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How to Fix Recessed Lights That Won’t Stay Up

Recessed lighting is a popular choice among homeowners because this method provides ample light while blending in with the ceiling. It is an unobtrusive lighting option that unifies large rooms and is relatively inexpensive.

Despite its appeal, many people do not know how to fix recessed lights that won’t stay up, despite it being a common electrical problem. Fixing recessed lighting can depend on what trim option your recessed lights are fitted with and how the recessed lighting was installed. Recessed lights use a non-adjustable or adjustable trim depending on the purpose of the fixture. The first step to fixing recessed lighting is determining what type of trim you have.

Recessed Lighting Trim Types

Recessed lighting trims are used to conceal the lamp or housing behind them, direct and shape the beam of light, and add an aesthetic appeal to an environment. Understanding what type of trim you have is the key to fixing recessed lighting or determining when you need a professional electrician

Non-Adjustable Trims

  • Baffled Trim: Inside surface is ribbed and designed to absorb and trap excess light. Minimizes glare, softens bright light, and diffuses light to a broad area of the room.
  • Reflectors: Sits recessed into the trim with a highly polished smooth inside surface that provides a higher light output for tasks like reading, cooking, or working. Maximizes beam spread produced by the light.
  • Open Trim: Simple ring flush around the lamp that exposes as much light as possible to the environment.
  • Lensed Trim: Plastic or glass lens covers the lamp designed to protect the light bulb or fixture from moisture. Most commonly used for bathrooms, showers, closets, and areas exposed to water.
  • Pinhole Trim: Concentrates light into a single cascading beam. The precision is optimal for highlighting and drawing attention to displays located directly below the downlight.
  • Wall Wash Trim: Directs light onto the wall and minimizes texture on the surface to gloss over imperfections. Ideal for highlighting artwork on one specific wall.


Adjustable Trims

  • Eyeball Trim: With a 30-degree tilt range and 360-degree rotation, it has the widest range of movement and flexibility out of the adjustable trim options. Will allow you to easily direct light to focus on art or a bookcase.
  • Gimbal Trim: Lamp is not concealed and sits flush to the ceiling with a 35-degree tilt and 180-degree rotation. The lamp does not protrude from the ceiling like the eyeball trim, so when the lamp is tilted at full range the light beam may be cut off.
  • Retractable Trim: Starts flush to the ceiling and extends below the ceiling to 70-degrees. Ideal for directing light onto walls if ceiling is sloped.
  • Slot Apertures: Completely conceals the lamp with a flat trim, so only a light beam can be seen and provides a 35-degree tilt and 180-degree rotation. This trim is meant to be the most discreet.


How to Fix Recessed Lighting

1.) Turn the power off. Make sure that before you start fixing recessed lighting, you switch off the breaker to the room you’ll be working in to avoid shock. Switching off the power with the wall switch isn’t sufficient because current can still flow through.

2.) Prepare your work area and tools.Set up your workspace underneath the fixture in question. Lay down a drop cloth and set up a ladder so you can access the recessed lighting fixture.

3.) Unscrew the lightbulb.After removing the lightbulb, remove the trim and look inside the fixture for small springs. Depending on the style of the trim, you should find two to four springs that are pressed into the ceiling to secure the light in place.

4.) Follow the steps for your trim style: 

  • Non-Adjustable Trims
    • Remove the spring clips from the trim. The spring clips connect the trim to the metal socket plate inside the fixture or to any opening cut into the recessed fixture housing. Unhook the springs from the socket plate or fixture housing, which will release the rim from the fixture and ceiling.
    • Replace old spring clips. Hook the new recessed lighting spring clips into the small openings along the edge of the trim.
    • Position the trim against the ceiling and recessed fixture. Grab the springs with your fingers and hook them onto the socket plate or any opening cut into the fixture wall. Lock the non-adjustable trim into place.
  • Adjustable Trims
    • Remove the torsion springs. Use your fingers to press the two arms of the torsion springs together. Unhook the torsion springs from the spring receivers built into the wall of the recessed fixture. The spring receivers look like two small hooks facing each other on each side of the fixture.
    • Increase the spring tension.In order to fix recessed lighting, set the trim down with the torsion springs facing up. Push down on both sides of the torsion springs to widen the V-shape.
    • Return the recessed lighting to the ceiling. Squeeze the two sides of the torsion springs together and place the springs into the spring receivers. Hold the trim against the ceiling and lock it in place. If the trim still won’t stay up, repeat the process until the fixture is flush to the ceiling.

5.) Replace the lightbulb. Avoid “overlamping” by sticking to the correct wattage. Once you have screwed in the light bulb, switch on the breaker to return power to the recessed lighting.


Sagging recessed lighting can be an eyesore, but it’s an easy fix! However, not all electrical work can be DIY. If you're experiencing repeated issues, it's important to work with a professional Alexandria electrician. Call John C. Flood to schedule your appointment at (703) 752-1267 in Virginia, (202) 266-4951 in D.C., or (301) 222-0751 in Maryland. You can also schedule electrical repair service online now.