Hire a Pro Advice: Install Track Lighting

Get help finding an electrician to install track lighting and advice about inspecting an electrician's work and what should be in a written contract with an electrical contractor.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

To find an electrician to install track lighting ask friends and neighbors for a referral or use the Yellow Pages or an online contractor referral service. Another option is to buy the lighting fixture at a home or lighting center where an installation service is offered. Usually there's a tag on the track lighting fixture as the "installed price." Most offer the traditional cash-and-carry price as well as an installed price that covers installation. The retailer arranges for an electrician to do the installation and is responsible for both the scheduling of the job, and of course, your satisfaction

In either case, be assured that the electrician who does the installation is licensed and bonded and that his work meets the standards of the local building codes.

Hire a licensed electrician who is responsible for the workmanship and quality of his or her workers. There are two levels of electricians: master and journeyman. A master electrician knows the National Electrical Code and any state requirements, has passed a test and has at least two years experience. A master electrician is qualified to plan, design, install and maintain electrical systems. A journeyman electrician is licensed by the state to install wiring and equipment. Some states require that a journeyman work with a master electrician. This license may be revoked if the electrician has a history of doing shoddy work. Always hire a licensed electrician because they take pride in their work and value their licenses. And remember, if you are hiring an unlicensed electrician to do a side job like installing track lighting or work on the weekends, you don't have much recourse if the work is unsatisfactory.

To evaluate an electrician's workmanship, look at the electrical outlets and switch plate installations on walls. They should lie flat on the surface of the wall and be plumb and square, not tilted. Wires and cables should run straight into the service panel, not be tangled or crossed. All wires should be attached firmly to the framing at regular intervals. You can check for this in areas where the wires are exposed, such as in the basement or attic.

Here are the basic points that should be included in a written contract with an electrician to install track lighting:

  • Description of the work to be completed with a detailed list of the track lighting system to be used (brand name, style, color of fixtures, or other specifications, including exact materials)
  • Cost of material and all warranties from the manufacturer
  • Cost of labor and amount of deposit, if required
  • Job installation date

While track lighting got its roots in the theater, where it is used to cast a spotlight, it is equally adept in a home highlighting a piece of art or a prized collection. When choosing track lighting, you'll find systems with both square and round heads that can be configured in a variety of ways. To cast a narrow beam of light, consider low-voltage lamp heads with a tungsten-halogen bulb and a built-in transformer. To concentrate the spotlight, choose a lamp head with a cowl that conceals the light in a sleeve so the spotlight is somewhat hidden. A spotlight without a cowl will cast a wider beam, depending on the reflector bulb type.