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Home improvement jobs you can do: Fitting downlighters

Michael Holmes
Renovation expert Michael Holmes

Expert renovator Michael Holmes advises on how to fit recessed downlighters.

Adding a series of recessed downlighters in the ceiling can really improve lighting levels in a room and will allow directional lighting using focussed or pivot spots.

All new wiring work must comply with Part P of the Building Regulations. Providing you are extending an existing lighting circuit and working in a room other than a kitchen or bathroom, the work isn’t ‘notifiable’, so you don’t have to contact your local authority or pay any fees.

Recessed light fittings can be bought online from specialist merchants such as lighting4less.co.uk or sparksdirect.co.uk. You can choose from mains power 230v fittings, low-voltage fittings, which each have an independent transformer, or LED bulbs – these are now available in a dimmable format and last much longer than incandescent bulbs. Visit mygreenlighting.co.uk for energy-saving options.

Light fittings come with a template for the ceiling cut-out required, so you will need to buy a suitable circular cutter that you can fit to an ordinary electric drill to make the hole.

If you’re fitting downlighters within a ceiling that has a habitable room above, you must fit models that have been fire-rated, or else fit fire hoods, to prevent the spread of fire through the hole cut into the plasterboard.

It will take 6-8 hours to fit downlighters in an average sized bedroom.

Tools needed...

  • Wire stripper/cutters
  • Drill
  • circular saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Crowbar (if you’re lifting any floorboards)

Bedroom with downlighters
ABOVE: The downlighters above the bed and in the alcoves of this bedroom are recessed, low-glare directional Polestar downlighters and cost £53, including transformers, from John Cullen.

Remember to...

  • Make sure the power is switched off at the consumer unit (fuse box).
  • Extend the existing circuit using a suitably rated junction box and wire from light point to light point, leaving enough cable for each fitting. You can either thread the wires from hole to hole, or from above (from the loft, or by removing a few floorboards to access the ceiling void).
  • The junction box must be fixed firmly to a solid surface. Although it can be concealed within the ceiling, it must remain accessible – for example, behind a removeable panel.

Cost: This DIY job will cost £120-£150.

All prices, estimates and suppliers correct at time of publishing