Illuminating the situation

When considering lighting for your bathroom there are several important factors to consider.

The first is the need for whatever fitting you choose to suit a damp or wet area. The second is the need for different types of lighting in a bathroom, even though it is a small area. And the third is the creation of an enjoyable space where some family members may spend a large amount of time and where all family members spend some time.

In bathrooms, for the purposes of the building regulations, each area has a “zone” designated to it. This zoning stipulates what kind of fitting can be installed. Some fittings need to have an IP rating; that’s an Ingress Protection Rating or International Protection Rating. Fittings without an IP rating can be used in a bathroom and a good lighting designer or your electrician can advise you on where these can be installed.

Anyone with teenage daughters knows that the mirror is the most important part of the bathroom. It is important lighting adequately illuminates the face when looking into a mirror. Mounting lighting around a mirror so it shines on the face is the most desirable option.

To achieve this there are many different light sources. Placing a light fitting behind the head so a shadow is cast on the mirror is very undesirable and should be avoided. It is possible to use a ceiling mounted fitting which tilts the light onto the mirror to provide reflected light back onto the face, but this is not a particularly effective solution either. The worst option for a bathroom lighting installation is a heat light and fan unit; it is best to install separates for these functions.


The general lighting in the bathroom should be bright and of good quality and surface mounted or recessed fittings are preferable to suspended fittings to give a good spread of light over all surfaces.

The colour of your surfaces in the bathroom will dramatically affect the amount of lighting you need. Dark surfaces are well known for not reflecting light however, putty colours and other popular bathroom colours, like blue and green, are also not particularly reflective and the lighting levels in the bathroom should be increased.

Using a recessed down-light above the shower provides good lighting for that area, as task lighting, when shaving legs etc.

LED lighting can be used very effectively in bathrooms. Running LED strip lighting under the bath or vanity gives a very good effect. Large double showers with LED strip lighting mounted in extrusions, running from floor to ceiling in the corners, is a way of adding some wow factor to the bathroom.

A handy lighting tip is to mount a small step light recessed into the wall at low level by the toilet to act as a night light for any nocturnal visits to the water closet. These are especially good in ensuites so the main light is not needed and in toilets used by the junior members of the house.

As with all lighting, consulting a good lighting designer is the best option to optimise your bathroom lighting.

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