is there a standard for recessed light placement in bathroom?

socalsisterJuly 20, 2010


The bath is 8.5'x 12.5' and the ceiling slopes from 8' to 10'. The lower portion of the ceiling starts above the vanity. Four 60 w incandescent sconces on either sides of two mirrors for the vanity on the 12.5' wall. For general lighting and to avoid shadows at the vanity, I want recessed cans. Do I place in the center of the ceiling? Since the ceiling is sloped, I'm concerned about how to direct the light. I'm considering halogen or LED (CREE LR6 2700k?). I've read that cans should be placed about 24" from the wall, but my vanity depth is 23"--will this work? My electrician thinks they should be centered with scoops to direct the light, but then light will be behind me. Someone on the bathroom forum said to place them so that the light is centered on the edge of the counter which means more directly overhead (which sounds closer to the 24" idea). Are there any sound principles for placement? TIA

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I guess this isn't answering your question, so feel free to ignore me. There are some real experts here and I'm sure they'll have an answer for you.

However, if you really want good general lighting and no shadows, then you probably don't want recessed cans at all. You want lights that hang down from the ceiling and provide indirect illumination - bouncing some light off the ceiling.

However, if you want fashionable lighting - and this isn't inconsequential, as it may have some bearing on the near-term resale value of yor home - then you do probably want can lights.

No matter how they're placed, cans will always produce more shadows and dark areas than a good indirect fixture. You can partially make up for this by using more of them, however.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 6:08PM
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Here is what I did in my master bath and it is perfect! I have plenty of light and no shadows.

I have 3 recessed lights in the center of my bath in one line. Then I have 2 recessed in the shower parallel to the center recessed lights. I have 3 wall sconces on each side of two medicine cabinets. I agree with David that if you have lights over you, it will cast shadows. I have read that having light in sides of mirror or medicine cabinets is the best way to do it for optimum light in bathrooms. If you cannot do that, put them over the mirror. But having recessed over your head will cast shadows.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 9:55PM
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How about using other possible solutions
- LED light panels, for example LED molding
- Track lighting
- Cove lighting

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 10:26PM
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Thanks to all of you for responding! I am not fixed on any particular style of lighting. If recessed cans will create more problems regarding shadows, then I want to do something else. Would one fixture work--how many lumens? I've attached photos of the space and the floorplan. It was difficult to take pictures, so the view is from the closet on the floorplan. The shower will be to the left of the tub, the vanity perpendicular to the right end of the tub. To meet code, a hanging fixture would need to be less than 10". Thanks so much for helping...

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 3:35AM
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If the main concern is about having shadows around the vanity mirror, a couple of sconces/ vanity lighting bars will address that.

If you also want relatively uniform lighting for the rest of the bathroom, indirect lighting would help - cove lighting for example.

The light output for indirect lighting has to be much more than down lights as the light has to be reflected off the ceiling and walls.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 11:27AM
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Pure indirect lighting such as cove lighting is great for "mood lighting," but not so good for task lighting. I'd sugggest a conventional hanging or surface mount fixture that provides both direct and indirect light. That will reduce shadows and give you ample light. Mostly likely only one fixture, maybe two, will be required. This will probably give you a nice cost savings over multiple recessed cans, and will also save electricity.

Supplemental lighting with sconces is a good idea for those annoying times when you're trying to get that darn little speck out of your eye, or apply makeup carefully. A surface mounted light bar or even (dare I suggest it? ;-) a linear fluorescent fixture above the vanity or mirror might be less likely to glare in your eyes, depending on placement.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 7:28PM
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One possible plan is to have good lighting at the vanity area and have cove lighting all around.

Robern has wall sconces that use T5 linear fluorescents and do not cast a garish light.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 10:15PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I already have the sconces which I was told would provide adequate light at the vanity. My concern is dimmable general lighting for the rest of the space without creating shadows at the vanity. I prefer the hanging fixture to the surface mount on a sloped ceiling from an asthetic perspective. My husband prefers recessed lights (because I have analysis paralysis when it comes to decisions like which light fixture!)

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 4:49PM
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There will be fewer shadows directly in front of the mirror if the vanity lighting is stronger than the general lighting.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 8:48PM
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