Help me bring light to a bathroom

ontariomomFebruary 3, 2013

Hi all,

We are in the middle of a house addition/renovation (framing done, rough-ins part way done, cladding mostly done). Now that we have added our addition, we lost the window that was in a small main level bath (the smaller bath on the top of the below image). There is now a floor above this bath too. We had hoped to put in a sun tunnel for this bath, but that did not work out due to locations of closets on the floor above.

Our latest idea is to add an interior window high up on the small bath wall (near where it is marked toilet) to try to steal a bit of light from the laundry room east facing window. The laundry room is ten feet wide, so the light would be coming from 10 feet away to the bath so not sure how that will work. The window in the laundry room is not exactly directly across from the small bath, so if necessary, I could investigate paying to have that window moved to the corner of the laundry room as the cladding material on that side of the house is not yet done. I am not sure about adding an additional window in the hall that leads to the bathroom due to cost.

The only other sources of light available to steal from other than the laundry room window, is a sun tunnel in the other bath on the bottom of the screen, a window near the bottom of the staircase, and a possible second sun tunnel we are considering placing in the laundry room which would be in the recessed area of the laundry room where it is marked storage, extra linen.

I would love your thougts and suggestions. If you do like the idea of an interior window between small bath and laundry should I also do an interior window between larger bath and laundry to say share the lighht from that bath sun tunnel to laundry (laundry is not all that bright) Would glass block be the way to go instead even though it is not done that much anymore.

Looking forwarding to your help.

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This isn't the answer you are looking for, but I'm not sure, however many sun tunnels and interior windows you put in, that you will ever get much daylight in that bathroom. You could end up spending a lot of money for just a little return. You could add the interior window, the sun tube, and move the other window, and *still* need to turn on the lights every time you use this bathroom.

Having a bathroom with no windows isn't all that uncommon. I would focus on putting in good light fixtures so that you have enough light to put on make-up and such in the room.

Put the money you might spend on interior windows to "bling" up the bathroom a bit. Put in some things that sparkle--a good mirror, the faucet, some sconces, the accessories--and I'll bet you won't notice there's no window once you get used to it.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:10PM
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Hi Camlan,

Thanks for your advice. I hope you are right that we will get used to the fact there is no window. However, I have never liked windowless baths -- maybe they never had enough bling to make me forget about the lack of natural light.

Would you think a new exterior window placed in the hall that is directly across from the bath together with a frosted bath door might be worthwhile? There is ten feet between the bath door and this proposed exterior window (window would be east facing). Do you know how far light travels from a window? Our ceilings are only 8 feet and I was thinking of just a transom shaped window (e.g. a short window) that might be around 26 inches wide by 15 inches high set with the same space above the windows as the rest of our house windows (14 inches of space above the windows). We could go for a higher window of course, but with a shorter window we could place a shelf under the window.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:34PM
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We stayed in La Posada, a historic hotel recently restored that's located in Winslow, AZ and our room had a window on the wall that was shared by the bathroom and bedroom. It was there for the reason you mentioned....more light. The only thing "odd" was that it was clear glass. But the idea was great. it was a great conversation piece and brightened up the bathroom.

Here is a link that might be useful: La Posada

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:35PM
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Dup post

This post was edited by jmc01 on Sun, Feb 3, 13 at 16:38

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:36PM
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Thanks jmc01 for sharing your experience with an interior window in a bath. Do you recall how far away the bathroom interior window would have been from the exterior window?



    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:55PM
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Carol - my east facing window is 8' away from the frosted door on our windowless powder room. We also have the small transom-like window, it is 10' from our larger south facing windows. We don't need to use lights during the day in our powder room.

I like the idea of adding a window to the end of the hall if you can swing it. I agree with camlan that you need good lighting and you'd probably be just fine without the windows/frosted door, but I certainly understand (and share your desire) to bring at least some natural light into the room.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 5:23PM
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One more quick point about sun tunnels, don't under estimate the amount of light they bring it. I'm amazed by ours (in our master bath, another windowless room we have).

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 5:25PM
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I've seen bathrooms with only a skylight and it's as good as a window bringing lots of natural light in. I do think you get used to the light in a bathroom without a window but the window itself is still missed.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 5:38PM
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Thanks snookums2 and sochi for your thoughts.

