How to Mount Track Lighting

red tracl lightingYour five-year-old son is going to be the next Picasso, you can already tell. You want to hang his latest masterpiece on the wall and make it the focal point of the room, but how to achieve the effect?

Track lighting, of course. Track lighting offers the opportunity to much better control the mood and emphasis of a room's lighting. With so many colors and styles, it is just as beautiful as it is functional.

If wiring through a junction box would tax your electrical skills past their limit, track lighting kits are available that simply plug in to the wall. They can't be beat for ease of installation, but they do not look as professional and unobtrusive as those that are actually mounted through the ceiling.

If you are ready for installation that is a little more challenging, follow these easy steps to mount track lighting and give Junior's piece de resistance the attention it deserves!

Materials Needed

    Drill / screwdriver

    Electrical cable and tape

    Ladder or stepstool

    Long-nose or electrician's pliers

    Neon tester / voltage meter

    Tape measure

    Toggle bolts

    Track light kit

    Wire nuts

1. Turn off the power. Turn off electrical power to appropriate junction box through the breaker box or service panel. Ensure that the circuit is dead with a neon tester or voltage meter. Once you are certain the power is off, remove the existing fixture and carefully disconnect wires, keeping exposed ends separate from each other.

2. Wire the live end. Put live end into the track and secure it by tightening the setscrew. Attach the live end to the mounting bracket.

Use pigtail leads to finish wiring the live end. "Pigtail" leads are short wires connected to terminals. Wire nuts are then used to connect the pigtail leads to the home wiring. Secure the black pigtail lead to the brass screw, the white pigtail to the silver screw, and the green (or bare) pigtail to the green grounding screw.

3. Lay out the track location. Decide on track location based on the existing junction box and which areas youâ'd like the lights to bring focus to. You can purchase fittings for Ts or angles; but double check that the fittings you want are offered by the manufacturer of your chosen track light system.

Mark mounting holes to indicate position. Ensure the track runs parallel to a wall by measuring out an equal distance from the wall to either end of the track. Remember to place tracks an appropriate distance (at least 6") from potentially flammable materials. On the marked places, drill holes for toggle bolts or screws.

4. Mount the track. Place circuit and fixture wires in junction box and install the mounting plate on the box. Snap the track into place on the junction box by following instructions provided for your specific track lighting system.

Put toggle bolts/screws through new track mounting and lift the track to the ceiling. (Recruit helpers beforehand if the track if very heavy or unwieldy.) Into the mounting holes, insert toggle wings but do not tighten. Attach any fittings (Ts or angles) and additional track sections desired, and insert end pieces at the end of the completed track.

Insert the electrical adapter into the track and twist to attach it. Install the cover over the mounting plate assembly and adapter. Place fixtures into the track and twist to secure.

Screw in appropriate bulbs as recommended by the manufacturer.

Make connections to house wiring. Twist wire connectors onto the matching colored house and pigtail wires to lock them together. Secure the mounting plate to the ceiling box with the screws provided. Tighten toggle bolts/screws.

Apply the finishing touches. Turn the power back on and test the lights. If they fail, turn off and double check the current with a neon tester or voltage meter. Also check your work for missing connections.

Once power has been restored, adjust head angle and position to shine light where you want it. For added versatility, consider purchasing a dimmer to make subtle changes in the strength of the lighting. Relax and enjoy your next dinner party when Junior's masterpiece is lavishly complimented, thanks to the superior showcasing.

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photo by Michael Clark/CreativeCommons