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How To Install Track Lighting

You can never underestimate the importance of creating an effective lighting scheme when planning or updating a space. Good lighting design will positively impact your experience of a room, not only in terms of visibility and aesthetic appeal but it also increases productivity and profitability. Although it is a staple of commercial and retail lighting, in recent years track lighting has fallen out of favour in the residential sector. However this is now changing as contemporary track lighting systems are becoming prevalent in the market. As a result they are growing in popularity.

What is track lighting?

As the name would suggest track lighting consists of a channel system with lighting heads that can be installed and repositioned according to your needs. The major appeal of track lighting is its flexibility and adaptability. The tracks come in various lengths which can be cut and connected with the use of accessories (both rigid and flexible) to change the configuration of the track system. Once the track is in place, lighting heads are then clipped into the track in their desired location. The lighting heads can then be further customised and angled to the precise position.

Track lighting has many applications across a range of sectors including:

Commercial Track Lighting

Traditionally commercial track lighting is used in commercial projects because of its flexibility and how easy it is to adapt according to your needs.

Industrial Track Lighting

As track lighting can be suspended from the ceiling it is used in industrial project for effective lighting in high ceilings and key task orientated zones.

Retail Track Lighting

Retail track lighting is used to accent store displays and enhance the overall impressions of the space.This type of lighting highlights the quality and appeal of the items on offer.

Residential Track Lighting

Track lighting can be implemented all throughout the home, whether it is to highlight art and family heirlooms or as task lighting in rooms suchs as the kitchen, laundry and bedrooms.

How can you mount track lighting?

One thing that is important to consider before embarking on a track lighting project is the type of installation method that will work best for you. There are a number of ways to mount track lighting. These include:

Ceiling Track Lighting

This is the most common and simple method of track lighting installation.The tracks are screwed directly into the ceiling material and sit flush against the surface. This method is prefered among ‘do it yourselfers’ as it is user friendly and cost effective.

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Recessed Track Lighting

The installation process is similar to the regular ceiling track lighting, however here the track sits inside a constructed opening within the ceiling or bulkhead. This method requires more planning and precision but tends to be make for a more refined outcome.

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Wall Mounted Track Lighting

The tracks can be fixed to the wall in the same way as a ceiling as an alternative design feature.

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Suspended and Hanging Track Lighting

This method is used in circumstances where the ceiling height prevents effective lighting or as a deliberate design mechanism used to create interest.

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How do you install track lighting?

So you have worked out how much track you will need, how many lighting heads and the configuration that will work best for your space, now it is time to install.

Before you commence work be sure to turn off the mains power at the switchboard. Unscrew and remove the switch from the wall.

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Drill a hole in the wall above the switch where the track will commence from.

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Feed the non-metallic electrical cable from the hole you have drilled into the switch location.

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Next lay out your tracks on the floor in the configuration that you intent to install on the ceiling. Check that it will work best before you start to install your lighting to avoid having to alter anything during or after you start fixing the tracks.

Feed the cable from the hole into the end of the track so that the it can sit flat against the wall.

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Once you are happy with the location, measure and mark you first piece of track against the surface, making sure that it is level. Mark where the precut holes are located along the track, these are where the screws will attach it to the ceiling.

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Place the track back onto the floor and drill holes at each of the locations where the screws will go.

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Insert a plastic anchor to help fix the track securely.

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Now return the track to the ceiling and fix screws into position. Repeat with all of the tracks in you project.

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Depending on your situation, there maybe times where you will need to change direction of the tracks, for instance if you were to create a rectangular or ‘U shaped’ lighting configuration. Here you will need to add in a connection piece. These come in many styles and angles.

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Although the tracks come in differing lengths, there may be times where you will need to cut it. This can be done simply with a hacksaw or reciprocating saw.

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Once you have attached all of the track it is time to connect the wires from the non-metallic electrical cable into the end of the track light. To do this you will need to connect the white and black wires to the same colour wires (so that is white with white and black with black). The copper wire connects to the green wire to ground the connection.

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Now attach the switch back into its original location in the wall, attaching the corresponding wires coloured wires with a twist on wire connector.

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Once this is completed, it is time to connect the lighting heads. These may vary between design and manufacturer so be sure to read the instructions provided. At the base of the light you will see two connector prongs on one side and one other other. You will also notice that inside the track there are two corresponding channels on one side and one on the other. To attach your light you need to place the light inside the channel so that the prongs are perpendicular to their conductor channels inside the track. Once it is in your desired location, twist the lighting head to slot the prongs into the channel.

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Repeat for all of you lights then turn on the mains power and flick the switch to test your lights.

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Does track lighting need a junction box?

