Bathroom lighting is an essential part of creating a space that is functional day or night. A good lighting scheme can add another design element to your bathroom, creating a focal point or highlighting a statement piece.
If you are designing a bathroom from scratch you will need to carefully plan your bathroom lighting scheme, preferably with the help of a qualified electrician so that you can plan where you'll need to lay cables and budget accordingly. Electrical safety regulations are very strict so you cannot cut corners and attempt to undertake work yourself - unless of course you are a qualified electrician yourself!
It's important to think about how much natural light the room gets, where the window is (if you have one) and how often the bathroom gets used. Installing a bathroom light will most likely always be fitted so it's not easy to change or move them if you aren't happy so make sure you have picked the right light and placement before going ahead with any installation.
Typically we think of lighting in two ways - task lighting and ambient lighting:
Task lighting is for practical everyday activities such as shaving or putting on makeup. This can come from mirror or cabinet lights, spotlights or downlights.
Ambient/decorative lighting is more for creating the right atmosphere - from waking you up with ceiling lights to relaxing wall lights.
Wherever possible, make the most of any natural light you have coming into the bathroom but if you don't get much light or have no window remember that your lighting has to do all of the work so has to meet all of your needs. You might have heard about layered lighting, it is a great way to create a bathroom lighting scheme that is both practical and versatile. Bathroom lighting that is too bright can feel too sterile and harsh which is the opposite to relaxing when all you want to do is sink into a nice, hot tub. This is when different types of lighting come into play.
TYPES OF BATHROOM LIGHTING
Bathroom ceiling lights are fitted flush to the ceiling and can be found in almost every bathroom.
In the past, the trend has been to keep them rather simple in design, over time this has changed and you can now found more ornate pieces such as decorative chandeliers.
They are often the main source of light in a bathroom and should be bright enough to illuminate the entire room with an even level of light.
Bathroom wall lights come in a range of designs including single and double fittings. They offer more subdued lighting fitted above or beside a mirror.
Some wall lights operate independently of your main bathroom lighting, with a small pull cord operating a switch.
Spotlights are a single light fitting either in a bar (where the spotlights are in a row) or a plate (where the lights are grouped together on a square or round base).
The angle of the spotlight can be changed to highlight different areas of your bathroom. Since they only have one fitting, they can be easily changed.
Downlights offer a more discrete lighting option. They are fitted flush to the ceiling to create a minimal finish. Available in tilted or fixed designs, they provide more even light distribution around your bathroom.
LED shower downlights are perfect and designed specifically for safe use directly above your shower.
Since these lights require holes to be drilled into the ceiling, you will need to check the fire rating.
Recessed lights that are fire rated avoid the problem that can occur with the fire integrity of your ceiling - they have a rating that’s measured in units of time, which indicates how effective the light is at reducing the spread of fire.
Mirror lights have become extremely popular in recent years and work very well as task lighting. LED bathroom mirrors come in a wide variety of sizes and styles with many also providing additional features such as shaving sockets and even Bluetooth capabilities.
You can read more about them in our bathroom mirror buying guide here.
UNDERSTANDING IP RATING
You will need a certain IP rating for bathroom lighting depending on the bathroom zone. IP stands for Ingress Protection which shows how water resistant the light is - the higher the number, the better the protection.
Zone 0 Bathroom Lights are for the inside of the bath or shower itself. Any fitting used in this zone must be low voltage, (max 12v) and be rated at least IP67 which is total immersion proof.
Zone 1 Bathroom Lights can be used in the area above the bath to a height of 2.25m from the floor. In this zone a minimum rating of IP44 is required. If the fitting is 240v a 30ma residual current device (RCD) must also be used to protect the circuit in this zone.
It is recommend that if possible a higher rated IP65 Light is used if the light is to be fitted in the shower cubicle although the regulations are for a minimum of IP44.
Zone 2 Bathroom Lights can be used in an area stretching 0.6m outside the perimeter of the bath and to a height of 2.25 from the floor. In this zone IP rating of at least IP44 is required.
In addition it is good practice to consider the area around a wash basin, within a 60cm radius of any tap to be considered as zone 2.
The most important thing to remember is that electricity and water do not mix so it is essential that you have a qualified electrician install any new light fixtures and fittings.