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Installing Track Lighting


Track lighting offers a way to get directable light from a single ceiling fixture. The track works with a narrow-focus bulb to spotlight a piece of artwork, a wide-focus "wall washer" to bathe a wall in light or a general-purpose bulb to light a kitchen counter or reading chair. Halogen bulbs provide a wide range of focusing options; incandescent systems are generally less expensive and generate less heat, but also consume more energy and burn out more quickly. Keep in mind, too, that you can have more than a single track; some systems allow you to link tracks for long, straight runs or 90-degree turns.


While installing plug-in track lighting involves only a screwdriver and a drill, this project will show you how to hard-wire a track directly to an existing switch-equipped outlet. If you aren't confident in your ability to handle home wiring, shop for a system and then have an electrician install it. The procedure shown here is for commonly available systems; read the manufacturer's directions for specifics on installation.




Step 1: Install the mounting plate

Install the mounting plate Shut off power at the service panel. Use wire nuts to splice the house wires to the plate leads. Connect the ground wire to the plate and to the box if it is metal. Push the wires into the box and screw the plate to the box so it is snug against the ceiling.

Step 2: Measure and mark for the track

Measure and mark for the track At the mounting plate, measure to see how far the side of the track will be from the nearest wall. Mark the ceiling so the track will be consistently parallel to the wall. Use a framing square to draw lines if the track turns a corner.

Step 3: Attach the track to the mounting plate

Attach the track to the mounting plate Have a helper hold the track in place against the ceiling and centered on the mounting plate. Drive the setscrews to anchor the track to the plate.

Step 4: Secure the track

Secure the track Use a stud finder to locate joists. If the track is more than 4-feet long, have a helper hold one end while you work. Snap the track onto the plate and drive a screw into every available joist. If there are no joists, drill holes every foot or so, insert plastic anchors and drive screws into the anchors.

Step 5: Twist on the live-end connector

Twist on the live-end connector Insert the live-end connector and turn it 90-degrees until it snaps into place. Align the connector's two copper tabs with the two copper bars inside the track. Snap the plastic canopy over the track and mounting plate.

Step 6: Attach a corner

Attach a corner You can buy connectors to make 90-degree turns, T- shapes or odd-angled turns. Slide the connector into the track that is already installed, slide the next track onto the connector and attach that track to the ceiling. Cover all open track ends with end caps.

Step 7: Twist on a light

Twist on a light This type of light twists into place in the same way as the live-end connector (Step 5). Another type has a metal arm that is twisted to tighten. Restore power, turn on the switch and swivel the lights to position them for the best effect.