Illuminate the bathroom for washing and relaxing
The bathroom is one of the most used rooms in the home. It’s where you get ready in the morning and where you can relax after a long day. With that in mind, it’s essential to choose the right lighting for it.
While the bathroom can often be on the small side, that doesn’t mean that your options are limited. In fact, there are plenty of exciting ways to create a bathroom lighting scheme that helps with everyday tasks and set a mood for private indulgence.
Read on to create your perfect bathroom lighting.
Explore your bathroom lighting options - from task lighting for washing and shaving, to softer ambient options for bath time relaxing.
Before you begin
Take time to consider a few key questions before buying.
Bathroom update or a complete refit?
The effort and cost involved varies a lot based on the scale of your bathroom lighting project. Are you looking to simply replace your existing lighting and re-use the same fitting? Or is the entire room being re-fitted with lighting as part of a bigger room re-design? If it’s just a like-for-like swap, explore our range of lights in your chosen type in Tab 2. Or if you’re looking for ideas and inspiration for a larger-scale project, read on.
Both instances benefit from taking measurements before buying and if you are tackling a bathroom re-fit, we recommend selecting your lighting before work begins. This is because you’ll want to complete any necessary electrical and fitting work before the likes of any tiling has started. It also helps you make the most of any recesses – adding variety and interest to your lighting plan.
Consider the bathroom
As with any kind of renovation project, it’s important to understand what you’re working with and in this case, it’s all about your bathroom.
Think about its shape and size. Often bathrooms are the smallest room in the house, but this doesn’t have to limit your options. Different types of lighting can be layered together to create harmonious lighting schemes in quite compact spaces.
Is there any natural light? If so, how does it balance with the artificial light? If you don’t have any natural light, your lighting scheme will be solely responsible for illuminating this important room, so be sure that it works for all uses.
What look are you going for? Perhaps you’re preserving the current style or are keen to switch it for something new. From modern to traditional, monochromatic to colourful, luxury spa to quirky vintage, there are endless style options and good lighting can provide the ultimate finishing touch to bring it to life.
Where in the bathroom is being lit?
The final consideration examines how you use your bathroom and so where lighting is needed. There are two main types of lighting – task and ambient lighting.
Task lighting is functional, providing total coverage for everyday routines, such as shaving, washing and applying and removing make-up. It’s essential in all busy spots, such as the basin, toilet and shower.
Creating mood and atmosphere, ambient lighting is all about setting the scene through clever use of lighting. Maybe this light is dimmed, changes colour or is even a natural flame – the light fitting itself can also be decorative to make a style statement.
Task and ambient lighting
Combine the two to create a lighting scheme that truly makes the most of your bathroom. This may well mean more of one type than the other. If you’re lighting a busy family bathroom you might need more functional lighting; whereas for a relaxing sanctuary dial up the ambient elements. A happy balance lies in learning how to layer the types of lighting to suit your needs.
Types of bathroom lighting
The two types of lighting – task and ambient – are achieved through different types of lights.
Task lighting options include recessed downlights, spotlights, cabinet lights and mirror lights. Ambient lighting options include ceiling lights and wall lights. Of course, some types, such as ceiling lights and cabinet lights, can offer both – but it helps to have a clear sense of what its main use will be.
Let’s explore the different types of bathroom lights available.
These lights are built into the ceiling and lie flush against it making them a modest, discreet choice. But to dial up the wow-factor, install in any nooks, recesses or alcoves for more of a luxury spa or hotel feel. Offered as either fixed or tilted options, the latter offers greater flexibility as you can pivot the bulb to direct the light where you need it most.
Make sure to check the fire rating of your chosen downlights. These lights require holes to be made in the ceiling for installation; holes that essentially compromise the fire integrity of the ceiling. Fire-rated lights are designed to help restore this, the rating (measured in units of time) indicating how effective the light is at slowing the spread of fire and so how much time is available to evacuate.
Add as many or as few recessed downlights as your bathroom needs, and choose from metallic or white casing to suit your style.
Make a quick style update to your bathroom with a new spotlight. Spotlights feature a single light fitting that can offer one or many lamps. Choose between two styles – bar (lamps in a linear design) and plate (lamps grouped together often on a round or square base). Attach to the ceiling or the wall and pivot the directional lamps to highlight key areas of the bathroom.
With a single fitting, spotlights are easily changed meaning you can swap out to suit interior trends.
Combine two bathroom essentials in one with a mirror light. Also known as illuminated mirrors, these clever space-savers are wall-mounted mirrors that include either integrated or attached lamps for extra task lighting. Designs vary with the lamp above, to the sides or even all around the mirror and in shapes to suit all bathroom styles. Look for mirrors with a de-mist function to ensure beautifully lit, fog-free glass every time.
Light up the space around, or inside, your bathroom cabinet with our range of bathroom cabinet lights. Install inside the unit to use as task lighting - making it easier to rummage for toiletries or medicines. Or fit underneath, or even on the side of the cabinet to create more ambient lighting.
Bathrooms aren’t often the place for dangly pendant lights – instead ceiling lights suited to this room focus on flush and semi-flush lighting. With these types there is either no, or very little space, between the light fixing and the ceiling so the full height of the room is used. This makes them a great option for low ceilings (often found in period properties) and compact bathrooms.
Traditionally they’ve been quite simple in design, but that’s rapidly changing with semi-flush lighting in particular becoming increasingly ornamental. Look for eye-catching, crystal-cut glass designs that add a touch of vintage glamour to the bathroom.
