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Track lighting offers a way to get focused light from a single ceiling fixture. The track works with a narrow-focus bulb to spotlight a piece of artwor. Track light can also serve as a wide-focus "wall washer" to bathe a wall in light. It can also add more light to a kitchen counter or reading nook.
This guide covers how to install track lighting using an existing switch-equipped outlet.
Track Lighting Basics
A track lighting fixture features multiple lights along a track or rail. You can angle or adjust the lights so that they shine exactly where you want them to.
As you consider track lights, think about your lighting needs:
- Do you want to add more overall light to a smaller room?
- Do you want to spotlight a piece of artwork?
- Do you need task lighting in a room in your home, such as the kitchen?
The options to customize track lighting are countless. The track may be straight or curved. It can be flush with the ceiling. For spaces with high ceilings, the track can be suspended from cables to bring the light down into a room. With track connectors, you can join several tracks to fit long rooms or unique spaces.
The fixtures come in a variety of finishes. Before you install track lighting, decide on which style you’d like. Your track lights can match or complement your decor.
Some track lights can be plugged into an existing outlet. While these fixtures still need to be mounted to the ceiling, plug-in track lights do not need to be hard-wired into your home electric system.
Most track lights do need to be hard-wired, however. The track lighting fixture needs to be connected to an existing electric box in your house.
Depending on where you live, you may need a permit for electrical work. Check the local building codes before you start installing track lighting.
If you are not comfortable working with electricity, hire a professional to install track lights for you.
Track Lighting Types
The three main types of track lights are H tracks, J tracks and L tracks. The three types are not compatible. If you have an H track, you can only use H parts. Only J parts can be used with J tracks. L parts must be used with L tracks.
Before installation, make sure your tracks and parts will work together. For the best fit, use parts from a single manufacturer, brand and model. Parts from different companies may not fit together.
Decide on the Track Lighting Location
Before installation, decide where you want to place the track lights. Remember that they need to be close to the outlet that they will be wired into.
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.
Install the Mounting Plate
Before you begin installing track lights, you will need to shut off power at the service panel. After you have turned off the power multimeter to test the switch-equipped outlet to check that no electricity is running through the wires.
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.
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 set screws to anchor the track to the plate.
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. Then, insert plastic anchors and drive screws into the anchors.
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.
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.
Twist the Lights In
One type of light twists into place in the same way as the live-end connector in Step 7. Another type has a metal arm that you need to twist to tighten.
Turn the power back on. Then turn on the switch. Once your new track lights are on, you can swivel and turn them for the best effect.
Knowing how to install track lighting gives you a way to spotlight an area of your home. Track lights can highlight anything from a painting in the living room to a kitchen workspace.
Ready to brighten things up with track lighting? The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.