I went back, Sochi and found your posted pictures from a previous post on this subject that shows your bathroom door and interior window. I think we will cost out doing all three like you did (frosted door, new exterior window in hall that faces bath, and interior window up high on wall). I appreciate you leading me to this solution.

I do have a few more questions

1)Given this bathroom is down to studs like the rest of our home, there would be nothing stopping us from bumping out the entrance to the bath so the door swing is out of the wall more of the vanity. As it is now the bath is only 5 feet by 5 feet so a little bit of hall given over to bath might be a good thing. It would also bring the door closer to the new window. Is this worth it? If so how much of the hall would you switch over to bathroom.

2)Also, if we put a second interior window in the wall that is shared between laundry and the larger of the two baths (i.e. the bathroom that has a tub), do you think the sun tunnel from inside that bath might shed a little light into the laundry? We could of course position the interior window in this bath right infront of the sun tunnel.

3)How large of a new exterior window would I need at the end of the hall facing the smaller bathroom? I am not looking for view, just light. Would a short window do, or do a need a larger one?



    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 7:10PM
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We have 2 full baths and a powder room in our townhouse, none have windows. We just make sure the light fixtures are good!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 7:43PM
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What is the purpose of that hall in front of the small bathroom? Does it lead to the main entrance? If not, do you need to close off the wall and entrance to the laundry room as much as you show? I'm wondering if you could just have half walls separating the laundry room from the hall. If you could enlarge your laundry room window, this light may be sufficient. Add the hall window too and I would think you would have quite a bit of light.

You could also be creative with the wall between the small and main bathrooms. Some glass block or a strip of frosted glass on the wall between the two baths would facilitate the sharing of light between the rooms. My sun tunnel gives us abundant light in our master bath, but that bathroom is on the second floor, so the tunnel run is only 10 or so feet. You might want to see if the extra distance the tunnel must travel to the first floor negatively impacts the amount of light it provides.

Also - is there light over/near those stairs next to the hall and small bathroom? Could it be an option to bring light from there into the small bathroom?

You could certainly bring the door to the bathroom out into the hall a bit, it may help with light, but I'm not sure it adds much practical space to the bathroom. Do you need the shower?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 7:50PM
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Hi Sochi,

Thanks for your additional input. Here are some answers:

1)The purpose of the hall leading to the small bath is to join the great room, small bath and laundry. The great room is just on the other side of the stairs. We decided we didn't want to have guest go past our laundry room to get to the small bath. This small bath will be used frequently by guests and family. The one on the other side will be used by teenage son as it is across from his main level bedroom.

2)As per closing off the walls to laundry room, I tend to keep a messy laundry room with lots of clothes awaiting washing, and lots of clothes hanging to dry. I don't want it visible from the great room. I think the plan posted originally (done by DH on Corel Draw) shows a more narrower door than planned. We will have a pocket door leading into laundry room from the small hall. Currently it is framed for at least a 36 wide pocket door. Still, I do think your plan for half walls in the laundry would work well for families able to keep neater laundry room. Certainly it would offer more light into the bath hall.

3)I am very intrigued by your idea of sharing light between the larger bath and the small bath with a frosted glass. On one side of the wall is the combo bath/shower in the larger bath, and the other side in the smaller bath is part shower and part wall behind toilet. Oops, just double checked and there appears to be a pipe running down this wall centered in the wall behind small bath toilet. But if we can use this idea, do we cut down the cement board and is it safe to have frosted glass over the tiles of the bigger bath? Tiles in the bigger bath are being replaced anyway. Who knows maybe the pipe could move over. Otherwise, we could do two square openings (one of either side of the pipe).

4)As per shower in small bath, it remains to be seen how often that will be used. We have considered taking it out, but want to wait to see if we will miss it now that there will be 2 showers upstairs. There are 6 in our family. For now this shower will stay.

5)I think the idea of taking from hall and giving to bath would mean the door when swung into the bath would be more out of the way of the vanity. Presently, when the door is open there is only 16 inches in front of the vanity. I think we could have a wider door if we extended the bath into the hall as well. Currently the door is extremely narrow at 24 inches wide. I shall talk to the framer some more to get his opinion on this idea.

6)There is a good sized window just in the great room near stairs, but I am not sure the light from this window will make it to the bath.

