I'm finishing about 1300 square feet of my basement. I plan on putting
in a drop ceiling with can lights.
I was thinking about spacing the 6-inch cans about 6 feet apart. Is
that too close? That's a lot of lights (roughly 36) which seems like
too much to me. Any thoughts/recommendations? Assuming 75W lights
(total of 2700W), I'll probably need two or three separate 15A circuits
for them as well, correct?
Another option is flourescent but I'm not sure I want to go that route.
Doesn't look that nice and placement is not as flexible.
Depends on what you want/intend to use the room for. I did recessed in
the basement initially and thought the same thing -- seemed like far
more than should be necessary so cut back. Big mistake! The actually
lighting effectiveness of the recessed fixtures is really not good so
if you want good illumination for activities that need it, you want to
go more rather than less. If they're only 75W each, definitely need
that. I'd place them on separate circuits for area control depending
on the area's intended use. A total of 12-1400 W per 15A circuit keeps
you at the roughly 80% load range which isn't a bad target.
A lot of people (including me) are buying flourescent for their canned
lighting these days. Works well but takes a few minutes to get fully
bright. But canned lighting does not go very far. You want the basement to
be bright and cheerful. We went with recessed panel flourescents in our
finished basement and haven't regretted it.
Don't pull something out of your butt (or someone else's) for something
like this. Google for "lighting level calculations" to use some tools
to properly determine your required fixture density for the lighting
level that you want.
I guess it depends on what you want to use the basement for and what your
definition of "bright" is. The setup you suggest (36 x 75w bulbs) is going
to be factory bright. In my 720 sq ft. basement I did the same thing (drop
ceiling, 6-in. cans) for two rooms (home theater and bedroom). I used 12
cans with 50w mini-floods (you see them mostly in track lighting) and we
like it fine. Six of the cans shine straight down on the floor for areas
where you need to see your footing (stair landings and doors), and the rest
are eyeballs that we put about 1 ft. from the wall and trained on the walls
to diffuse the light and highlight wall hangings. Using that few places a
couple areas in shadow but that was the effect we wanted, and we supplement
the ceiling lamps with a couple of table lamps as needed for reading.
Whether it's too bright or not will also depend on the wall and floor
colors. We used tongue-in-groove pine paneling on the walls with clear
urethane and medium green w2w carpet, and the amount of light is just right.
With off-white drywall walls and lighter carpeting or tile, we'd probably
replace the bulbs with weaker ones.
One note about fluorescent: Just for grins I replaced one of the 50w
eyeballs with a 14w fluorescent bulb. The fluorescent bulb is way, way
brighter, almost painfully bright in comparison with the mini-flood.
Good luck with your project!
John in MD
I will be using pine plank paneling too and I was concerned that,
because the walls won't be bright, that I would have an even bigger
lighting problem. I like your ideas with the eyeballs. I will get
look for more online lighting calculators as mentioned above but I'll
use your 60 sq. ft. per light as a starting point. Lamps and other
fixture that are on tables and things will also provide illumination.
We'll have a light colored carpet for sure.
Also, to make the drop in ceiling as small as possible, I think I'll
be using this system to mount my ceiling tiles : http://www.kensa.com /
We will mainly be using the basement for parties and entertaining.
Remember that the ceiling height will likely be less than in most rooms,
especially after you drop the ceiling. That means the pool of light from
the fixtures will be a lot smaller than you might think. Also since all the
light is down light any spot not covered by a light is going to be rather
dark and those areas only covered by one are likely to have some strong
Cans usually don't work real well in basements due to the typical low
ceiling. Look in the lighting literature for the beam angle of the cans
and plot that out based on ceiling height. Typically you get a bunch of
bright polka dots on the floor with dark spaces in between.
My recommendation would be to do an uplight soffit around the perimeter
and any other convenient areas with 4' T8 fluorescent strips in the
soffit. Bounce all the light off the white ceiling tiles and you'll get
a much more even light. They even make an offset double lamp fluorescent
fixture for this type of use, offsetting the tubes by like 6" means
there are no gaps in the light coverage.
I was at somebody's house yesterday. They had can lights in their
basement ceiling tiles. It looked like the curvature/body of the
bulbs protruded past the trim slightly below the plane of the ceiling
tiles which allowed the light to spread at a much wider angle than most
other recessed lights I have seen.
Any idea what that set-up is? Are the bulbs, the trim, or the housings
I think I want that style for my basement since the ceiling is
There are dozens of manufacturers of can lights, and each makes at
least 100 different fixtures. Generalizations about can lights are
That said what you saw is likely a couple of things:
1. The bulb, the reflector flood style bulbs (coded BR75/FL for a 75W
version,) have a very wide field (~80deg.) and are often set in an
"open ring" trim just as you describe. The down side is that they can
easily be too bright and glare blindingly. They are also fairly
2. A decorative trim that mounts to a normal can. Some just look like a
miniature ceiling fixture.
3. A decorative add-on to a normal trim. These can be quite wild, with
rings, spokes, deeply colored glass accents, etc..
Richard Reid, LC
Just to add to Richard's comments... some recessed fixtures allow you
to adjust the position of the socket within the housing. By lowering
the socket, the bulb can be brought closer to the trim or even extend
past it. However, as Richard noted, this can result in considerable
glare and visual "hot spots".
For this type of fixture, I would recommend PAR type halogen lamps
over incandescent reflectors (e.g., a PAR38 versus a BR40). PAR lamps
are more energy efficient, offer longer service life and provide a
cleaner, crisper, white light. They come in various beam spreads,
i.e., "spot"", "narrow flood", "flood" and "wide/extra wide flood",
generally 10, 25, 40 and 65 degrees, respectively. For maximum light
distribution, select the widest flood available.
I should also note there are compact fluorescent PAR and reflector
style bulbs available, including a few that work with standard
incandescent dimmers. A compact fluorescent PAR lamp will provide two
to four times more light, watt for watt, than its halogen equivalent
and four to six times that of a BR or incandescent reflector.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.