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11 Small Bathroom Lighting Ideas – Tips for Better Lighting

By Mike Holmes

Mike’s Advice / Bathroom Renovation

Thursday, February 10th, 2022 @ 12:26pm

How To Get Better Bathroom Lighting in Your Home


No matter what size your bathroom is, lighting is essential to create a bright and airy feel. And for small bathrooms, keeping the colours white or light will also make the space feel bigger

When it comes to lighting small bathrooms, try to be creative by choosing light fixtures that maximize functionality and aesthetics. Remember, proper electrical installation is very important, particularly in bathrooms where proximity to water occurs requires special attention.  

Bathroom Renovation Completed By Briks, Holmes Approved Builder

Bathroom Renovation Completed By Briks, Holmes Approved Builder

 

To help you get started, here are 11 tips for better bathroom lighting.

 

Tip #1 How To Layer Bathroom Lighting?


Layering is the best approach to improving bathroom lighting in your home. You may alternate between bright light for cleaning and gentler levels for a pleasant ambiance, thanks to layers of light regulated by dimmers and individual circuits.

Ample overhead and task lighting is key to a well-functioning bathroom, small or large. When designing the lighting for a bathroom, consider the three main types of lighting: 

  • Ambiance
  • Accent
  • Task 
Bathroom Renovation Completed by RDC Fine Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Layering is the best approach to improving bathroom lighting. Bathroom Renovation Completed by RDC Fine Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

 

Ambiance lighting is the room’s overall lighting, while accent lights can highlight a specific area. Task lighting is essential for daily tasks, like applying makeup, shaving, etc.

Task lighting often centers around the vanity area, as this is where you will need the most light for your daily tasks like styling your hair, washing your face and getting ready, and even checking out cuts and splinters. Install vertical lights instead of ceiling lights or mirrored cabinets to provide function and style.

The area around the bath or shower can benefit from recessed lighting. Make the shower or bath look bigger by lighting the wall instead of putting the lights in the centre of the space.

 

Bathroom renovation completed by Sosna Inc., Holmes Approved Renovator

 

In most cases, one sizable recessed light fixture may be enough to distribute sufficient light throughout the space. But don’t limit yourself to this. Consider other options like LED mirrors, lighted mirror medicine cabinets, strip lighting under cabinets, narrow vertical lighting, flush mount, or recessed lights. These are all great lighting options for small bathrooms, especially when space is limited.

 

Tip #2 How To Style Recessed or Pot Lights?


Recessed lights, or pot lights, come in large and small profiles making them an excellent alternative for small bathrooms because they take up no space. It’s all concealed in the ceiling and can be utilized in the shower and bath areas. If you do use them in the bath, make sure they are specific recessed-rated, wet/damp zone lighting. 

Pot lights have a clean, modern look that will integrate perfectly with your bathroom décor and will never go out of style. It is an excellent choice for narrow spaces and low ceilings too, as they can light an entire room.

Bathroom Renovation completed by Lexis Homes, Holmes Approved builder

 

Track lighting is an alternative to recessed lighting, since it can provide overall lighting and act as spotlights with one or two of the bulbs. What I love is that you can brighten or soften the light while taking a soothing bath by simply using a dimmer.

Check out Philips’ LED spotlights,

RELATED

What You need to Know About Pot Lights or Recessed Lighting

 

Tip #3 LED Mirrors And Lighted Mirror Medicine Cabinets Are Great For Task Lighting


A mirror with a light source is a fantastic way to save space. If a vanity light isn’t an option in a small bathroom or with slanted ceilings, try adding a lit mirror. 

These mirror and lighting sets come in various shapes and sizes, with built-in LED lights that can be turned off effortlessly when not in use by using a touch sensor. LEDs are also fantastic since they save energy. Other variations include backlit mirrors made with fluorescent tubes attached behind the mirror. 

LED Mirror from C&C Lighting, a vendor at Improve Canada Centre —Canada’s largest home improvement centre located in Vaughan.

 

Another excellent space-saving lighting option is lighted medicine cabinets, which have a light source, a mirror, and additional storage – ideal for those with limited counter space.

 

RELATED

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s) What Is a GFCI and How do They Work?

