What’s the best lighting for a bathroom remodel?

Q: I plan to remodel my master bathroom/dressing area and my young kid’s bathroom myself. The previous lighting in there was terrible. What is the best and most efficient lighting to use for these projects?

A: People don’t often think about lighting and efficiency when it comes to bathroom remodeling. It is as important as selecting the vanity or fixtures. Today’s master bathrooms and dressing areas are often as large as some second bedrooms and are more than just a place to shower, shave, etc.

Bathroom lighting in most older homes is typically just a globe light fixture on the ceiling or under the vent fan. For bathrooms with an exterior wall and a window, it probably does not have a vent fan. Either way, install a new Energy Star qualified vent fan with an efficient lighting system.

LED bulbs are your best choice for general bathroom lighting. They are the most efficient lighting source and they come to full brightness immediately. You may decide to install a dimmer switch as your child gets older, so purchase dimmable LEDs.

Developing a lighting plan for your master bathroom is more involved than for your child’s bathroom because it must be effective and efficient for more activities — showering, applying makeup, shaving, washing hair, etc. A child’s bathroom will likely just need overhead lighting and perhaps a separate or combo night light.

Use a general lighting design technique called layering in your bathroom. There are two basic lighting layers — specific task and general ambient. Task lighting is most important in the bath/shower area and at the mirror and vanity where better vision is needed.



The most common task lighting for the bath/shower area is recessed canister lighting. Although it is not the most efficient type of fixture, it protects the bulb and fixture. If recessed lights are under the attic floor, make sure to install special fixtures that are sealed from the attic above.

Don’t just install cheap ones and try to stuff attic insulation around them. This can create a fire hazard and is not particularly effective. In order to also vent the bath enclosure, select recessed lights with built-in mini-exhaust fans. This is the most efficient method.

For the mirror and vanity area, three-direction lighting is most effective to eliminate shadows when shaving and applying makeup. This requires lighting from above near the mirror and lighting on each side at eye level.

A row of LED bulbs across the wall above the mirror works well and uses less than 20 watts of electricity. If the mirror is not too wide, vertical T2 or T5 fluorescent fixtures on the wall on both sides are good. For a wider mirror, special fixtures are available that attach to the mirror edges.



Fluorescent bulbs also offer more options for better color rendition, which is helpful when applying makeup. Full-spectrum bulbs with a high CRI (color rendition index) would be a good choice for a bathroom, and they are almost as energy efficient as LEDs.

For general ambient lighting, a single overhead LED fixture or vent fan should be adequate for children, and even for adults. A model with a motion sensor that automatically dims it to a night light brightness level is a convenient feature.

Q: I plan to build a house using staggered two-by-four studded walls. This will allow for two layers of insulation and no stud in contact with both the inside and outside walls. Is this a good idea?

A: Staggered stud wall construction (studs offset under a wide header, with a set for outside wall construction and set for inside walls) does eliminate the indoor to outdoor thermal bridge (no insulation) through the studs. This is effective on walls with few windows or doors.

On walls with many windows, the studs create thermal bridges around each window. The studs must line up (not be staggered) for the window framing. For those walls, consider using 2-by-6 studs and a layer of rigid foam insulation sheathing on the outside.

• Write to James Dulley at 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit dulley.com.