Guide to Bathroom Lighting Locations, Levels, Types
BATHROOM LIGHTING GUIDELINES - CONTENTS: Guide to Bathroor light fixtures,Bathroom Lighting Guidelines: General Lighting Rules for Bathrooms. Recommendations for lighting levels for bathrooms. Bathroom Mirror Lighting Recommendations. Guidelines for Lighting Over Tub and Shower. GFCI requirements for bathroom and shower lighting.
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Bathroom lighting design specifications:
This article gives guidelines for lighting location, strength, and safety for bathrooms. This article series details guidelines for selecting and installing interior lighting to meet the requirements for different building areas.
Also see LIGHTING, INTERIOR GUIDE our home page for information about all lighting topics relating to building interiors.
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Bathroom Mirror Lighting Recommendations
Good lighting is critical at the bathroom
mirror for shaving, makeup, and other tasks of personal
For optimal lighting, place strip lights or globe type
light bars at least 16 inches long on each side of the
mirror centered at 61 to 64 inches (about the average eye
Wall sconces on either side are also an option for
smaller mirrors. These provide even cross lighting without
shadows or glare (see Figure 5-23). Our photo (above left) illustrates lighting in a historic home in New York. The placement of a bulb suspended in front of the mirror generates plenty of glare.
For small mirrors under 30 inches wide, use about
75 watts of incandescent lighting or 20 watts of warm-white
fluorescent on each side. For larger mirrors, use up to 150
watts of incandescent or 40 watts of fluorescent on each side.
Additional lights across the top of larger mirrors are also
If using fluorescents, select lamps with high CRIs
and warm color temperatures in the 2700K to 3000K range.
Lighting from above the mirror only using globe-type
light bars, a pair of recessed downlights, or a lighting soffit
is acceptable as long as the vanity top is a light color.
Otherwise, areas under the eyes, nose, and chin will be in
shadow. If recessed fixtures are used, choose an A lamp,
flood, or compact fluorescent for a diffused beam.
General Lighting Rules for Bathrooms
As a rule of thumb, provide one watt
of incandescent or 1/3 to 1/2 watt of fluorescent light per square
foot of floor space. Increase this by 50 to 100% for recessed
lights, indirect lighting, or a room with dark surfaces.
In a small bathroom, the mirror lights can also provide
the ambient light.
For larger baths, a separate ceiling fixture
mounted near the tub and toilet can be useful for
ambient light and reading.
Finally, in a room with a high
ceiling, indirect lighting with coves or uplights can create
a feeling of spaciousness in a bathroom, along with a
pleasing, soft glow.
Guidelines for Lighting Over Tub and Shower
A recessed light with
a white diffuser mounted over the tub or shower will be appreciated
Watch out: Electrical codes require that these fixtures
be totally enclosed and rated for use in a damp location
(tub area) or wet location (shower). Most bathroom shower light fixture manufacturers require GFCI
protection for their UL rating.
In our opinion the shower light fixture installed in the bathroom shown at left is unsafe, using an improper fixture type and lacking ground fault circuit interrupt protection - a shock and fatality risk. It's just too easy for someone to stand on a wet shower floor or touch conductive metal controls or piping (like that shower head) while fooling around trying to change a light bulb.
In addition, fixtures must be
at least 6 feet above the water line and switches must be a
minimum of 5 feet from the edge of the bathtub or shower.
I [Jim Simmons] could not remember a GFCI requirement for shower recessed cans [recessed light fixtures or "pot lights" - Ed.]. Because there is not one.
Code (NEC) says the only time you have to GFCI protect the can is if the manufacturer requires it. Otherwise as long as it is a recessed can (metal or standard trim) it can be over a tub or shower.
Surface fixtures (including track lights or paddle fans) are only allowed if they are at least 8' above the maximum water level or at least 3' away from the tub or shower rim NEC 410.10(D).
Interestingly the requirement does not address wall mounted fixtures!
I still don't understand why you can install a wall mount light in a tub or shower enclosure!-
Jim P. Simmons
Mr. Electric, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: olympia.mrelectric.com - 3/19/2014
Watch out: Check with local code officials in your own jurisdiction for specific lighting and electrical safety requirements.
Our photo (left) illustrates nice use of indirect and rooftop skylight lighting over a walk-in shower in a Minnesota home.
Industry & Trade Associations for Lighting and Other Interior Components in buildings
American Lighting Association
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