Bathroom Electrical: What To Focus On When Remodeling

Planning Your Bathroom Improvement Project

After kitchens, bathrooms are some of the most often remodeled rooms in residential homes across the US. Almost everyone has a vision of their dream bathroom in their mind. From waterfall showers to luxurious soaking tubs to the perfect lighting for applying makeup, everyone's idea of the ideal bathroom is different. One fairly common thing is that most people associate their bathrooms with plumbing and not with their electrical system.

However, your bathroom's electrical design is just as important as its plumbing design. Bad electrical design can take your bathroom from functional to almost unusable. Think about it – have you ever tried to get ready for your day in a bathroom with bad lighting and either insufficient power outlets or outlets in the wrong places? It's incredibly frustrating.

If you're embarking on a bathroom improvement project, we recommend you spend a little time planning for your electrical needs and discussing your plans with a licensed electrician. Below we review two of the most important considerations when working on your bathroom's electrical design.

Lighting Requirements

What type of lighting do you have in your current bathroom? Most people have overhead lighting and/or vanity lighting. It is also not uncommon to have dedicated shower lighting. However, the quality of these lights can vary greatly. Some homes have old fluorescent tube lights, while others may have recessed LED lights. Bathroom lighting can also vary in shade, from cool to warm. Some light bulbs are also designed to mimic natural light.

Things to consider when planning your bathroom's lighting:

  • Do you currently have enough lighting, or do you need more?
  • What do you think about the quality of your existing bathroom lighting?
  • What activities or tasks do you need the lighting for (ex: general bathroom use, applying makeup, shaving, etc.)?
  • Do you want any decorative lighting?
  • Do you need any specialty switches, like dimmers?

For more tips on bathroom lighting, review our blog, "Guide to Lighting Your Bathroom."

Outlet Requirements

Your outlets are just as important as bathroom lighting, if not more so. Not only do bathrooms require GFCI outlets to be code-compliant, but you want to ensure you have enough outlets in the right places. According to the NEC code, bathrooms are required to have two dedicated circuits. In particular, you will need a 20-amp circuit for your plug-in devices (this outlet must be an AFCI/GFCI outlet), and a separate circuit for your lighting and switches.

However, depending on your bathroom size and your plans, you may need more. For example, if you have a whirlpool tub or other large bathroom appliance, it may need its dedicated circuit. Discuss this with your electrician before proceeding with your project.

Other Electrical Features

From luxury items to practical gadgets, today's homeowners have many options when it comes to improving the functionality of their bathrooms. It may surprise you, but a wide range of electrical features can be included in bathrooms beyond lighting and outlets. For example, if you have a steam shower, the steamer function is controlled by electricity. Meanwhile, bathroom exhaust fans require an electrical hookup.

Common electrical features in bathrooms include:

  • Heated towel warmers
  • Vanities and lighting with built-in outlets
  • Speakers
  • Smart home integration
  • Steam showers and sauna elements
  • Whirlpool tubs
  • Ventilation
  • Heaters

As you plan your bathroom remodel, you should take stock of all the devices, fixtures, and appliances that require power and discuss them with your electrician to ensure that your electrical design can accommodate them.

Don't Forget About Bathroom Electrical Codes

With any remodeling or renovation project involving your electrical system, you want to ensure that any work you have done is up to code. Depending on where you live, you may have to conform to national, state, municipal, and/or county electrical codes and building regulations. The surest way to adhere to electrical code is to always work with an experienced, licensed electrician like ours at Lightning Bug Electric.

It's also important to note that many bathrooms do not currently meet electrical code requirements. This is especially true of older homes or homes where someone has done DIY electrical work. Therefore, hiring a licensed electrician to manage your bathroom renovation is even more important.

For tips on how to keep your bathroom electrics safe, review our blog, "Electrical Tips for the Bathroom."