7)As per sun tunnels, our contractor will soon have finished the sun tunnel into the larger bath. Therefore we will be able to evaluate how much light it will provide given the distance this sun tunnel needs to travel.

One more question for you: How large do you think we need make the new hall window to bring light to bath door.

Thanks so much for your help!!


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:03PM
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Hi again Sochi,

Maybe I could open up the space/light between laundry and hall by putting in a frosted pocket door? Just thinking through your thought of half walls, and this might be a compromise that still blocks off the mess and noise of laundry from great room but allows some light to go through?


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 10:24PM
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I am not understanding your concern for more light in yhat windowless room.
My basement bathroom is about that size and without any window.
With the right lighting it is very bright.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:35PM
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Hi lyban,

I guess it is just a thing I have about natural light. It is not that we can't use artificial light, and we certainly will. Somehow natural light seems to make me feel the bathroom is cleaner. I think I read somewhere that natural light prevents mold growth -- not that there will be much natural light coming through interior windows anyway. I know it is not necessary and this bathroom will have an HRV system so it will stay fresh with or without natural light.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:44AM
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mom, The window in our hotel room (and the wall) was about 10 ft from the exterior wall with "real" window. The little window was about 12x18 inches....about the size of a telephone nook in a vintage home. It was framed just like a regular window.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 4:48AM
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$300 worth of lighting or 3K worth of engineering and windows.....hhhmmmmmm......I mean this in the kindest way, but you need to focus on something else. This is a large remodel and this isn't your entry foyer or your kitchen. There are plenty of other projects that need your attention and money. This isn't one of them. Move on to something more productive. And just buy a few "daylight" bulbs for your pretty new light fixtures.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:00AM
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I like the idea of a window high in the wall between your laundry room and bath.

There's a lot of research indicating that just being able to see some natural light is very happy making, even if the light it brings into the space isn't significant. So just a wide skinny rectangle up there would give you a lot of what you're after.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Curious, since the hall bath down from laundry room is so small, why not move the bathroom door down closer to the laundry room double doors so the door swing into the hall and not into the bathroom itself?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:34PM
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Hi again,

Frosted pocket doors to laundry makes sense. I understand not wanting to see the laundry from the family room. As for the size of the window, I think any size will make a difference, but likely as large as you can reasonably do makes sense. I'd go for a tall medium sized window if possible.

I assume that moving plumbing isn't possible? I'm wondering about moving the bathroom to the laundry room, moving your storage/linen closet to the bathroom space. Probably too much effort though.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:32PM
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Hi everyone and thanks for your input.

Green, you are quite right that I need to move my energies onto another aspect of my build. Perfectionism has sure gotten in the way of completing my design decisions. It won't cost 3000 around here for a small new exterior window and frosted bath door, but you are correct that there are many other parts of our build that could use the money instead. Thanks for your advice and perspective.

jmc01, thanks ever so much for getting back to me about the distance of the hotel exterior window and interior window -- your news was rather encouraging that an interior window might be worth it.

bronwynsmom, nice to get your input again. Thanks for your vote about the interior window -- this would sure be a cheaper option than a new exterior window. Very interesting tidbits on the research about light you shared. Maybe that is why I am obsessing with getting some natural light everywhere I can.

chijim, thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I definitely agree that moving the small bath entrance down closer to the laundry room doors would be an improvement. Given the rooms are mainly down to studs it would not be much extra cost. I will think about a swing out door as well.

sochi, thanks for your newest ideas and answers to my questions. I will get a quote for the new window and see if we can swing it. We can't rationalize moving the bathroom entirely to the laundry closet, although that would be an awesome location. Currently the small bath is an existing bath, so we are not starting with new plumbing here.

lyban, maybe all I need is the right lighting. Natural light is hard to replicate, but I will try the daylight bulbs suggested by Green.

To all, at this point I have decided to move the door of the small bath out into hall to increase the bath size/decrease hall size. I will also be punching a hole in the top of the small bath wall to see what kind of light it brings in before getting the trim carpenter to build an interior window (no big deal given all the holes in the bath wall at this point of demo anyway). If I still don't feel the natural light is sufficient, I will go the route of a new exterior window and frosted bath door. Oh yeah, I am going to buy a daylight light bulb as suggested by GreenDesigns to see if that is just as good as real light!!