In short yes. Track lighting needs to be connected to a junction box. Not only does the junction box protect all of the wiring from damage, it also protects you and your loved ones from harm. Usually the junction box will be hidden in the ceiling.

How to adjust track lighting?

There are times when you may need to adjust the position and direction of lighting heads to enhance your desired lighting effect. This process may vary slightly between models so always follow the manual instructions. However in essence the process of moving or replacing lighting heads is the opposite to adding them. Twist the head anticlockwise until the prongs have dislodged from the channel. Move them to your desired location and twist them back into place. For safety reasons, it is always recommended that you turn off the mains power before doing this.

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How to install track lighting on a beam?

Depending on the design of your room, you might want to install your track lighting on an existing beam. Before you start, you will need to determine whether or not the beam is load bearing. It is important not to compromise the structural integrity of the beam and cause any damage to your property.

There are a number of questions to consider for installing track lighting on a beam.

Can you intend house to a junction box within the beam? Again this will require expert advice about whether it is safe to remove the required size from the beam for the junction box. It is preferable to avoid doing this where possible.

Are you able to conceal the wiring within the wall or adjacent ceiling? This will depend on the design and location of the tracks you are going to place. Generally this is the most common and effective way to hide the wiring. If this is not possible, there are a number of products on the market which can be used to cover exposed cables.

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How do you install track lighting on a timber beam?

The most DIY friendly way to install track lighting on a timber beam is to surface mount it. Again it is advised that you do not begin work without clearance from a professional. If the beam is non structural or you have the green light to go ahead, the process is the same as the standard ceiling track lighting installation.

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How do you install track lighting on steel or concrete beam?

Although less common, it is possible to install track lighting onto a steel or concrete beam. Again it is paramount to seek expert advice. Depending on the placement of a steel beam, the track can either be fixed within beam, as seen below where the flanges act to conceal the tracks themselves. Alternatively the tracks can be suspended or surface mounted to the base of the beam.

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Track lighting can be secured to concrete beams using the same standard ceiling track lighting installation steps, however it is important to use the correct equipment, drill bits and screws to do it safely without compromising the structure, prevent cracking and ensure that it is properly attached.

How do you install track lighting on walls?

Track lighting can be installed on walls in the same way it is on the ceiling. It is essential to consider the weight of the lighting heads. For a more secure fitting, it is suggested that you screw the track into the wall stud frame. Most tracks on the market come with predrilled holes to secure the track to the ceiling or wall surface. If these do not match up to the studs, you can either use a plastic anchor to bolster the track into the wall or you can drill a new hole into the track where the stud is located and affix the track into the wall from there.

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How do you install track lighting on concrete ceilings?

In essence the process of installing track lighting on concrete ceilings remains the same as conventional plasterboard ones, however there are some additional things to consider. Before you contemplate installing your own track lighting system onto a concrete ceiling you should seek professional advice on whether it is safe to drill into the concrete. In situations such as multi storey apartment buildings, even when you own the property you cannot make alterations to the structure of the building. Once you have approval to start, special consideration should be taken with the method of fixing. It is advised that you use a hammer drill to create the holes in the concrete ands use specialised concrete anchors to securely fix your track lighting system. Unlike plasterboard ceilings you may find that there is a rough texture or expansion joints in your concrete ceiling which may make it difficult to secure your tracks to. If this is the case and the room height permits, you may consider suspending your tracks from ceiling rather than surface mounting them.

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How to install recessed track lighting?

There are different options for installing recessed track lighting. The most simple is to cut a hole in the plasterboard ceiling and insert the ‘U shaped’ brackets to recessed track the cavity.

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Another common option is to create a bulkhead around the track. This method requires more planning and construction than the previous method, however it creates a more professional finish. Depending on the size of your bulkhead, you may need to install a timber or steel frame to support it.

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How much does it cost to install track lighting?

The cost of installing a track lighting system is dependent on the length of track and number of lighting heads. The lighting heads themselves vary greatly in price due to the material and quality of the design.

There are a lot of different track lighting systems on the market to meet the needs of your lighting project. These range from do it yourself kits from hardware stores to retail lighting stores and boutique lighting designers. These fluctuate not only in price but also in quality, so it is important to do your research to get the best system within your budget. The ability to customise your track lighting system means that you can install less lighting heads with a stronger wattage or you even add more lighting heads at a later date.

The installation method (surface mounted, recessed, wall mounted or hanging) will also impact cost. It is to be expected that the more construction and work associated with building bulkheads, patching and painting the higher the overall cost of your project. It is also important to consider the cost of professional installation as opposed to doing it yourself.

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Thinking about using track lighting on your project? L.E.D World have a large range of fittings to suit every application. You can browse our range here.

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