For a more decorative option, consider wall lighting. This lighting option is prominently placed, often at eye level, and so can become more of an ornamental feature than other types. Alternatively, opt for a wall light that’s purely functional, such as a shaver light (features built-in electric shaver socket) or mix and match to get the balance of ambient and task lighting that you’re looking for.
Being within easier reach than ceiling and downlights, their light bulbs can be easier to replace. Place beside, or over, mirrors and choose between single and double lights in an eye-catching array of modern and traditional designs.
Zones and IP ratings
Shopping for a bathroom light is a little bit different to choosing one for living rooms, bedrooms and other living spaces. The amount of steam and moisture in bathrooms means that any light fittings have to be appropriately water-resistant. There are two ways in which we rank the suitability of lights for bathrooms – hazard zones and IP ratings.
Bathroom zones and IP ratings
The IET wiring regulations (the UK’s national standard for safe electrical installation and wiring) divide a bathroom into hazard zones. These zones represent the distance from water sources, and as such determine what lighting is safe to use where. So for example, a light that is over a shower meets with more moisture than one away much further away from it, and so requires lighting with greater resistance to water.
This is how the zones look:
|0||Inside the bath or shower|
|1||Above the bath or shower to a height of 2.25metre (m) from the floor|
|2||The area stretching 0.6m outside the perimeter of the bath and to a height of 2.25m from the floor. The distance of 0.6m also applies to the basin.|
|Outside zones||The area anywhere outside of the above zones|
Bathroom lights can be listed with just their suitable bathroom zone, the corresponding IP rating or both. The IP (Ingress Protection) rating, also known as the IP code or International Protection Marking, ranks how effectively an electrical item is sealed against solid and liquid objects.
The ratings are given as the initials IP and then two digits. In this instance, we can overlook the first digit as it rates the protection level against solid objects. It’s the second digit that’s key for bathroom lighting and the higher it is, the greater the resistance to water.
Here’s a breakdown of the scale for each of the second digit ratings.
|2||Dripping water when tilted at 15 degrees|
|6||Powerful water jets|
|7||Immersion, up to a depth of 1m|
|8||Immersion, beyond 1m|
When listed together, this is how bathroom zones and IP ratings correspond:
|Zone||Minimum IP rating|
|1||IP44 or IP45 if exposed to water jets. IP65 recommended.|
|Outside zones||IP20. IP44 recommended.|
Check the listed zones and/or IP ratings to make sure your bathroom lights are safe to use in the desired spots before buying.
Essentials & other ideas
There are a few other ways to introduce extra lighting into your bathroom.
Spa bath with LED lighting
For the ultimate in bathroom indulgence, consider a spa bath with LED lighting. Create your own by combining one of our baths with a whirlpool or wellness system that features colour-changing chromotherapy lighting. Perfect for relaxing at the end of a busy day or energising first thing in the morning, these lights combine with the powerful jets to create a truly special bathing experience.
Light-up basin taps
Add some fun to your basin taps with integrated LED lighting. Our Cooke & Lewis Havusu Waterfall Mixer Tap (pictured) lights up when in use, changing colour with the temperature of the water. It’s part of the Havusu family of bath and basin taps so you can pick up matching items and, unlike more ambitious or large-scale lighting schemes, it’s a relatively quick change. Why not use it to encourage children to wash their hands?
Candles and lanterns
For luxury style on a budget, introduce some candles into your bathroom. There are so many ways to work this look – from small tealights to larger pillar candles; ornate glass jars to novelty shapes. Add some scent to delicately perfume the room and quickly and easily switch them to suit the season. Twin with a stunning lantern or a statement candle holder to make more of a feature or add in numbers for more of a twinkly effect - we love how they look in bath recesses. Always be safe when using candles, or consider flameless LED candles for the safest option.
Complete your bathroom’s new lighting scheme with a few more things.
Ceiling-mounted pull cords
Traditional light switches aren’t safe for bathrooms, and so any light fittings inside the room must be controlled by a pull cord. We offer a wide range of pull cords in both contemporary and period styles to suit your bathroom.
If the light switch is outside of the room, then any standard one can be used and we have plenty to choose from. Check whether your light and light bulb are dimmable, as if they are then you can fit a dimmer or dimming switch to control the level of light. Dimmed lights are great for creating a mood of relaxation, though dimmer switches can only be used on lights in outside hazard zones.
Not an essential as most of our bathroom lights are already fitted with light bulbs. However, it can always be worth picking up some spares so you’re not caught out in an emergency, or perhaps you fancy experimenting with ones in a different brightness level or colour temperature.
At B&Q, all of our bulbs are suitable for bathrooms - it's the light fitting, not the bulb itself, that needs to conform with safety regulations.
To find out more about light bulbs, head to our helpful buying guide.
Fire hoods and diffusers
Considering recessed downlights? There are two important safety considerations to keep in mind with this choice of lighting.
If non fire-rated recessed downlights are installed and there is living space above the room (be it part of your house or someone else’s flat), the ceiling’s fire integrity needs to be reintroduced. This is achieved with fire hoods. Like the fire-rated lighting, it slows the movement of the fire and is an essential safety consideration for you and any affected neighbours.
Alternatively, if there is loft insulation above the recessed downlight instead of inhabitants, you might need to install heat diffusers or insulation guards around the lights. These are essential with old-style halogen bulbs as they generate a lot of heat, though we also recommend for LED lights as using without could reduce the life expectancy of your lights.