Remaining question: Would it be worth it to do a second interior window between laundry and the larger bath to share the light from the sun tunnel in this bath with the laundy room?

Thank you all for helping me reflect on this issue and for giving me your advice. I am so glad I have this forum to toss around ideas and weigh pros and cons!!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:32PM
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Personally, I would go with the sun tunnel. They bring in a lot of light. I put one in my dark kitchen, another in our dark dining room. I can't believe how much light it brings in and how different the rooms look.

We also have a guest bath without a window. When I get enough money saved, I plan to put a small sun tunnel in that room. I share your love for natural light. I hate dark rooms.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 1:03AM
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I hate bathrooms with no natural light, so even if it did cost $3k it would be worth it. Don't let others talk you out of something that is obviously important to you.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 3:25AM
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I forgot to the hotel room, the top of the window was about 6' 3" from the floor. It was positioned at a height that my 5' 10" spouse could look through. Any higher would have looked weird.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 6:08AM
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Jane, Chispa, jmc01 and tinan,

Thanks for your comments. I see there are others who understand my determination to get some natural light.

Jane: I would love to put in a sun tunnel to that small bath, but the location of closets above don't allow it. The closest sun tunnels is in the larger bath. I am glad you like your sun tunnels so much, as ours in the larger bath is only partially installed, and I hope it will work out well for us too.

Chispa: Don't worry, I won't let others talk me out of spending some money to get natural light - if a reasonable solution can be found that I am convinced will work. Thanks for letting me know my desire to have light is not an unusual wish.

Jmc01: I am very glad you got back to me about the window height. I was thinking of a higher window, but I think the hotel height window would be better. This weekend I will punch the hole out of the drywall and see what light travels in from the laundry.

tinan: Sorry, I missed your comments before. You are correct that there are lots of windowless baths that can look plenty. bright with artificial light. We have never put great lighting in our bathrooms before, so that could make a huge difference once we complete the renos.

Okay all here is one last CRAZY idea to explore. If you would be so kind as to look again at the plan I posted, you will see on the south wall of the small bath there is a stairwell wall. On the other side of this stairwell wall are two 6 feet windows low to ground, and one 6 foot wide french door (all in my great room/dining room). I guess we could put an interior window (actually would need to be two) from bath to stairwell walls to steal light from these south windows. The only problem is these south windows are around 17 feet away from the south bath wall! Another option is we might be able to place a sun tunnel close to the outer stairwell wall around five feet away from the small bath south wall.

Thanks for your help everyone!


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 11:44PM
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Not a crazy idea, I wondered about how much light you had through the stair well. 17' seems far away, but stand on the stairs near where the interior window would be on a sunny day. Is it bright? If so, the window could work well.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:25AM
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Thanks Sochi,

I will investigate light distances during daylight hours this weekend. My big concern is I have never seen a window on a stair wall. I would have to have an interior window in the bathroom and and through the stair wall to get the light from the exterior south windows and/or the possible sun tunnel. I am not sure how that would look.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:28PM
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Windows don't necessarily mean light. I have a large frosted window in my MB, but can't even use the bathroom to put on my make-up. I need lights even on the sunniest/brightest days. With a 6' fence and possibly the location side of the space, it makes for a not too bright bathroom.

What i'm trying to say is, light isn't all it's cracked up to be. LOL

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:48PM
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Interesting observation, patty. What orientation is your window on (e.g. North, south, etc). We have a side window that is partly shaded by the neighbour's house (it doesn't face the house, just the other house blocks some light), and what a difference that makes. I never knew a fence would make such a difference. I'm curious if those sun tunnels offer more light than some windows?


    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:21PM
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Well, yes it seems the light from the south side near stair case might be our best bet as the light through this route is strongest due to size/number of windows on south. We are now considering just leaving off the door leading to a landing and then basement stairs or building a swing out door that starts near top of stairs (e.g. no landing). The other thought we had was to build a few niches inside the staircase wall, with glass behind the niches. The glass in the niches would line up with one or two interior windows from the south side of small bath.

Has anyone seen a staircase wall with glass or niches with glass behind? What is your opinion of leaving off the basement door? Our original reason for the door was to reduce noise transfer from teen rec room to great room, but maybe the noise would not be that bad.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 4:11PM
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