Bathroom Lighting Laws

Updated February 21, 2017

In the bathroom, you want ample lighting so that you can see well enough to get a good shave or properly apply make-up. However, a bathroom's wet features dictate stricter lighting requirements than in other places in your house. If you're planning a home renovation, keep bathroom lighting codes in mind before purchasing expensive fixtures. As with any major electrical project, you should always consult with a professional, as local codes may vary from national standards.

Showers and Baths

The primary concern when planning bathroom wiring is the bath and/or shower enclosure. You cannot hang any kind of lamp or luminary directly above a tub or shower within 8 feet of its maximum fill line. Likewise, you cannot place lamps within 3 feet horizontally from the edge of either a tub or a shower. No element whatsoever of ceiling fans or chain-, cable- or cord-supported lamps is allowed to hang within this space. If any lamps are hung within a bathtub or shower's actual outside dimensions, they must be marked as suitable for damp locations and, if susceptible to shower spray, for wet locations. These devices may be recessed or surface-mounted and switch-operated.

Ground Fault Circuit Interruptors (GFCIs)

All of the outlets within a bathroom must have GFCI protection. With this protection, the current will automatically short out should it detect a grounding interruption. For example, if you accidentally splash water on an electric hair dryer, the electric current would normally travel to "ground" through the conductive water and your fingertips. However, with GFCI protection, the current is automatically interrupted before you can be electrocuted. According to the National Electric Code, all new outlets must be equipped with GFCI; therefore, if you are remodelling an older home, you may need to purchase and install new receptacles. While the GFCI protection offers considerable advantage over unprotected devices, any cord-powered lighting fixtures still should not be used close to the shower or tub.

Further Regulations

In addition to GFCI protection, a bathroom circuit must have at least 20 ampere ratings, with No. 12 wiring. There must be at least one switch-controlled light fixture in the room, and at least one GFCI receptacle within 30 inches from the bathroom sink. This receptacle may be used for plug-in lighting, such as a night light, or for other uses. Finally, all bathroom light fixtures must have their electrical wiring completely concealed within the electrical junction box or within the fixture itself.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article


About the Author

Danielle Hill has been writing, editing and translating since 2005. She has contributed to "Globe Pequot" Barcelona travel guide, "Gulfshore Business Magazine," "Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico" and "The Barcelona Review." She has trained in neuro-linguistic programming and holds a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and literary translation from Brown University.