 

Tip #4 What Is Under Cabinet Or Strip Lighting?


Consider all your options in a small bathroom, including space under cabinets and counters. 

Bathroom With Under Cabinet Lighting Completed By Chris Franklin Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Bathroom With Under Cabinet Lighting Completed By Chris Franklin Signature Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Under Cabinet Lighting 

Install under cabinet lights or tape lights under shelves, cabinets, or countertops. This will provide additional light to the countertop area and make the bathroom feel bigger. Typically this is used in kitchens; however, don’t discount it being used in a small bathroom either. 

 

RELATED

13 Ways To Make Your Small Bathroom Look Bigger

 

Strip Lighting

Strip or tape lighting is another excellent way to add layers of lighting to a small bathroom. The LED lights provide a warm glow that is perfect for below a vanity, in a recessed niche, or along with shelving. The great thing about strip lighting is its flexibility and ease of installation – making it great for hard-to-light areas.

 

Tip #5 How To Style Vertical Wall Sconces? 


Vertical wall sconces are a refreshing change from the traditional overhead vanity and are great for small bathrooms. They will provide a unique modern look to your bathroom, take up little space, and are best for casting an even light across the face. 

My Bathroom renovation included vertical wall sconces and pot lights to create different levels of lighting for style and function.

Consider a long narrow vertical “saber” like light fixtures on either side of the mirror, for a sleek design. 

Tip #6 Are Pendants And Chandeliers Good For Bathroom Lighting?


A chandelier can be used in a smaller bathroom, but make sure to choose a small fixture that works with the space. To hang a chandelier, you’ll need enough room over your head. If you have high or vaulted ceilings, I definitely recommend considering this type of lighting.

Bathroom Renovation Completed by Hasler Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Styling Pendant Lighting in Bathroom Renovation Completed by Hasler Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Small pendants are another option for bathrooms. However, I wouldn’t recommend them as they have height and width requirements that take up a lot of space, making them impractical in a small bathroom. In addition, you shouldn’t use these anywhere near a bath or shower, because it’s an electrical hazard.

 

READ MORE

Electrical Considerations When Renovating

 

Tip #7 Flush Mount And Semi Flush Mount Are Good Alternatives To Pendants And Chandeliers


Flush mount lighting is a type of downward-directed lighting that sits flush against the ceiling. Because there is no space between the ceiling and the light itself, flush mount lights are ideal for locations with lower ceilings. They also keep dust and debris away from the bulb and shade.

Bathroom Renovation completed by Charette Custom Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

 

Semi-flush mounts, on the other hand, have a little gap between the ceiling and the bulb but function similarly to flush mounts. They are a viable alternative to a chandelier or pendant fixture., However, they can produce a shadow if they are the only source of light. It’s important to remember that layering your lighting is the best way to go.

 

Tip #8 How To Light Bathrooms Without Windows?


In the case of a small bathroom without a window, layering your lighting is even more important. Layer lighting, by incorporating pot lights with strip lighting or light fixtures that don’t take up a lot of room is typically a good idea to create a light and airy feel. 

Bathroom Renovation Completed by Rinaldi Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Vertical Wall Sconces In Bathroom Renovation Completed by Rinaldi Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Glass shower doors or enclosures also help keep the light fluid. Low-light plants and pastel paint colours, will help lighten the mood. Adding extra mirrors and reflective surfaces can also make the space feel bigger.

RELATED

How to Make your Bathroom Watertight
Adding a Basement Bathroom & What You Need To Know

 

Tip #9 Why You Should Hire A Licensed Electrical Contracting (LEC) Business For Your Bathroom Lighting?


If you are just switching out a new surface light fixture with an old one, then as a handy homeowner, you should be able to tackle this with no problems. However, be sure to follow the rules and do it safely. 

Frank Cozzolino, Licensed Electrical Contractor installing Pot Lights

 

If your project involves new electrical wiring or equipment or repairing/replacing old ones, then you should get a licensed electrical contracting (LEC) business to do the work for you. They can do a proper review of your current electrical requirements and install any additional lighting or wiring required to do the job correctly and safely. And don’t forget to ensure that a notification of work from ESA for the project is filed. 

