Easily Wire a Bathroom

  • 01 of 04

    Bathroom Circuits Needed

    Bathroom Photo
    Bathroom Photo. Steven Miric - Getty Images

    In a bathroom, there is usually a light or lights, an exhaust fan, and at least one receptacle. Although some bathrooms seem relatively small, that doesn't mean that everything can be put on one circuit. In fact, there must be a different circuit for the receptacle(s) than the one for the lights and fan. This means a minimum of two circuits.

    Here's where it gets tricky, so check with your local electrical code officer to verify what you need in your part of the country. Some codes will require that the bathroom has its own circuits, not shared with other rooms for lighting and outlets. However, some can share circuits in other areas.

    In some areas, it is required that outlets and lighting must be on GFCI protected circuits. I can see this being a great safety addition due to the fact that bathrooms are usually a wet environment and electricity and water do not mix!

    Some local codes may require only a GFCI receptacle for safety, while others may require that all the circuits in the bathroom be protected by GFCI circuit breakers. Electrical safety is always an issue when dealing with wet locations especially.

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  • 02 of 04

    Bathroom Exhaust Fans

    To satisfy bathroom electrical codes, bathrooms are required to have exhaust fans to remove moisture. The other obvious reason is to make the room comfortable and lessen the chances of mold and mildew growing in your bathroom.

    Bathroom exhaust fans should have a large enough CFM's to adaquately remove moisture from the room and displace it outdoors. Check with your local retailer when purchasing a fan unit for CFM requirements for your bathroom's square footage.

    Some local codes allow you to control the fan by itself, while others require that the fan come on with the lighting. If your bathroom is like mine, you may have a vanity light and a fan/light combo. You could have a switch for the combo and another for the vanity light.

    As for a light/fan/heater combo, it's likely the heater may indeed need a circuit of its own, depending upon the amperage draw of the unit.

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  • 03 of 04

    Bathroom Lighting

    Bathroom lighting should be installed for the end user experience. For me, a minimum would be a light or set of lights covering the vanity area above the mirror or two wall sconces to the sides of the mirror. Women will agree that the more light the better for applying makeup.

    Again, there may be a fan/light combo in the center of the room, some with a built-in nightlight. This is a nice aaded feature and saves a lot of people's toes in the middle of the night.

    Showers can be very dark and have been known to need a little light themselves. You can add a can light to the ceiling of a shower, but don't forget the required waterproof lense to protect both you and the bulb.

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  • 04 of 04

    Bathroom Receptacles

    When considering bathroom receptacles, one has to decide the correct placement. You should keep the receptacle at least six feet from the edge of a bathtub or shower and within one foot of a sink. Placing the receptacle in the center of the sink is not a good idead, where the cords of things like razors and curling irons would have to hang over the sink opening. A better positioned receptacle is to the left or right of the sink base.

    The minimum required receptacle is a GFCI-protected receptacle on a 20-amp circuit. If you're anything like me, I have receptacles on both sides and two in each location. As your family grows, you'll decide, like me, that you never seem to have enough outlets for all the razors, hair dryers, chargers, curling irons, radios, and even weather radios. 

    Depending on the size and depth of your bathroom, you may want to add a general outlet near the door to plug in a vacuum. If you happen to have a makeup table incorporated in the bathroom plan, that's a great place for an outlet for lighting on the table. As my wife would tell you, lighting is a must when applying makeup..