How to Install Track Lighting

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:  The last stop for today is Winston-Salem, North Carolina famous for tobacco and less famous for this giant coffee pot 12 feet tall and made from tin back in 1858.  But we’ve got work to do, so we head right on over to the Campbell’s house which is also their business.

SABRINA: Hi Ron, nice to meet you.

RON HAZELTON: Hi Sabrina, how are you?

SABRINA: So nice to meet you.
JIM: Hey Ron.

RON HAZELTON: Jim, a pleasure, it’s a beautiful day here.  Well, I understand we’re going to do a lighting project.  Do you want to show me around inside?

SABRINA: Oh yes, the salon is right around this way.


SABRINA: Follow me.

RON HAZELTON: Sabrina is a hair stylist and Jim, a professional photographer.  A few years ago they built a beauty salon next to the house and installed fluorescent fixtures.  Now, Sabrina wants to switch to track lighting.
RON HAZELTON: So you do most of your work right here?  This chair?

SABRINA: Yes, have a seat right here, I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

RON HAZELTON: Which, yeah show me which direction your clients are usually facing when . . .

SABRINA:  OK, they’re usually facing this direction right here.

RON HAZELTON: All right, all right.
RON HAZELTON:  SO we dive right in, first turning off the power to the overhead lights at the breaker panel.  As a precaution, we put tape over the switch.  Then we throw a few drop cloths over the cabinets and start removing the fluorescent fixtures.  The plastic diffusers come off first, the tubes are taken out and then we remove the cover concealing the wiring.
RON HAZELTON: Squeeze it together, like this, and then it just comes right off like that.
RON HAZELTON: The wire connections are untwisted and finally we remove the screws holding the fixtures to the ceiling.

SABRINA: There we go.

RON HAZELTON: With the old fixtures down it’s time for a little planning.
RON HAZELTON: You know a great advantage of track lighting is that it’s very flexible, you can put it exactly where you want it.  Its disadvantage though is that its very directional, it gives you spots of light so I want to make sure that your going to have light where you need it.  Ah, why don’t you show me some of the places your going to want some illumination here.

SABRINA:  Well, I would need light in the waiting area because people like to read here.

RON HAZELTON: OK and what about maybe on this, on the photographs.

SABRINA: Oh yeah that would be real nice.

RON HAZELTON: So we could highlight this, or spotlight this.  I would also think that on expanses on wall like this we want to wash that wall. . . .
RON HAZELTON: Once we’ve identified just where Sabrina needs light most, we decide to place blue masking tape on the ceiling to help us visualize where to best locate the track.  In this case a u-shaped pattern around the perimeter of the room looks like it’ll work best.
RON HAZELTON: Jim and Sabrina have got the tape up here so we know where the track is gonna go, now the power for this track is going to come from this wire right here.  I’ve got a problem though, there should be an electrical box right here and there isn’t.  So, I’m going to have to cut out a part of the ceiling here and install one.
RON HAZELTON: With a wallboard saw I make a few exploratory cuts and discover that the wires are right next to a ceiling joist.
RON HAZELTON: It feels like right here, can you see it?
RON HAZELTON:  Using the first box as a template, I first draw and then cut a hole in the wallboard, exposing the edge of the joist.
RON HAZELTON: OK Sabrina, there’s the box.
RON HAZELTON: Sabrina then threads the wire through the back of the box and sets it in the hole we just cut in the ceiling.  Jim screws the box securely to the edge of the joist.  All that’s required to convert any ceiling box into an electrical source for track lighting is this adapter which simply screws on top of the junction box.  The wires coming from the ceiling are attached to terminals in the adapter and the cover is snapped into place.  Most track lighting should be installed between 18 and 24 inches from the wall.  So we take down the masking tape, make our measurements, and snap a chalk line. 
RON HAZELTON:  Good.  The track lighting system that we’re about to put up is typical of most.  It has three components; the track itself which supports the light fixtures and conducts electricity, and then a variety of connectors that go into the end of each track section.  This one makes an L-shaped turn, there’s T-shaped, and this actually allows you to attach the track to an existing ceiling box.  Then  finally, the light fixtures themselves.  The track we’re using today came in four and eight foot lengths (SAWING), but this track can be cut to any length with a hacksaw.
RON HAZELTON:  OK Jim, why don’t you try that out for fit.
RON HAZELTON: The first piece of track is plugged into the ceiling adapter then we begin working our way around the room installing the longer sections. (MUSIC)  The track is first aligned with the chalk line, and the mounting holes marked by drilling a small hole.

