How Much Light Do I Need for a Bathroom?

Bathroom lighting not only creates the atmosphere in the room, but it is also a safety issue for visibility.


Wet floors can cause a hazard for people of all ages, not just children or the elderly. Properly illuminated bathroom lights can be attractively designed, strategically placed and efficient to operate. A variety of options are available in electrical fixtures along with the use of windows and skylights.

Lighting in the bathroom should illuminate the surfaces and edges of sink vanities, bathtubs and the commode. These areas can cause safety issues when the floors are wet. Properly placed lighting that highlights the edges of these surfaces, along with the floors around these areas, can be accomplished through recessed lighting. General lighting requirements can be followed as a basic rule of thumb. Incandescent lighting should fall in the area of 1 watt per square foot of bathroom for all surface-mounted lights. Recessed lighting fixture needs to be slightly higher at 2 watts to 4 watts per square foot. Fluorescent lighting fixtures are rated for a ½ watt per square foot in the bathroom.


Recessed lighting may use more energy for the light that is emitted, but it works well for illuminating the edges of fixtures. In other words, the recessed fixture will cut down on glare if the light is aimed at surfaces, such as the edge of the bathtub, over toilets and the edges of sinks or vanities. Lighting around mirrors should be bright enough to highlight facial features but at the same time be gentle to the eyes. Soft lighting mounted above or around the mirror can be complimentary to the viewer. Stand-alone fixtures such as side table lamps must only be used if a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) is installed in the bathroom. All modern electrical codes require the use of GFCI receptacles in wet locations like the bathroom. The lamp cords must also be short enough so the lamp cannot reach any bodies of water while still energized.

Natural Lighting

Warm glowing illumination is preferred to that over harsh and direct lights. Windows that are placed on the eastern and northern side of the homes will complement that type of lighting. Windows that are directed to southern and western exposures can be harsh and allow heat into the room during the summer months. The same type of exposure rules follows along with any skylights that are added into the bathroom. Eastern and northern exposure is much preferred over the harsh light of a western or southern direction. Drape or curtain material can also play a large factor as to the color or type of light allowed into the space. Dense heavy curtains can easily block out any source of natural light. Lightweight, almost see through material, can complement the early morning sun while still providing a sense of privacy from the outside world.