Bathroom Lighting

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Bathroom Lighting

Bringing Decorative Lighting into Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom LightingUnlike lighting in other rooms in a home, bathroom design and lighting have their own set of challenges. Layered bathroom lighting is an art and a science.

If you are completely remodeling the master bathroom or guest bathroom, you will need to understand bathroom lighting. Lighting is a primary consideration when remodeling a bathroom.  Why?  Bathroom Lighting sets the tone and functionality.  Lighting almost defines the design style for the entire bathroom.

There are a couple of essential points to consider before finalizing the bathroom design. For example, a powder room may have flush-mount and/or bathroom vanity lights.  The master bathroom may have a ceiling light fixture such as a chandelier, flush-mount, or pendant light along with multiple bathroom vanity lights. This all depends on the size and location of the bathroom fixtures.  These fixtures include the vanity, pedestal or wall sink, mirror or medicine chest, bathtub, shower, etc.

How much bathroom lighting is needed?

Bathroom LightingWhen thinking about bathroom lighting, you should consider the three types of lighting that will guarantee proper illumination in your space.  The lighting types are ambient, task, and accent lighting.  We will talk more about these later.

For a small powder room, a low-watt ambient light might be all you require.  However, for a large master bathroom, you would require more than one lighting type to achieve the proper lighting in all areas of the space.

Below are the basic rules on the types of lighting, bathroom design styles, power level recommendations, as well as light temperatures and colors you will need to take into consideration before you begin your bathroom renovation.

There are basically 5 types of residential bathroom lighting fixtures.

These are the bathroom lighting fixtures you commonly see in Orange County homes.  There are millions of variations for bathroom lighting.  Almost all fall into the categories below.  Some of the less common types are tube, rope, track, and neon lighting.

A good place to view all of these lights and more is Ferguson LightingKalco lighting has wonderful bathroom lighting ideas and lots of unique pieces.   A great place to view Crystal lighting is allegricrystal.comKohler has bathroom lighting fixtures that match their product lines.  The entire bathroom can match – faucets to lights!

Bathroom Lighting
Flush Mount

Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom Lighting

Selecting Bathroom Lighting Fixtures

Bathroom LightingWhen it comes to decorative fixtures, this is strictly a personal choice.  However, understanding the building code is really important for your safety.  Think about this for a minute.  If you are going to hang a 120-volt light fixture over your bathtub or recessed into the ceiling over a shower, you want to make sure there is no danger of being electrocuted!

Ceiling height is key.  If you are thinking about hanging pendant or chandelier lighting over a bathtub, they must be suspended so the bottom of the light fixture is at least eight (8) feet from the highest point of the bathtub.  This distance must be maintained for the surrounding three (3) feet of the bathtub.  Therefore, you know you need at least 9-foot ceilings to even consider a hanging light fixture over a bathtub.

There are 3 types of bathroom lighting.

  • Ambient
  • Task
  • Accent

Ambient lighting

Bathroom LightingAmbient Lighting illuminates and brightens the entire room.  Examples include natural light sources from windows and skylights.  This also includes ceiling lights such as recess lighting, chandeliers, or pendant lights.  You can make a statement in a large master bathroom with a sophisticated chandelier over a soaking tub.  A small flush-mount or recess light in a small bathroom or powder room can be very compelling.

For general ambient bathroom lighting, a good sustainable and long-lasting option would be an LED light source. LED light sources are a great energy-saving way to light a room. The light colors available on the market today can replace the soft, warm glow of the traditional incandescent light by using a 2700K color LED source or a 3000K that is brighter.  LED bathroom lighting that is 5000K provides beautiful daylight that is perfect for applying cosmetics.

The chart on the right illustrates the best LED colors for your home and bathroom lighting.  Remember, LED lighting is measured in temperature.  Kelvin (K) is the term used for measuring LED temperature light output and brightness.

In California, all recess lighting must be Title 20 and Title 24 compliant for energy efficiency.  They must also be certified as air tight.  No recess lighting may be sold or installed without these certifications. 

Task Lighting

Bathroom LightingTask Lighting is used when you need to light a specific area of the bathroom.  The vanity is the most important task lighting area.  Why?  Performing detailed tasks such as shaving, or makeup application require good lighting without casting a shadow on your face.  Therefore, wall sconces over the vanity are the best choice.

