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How Far Should Recessed Lights Be From Cabinets

Many homes change their lighting setup when there are any major home renovations. With kitchens now being a home’s central hub, the chances to install recessed kitchen lights have increased. Optimizing kitchen lighting is essential, and recessed lighting is a popular choice, but how far from cabinets should recessed lights be?

Ambient and task lighting should be considered when placing lights in your kitchen. You need about 1 light for every 25 square feet of space for ambient lighting. For task lighting, you typically want lights centered on critical places like the sink or stove and in line with the edge of the countertop, around 24 inches from the wall.

It may sound confusing to start, so in our guide, you can learn more about the recessed lighting distance from cabinets. By the end, you’ll get the best-recessed lighting spacing, kitchen tasks will be more manageable, and you can have an area that is rewarding to work in. (Learn How Many Lights On A 15 Amp Circuit)

lights from cabinet

How Far Should Recessed Lights Be Spread In Kitchen?

You won’t find a one-size-fits-all lighting layout when you place recessed lighting. How much light you’ll need will be different for every kitchen. So, you must plan to ensure you don’t end up with a poor lighting layout or have too many lights.

The recommendation is to start with the kitchen’s center point and add more lights from here. Depending on the type of kitchen, many centers on an island. You’ll need lighting in this region, and then you can add more.

To calculate how many lights and the distance of how far apart your lights should be, divide your ceiling height in half. For example, the rest of your can lights should be positioned every 4 feet if you have an eight-foot ceiling.

Besides this layout, you’ll need more light over your sink, which should be placed around 1 foot from the wall. However, according to how bright the area is naturally, you may need two can lights to light this region properly.

How Far Should Recessed Lighting Sit From The Wall?

The use of the kitchen determines the placement of IC-rated cans. A typical rule of thumb for mood lighting is to divide the ceiling height by two to get the ideal distance between lights. However, besides ambient lighting, the kitchen also needs task lighting and work lamps in several places.

Most lighting professionals advise placing the light around 2 feet from the wall, parallel to the outer edge of the counter, for task lighting.

Any upper cabinets will be reflected in glare from a light that is too close to the wall and wastes a lot of light. Likewise, a person standing at the counter will obscure the illumination of a light located farther away. (Learn How To Hang Christmas Lights On Stucco)

It’s annoying to have shadows on your work surface, besides being a safety concern, particularly if cutting with hot pots and chopping with sharp knives. If your kitchen lacks upper cabinets, you might wonder about the ideal sweet spot for your lights from the wall.

Avoid casting shadows in your kitchen, which can make it appear smaller and darker than it is. So, how far from the wall should the kitchen can light spacing be to make light bounce off the walls?

The best option in most homes is to center the lights above the counters. A typical countertop is between 24 and 25 inches deep. With this, each light must be 12 to 13 inches away from the wall if placed over the center of your kitchen ceiling above your countertop.

light from wall

Recessed Lights Illuminating Your Kitchen Sink

The kitchen sink requires light, and you’ll mostly find upper cabinets over a sink hardly ever exist. Now, you can move your lights closer to the wall, so they center above your sink at around 12 inches from the wall.

Divide the distance between your work area and ceiling by 4 to find the light-to-wall distance. With 3-foot countertops and 8-foot ceilings, place lights 15 inches from the wall.

How Close To Place Recessed lights?

Divide the ceiling height by two for ambient lighting spacing, and place the lights 4 feet apart if your ceiling is 8 feet high. Another rule is that the distance between lights should be double the distance between the lights and the walls.

If you set lights 24 inches from the wall to align with the countertop, the distance between them should be 4 feet, so depending on your room’s measurements, you may need to adjust this spacing.

Treat any task area as its own room for lighting, such as lighting your range, sink, or island. In such a situation, you’d place the outermost lights a specific distance from the edge of your workplace and then place any inside lights about those.

Consider the width of the light beam from your chosen light fixture. For example, deeply recessed lights with a 30-degree light cone must be close together. On the other hand, placed flush-mount lights can be farther apart. (Learn How To Wire A Photocell To Multiple Lights)

How Far To Place Spotlights From Kitchen Cabinets?

