Providing electric circuits to bathrooms are like kitchens but unlike bedrooms. Bathrooms are damp
so wiring must be GFCI-protected and exhaust fans must be provided.
Bathrooms are unique in the home when it comes to electrical service. By nature, bathrooms are damp
environments and water and electricity make poor bedfellows. The previous article examined
wiring a kitchen;
the next one discusses powering a laundry room or workshop. This one discusses
how to wire a bathroom.
Considerations for Bath Electrical Circuits
Like all home electrical work, its important to consult with the local building code before
beginning to wire a home bathroom. Local building codes vary by area but some things are common. It's safe to
say that they all require using Romex or nonmetallic (NM) cable.
If your code requires a licensed electrical contractor, you cant go wrong checking
Angies List. to locate one.
For instance, it is generally a requirement that the electrical receptacles be on one circuit and the
exhaust fan and the light fixtures be on another.
As with other rooms, install the light switch so that it is approximately chest high close to the door.
Although in some areas its permitted to allow bathroom lights and receptacles to share a
circuit with other rooms, its not always a good idea. Also, most building codes require that all
bathroom wiring be GFCI-protected.
If hot water is provided by a tankless water heater, the building code may require it to be on its
Installing a Bathroom Vent Fan
Its always a good idea to install a bathroom vent fan. Although there may still be some local
building codes dont require one, its always a good idea to get rid of the moisture and vent it to
the exterior of the home. Too much moisture promotes mold and mildew, its uncomfortable in the
winter months, and bathrooms can have their own peculiar odors.
Installing and wiring up a bathroom vent fan is similar to installing a ceiling fan, except for the
In many cases the fan is wired to the same on/off switch as the light but not always. If the local
building code doesnt address it, then it is up to the architect or homeowner. Every now and then, the
vent fan and the light are incorporated into one unit.
Wiring Bathroom Lights
Bathrooms should be well lit, so its important to plan for at least two sources of light;
general lighting which may be a recessed canister fixture or a surface mounted fixture, and functional
lighting at the bathroom sink/mirror, usually called a bath vanity for obvious reasons.
The general light may be provided by a low-voltage halogen bulb or a
Either of these will provide energy savings.
The functional lighting is usually a strip lighting fixture directly over the sink/mirror but some
homeowners prefer to place a sconce on either side of the mirror. In the end, its simply a matter of
Some baths include a recessed can light with a waterproof lens cover in the shower area, but in
most cases this is not needed.
Wiring Bathroom Electrical Receptacles
Plan on installing at least one receptacle on the wall next to the sink. It must be a 20-amp GFCI
receptacle and should be positioned so that the cord of a hair dryer or similar appliance doesnt
drape over the sink. Again, electricity and water arent very good friends!
In most cases, bathrooms are not big enough to require any more electrical receptacles. In no case
should one be installed below the level of the sink.
Remember that the bathroom should be an inviting and well-lit room. Designing the bathroom and
planning the wiring with this in mind will result in success!