Can You Put Recessed Lights Into A Vaulted Ceiling?

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

If you’ve ever gone apartment hunting, then you already know that vaulted ceilings are considered to be a major status symbol. It’s a way to give your room a more elegant look and also offer up some extra vertical storage space. For artists, a vaulted ceiling can also provide a lot of canvas room. But, vaulted ceilings can have their design limitations, and this is especially true when it comes to lighting. For example, the topic of recessed lights on vaulted ceilings can be a hard one to handle.

You can install recessed lighting in a vaulted ceiling, but it is difficult, and it may interfere with your insulation. It is possible to damage your roof when you install recessed lighting in a vaulted ceiling. Recessed lighting can trap moisture between the ceiling and roof which can cause major damage.

Most interior designers and architects warn homeowners about putting recessed lights into a vaulted ceiling, but most homeowners don’t know why. This guide will hopefully illuminate the problems that can come with placing this type of lighting into a vaulted ceiling.

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Can You Put Recessed Lights Into A Vaulted Ceiling?

Yes, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Recessed lighting tends to drum up more heat than other types of lighting. They also take up more space in your ceiling. This, in turn, can cause problems when it comes to your ceiling, insulation, and roofing, In most cases, it’s just not worth the risk.

Why Is Recessed Lighting So Bad With Vaulted Ceilings?

There are a number of reasons why they tend to be bad for vaulted ceilings. Here are the most common reasons why:

  • Recessed lighting can be difficult to install. Getting the slope of the ceiling to be properly cut can be difficult enough. When you add wiring into the mix, it can take longer to install.
  • The heat from the lighting doesn’t bode well with moisture. Insulation, vaulted ceilings and the heat from the “can” recessed lighting that’s typically used are a bad combination. What usually happens is that the heat causes moisture to condense in between the ceiling and the roof. This, in turn, can lead to mold, softened drywall, ceiling staining, as well as roof rot.
  • Due to the build of recessed lighting, many homes lose heat if placed in vaulted ceilings. Vaulted ceilings tend to be thinner than regular ceilings. This means that some homeowners will have to displace their insulation if they get recessed lights. This can cause your home to lose heat in the winter, and lose coldness in the summer.
  • The price alone can be enough to make some people say no. On a regular ceiling, recessed lighting can easily run from $100 to $200 per light, with most rooms needing at least six to 10. With vaulted ceilings, installing recessed lighting can become even worse, with many fixtures starting at $200.

Can Recessed Lighting Permanently Damage Vaulted Ceilings?

Due to its propensity towards trapping moisture and increasing the heat inside home’s ceilings, recessed lighting done in vaulted ceilings can pose a serious risk to both ceilings and roofing. In small quantities, a little moisture might not do too much damage, but the problem with recessed lighting is that moisture has a way of getting trapped in between the ceiling and roof due to the insulation and lamp heat.

The end result is that moisture gets trapped in there and can linger for a long, long time without detection. This can weaken your drywall, cause mold to occur, rot away your roofing, or in real serious cases, cause water to start dripping from the ceiling. However, there are ways to avoid this.

How Can You Prevent Damage From Getting Recessed Lighting In A Vaulted Ceiling?

As much as we all would like to say that there are foolproof ways to prevent that kind of damages, but there isn’t a foolproof way to make sure that your recessed lighting will avoid harming your ceiling. With that said, these tips below can help prevent some (or most) of the damage:

  • Leave some room between the lighting and the ceiling. A one to two-inch gap can help provide enough ventilation to help reduce the chances of moisture getting trapped inside.
  • Use airtight recessed lighting fixtures. Another way to avoid having problems is to use airtight “cans” as the fixture of choice. These avoid having leaks that could bring in moisture from the room into the ceiling.
  • Use LED lights. Old school incandescent bulbs can get pretty hot, as can many other types of lighting. To reduce the amount of heat that the bulbs radiate, it may be better to use LEDs in the recessed lighting setup.
  • Hire professionals to install it. Sure, you might be able to get somewhat decent results if you try to DIY recessed lighting, but it’s not worth the risk of doing something wrong. Many professionals have their own protocols and specialty layouts that make vaulted ceiling recessed lights less risky. So, leave it to them.

What Alternatives To Recessed Lighting Work On Vaulted Ceilings?

If you love recessed lighting but don’t love the potential risks that come with it, there are other ways to get similar looks. Here are some of our suggestions:

  • LED Strip Lighting. Strip lighting around the edges of the wall can provide a similarly modern look, and can also add a similar type of ambiance to smaller rooms.
  • Modern Chandeliers. Modern-looking chandeliers have a similar crisp look, and also offer a similar spread of light. If you want to have a real close match to regular lighting, choose a chandelier that comes in a neutral or white tone.
  • Drop Lamps. Regular ceiling lamps that drop down can offer a similar look and ambiance. Better still, they’re basically made to work with vaulted ceilings.
  • Hanging Lanterns. Fans of the steampunk look will love this. It’s antique without being garish about it.
  • Wall Lighting. If you’re looking for something that can look modern and highlight your tall walls, go for a series of wall sconces, followed up by a hanging lamp to help spread extra light throughout the room.

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Our Final Take

Recessed lighting might be considered to be perennially trendy, but that doesn’t mean it works for all architecture types. Due to the way that recessed lights are installed, they can pose a serious risk to both your roof if you have vaulted ceilings. So, while it is technically possible to install them in a home with vaulted ceilings, it’s not a good idea.

There’s a good reason why you won’t usually see rooms that have both vaulted ceilings and recessed lighting. It’s just too risky and could easily cost thousands in repairs. We’re not saying that you need to get crappy fluorescent box lighting or something tacky like that, but you should choose a lighting type that’s less damaging to your roof.

Thankfully, there are tons of different ways that you can jazz up a room with recessed lighting. You can use hanging lanterns, chandeliers, or even wall lighting to get a similar look. So, don’t sweat it. You have plenty of other options to choose from if you want to avoid repair bills.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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