 

Tip: If you live in Ontario head to ESAsafe.com to find a Licensed Electrical Contracting (LEC) Business in your area.

 

RELATED

Avoid Unlicensed Electrical Contractors

 

Tip #10 Do I Need To File A Notification With ESA?


In Ontario, you must also register a notification of work with ESA within 48 hours of starting work, even if the job is small. The notification fees may vary depending on the job’s intricacy. However, this is an important step to ensure you have all the right paperwork for insurance purposes and to show the work history if you plan to sell your home down the road.

 

Tip #11 Pre-Programmed Setting


Pre-programmed settings are possible with the latest smart lighting switches and controls. There are many smart electrical devices available, including smart dimmers, switches, and receptacles. These devices allow you to control your lights from anywhere, anytime. 

 

How To Install A Smart Switch?

Always hire a qualified licensed electrician contracting (LEC) business to install your devices and ensure the breaker is off on the electrical panel during the installation. The existing receptacle will be removed and wires separated, so it’s important to make sure it’s done correctly and safely to avoid the risk of electrical fires or deadly shocks. 

 

Watch a smart switch installation by Eaton here

 

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We spend a lot of time in our bathrooms, so lighting is essential for functionality. Add layers of light by using different lighting fixtures and use these tips to achieve better bathroom lighting. Whether you use one sizeable recessed light fixture or a combination of lighting fixtures, ensure sufficient lighting for tasks, accents, and ambiance. Most importantly, always make sure a LEC does the installation.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


 

What are the best bathroom lighting ideas?

The key to good bathroom lighting is layering, and creating a space that is bright and airy. Using a combination of ambiance, task, and accent lighting is highly suggested and this can be achieved by using a combination of fixture styles.

How do you light up a small bathroom?

Depending on the size of the bathroom, one good quality flush ceiling-mounted light can efficiently light a bathroom. However where possible, use creative ways to layer lighting with recessed lights, lit mirrors, and wall sconces. This will brighten up the space and make it feel bigger

What is the latest energy-efficient bathroom lighting?

LED lights are the most energy-efficient light bulbs for several reasons. One advantage is that LEDs produce little heat and consume less energy. They also have a normal life of 15 to 25 years, compared to roughly 10 years for a CFL.

What is the best wattage for bathroom lighting?

In terms of wattage, you’ll need bulbs that are at least 60 watts to provide adequate bathroom lighting. If your bathroom is particularly large or you prefer it to be brighter, consider using 75-watt-equivalent lights.

Are bathroom lights better facing up or down?

In the bathroom, you’ll need both ambient and task lighting. Vanity lights provide ambient lighting with shades pointing up, while lamps with shades, pointing down, provide good task lighting.

Should vanity light hang over the mirror?

Yes, vanity lights can hang over mirrors, however, make sure the lights are positioned appropriately to the mirror and vanity. The normal bath vanity lamp height is 75 to 80 inches above the mirror, measured from the floor. For the most equal illumination across your reflection, place the vanity light bar 3 inches above the mirror.

Should wall lights face up or down?

If you want to light a large room, upward-facing lights will be more effective in diffusing light further. However downward-facing lights would suffice if you simply need to light a small area. 

How do you space a bathroom downlight?

When using downlights make sure you have a clear and even pattern. You need to consider the layout of your bathroom, and a general rule is that the lights should start two feet from the edge of the ceiling, and be spaced out evenly, every two feet across the ceiling. 

If you are unable to do two feet, ensure the lights are spaced proportionally. Don’t forget you will have to take into consideration where the joists are located.

How many spotlights should you have in a bathroom?

It depends on the configuration of your bathroom. Equal lighting at both ends of a tub is best. With a shower that’s 3×3 ft. or 3×4 ft. you can get away with one fixture, but if it’s larger you’ll need more.

How many lights can you have on one circuit?

This will be a maximum of 12-Amps for a 15-Amp circuit breaker. With a 60-watt light, a 15-amp breaker can handle up to 24 lights. You can install up to 120 LED lights on a single circuit if you use low-wattage LED bulbs, such as a 10-watt LED bulb. 