All task lighting should use frosted glass or semi-opaque shades that block the light from shining directly toward you.  Never use clear bulbs.  These two things alone will greatly reduce mirror, window, and eye glare.

Vanity pendants should be installed with the bottom about eye level or 65 inches from the floor.  They should also be installed about 2-3 inches from the sides of the mirror.

Wall bar sconces are best installed above the mirror or about 80 inches from the floor with shade bottoms 2-3 inches from the top of the mirror. For the best aesthetic proportions, the light fixture should be somewhat smaller in width than the mirror.

Best Bathroom Renovations Mission ViejoSpace permitting, if you have a double vanity with double mirrors, add single wall sconces to either side.  Add ceiling LED recess lights for optimal task lighting.

Bathroom light bars (wall bar sconces) supply ideal lighting for the sides of the mirrors. Select lights that can be installed horizontally (straight and level).  Install them 80 to 85 inches from the floor.

There might be some confusion regarding wall sconces.  Wall sconces can be single or multiple shade.  A light fixture attached to the wall with 1 shade is referred to as a wall sconce.  Sconces with 2 or more shades is called a wall bar sconce.

Single Shade Sconce

3-Shade Wall Bar Sconce

Accent lighting

Bathroom LightingAccent Lighting is extra light that brightens up small or darker areas of a room. You can achieve accent lighting in the master bathroom, guest bathroom, or powder room by placing a mini table lamp on the vanity corner or on a table.  You can also install wall sconces on walls other than around the main vanity area.  This produces a very welcoming environment.

Dimmers should always be considered on bathroom lighting.  The only exception to this is wall bar sconces.  These should never be on a dimmer.

Dimmers are an excellent way to adjust the needed light output in all areas of the bathroom or powder room.  This is especially true for shower and bathtub lighting where special ambiance or mood bathroom lighting is important.

Where should recess lights be installed over the vanity?

Place recess lights 1/2 the distance of the depth of the vanity, from the back (or mirror) wall.  You want to have equal distance off the center of the sink. This will give even illumination to both sides of the face.  For example, for a 24-inch-deep vanity, 12 inches is center from the back wall to the front of the vanity (12 is half of 24).  If the sink is 24 inches wide, the sides or edges of the sink are both 12-inches from the center (center is where the drain is located).  The diagram illustrates this information using a 96-inch vanity.

The above example assumes an 8-foot-high flat ceiling.  Cathedral ceilings and those 9 feet and higher usually include wall sconces in addition to recess lighting.

Use more than one recess light over the vanity.  Why?  Using one overhead recess light fixture will create more shadows and uneven lighting on the face and make it harder to see. 

Bathroom Lighting Safety

Whatever type of bathroom lighting fixtures you select, make sure they are certified by a safety organization such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).  The UL sets industry-wide standards on bathroom lighting products.  Lighting over a wet location like a shower or bathtub must have a wet rating certification.  For bathrooms, I recommend using lights that have a wet rating certification regardless of the type of fixture.

Always Hire a Reliable and Dependable Contractor to Remodel your Bathroom

Design Build Bathroom Remodel | Best Local Contractor DAD's ConstructionAlways work with a trustworthy contractor like DAD’s Construction.  We are experts in bathroom remodeling who can manage projects in an efficient manner.  DAD’s Construction will do everything to minimize the possibility of change orders.  Our team will make sure we have all the necessary information to prepare a proposal that meets your requirements.  Rest assured that we will provide you with a detailed, by line-item contract.  We will make sure that the contents of this agreement are properly and clearly communicated to you.  If you have questions or need updates regarding your project, we will always answer your inquiries.

How Can I Receive More Information on Remodeling My Bathroom?

If you would like more information on enjoying the best bathroom, kitchen, and interior remodeling experience in Orange County, call Dan at (949) 380-0177 or at for a free in home consultation.  DAD’s serves all of South Orange County California.  This includes Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, Portola Hills, Ladera Ranch, Irvine, San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Newport Beach, and Aliso Viejo.

Best Bathroom Contractor | DAD's Construction

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Daniel A. Derkum is the owner of DAD’s Construction.  DAD’s is a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation Contractor.  See  © DAD’s Home Services & Construction, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.