How to Install Bathroom Vanity Lights

by Team HomeServe
Small colorful bathroom

The perfect bathroom lighting gives you the ideal glow as you apply your makeup or style your hair. It also makes your bathroom look beautiful and helps keep you safe when you stumble into the bathroom at night.

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Your vanity light is another key part of the lighting scheme. Learn how to install vanity lights properly to make the lighting safe and functional.

How Do You Install a Bathroom Vanity Light Fixture?

Replacing a bathroom light fixture is a relatively easy process as long as the current light is wired correctly. The most important step is turning off the power to the light fixture. Leave a note on your breaker box to ensure no one turns it on while you're working.

Follow these steps to install your new vanity light once you shut the power off:

  1. Take the light bulbs out of the existing fixture and remove the shades.
  2. Remove the existing light from the wall to reveal the wiring.
  3. Disconnect the wiring from the current fixture and set the fixture aside.
  4. Remove the mounting plate from the existing vanity light.
  5. Attach the mounting plate for the new vanity light fixture to the junction box.
  6. Connect the wires to the new light fixture.
  7. Secure the light fixture onto the mounting plate.
  8. Turn the power back on and test the light to make sure it works correctly.

You can also add a dimmer light switch if your vanity light is dimmer-compatible. This gives you more control over the lighting level.

Can You Install a Vanity Light Without a Junction Box?

Vanity lights, like most other indoor and outdoor lights and electrical devices, require a junction box to install them to code. The junction box is a safety device that's important for light installations. Here are some things the junction box does:

  • Protects wire connections
  • Protects you from contacting live wires
  • Keeps live wires contained if they become loose to prevent fires
  • Secures the vanity light

How Do You Properly Wire Vanity Lights?

When figuring out how to install vanity lights, the wiring is one of the most important parts. Incorrect or loose wiring can make the light malfunction, overheat or catch on fire. A vanity fixture should have a grounding wire, white wire and black wire. The grounding wire wraps around a grounding screw, which usually has a green head to make it easily identifiable.

To disconnect the wires from the old fixture, remove the wire nuts. This allows you to separate the wires for the fixture from the wires coming from the junction box. You'll have a set of white and black wires that you'll need to disconnect.

If the ends of the wires coming out of the wall are in good condition, you can use them as-is. If they're not, cut a small section off and use wire strippers to remove about half an inch of the wire coating.

To wire the new fixture, follow these steps:

  1. Twist the bare grounding wire on the grounding screw that's on the bracket.
  2. Twist together the ends of the two black wires, one from the fixture and one from the wall.
  3. Repeat with the white wires, twisting the ends together.
  4. Place wire nuts over the connections.
  5. Tuck the wires into the junction box so you can attach the fixture to the mounting bracket.

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How High Should You Install Vanity Lights?

This Old House recommends installing vanity lights 75 to 80 inches from the floor. This height provides optimal, even illumination on your mirror. If your bathroom mirror is higher than this recommendation, install the vanity light 3 inches above the mirror's top edge. You can adjust the vanity light height up or down to better fit your height. If everyone in your family is on the shorter side, for instance, you might want the lights lower.

Tips for Installing Vanity Lights

Here are some additional tips for how to install vanity lights:

  • Measure the base of the existing vanity light to find a replacement that's similar in size.
  • Remove the shades from both fixtures before doing the installation to avoid breaking them.
  • Use a noncontact voltage tester to verify that the power is off before touching the wires.
  • If there isn't a junction box, install one or hire an electrician to install one before you install the new vanity light fixture.
  • Pay attention to the existing wiring as a guide for wiring the new fixture.
  • Check the new fixture after it's installed to make sure it's level and secure.