3 Types of Kitchen Track Lighting

Updated: Nov. 29, 2022

Tired of cooking in the dark? Kitchen track lighting provides multiple light sources, without the hassle of installing multiple fixtures.

Gettyimages 522916880 Track Lighting In Kitchen By Scott Van DykeSCOTT VAN DYKE/GETTY IMAGES

Why Choose Kitchen Track Lighting?

Unlike typical light fixtures where a ceiling-mounted junction box powers a single bulb, track lighting offers a series of lights mounted on a track or rail from the same power source.

Track lighting lets you precisely position the lights and the direction of their beams. This flexibility means you can customize how you light your kitchen, directing bright lighting at specific areas like the sink, food prep stations or a dining island.

Pros of kitchen track lighting

According to Jennifer Johnson, co-owner of The Light Center, with track lighting “you have the ability to point light where you want it, and light larger areas from a single power source easily.”

Track lighting can also be relatively simple to install. Depending on the type, it requires the same electrical work as a single light fixture, with no messy drywall cutting or additional junction box installation.

With the wide variety of styles, designs and head options (heads are the fixtures that contain the lights), it should be easy to find track lighting that fits your kitchen’s needs and decor.

Cons of kitchen track lighting

Kitchen track lighting isn’t the most subtle. “Track lights appear less minimal than recessed cans because they protrude from the ceiling,” Johnson says.

The amount of hardware can also create a cluttered look, which is why kitchen track lights are not ideal for extra-small spaces. And in our experience, depending on the length of the track, the fixtures themselves typically cost more than single-light options.

If you decide to go this route, here are three types of kitchen track lighting to consider.

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Standard Kitchen Track Lighting

Standard track lighting features a rigid track mounted to the ceiling, with heads or pendants attached. Johnson says this type is ideal for “kitchens without recessed lighting, living rooms with limited power sources, and is an especially great option for wood ceilings where you cannot install recessed cans.”

Line-voltage, a direct extension of your home’s existing electrical circuit, powers standard track lighting. According to Nick Yahoodain, CEO of Advanced Builders and Contractors, line-voltage lighting is much more DIY-friendly because it doesn’t require installing a separate transformer, as low-voltage systems do.

According to Johnson, depending on the number and type of heads, cost can range from a few hundred dollars up to $1,800 for a 175-sq.-ft. kitchen. This Nuvo Lighting Track Kit ($214) includes a four-foot track and three LED bulbs.

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Monorail Track Lighting

Unlike the rigid linear track of standard track lighting, monorail tracks can be curved or bent. And they’re suspended from the ceiling, not attached. This makes the track itself more of an aesthetic element because it can be further customized with different finishes, colors and shapes. It’s great for those seeking a sleek, high-end look in their kitchen.

Monorail track lighting uses a low-voltage system, requiring a separate transformer to lower the 120-volt current to 12V or 24V. It also can accept a wider variety of bulb types, letting you choose from multiple beam sizes from wide (40 degrees) to narrow (10 degrees).

Although the transformer makes monorail track lighting somewhat more complicated to install, you don’t necessarily need to hire a professional. John Williamson, a former chief electrical inspector for the state of Minnesota, says a true beginner might be in over their head. However, he says, “A DIYer with intermediate or better skills could easily make the required electrical connections.”

Assembling standard track lighting, however, is typically more of a challenge than the electrical aspect. That’s why Williamson and Johnson recommend hiring a lighting designer. With a pro compiling a detailed parts list and providing the exact layout, installation can be done fairly quickly. But this additional step makes monorail track lighting an expensive choice.

“Most systems are over $5,000, depending on size and complexity,” Johnson says.

 

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Cable Track Lighting

Cable track lighting suspends the heads on a thin wire stretched between turnbuckles mounted to the ceiling or wall. “Cable track lighting is especially useful if you need to attach to walls, high open ceilings or a combination of both,” Johnson says.

We’ve seen cable track lighting work well with high, vaulted ceilings. The cables can be positioned lower than other light fixtures, so there’s less distance for the beam to travel and diffuse.

The cables and exposed hardware give cable track lighting an industrial, minimalist look. That makes it well-suited for contemporary homes but out of place in a rustic or farmhouse-style home.

Like monorail track lighting, a DIYer with intermediate skills can install the low-voltage power supply. However, as with monorail, Johnson recommends hiring an experienced lighting designer to compile a parts list. She recommends these LED heads as a high-quality option for a cable track.

Similar to monorail, cable track lighting can cost up to $4,000 for a quality system.