It’s important to note that if there are also receptacles on the circuit, this will reduce the number of lights that can share the circuit to a total of 12 (receptacles + Lights) 

How do I control multiple lights with one switch?

By installing a smart switch, which can also allow you to control the lights right from your phone.

Can you put more LED lights on a circuit?

Unless you’re installing devices with a known load, the limit is 12. If you have a hardwired LED light or a smoke alarm, you can place as many of these devices on the circuit as you like, as long as you don’t exceed the 80 percent load.

Do LED recessed lights get hot?

LEDs run far cooler than incandescent bulbs, but their electrical components and external heat sinks get fairly hot. You’ll still need to keep the insulation away from your fixtures unless they are approved for insulated ceilings. 

Another simpler alternative is to replace each of your fixtures with a sealed one rated for insulation. I recommend hiring a licensed electrical contracting (LEC) business to perform the work.

Are recessed lights outdated?

The ability to modify the finishes later is one of the reasons why recessed lighting is ageless. You have an indestructible can in your ceiling. 

The finish, on the other hand, may become outdated over time. However, it may be acquired in a variety of colours and styles to meet your demands so you are free to alter them as frequently as you want.

Are LED recessed lights worth it?

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are significantly more efficient than incandescent, halogen, and even CFL lights – yet the lights cost more out of the box. LEDs save energy while producing brilliant, clean light.

Why is recessed lighting bad?

They can waste electricity, produce poor lighting, and raise your heating and cooling bills if used incorrectly.

What is the difference between can and canless recessed lights?

Fixtures have a light inside a can-shaped housing that is completely integrated into your ceiling, wall, or floor and are usually mounted using hangers and rods. The light bulb is protected by the can, and they commonly have an electrical box on top of the housing unit.

Canless lights, on the other hand, are not enclosed in a can. Instead, they’re one unit with a thin casing that connects to your electrical cables directly. The majority of canless lights are little discs with LED lights attached. They don’t need an electrical box because of the way they’re connected to your wiring.

How long do LED recessed lights last?

An LED bulb can last for up to 50,000 hours. This lasts around 50 times longer than a regular light bulb. LEDs are also brighter than incandescent light bulbs, but they require a greater number of them to light a room.

What happens when LED lights burn out?

LED lights will provide light forever unless a component in the LED fails. LEDs, unlike florescent bulbs, do not burn out, although they will degrade over time and will emit less light. LED bulbs can last up to 25,000 hours.

Are recessed lights safe?

Yes, as long as they are installed properly. When lights are turned on, they produce a lot of heat. In some cases, where recessed lights have been improperly installed, the heat might be a safety concern. 

Recessed lighting must be IC certified when it comes into contact with insulation. If non-IC certified lights are used, they could cause a fire when overheated.

Is it bad to have LED lights in the bathroom?

LED lights are a great option. LEDs with a damp rating are more resistant to steam and moisture. 

Is warm white or cool white better for bathrooms?

Bathrooms benefit from brighter lighting since it allows you to see more clearly. However, for areas around your bathtub, you may want to consider softer, warmer lights with a dimmer for a relaxed atmosphere.

Are LED light strips waterproof?

LED lights come in several types, including regular non-waterproof, waterproof against drops and splashes, and completely waterproof.

How do you light a shower?

Recessed lighting in the shower is the most typical method of adding illumination to your shower. However, remember that the lights must be wet-rated.

Bathroom Renovation completed by Briks Design Build Group, Holmes Approved Builder

 

Can LED lights catch on fire?

LED lights provide light at a lower temperature and are a lower risk of causing an electrical fire.

 

Can you cut waterproof strip lights?

There are specific cut lines indicated on the strip and connected at any point between the copper dots on the LED Strip. You can then re-waterproof the strip using the proper end caps and a strong adhesive.

Are LED Strip Lights submersible?

There are specific brands that claim to be completely waterproof and fully submersible. Do your research and ask a LEC to make sure you’re using safe products, so you don’t get electrocuted.

Are LED lights bad for your eyes?

Chronic exposure to LED lights has been shown to accelerate the aging of retinal tissue, resulting in a loss of visual acuity and an increased risk of eye illnesses such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

 

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