How to Remove New Construction Recessed Lights Without Attic Access

New construction homes are often built with recessed lights in the ceilings. If you need to remove these fixtures, it can be a daunting task because you usually don’t have attic access to get at them.

In this blog post, we’ll go over how to remove new construction recessed lights without attic access! 


For these bulbs to stay lit and work properly, they’re connected by wires from the light switch panel in your home’s electrical box or breaker panel.

Summary: Removing new construction recessed lights without attic access can be a challenging task but is possible with the proper tools and techniques. New construction recessed lights are mounted directly to the ceiling joists and typically have clips or brackets securing them in place. Before attempting to remove the recessed lights, gather the necessary tools, such as a screwdriver, pliers, and a voltage tester. Additionally, ensure that the power is turned off at the circuit breaker to avoid the risk of electrical shock.

To remove new construction recessed lights without attic access, first remove the light’s trim and bulb. This will expose the housing and mounting clips or brackets. Locate the clips or brackets holding the housing to the ceiling joists and carefully release them, either by squeezing the clips together or unscrewing the brackets. Use caution not to damage the surrounding ceiling material while performing this step. Once the clips or brackets are released, gently lower the housing to expose the wiring connections.

Use a voltage tester to confirm that there is no live current in the wires, and then disconnect the wires by unscrewing the wire nuts and separating the connections. Carefully remove the housing from the ceiling, ensuring that no wires are caught or damaged in the process. After the housing is removed, you can proceed with any necessary repairs, replacements, or modifications to the recessed lighting system.

Materials and Supplies Needed

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Drill
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • Nail set (Optional)

Steps to Follow: How to Remove New Construction Recessed Lights Without Attic Access 

Step 1

Remove the trim around the light so you can access it. If there is a small gap between the wall and the cover, use a utility knife to cut along the edge of the trim to remove it.

If there’s not enough room for your fingers behind the trim, use a nail set to gently tap down into that area to push it out of its little channel.

Step 2

Use the drill to place a hole in the center of the headlight lens at about eye level with where you are standing.


This should be directly in your line of sight when looking straight ahead toward the work light. Drill slowly and carefully so as not to crack the lens.

Step 3

If you have a stud or joist behind where your light was, follow it until you find a web of electrical wires going into the wall.

Cut through these with wire cutters and continue following them until they section off into individual cables that seem to be traveling directly under the missing light.

If this isn’t possible, continue cutting through the drywall until you get to the opening for your light.

Step 4

Use a utility knife to cut along the edge of one of these openings and use a flat pry bar or paint scraper to lift up and expose the inner wires that were previously hidden by sheetrock.

Do this on all three sides so you can fit your hand in behind.

Step 5

Unscrew the ground wire on the circuit, so there’s no longer a complete path to the light.

Then, use an electrical tester to ensure that none of the wires are still active, and leave all but one side of your circuit open.

Step 6

Place a heavy-duty junction box in front of where you’re working and attach it with the stud or joist by screwing through the drywall.


Drill holes in the back of your junction box and fit it over the stud to flush against where you are working, but not so tight that it will break when you pull on it later.

Leave about 6-8 inches behind the work area to be used for wiring between your junction box and the attic.

Step 7

Use a long electrical wire to connect your junction box to the junction box in the attic.

If you have a stud or joist behind where you’re working, drill a hole in it and pass this wire through so that you can attach it to your work light. This is the only wire you will need to access; all other wires are cut off.

Step 8

Disconnect all remaining wires in your junction box and leave them hanging until the end of the project.

Then, if there is no room for these extra wires behind where your work light was, simply turn them away from where you’re working so that they don’t get in your way.

Step 9

Drill a hole near where you want the lamp to be placed and pass the wires through one at a time so they don’t get tangled.


If there’s not enough space for all three, use an electrical tester to determine which wire is active and connect that one first. When finished, cover the junction box with insulation to make it blend in.

Step 10

Use a nail set to tap the lens back into place over your new light. It’s okay if the cover doesn’t fit well because the trim will cover it when you are finished.

Next, reattach the trim and replace all of your light switches, outlet plates, etc., to where they were before.

Tips and Suggestions

1. Before you begin, make sure that the power to the recessed lights is turned off.

2. Use caution when removing the glass lens of light fixtures; they may break very easily.

3. You can use a shop vac to remove any debris. However, be sure not to use your household vacuum because it will create a large mess due to the powerful suction.

4. Do not remove the recessed lights insulation; it is better to leave it in place. Then, you can simply cut back any protruding pieces that are covering your light fixtures.

5. Recessed lightboxes are installed in virtually every new construction home without much work at all, but when you want to replace one or more of them, this can be a challenging task.

6. If you are replacing multiple lights in an unfinished attic, then first remove or cut back all insulation around the lights. Then be very careful so that you do not break the glass lens.

7. If you replace a single recessed light in an unfinished attic, you can cut back the insulation covering the fixture and proceed with your replacement work.

Do You Need Attic Access to Install Recessed Lighting?

No, it is possible to install recessed lights even if you do not have attic access.

The easiest way to install recessed lighting without an attic is by using the “old work” method, which typically means installing new recessed ceiling lights through an existing hole in your ceiling joists.


Since these holes are already cut into the ceiling, the only labor force needed is to line up the new joist box with the old hole.

If you do not have an existing hole in your ceiling joists, then you will need to create a hole in your ceiling where you want your light to be.

If this light is going in a kitchen or an area frequently walked through, you will probably want to install a “honeycomb” style lightbox instead of a solid-sided one.

The honeycomb boxes are easier to cut through and don’t require much labour or time to breakthrough.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can recessed lighting be installed without attic access?

The short answer is no, recessed lighting cannot be installed without attic access. This is because the light fixtures typically require a hole in the roof to hang from. Installing recessed lighting without access to the attic can lead to a number of problems, including:

-If there is not enough height in the ceiling for the light fixture, then the light will not be able to reach all areas of the room. This can result in dark spots or uneven illumination.

-If there is a leak in the roof, then rain or snow can get inside and damage the light fixtures. This can also lead to moisture buildup and corrosion, which can make the lights difficult or impossible to operate.

-If there is a fire in the attic, then recessed lighting may be one of the first things that goes up in flames.

Are attic joists load-bearing?

A joist is a member of the timbers in a roof structure that is not the principal rafter or purlin. Joists are typically load-bearing, which means that they carry weight and distribute the load throughout the entire roof structure.

Is it OK to drill through ceiling joists?

It is generally acceptable to drill through ceiling joists in order to install wiring or plumbing, provided that the drilling does not go below the joist rafters or into the attic space. Drilling through the joists will not cause any structural damage and should not affect the overall strength or stability of the roofing system. If you have any questions about this procedure, please contact a professional contractor who can assess the situation and advise you on the best course of action.

Where should you not drill holes in joists?

It is generally not recommended to drill holes in joists, as this can lead to instability and eventual structural failure. Holes in joists may also allow water and other contaminants to enter the building, which can damage the structural integrity of the building and increase the risk of fire. It is important to consult with a professional contractor or engineer when considering a project that involves drilling holes in joists, as they will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your specific situation.


You can now remove your new construction recessed lights without attic access using a few simple hacks.

One of the most popular methods is attaching a rope from one side of the room, up through a hole in the ceiling, and then back down again at the other end.

This will be attached so that it hangs about 12 inches off of each wall on either side.

Once this is done, your weight can be pulled out of each fixture with ease. We hope this blog post on how to remove new construction recessed lights without attic access has been helpful.

If you have any questions about these techniques, feel free to contact us! We’re happy to answer your questions and ensure a positive experience with your recessed lights.

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