Upper cabinets are usually 12 inches deep and sit over 24-inch-deep countertops. So if you align your lighting with the counter, they’ll be 12 inches from the upper cabinets.

Avoid running lights down the center of the room, as this will create dark areas on your countertops. Follow the same rules as a larger kitchen but note: larger recessed lights can make a kitchen ceiling look congested.

Keep lighting zones on separate switches in any size kitchen and decrease the lights. In this manner, you may avoid dominating a small place with light. Many designers prefer recessed lighting closer to the upper cabinets. For example, recessed cans could be placed 18 inches from the wall, closer to the upper cabinets.

When lights are too far from upper cabinets, standing directly in the ceiling light might create shadows in most cases if it is a small space. Upper cabinets with crown molding may need proper spacing for the lights, which will be further away.

The ceiling may look excessively cluttered with lights placed 18 inches from the wall if upper cabinets have crown molding, place lights 24 inches from the wall.

Install cabinet lights underneath and recessed lighting to light the countertops under these upper cabinets. This delivers optimal illumination and stops shadows from overhead lighting when working on your countertops.

One thing to note is how close the top of your cabinet door is to your ceiling. Mistakes have been made where the door catches on the light fixture.

recessed lights around kitchen

How To Install Recessed Lighting Around Your Kitchen Cabinets

Tips here can help you find the optimum lighting placement for your cabinets.

1. Conduct a trial:

Test your recessed light to see how far it should be from your cabinets. In most spaces, the spacing of ceiling-mounted light fixtures must be adjusted to illuminate vertical surfaces evenly.

Kitchen cabinet lighting example

Put the lights along the edge of your countertops in a kitchen to project light evenly on the upper wall cabinets and provide task lighting down onto the countertop.

This will be 25 inches from the wall and 12 inches from the wall cabinets. Closer to the wall cabinet, the light will be higher and brighter on the door, not illuminating your working area.

2. Estimate according to room size

A decent rule of thumb is to distance recessed lighting three times the distance from the cabinet. So, for example, 12″ from a cabinet requires 3′ between them.

Much of this is common sense, but keep in mind that larger can lighting, say 6′′ diameters, will need more space between each one than smaller 4′′ ones.

Recessed Kitchen Lighting Fixture Spacing Guidelines

For a detailed approach, the 3 primary considerations are:

  • What is your lighting cans beam angle?
  • How bright are your recessed lights?
  • How wide are your cabinets?

Beam Angle

The height of the lighting on the adjacent wall or cabinet will depend on the angle at which the light exits the recessed light. Recessed lighting fixtures should be 18 to 24 inches from the same center line as the horizontal row of lights, which is the suggested standard distance between recessed lights and cabinets.

As a result, there can be a minimum of two rows of recessed ceiling lights or four lights every 2 feet of wall. However, it’s more art than science to create the ideal look and function for how far recessed lights in a kitchen area are from the walls and cabinets. (Find the Best Battery Operated Lights With Remote)


A GU10 bulb often has a lesser output and less brightness than an integrated LED can light. A light with an output of 600 lumens or more can become too bright when placed close to a surface.

How far recessed lights should be from cabinets? First, one should place the lighting as far away from the wall as possible without creating a line of glare, but how far you go depends on how strong the vertical surface is in reflecting light.

The distance between recessed ceiling lights and cabinets is more important in some situations since a mirror-like finish reflects more light than glossy or satin paint.

How Recessed Lights Are Spaced From Cabinets According to Width?

How many light fixtures to employing depends partly on how long the cabinet runs are in your room.

It’s a good rule to estimate how many fixtures, spaced around 3 feet apart, will fit into the run of cabinets, leaving approximately 12 inches of space at either end to allow the light to diffuse into the space without going too far.

Then determine a group number and adjust the distance between each to maintain it, adding an additional light if you believe it can fit but not bring them any closer than 32 inches.

How Far From Cabinet To Hang Recessed Light Fixtures

It’s common sense that since recessed lighting primarily casts downlight, the distance that you want the primary light to be cast from the surface will dictate how far recessed lighting should be hung away from cabinets in your room.

How many fixtures can you install if your kitchen is small, your countertops are in place, and the distance of how far should recessed lights and cabinets be above your work surface?

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