Home Garden

How to Install Lighting and Ceiling Tile in a Basement

Before you begin to install your drop ceiling's grid, you need to plan out on paper how to position the grid and which grid squares will house lighting fixtures. Lights tend to look best when they are equally spaced out and centered in a ceiling tile. To determine how many lights to use, measure the height of the room from the floor to where the drop ceiling will be. If the room's height is about 8 feet, place a light every 3 feet. Space the lights 4 feet apart for a 10-foot ceiling and 5 feet apart for a 12-foot ceiling.

Things You'll Need

  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Electrical cable
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Utility knife
  • Wire strippers
  • Wire nuts
  • Light fixture cover plate
Show More


    • 1

      Set a recessed can light on a piece of cardboard, face down, and trace around the opening. Cut out the traced circle with scissors and use it as a template to trace around when you cut the ceiling tiles.

    • 2

      Lift the can light fixture above the installed ceiling grid and through the grid opening that will be lit. Position the light fixture's arms over the grid to hold it in place. Adjust the arms, as necessary, by pulling them in or out to center the fixture in the opening. Repeat with the remaining light fixtures.

    • 3

      Feed 6 inches of the electrical cable from the power source -- usually a light switch -- through the fixture's wire connector. Feed 6 inches of a second cable through the wire connector and run it over to the next fixture. Return to the first fixture.

    • 4

      Tighten the connector's screw with a Phillips head screwdriver to hold the cables in place. Cut through the electrical cable's outer casing with a utility knife. Peel the casing off of the wires. Strip 1/2-inch of casing off the black and white wires' ends with wire strippers.

    • 5

      Locate the light fixture's electrical wiring. Hold the light fixture's black wire together with the two black wires you just stripped. Twist a wire nut over the three wires. Repeat with the fixture's white wires and the two white wires you just stripped and the three grounding wires.

    • 6

      Push the electrical wires into the light fixture's wire box. Clip the wire box's cover over them. Move to the next light fixture and repeat Steps 3 through 5. Then move onto the third fixture and so on until all of the fixtures have been wired. At the final fixture, you will only be connecting two black wires, two white wires and two ground wires.

    • 7

      Flip a ceiling tile upside down on a flat surface. Measure the tile's length and divide by two, then measure the tile's width and divide by two. From these center points, draw straight lines across the tile with a pencil. Center the cardboard template you made in Step 1 over the location where the two lines intersect. Trace around the template with a utility knife and push out the circle. Repeat this step on one ceiling tile for each light fixture.

    • 8

      Tilt one of the ceiling tiles you cut and lift it slightly above the grid. Straighten it out and lower it until it rests on the grid opening's edges. Maneuver the ceiling tile slightly so the circular cut-out rests below the light fixture's opening. Repeat with the remaining ceiling tiles.

    • 9

      Place a cover plate over a ceiling tile's cut-out circle. Lift the cover plate's hooks into the recessed light fixture. Hook them into the tabs on either side of the fixture. Repeat with the remaining light fixtures.