How to Wire a Bathroom

Before you start a bathroom makeover, be sure your plan is up to electrical code. The wrong wiring layout can completely disrupt your design.

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A bathroom is more than a pretty vanity and a soothing showerhead. The way a bathroom is laid out is actually more like an intricate piece of art. Codes and regulations require all bathrooms to have certain elements such as vents, waterproof lights, and more to make your home smart and safe. All of these required fixtures must be wired and placed properly. Find tips and information on bathroom circuits and wiring, below.

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Ultimate Bathroom Planning Guide

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Requirements for Bathroom Wiring

An adequately wired bathroom has a GFCI receptacle, a fan/light combination, a waterproof light over the tub, and lights on each side of the mirror.

Even a relatively large bathroom tends to be damp. Light fixtures must be watertight, ventilation must be effective, and the receptacles should be ground fault circuit interrupters.

Bathroom Layout Guidelines and Requirements

Circuits

The lights and fan must be on a different circuit from the receptacle(s). Some codes require that bathrooms have their own circuits; others permit bathrooms to share circuits with receptacles or lights in other rooms. In some locales all bathroom wiring, including the lights, must be GFCI-protected.

Bathroom Vent Fans

To satisfy codes and for your comfort, a bathroom needs a fan that effectively pulls moist air out and sends it outside. Some local codes require that the fan always comes on when the light is on; others allow you to put the fan on its own switch.

Usually there is a vent light fixture in the middle of the ceiling, which may be controlled by one or two switches. Some fixtures also include a heating unit or a nightlight. A bathroom heater—whether it is a separate unit or a part of a fan/light—may use so much electricity that it requires its own circuit.

Bathroom Lights

In addition to a light or fan in the middle of the ceiling, plan to position lights over the sink, where they can shine on a person standing at the mirror. A strip of lights above the mirror is a common arrangement, but most people find that two lights, one on each side of the mirror, illuminate a face more clearly. A mirror light's switch may be by the entry door or near the sink.

A tub or shower does not need to be brightly lit, but people shouldn't have to shower in the dark. Install a recessed canister light with a waterproof lens made for shower areas.

Receptacles

Install at least one 20-amp GFCI receptacle within a foot or so of the sink. Position the receptacle so a cord does not have to drape over the sink when someone is using a blow-dryer. When your kids are old enough to get themselves ready in the morning on their own, be sure to talk to them about the dangers of electric shock and using hot tools near water. 

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