Recessed light housing
  • Compass
  • Safety glasses
  • Keyhole saw
  • Measure the vertical and horizontal center location of the recessed light with the tape measure.

  • Mark the horizontal and vertical centers on the drywall or ceiling tile with a pencil. You should have a crosshair marking the center of the recessed light.

  • Set the compass to one-half of the hole size stated on the recessed light installation instructions.

  • Place the needle end of the compass on the pencil crosshair you made on the surface of the material and swing the pencil end of the compass around to mark a circle.

  • Put on your safety glasses.

  • Push the end of the keyhole saw into the drywall or ceiling tile, with the tip of the saw aligned with the pencil-marked circle.

  • Pull and push the keyhole saw to cut around the marked circle to complete the hole for the recessed light.

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  • Photo Credit light image by Gonçalo Carreira from
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