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Light over tubs


pi
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There is a requirement that lights over tubs and showers be listed as OK for wet locations but often such a label can not be found during a home inspectiopn. I am seeing recessed incandescent lights in newer homes over tub/showers with no protective covers. This would seem to be a hazard mainly from bulbs breaking. Are there any uncovered lights approved for use over tubs?

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Hi,

Scott beat me to it. I was just about to post a direct quote from something that Douglas Hansen wrote somewhere a while back.

You can't have a receptacle in the footprint of the tub or shower. There is no minimum distance from the tub or shower once you are outside that footprint.

There is a prohibition on track lights, pendant lights, and paddle fans within 8 feet of the top of the tub rim or shower threshold, and that zone extends to 3 feet past the edge of the tub. Other types of lights, such as recessed cans listed for damp locations, are allowed inside that zone.

Although it seems to fail the common sense test, I don't know that an exposed bulb in a recessed fixture is necessarily prohibited if the fixture is designed for damp locations. Someone else on this board probably does though.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Hi again,

OK, here's what I got when I looked it up in the 2003 IRC:

E3903.8 Wet or damp locations. Luminaires installed in wet or damp locations shall be installed so that water cannot enter or accumulate in wiring compartments, lampholders or other electrical parts. All luminaires installed in wet locations shall be marked SUITABLE FOR WET LOCATIONS. All luminaires installed in damp locations shall be marked SUITABLE FOR DAMP LOCATIONS.

E3903.9 Lampholders in wet or damp locations. Lampholders installed in wet or damp locations shall be of the weatherproof type.

E3903.10 Bathtub and shower areas. Cord-connected luminaires, hanging luminaires, lighting track, pendants and ceiling-suspended paddle fans shall not have any parts located within a zone measured 3ft. (914 mm) horizontally and 8ft. (2438 mm) from the top of a bathtub rim or top of a shower stall threshold. This zone is all-encompassing and includes the zone directly over the tub or shower.

I checked the electrical definitions and general definitions sections of the code and did not find "Wet Location" or "Damp Location" specifically mentioned. I've seen a lot of recessed lighting fixtures over showers and most have a lens below the bulb. However, other than the lens, they don't look a whole lot different from the attic or the shower from any other ordinary recessed lighting fixture and even those don't have anywhere that water can "enter or accumulate in wiring compartments, lampholders or other electrical parts." I think the sole purpose of the lens is to prevent water getting splashed on the bulb and causing it to shatter, which is something that you are concerned about and is a real danger.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by pi

There is a requirement that lights over tubs and showers be listed as OK for wet locations but often such a label can not be found during a home inspectiopn.

There's no such requirement. Mike posted the applicable section from IRC 3903.8. (In the NEC, it's 410.4(A)) It doesn't mention showers or tubs. It just says that fixtures in wet locations shall be marked "Suitable for Wet Locations" and fixtures in damp locations shall be marked "Suitable for Wet Locations" or "Suitable for Damp Locations."

Whether or not the ceiling over a shower or tub is a wet or damp location depends on the shower or tub. Here are the definitions (Mike, look in chapter 34 under "location damp", "location dry", and "location wet."). These are from the NEC:

Location, Damp. Locations protectd from weather and not subject to saturation with water or other liquids but subject to moderate degrees of moisture. Examples of such locations include partially protected locations under canopies, marquees, roofed open porches, and like locations, and interior locations subject to moderate degrees of moisture, such as some basements, some barns, and some cold-storage warehouses.

Location, Dry. A location not normally subject to dampnes or wetness. A location calssified as dry may be temporarily subject to dampness or wetness , as in the case of a building under construction.

Location, Wet. Installations under ground or in concrete slabs or masonry in direct contact with the earth; in locations subject to saturation with water or other liquids, such as vehicle washing areas; and in unprotected locations exposed to weather.

In my opinion, if a tub has no shower associated with it, and no hand spray wand, I'd consider the ceiling above it to be a damp location. I'd also consider the ceiling above a shower to be a damp location unless it were unusually low or covered with tile or another surface intended for wet locations.

Here's the tricky part. A manufacturer may prohibit the use of its fixture in a shower space regardless of its wet/damp UL rating. Alternately, the manufacturer may require the use of a special shower trim ring and/or lens and/or gasket. AND a manufacturer may require their fixture to be GFCI protected if located over a tub or shower.

This can be nearly impossible for a home inspector to figure out in the field.

I am seeing recessed incandescent lights in newer homes over tub/showers with no protective covers. This would seem to be a hazard mainly from bulbs breaking. Are there any uncovered lights approved for use over tubs?

There may well be. The easiest way to find out is to call a few of your local electrical supply houses and ask.

The bulb breaking concept is a nice thought, but it has no basis in the code. If you call it as a problem, be prepared to defend it without the code to back you up.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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