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Electricity and Bathroom Chandeliers

24 January 2011

** Note from Remodelaholic, I normally don't feature articles like this, BUT after reading this 
I realized my plan for an electrified chandelier over the tub was not going to happen, I had not even thought about the code, so I just thought it was a nice article to let you know about to keep you all protected too!


Electricity and Bathroom Chandeliers
contributed by House of Revivals



Electricity and water don't mix.  At least not in any sort of healthy way....
 Photo courtesy Country Living.
Here, a photo stylist uses a chandelier as a prop over a claw footed tub.

This is why very special, sealed light fixtures are used in pools and spas.


It is why special shower rated recessed cans are used over tubs and showers.

You may be able to find some really lovely shower rated fixtures, like this one, from The Bath Tub website.





We all learned, in grade school, that electricity and water are a potentially deadly combination.  And yet, we still see pictures like this on design blogs, and in magazines.


This bathroom design is the work of the very gifted furniture and textile designer, Barry Dixon.
Barry Dixon has worked in the decorating industry for many years, and his talent as a decorator is remarkable.

Many of these images are absolutely stunning, and are the work of very gifted stylists. There is a big difference, however, in a space that has been styled to look pretty in a picture, and a space designed for living. 

This bathroom was styled by decorator to the stars, Nate Berkus
Nate Berkus is personable, and fun, and his styling is absolutely beautiful.


These bathroom vignettes were most likely styled 
this way for the sake of photo composition. 

It is highly likely that the chandeliers in the spaces shown above were lowered for the photo shoots, and raised or removed afterward.  At least, that's what I would prefer to believe...

The National Electric Code, in the United States, reads:
410.4(D) Bathtub and Shower Areas. No parts of cord-connected luminaires (fixtures), hanging luminaires (fixtures), lighting track, pendants, or ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans shall be located within a zone measured 900 mm (3 ft) horizontally and 2.5 m (8 ft) vertically from the top of the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold. This zone is all encompassing and includes the zone directly over the tub or shower stall.


In the bathroom shown above, the chandelier is placed in an acceptable 
location, offset from the area directly over the tub by several feet. 

Baths and showers are considered wet locations, and there is risk of steam from your bath condensing on the fixture, creating a short that could make the entire fixture "hot".  Additionally, just the tiniest little splash of water could result in a hot bulb shattering, and sprinkling the tub with tiny shards of broken glass!


Perhaps Lette Birn, of the Form+Function Bright Ideas blog, said it best:
Electricity and water do not mix. Period! Someone might just one day reach up and touch the chandelier. You can’t tell from looking at it if  it is properly grounded or not or if it has a short that’s otherwise not obvious. Standing well-grounded in a bathtub full of water, THAT’s a recipe for disaster!
Ok, ok, YOU of course won’t EVER think of doing that, but what about your house guests? Another point to think of:  Working day-to-day in a lighting showroom and seeing first-hand what a mess it is when a light bulb breaks, I for sure don’t want to share my bath water with those little sharp pieces! A single drop of water hitting a lit bulb can easily cause a light to burst. 


You might consider a non-electrified chandelier, if you really have your heart set on having one.

Chances are, if you live in a jurisdiction that has adopted a building code, NEC410.4(D), or something similar, is being enforced.


If your architect, contractor, or interior designer 
suggests that you add some sort of hanging fixture over 
your tub, you may want to verify their professional 
credentials, as well as check into your local codes.  

It is remotely possible that your local building codes (or lack of) will permit the installation, but most qualified design professionals will still advise against it for safety and liability issues. 


image courtesy Coastal Living website

If you really want to "romance the bathtub", how about this lovely mosquito net -- or some candles?

Of course, you can use a chandelier in the bathroom, just remember to keep at least eight feet between the top of the tub and the bottom of the hanging fixture or stay at least three feet away from the "footprint" of the tub, if you want it to pass the electrical inspection.


Beauty + Function + Health and Safety 
= Good Design


And remember, there are lots of people in the design industry who are not qualified interior designers, kitchen or bath planners, contractors, lighting designers, or architects.


There are room stylists, photo stylists, set designers, shelter magazine editors, decorators, design bloggers, television show hosts, and consultants -- with backgrounds in everything from fashion to law.  They may be incredibly talented artistic contributors to the design industry, but they may not have a familiarity with relevant local codes, being more aware of the beauty side of the design equation, than the health and safety aspect.

This is just a little food for thought, as you peruse books, magazines, and blogs that may feature these types of installations.

14 comments:

Barbara January 24, 2011 at 5:34 PM  

I've watched Genevieve on HGTV do this several times. Maybe she should watch Mike Holmes a bit more. Candice has done it too.

Judy January 24, 2011 at 6:18 PM  

I wanted a chandelier over my tub, but my husband told me he didn't think water and electricity mixed well. He looked up the code and found out that he was right. Great post to let people know. Especially since it's shown all the time in magazines.

-Kasey January 24, 2011 at 6:22 PM  

This is one of the reasons that started our Master Bathroom reno. The previous owners had created a large walk in shower... however the went all cheapo when it came to the lighting and installed a regular ceiling light [like the ones you would find in a hallway or bedroom] INSIDE the shower... Can you say scary!?

Simplegirl January 24, 2011 at 6:33 PM  

I'm glad you posted this, I wanted one too. Oh well, so much for that, better safe than sorry.

House Revivals January 24, 2011 at 6:44 PM  

Thank you, Cassity, for featuring my article on your blog. It absolutely terrifies me when I see these installations, and I am so grateful that you are helping to get the word out about the safety risks of hanging a chandelier over a tub or shower.
~Amanda @ House Revivals

Chrissy January 24, 2011 at 6:50 PM  

We have built 3 houses and in each one I continued to ask for a chandelier over the sunken tub. Guess what each time, my husband told me "It is against code", and here I thought he just didn't want one.

Melodie January 24, 2011 at 6:58 PM  

This is very interesting. We recently built a home and I wanted to install a chandy over our tub. Local code does allow it under certain specs so I had them rough it in. But, when it came to actually installing a fixture, it just seemed "off" so I decided against it. I have it capped off right now so it is still accessible. Perhaps a future owner of the house may be more brave than I.

Amy R. January 24, 2011 at 8:16 PM  

I learned about the code when were building our house last year. We decided to put the chandy between the tub and vanity and it looks good.

Amy R.

threeacres January 24, 2011 at 9:11 PM  

I just wrote a post about the same thing! My plan for a chandelier over the tub is a no go. On top of that because of the layout of the space I still needed a light over the tub with only 8' tall ceilings so I needed to find something damp listed. See my blog for a list of damp and wet listed fixtures I came up with to use in the bathroom.

Love your blog BTW!

ourlifeinaclick.blogspot.com January 24, 2011 at 9:22 PM  

I too love the look and hung two candle (not electric) chandys over my tub. This is a great post!

designchic January 24, 2011 at 9:41 PM  

Such a glamorous look, but not a good idea in reality. Thanks for sharing!

Jaclyn January 24, 2011 at 10:17 PM  

I LOVE the look, but I think I'd have a hard time relaxing in a bubble bath under it for fear that it might fall on me. Not to mention the whole electric shock thing.

Baye January 25, 2011 at 1:00 PM  

I also fell for the over-the-tub chandelier look only to find out that it was against code. It makes perfect sense NOT to put one there if you think about it for any length of time. I do wish, however, the home decor mags would give us ideas that are out and out safety hazards.

pocahontas January 25, 2011 at 3:10 PM  

I love the look as well. I bought a candle chandelier and installed it over my tub. I get the look I want w/out the fear!

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