How To: Track Lighting Installation

If your current lighting looks flat, you might want to think about installing track lighting, which can give a room a dynamic flair by spotlighting various areas. Many choices are available, including halogen track lighting, which gives off bright light from small fixtures.

Track-lighting installation is a very simple project. You can attach the track first and install the wiring later if you have direct access to the wiring above the ceiling. Alternatively, you can install track lighting in place of an existing light fixture. Whatever you choose, the wiring attachments will be hidden by a cover plate.

Typical track-lighting installations can be finished in one day. The installation will probably cost less than $160, but the price tag will be higher if you employ an electrician.

1. At the breaker box, turn off the power to any circuit you will be using.

2. Decide where you want to install your light, and drill pilot holes into the ceiling joists. Secure the track to the ceiling with wood screws. Try using toggle bolts if you can't screw into the joists.

3. For installations where no previous fixtures existed, feed the wire through the ceiling. Note: You may want to hire a licensed electrician to do the wiring.

4. Use the stud sensor to determine an area between studs in which you can place the light switch. The switch should be at least 2 inches from any stud. Use a measuring tape to mark the placement of the switch so that it will be parallel with the other switches in the room.

5. Use the drywall-mounted electrical box as a pattern for marking the cutout for the switch.
 
6. Drill a pilot hole in the corner of the cutout, and use a long screwdriver to inspect for obstructions. Complete the cutout with a drywall saw.

7. From the attic, find the area above the wall where you plan to mount the light switch. Use a one and a half inch spade bit to drill into the void behind the wall. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves and a dust mask to prevent irritation from fiberglass insulation.

8. Slide two pieces of electrical cable into the hole from the attic and out through the hole in the wall.

9. Peel the sheathing off the ends of both pieces of electrical cable, and strip one inch of insulation from the black and white wires.

10. Connect one electrical cable to an existing power supply such as an attic light fixture or other power source that's handy. Use the circuit tester to ensure the power is off before you deal with bare wires. Connect the bare copper wires with a barrel crimp, and use wire nuts to secure the remaining connections, holding white wires with white wires and black wires with black wires.

Caution: Some switched fixtures may have complex wiring arrangements. If you're not sure which wires supply constant power, test the circuit, or contact a licensed electrician.

11. Find the cable for the light fixture, and connect a junction box to a nearby joist. Thread the light-fixture cable and the remaining electrical cable into the junction box, and splice them with one another with wire nuts and a barrel crimp. Affix a cover to the junction box.

12. Back in the room with the installation, push the other ends of electrical cable through the back of a drywall-mounted electrical box, and secure the box to the wall by tightening the wall-clamp screws.

13. Peel the sheathing and insulation from the wires. Twist the ground wires together with a 5 inch piece of ground wire, and tighten the connection with a barrel crimp. Connect the white wires together, and fasten them with a wire nut.

14. Connect the black wires to the terminals on a single-pole light switch, and attach the remaining ground wire to the green ground screw on the switch.

15. Attach the switch to the electrical box, and stick on a cover plate. For multiple track lights, think about using a stack switch.

16. Insert the fixtures into the track so that the three prongs line up correctly with the electrical wiring inside the track. Most fixtures easily snap into place.

Note: If you're installing track lighting over an existing fixture, take out the fixture and disconnect the wires. Then mount the track light, connect the wiring, and put in the light fixtures.