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Many bathrooms have a single fixture positioned above the vanity, but a light source in this position casts shadows on the face and makes grooming more difficult. Light fixtures on either side of the mirror is a better arrangement. For a remodel, mark the mirror location, run cable, and position boxes before drywall installation. You can also retrofit by installing new boxes and drawing power from the existing fixture. The light sources should be at eye level; 66″ is typical. The size of your mirror and its location on the wall may affect how far apart you can place the sconces, but 36″ to 40″ apart is a good guideline.
How to Replace Vanity Lights in a Finished Bathroom
Tools & Materials
Drywall saw, drill, combination tool, circuit tester, screwdrivers, hammer, electrical boxes and braces, vanity light fixtures, NM cable, wire connectors, eye protection
Turn off the power at the service panel. Remove the old fixture from the wall, and test to make sure that the power is off. Then remove a strip of drywall from around the old fixture to the first studs beyond the approximate location of the new fixtures. Make the opening large enough that you have room to route cable from the existing fixture to the boxes.
Mark the location for the fixtures, and install new boxes. Install the boxes about 66″ above the floor and 18″ to 20″ from the centerline of the mirror (the mounting base of some fixtures is above or below the bulb, so adjust the height of the bracing accordingly). If the correct location is on or next to a stud, you can attach the box directly to the stud; otherwise you’ll need to install blocking or use boxes with adjustable braces (shown).
Open the side knockouts on the electrical box above the vanity. Then drill 5 ⁄8″ holes in the centers of any studs between the old fixture and the new ones. Run two NM cables from the new boxes for the fixtures to the box above the vanity. Protect the cable with metal protector plates. Secure the cables with cable clamps, leaving 11″ of extra cable for making the connection to the new fixtures. Remove sheathing, and strip insulation from the ends of the wires.
Connect the white wires from the new cables to the white wire from the old cable, and connect the black wires from the new cables to the black wire from the old cable. Connect the ground wires. Cover all open boxes, and then replace the drywall, leaving openings for the fixture and the old box. (Cover the old box with a solid junction box cover plate. )
Install the fixture mounting braces on the boxes. Attach the fixtures by connecting the black circuit wire to the black fixture wire and connecting the white circuit wire to the white fixture wire. Connect the ground wires. Position each fixture over each box, and attach with the mounting screws. Restore power, and test the circuit.