Tracked or Recessed Lighting for a Kitchen

Selecting the proper style and amount of lighting for a kitchen is crucial. You want sufficient task lighting for functionality, but also something stylish that won’t be outdated in a few years. Recessed lights have long been popular for kitchen applications, and track lighting appears to be making a comeback after falling out of favor in the 1990’s. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. How to choose between them?

Track Lighting for a Kitchen

Track lighting is simply a series of individual lights mounted on a support bar, called the track, which in turn is attached to the ceiling. The lights can be pointed in the direction of your choosing. Some systems allow the individual lights to be moved anywhere on the track, making this type of lighting adaptable to the lighting needs of your space.

When track lighting was first made available in 1961, it was too expensive to gain traction among residential interior designers. It was revamped in the 70’s to offer then-stylish designs and by the 80’s had become the go-to for functionality and style for all rooms in the home. Today even big box stores carry a variety of designs and options in track lighting, for any space.

Monorail Track Lighting

Monorail track lighting is what it sounds like – a single rail suspended below your ceiling by metal rods. Monorail “tracks” (really, more like a wire) offer flexibility in that they can be shaped any way you choose – you are limited only by your imagination. Also, every component of monorail track lighting is available in a variety of designs and finishes so you have the freedom to select what matches your taste and your kitchen.

Rail Track Lighting

Rail track lighting uses two parallel rails and the individual lights are suspended between them. These systems are usually reserved for industrial warehouses and large open galleries where the extra support is necessary, but are rarely used in a home.

Track Lighting Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Track Lighting

  • Lights can be pointed in different directions.
  • You can choose from several different types of light fixtures such as spotlights, pendant lights, and task lights.
  • You can mix and match different types of fixtures on the same track.
  • Individual lights are available in a wide variety of finishes and styles.

Disadvantages of Track Lighting

  • It will likely costs more than recessed lighting.
  • Track lighting, like any fixture in the home, will require cleaning.
  • If your ceiling is low, a hanging fixture may make it seem even lower.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed or “can” lights are installed so that they appear flush, or almost so, with your ceiling.  The cans are mounted to the ceiling joists and capped with a decorative plastic or metal ring to finish it. These rings come in a variety of finishes to match your decor.

Recessed lights are available in 75, 100, or even 150 watts.  Your electrician will help you determine the number of lights you need and the wattage for your space.

Recessed Lighting Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Recessed Lighting

  • Sleek – make a space look bigger.
  • You can install as many and as strong lights as your space requires.
  • There is no fixture or rail to clean.

Disadvantages of Recessed Lighting

  • You can’t change the placement of a can once it is installed.
  • The positioning of the cans is limited by where the joists are.
  • The light itself point directly down, and may create shadows.

Should I Choose Recessed or Track Lighting for My Kitchen?

Track lighting today offers homeowners a variety of light types and finishes, and flexibility in rail and light placement. If you choose something trendy and find in ten years that your tastes have changed, the lights themselves are easy to change.

Recessed lights are the easiest to maintain but the style and position cannot be changed.

You might consider having under-cabinet lighting installed to enhance the functionality of whichever system you choose.  Best of luck with your kitchen renovation!