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Can I put recessed lighting in a prewar beamed ceiling?

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Q. Is it possible to put recessed lighting into a prewar beamed ceiling,  or does the ceiling need to be lowered first?

A. You will likely need to drop at least part of the ceiling, according to our BrickTank experts.

Your  “prewar beamed ceiling” is probably reinforced concrete slab construction, notes architect Ethan Gerard, and “typically, co-ops and condos do not allow shareholders/owners to chop, cut, and channel structural elements such as reinforced concrete slabs, beams or posts.”

Contractor Jeff Streich says that in his 15 years of experience, only one building allowed him to chop into the ceiling, “and that was to put in a junction box, not recessed lighting.”

Your options are to drop the ceiling at least 4”  or install soffits (artfully lowered pieces of the ceiling) to conceal the recessed light fixture and wiring.

“With ingenuity it is not always necessary to drop the entire ceiling,” says Gerard. “A well-designed scheme can look quite discreet and not like a clunky intervention.”

Resident manager Curt Bergeest mentioned a potential exception to the no-chop policy.

“In my prewar building, the plaster ceiling is dropped and hung on blank iron hangers, which was common practice back then,” he says.  “With this style it’s easy to put recessed lighting in.”

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