JIM:  Go ahead and drill it baby.

RON HAZELTON:  Then that hole is enlarged with a bigger drill bit, so that it will accommodate a toggle bolt.  A toggle, on a toggle bolt, is really a nut with folding wings.  The wings are held together while the toggle is inserted into the hole in the ceiling.  As the bolt is pushed upward, the toggle springs open inside the ceiling preventing the bolt from falling back out of the hole.

RON HAZELTON: The thing I like most about track lighting is that it is a snap to install. (DRILLING and MUSIC)  Sabrina, Jim, and I work our way around the room connecting one section to the next.
RON HAZELTON: You’re pretty good at this.

SABRINA:  Yes, I am aren’t I.

JIM: Now pinch like Ron said.

RON HAZELTON:  Into the final sections we snap an end cap, then tighten the toggle bolt, pulling the track snugly up against the ceiling.  Now were ready to install our fixtures.
RON HAZELTON: That’s the great thing about track lighting, you can hit almost anything you want here.
RON HAZELTON: Each lighting fixture has a job to do.  Some will provide work light, some illumination for reading, while others will wash a wall or highlight an object.  The beauty here is that we can put light exactly where Sabrina wants it.
RON HAZELTON: So this is a haircut for the road, eh?

SABRINA: Oh yes Ron.

RON HAZELTON: You’re happy with the way this light’s turned out?

SABRINA:  Love it.  I can really see how to cut your hair

JIM: Oh yeah Ron, it’s really nice.

RON HAZELTON: And it’s really pleasant and warm in here, too.  You guys were the dynamic duo, I mean you did a lot of work on this.  It was a pleasure to work with you.

SABRINA:  And we couldn’t have done it without you, Ron.

RON HAZELTON: Oh thank you.  Just a little bit off the side right here.

SABRINA: Just a little?


JIM: Don’t cut too much baby.

New Track Lighting can make your workspace more functional

Ron works with a couple to replace their exisitng flouencent lighting with a new track lighting system. With a little bit of planning, and some fairly basic installation, track lighting will allow you to focus the light in your room exactly where you want it.

Remove Existing Fixtures
Step 1

Remove Existing Fixtures

Begin by turning off the power at the breaker panel. Use a piece of tape to cover the breaker to ensure that no one mistakenly turns it back on while you are working. Next, remove any covers or shades that may be on the existing fixtures, and then loosen the wire connectors. Once the connectors and wires have been separated, the screws holding the fixtures to the ceiling can be removed.

Plan the New Track Layout
Step 2

Plan the New Track Layout

Track lighting is very directional, so first determine the location for the lights based upon the needs that you have. As you make your plan, use painters tape to mark a tentative layout on the ceiling of where you think the track should be installed.

Determine Your Power Supply
Step 3

Determine Your Power Supply

In this case, Ron needs to install a junction box where the power supply comes through the ceiling. This is easily done by using a wallboard saw to cut out a template of the junction box. Once the hole is cut, the wires can be pulled through the back of the box and then the box itself can be screwed into the ceiling joist. The track lighting adapter should be screwed directly onto the face of the new junction box and the wires attached to the adapter as described in the instructions that came with your lighting system.

Assemble and Install the Track
Step 4

Assemble and Install the Track

Now that you've determined the location of your track lighting, you can remove the painters tape from the ceiling and snap a chalk line to ensure that your tracks are a consistent distance from the wall. Cut the first piece of track to the correct length using a hack saw, and once you've made careful measurements and snapped your line, go ahead and snap the first piece of track into the adapter.

Secure the Track to the Ceiling
Step 5

Secure the Track to the Ceiling

The track will be secured to the ceiling with toggle bolts. After the track is all in place, tighten the bolts and install any covers or end pieces that may have come with your track lighting kit.

Install the Fixtures
Step 6

Install the Fixtures

After the track is securely fastened to the ceiling, you may begin installing the fixtures, keeping in mind the original needs that you were trying to meet when you planned the layout of your system. Remember that each fixture should have a purpose and feel free to continue to make adjustments to the lights until the room has the feel that you wanted to achieve.