Ask an Expert

Can I put recessed lighting in a prewar beamed ceiling?

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
August 31, 2010 - 6:43AM
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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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Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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