Lighting in bathrooms can be either a way of being able to see or a way of creating a mood, although many people want a bit of both. The key to good bathroom lighting is to be able to control it, as mood lighting suitable for a relaxing bath is unlikely to provide enough light in the right place for mundane bathroom activities like shaving or eyebrow plucking.
Safety First with Bathroom Light Fixtures
It’s important to buy light fixtures sold for bathroom use as they will be more resistant to moisture. Bathrooms are divided into zones for electrical safety reasons with zone zero being the bath or shower, zone one the area above a bath or close to the shower, and zone two the area outside zone one to a certain limit.
Once you know the zones of your bathroom you can look for light fixtures that are rated for them. Look for an ingress protection (IP) number, where ‘IP’ is followed by two numbers that indicate it’s level of mechanical protection and moisture protection respectively. So a product with IP67 on it will have high levels of both and will be suitable for use in zone zero. And example of this might be a recessed and glass-covered spot light mounted in the ceiling above a shower.
The up-to-date measurements defining these zones can be obtained by looking at the latest edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations, or a properly qualified electrician can help you.
Rules for Bathroom Light Switching
Regulations apply to the switching method as well. You are only allowed to have pull-cord switches in a bathroom to turn lights on and off. The more normal rocker type light switch can be used but must be mounted outside the bathroom.
It is now very difficult to do any significant electrical work around the house, beyond swapping or replacing fixtures and fittings, because of the tightening up of safety regulations. This means that an electrician is likely to be required to fit new lighting in a bathroom, but given the safety issues surrounding water and electricity, getting an electrician in is perhaps the best solution anyway.
Choosing a Bathroom Lighting Style
Look hard at your bathroom and look at the natural light source before deciding on light fixture placements. If you are putting new bathroom lights in as part of a makeover then consider using reflective tiles such as glass or chrome to reflect light around the room.
Spot lights can be recessed into the ceiling and, if they are in movable sockets, can be shifted to provide light to the appropriate area. They will need to be splashproof and have the appropriate IP rating, of course. Wall lights are available for bathrooms too although they are likely to have all-encompassing glass shades to protect them from damp. This helps give out a softer, diffused light though, which usually fits in well in terms of bathroom mood lighting.
Direct Bathroom Lighting for the Mirror and Basin
Completely covered lights with separate pull-cord switches, and often with integrated shaver sockets, are available for lighting over the basin, usually over a mirror too. This is an effective way of providing intensive light at the main mirror, where it’s needed for close-up work.
Some of these combined light and shaver socket fittings do look a bit dated through. A popular alternative is a mirror with a light, often a circular fluorescent tube, built into it. Luxury versions have a demisting element built-in too. Once you’ve found direct lighting you like at the basin you can then have mood lighting coming on from the main switch by the door, then turn the basin light on for close-up work.
Jazz Up Your Bathroom with Cool Lighting Options
Many funky and spectacular lighting units for bathrooms are available if you have the money. Colour changing spotlights or uplighting spots let into the floor, or perhaps the side of a raised bath dais, can all lend your bathroom that luxury feel. You can even buy groups of fibre-optic strands that can be let into the ceiling to give you a permanent starry night in your bathroom.