How to Install Track Lighting

Track lighting installed to ceiling with white pendants

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Yield: 4 feet of track lighting
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $180 to $225

Versatile, multi-directional, and simple to install, track lighting works well in kitchens, living rooms, hallways, and dining areas.

Track lighting eliminates the need to open up the ceiling in order to route the wires behind the drywall. Once installed, light units can be turned 360 degrees, and they can even be slid to different sections of the track.

Only basic electrical skills are required to install track lighting. Once you've tapped into an existing power feed from the ceiling light, the rest is just a matter of attaching the tracks to the ceiling. Within a couple of hours, you'll have dependable directional lighting placed exactly where you need it.

What Is Track Lighting?

Track lighting is a surface-mounted lighting system that uses tracks or rails to supply electricity down the entire line. Individual lights called track heads can be installed at any point along the track. Track lighting is classified as directional lighting because it brightens specific areas rather than the room in general.

Before You Begin

Track lighting requires a single-branch 120V lighting circuit controlled by a wall switch. Rooms are required by electrical code to have a light that turns on via a switch near the door.

While a switch-controlled outlet (with lamp) is accepted by code, more often the requirement is satisfied with a permanent ceiling light—a perfect origination point for track lighting.

Where to Install Track Lighting

Track lighting can originate at any 120V ceiling-mounted electrical box. Usually, this box is located at the center of the room. If you'd like the track here, the track will run outward from the box in 4-, 6- or 8-foot sections of track, as you choose.

You may want to light up a different area of the room, such as above a kitchen countertop. In this case, the track will originate at the center ceiling box. One section of track will run to the area you want to illuminate. At the end of the track will be either a T-adapter coupler (to branch out in two different directions), a right-angle coupler (to branch out in one direction), or a blank off-end cap (if no other track piece is being added to the original piece of track).

Tip

Tracks usually start with one end of the track at the electrical box—but they don't always have to. Often, tracks can straddle the electrical box. If you want to do this, check with your lighting system's instructions to see if the mounting bracket and canopy allow this.

Safety Considerations

Track heads drop 4 to 6 inches below the height of the ceiling. So, be careful when installing tracks over aisles and walkways with ceilings lower than 8 feet. Track lighting should not be installed on ceilings of 7 feet or less.

Turn off power at the circuit breaker before you begin this project. After you open up the electrical box, first verify that there is no power by checking with a no-contact voltage tester.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bits and drivers
  • 6-foot ladder
  • Wire stripper
  • Electrical tape
  • Gloves
  • Hacksaw
  • Metal file
  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Non-contact voltage tester

Materials

  • 4-foot track lighting system kit
  • Toggle bolts

Instructions

Materials and tools to install track lighting

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  1. Plan Track Lighting Layout

    Measure the distance from the box to the end of the track. Use the stud finder to locate the positions of the joists behind the ceiling drywall. If the track's intended pathway happens to run below a stud, you'll be able to use ordinary screws. If not, use toggle bolts.

    Yellow stud finder measuring distance for track lighting

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  2. Cut Track (Optional)

    If the track needs to be shortened, most tracks can be cut to the preferred size with a hacksaw. Deburr the cut end of tracks with a metal file. Re-install the dead-end fitting and screw it into place.

    Track being cut with hacksaw

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  3. Remove Ceiling Light or Faceplate

    Remove the existing ceiling light and mounting plate. If the box is covered with a blank faceplate instead of a light, remove it. Run the non-contact voltage tester over the wires to verify that there is no live power in the box.

    Ceiling light fixture cover being removed

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  4. Separate Canopy From Mounting Plate

    The metal mounting plate and canopy (a metal or plastic cover) may come pre-attached for shipping purposes. Separate them by removing the connecting screws.

    Connecting screws removed from mounting plate

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  5. Attach Track's Electrical Connector to Wires

    The twist-on connector with wires should be attached to the box's electrical wires. Connect same-color wires: black to black or red to red; white to white; and bare copper to bare copper (or green). Twist the provided wire connector caps over the wires.

    Electrical box wires in ceiling connected to track lighting wires with caps

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  6. Install Mounting Plate

    Install the track light's metal mounting plate to the electrical box with the screws provided with the kit.

    Track light mounting plate screwed to electrical box

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  7. Mark Hole Locations

    Hold up the track to the ceiling. Mark drill locations for the ceiling holes by drawing a mark through the holes in the track. Remove the track.

    Track lighting hole locations marked with pencil on ceiling

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  8. Install Track to Ceiling

    Drill 5/8-inch holes at the marked locations. Thread the toggle bolts through the matching holes in the track. Add the bolts' wings, threading them on about 1/4-inch. Press the bolts into the holes. Screw the bolts into place with the cordless drill and tighten the track against the ceiling.

    Toggle bolts threaded through track bar holes into ceiling

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  9. Attach Mounting Plate to Track

    Attach the track to the mounting plate with the provided screws.

    Mounting plate attached to track with screws

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  10. Install Track's Electrical Connector to Track

    Twist the electrical connector into the track.

    Electrical connector twisted onto track with wires

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  11. Attach Canopy (Cover)

    Snap or screw the canopy over the mounting plate. The canopy will cover up the wires.

    Canopy cover snapped over mounting plate near track

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  12. Install Track Heads and Light Bulbs

    Twist the track heads onto the track and add appropriately sized light bulbs. Turn the circuit back on and test the lights at the wall switch.

    Track heads attached to lighting bar on ceiling

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

When to Call a Professional

A licensed, qualified electrician can install track lighting for you. If there is no existing power source, it's best to hire an electrician to tap into the home's electric service panel and add a new circuit. The new circuit will need to be fished through the ceiling or walls to the intended wall switch. Then, power will run off of the power switch and up to the ceiling.