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Light switch beside the shower?

mwgaines's picture

Is it a code violation to locate a light switch just outside my shower stall? It would be right beside the shower door.


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(post #83149, reply #1 of 20)

It's my understanding that your not supposed to be able to reach a switch from the shower or tub.

(post #83149, reply #3 of 20)

My electrician said you can't have a switch/outlet within reach of a shower or bath when we decided on swith locations for the master bath.


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(post #83149, reply #4 of 20)

Does anybody have an NEC reference for this?

(post #83149, reply #5 of 20)

It was several years ago, so...

It's legal as far as the NEC is concerned. Might not be the best of ideas but it is legal.

There would not be a code refrence if it's OK.

(post #83149, reply #6 of 20)

It looks like NEC 404.4 says they can't be installed WITHIN a shower/tub space.

I just added a light above my shower stall and installed two switches, one for the light and one for the bath fan I am installing right outside of the shower stall, so I got concerned for a second :-)

In my situation, the light is listed for shower use, and it and the fan (although outside of the shower stall) are both on GFCI.

I agree it is not the greatest idea. In my tiny bathroom the only possible locations would be "within reach" of the shower so I didn't have much of a choice.

mwgaines, what is your switch for?

(post #83149, reply #7 of 20)

Why are you worried? The circuit is GFCI protected. The plastic toggle or rocker is non-conductive, the switch poles are inside the case and if somehow steam condensed on the switch and caused a voltage leak from the hot terminal, it would have to pass over the grounded mounting frame (which is a better path to ground than even a wet person in the shower would be) before it could zap you.


(post #83149, reply #11 of 20)

I was not worried about being shocked, rather I was worried about having the inspector make me move it.

I agree GFCI reduces the risk in this situation

(post #83149, reply #18 of 20)

Sorry, I missed that.



(post #83149, reply #19 of 20)

Overkill, but don't they make air operated (like hot tub) switches that are used for disposalls?


Edit:  I had started this before I went to church and did not read the other posts before finishing.  I can see why an inspector might be leary of approving one within reach even if protected by gfci.  You never know what idiot will replace a gfci breaker with standard because they are cheaper. Or if off of a gfci recpt miswire off the line side instead of load when replacing a defective one.  With the air switch it is pretty idiot proof.

Edited 7/13/2008 2:53 pm ET by rasconc

Edited 7/13/2008 2:54 pm ET by rasconc

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(post #83149, reply #20 of 20)

Yep, that's exactly the one I used.

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(post #83149, reply #15 of 20)

Our code here still mandates 1m for all switches, baseboard heater controls etc. I think you are right, practically it's not much of a threat. But I'd rather not rely on a gfi protecting me when I operate a switch when standing in a couple of inches of water.

(post #83149, reply #16 of 20)

The light is not required to be on the GFCI althiugh it is still a good idea. The switch just can be in "tub space" which is pretty much inside the shower door (with a lack of a precise definition of tub space in the NEC).

BTW don't get too confident of the insulating effectiveness of a decora switch paddle. I had one in my kitchen that had a "wake you up" tingle, not enough to trip the GFCI but enough to get your attention. All I could figure is my dear lady had cleaned it with something that left a conductive film on the paddle. Wiping it with a wet rag and letting everything dry fixed it but it was certainly pretty surprising.



(post #83149, reply #10 of 20)

"mwgaines, what is your switch for?"

My switch is simply to control the shower light. I sometimes forget to turn the light on until I'm already in the shower and wet. Rather than walk across the room soaking wet, it seems more practical to locate it within reach. 

The shower light is a Halo recessed uint approved for use in wet locations.

I'm at the rough-in stage, so I think I'll just relocate it beside the entry door.

I still think the danger of walking accross a tile floor with wet feet poses an equal, if not greater, risk.


New knowledge is priceless. 

Used knowledge is even more valuable.

(post #83149, reply #13 of 20)

You might want to try an occupancy sensor (motion detector) in place of the regualr switch. Depending on how the room is arragned and where the switch is you might get it going off anytime that some one enters the room.

Actually if this is in the same room with the vanity then you might just have one switch controlling all.

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(post #83149, reply #14 of 20)

install a air switch like on a hot tub

(post #83149, reply #17 of 20)

I have a switch in the shower right next to the shower valve.  Pretty handy to turn the lights on and off with while soaking wet!


I installed a switched outlet controlled by an air switch normally used for a garbage disposal.  Its sort of an odd setup, basicly I run the lights to a handy box, run a conventional 3 prong tool cord out from that to another outlet, where the air switched outlet is plugged in.  The outlet is already GFI from a seperate switch.  I plug my lights into that switched outlet.


Rebuilding my home in Cypress, CA

Also a CRX fanatic!

Save the Whales! and Guns!

YAY!  I love WYSISYG editing!  And Spellcheck!


(post #83149, reply #2 of 20)

Over here its gotta be 1 meter away


(post #83149, reply #8 of 20)

Even-though it is not very clear, 410.4D says 3 feet horizontal space and 8 feet vertical space. This is for luminaries. It is not very clear about switches. I make a point to install switches by the entrance door.

(post #83149, reply #9 of 20)

got into this situation at a customers last week as everything in the new bath was finished and you could hardly see your hands if they were clean

i put a light in the shower  and found a source of power in a room near by and hooked it to the light

to control the light  you install a standard wall box in line any where on the feed to the light

go to home depot and get a radio controlled switch ($ 37 here ) wire in the reciever in the previously installed wall box

the control switch comes with 4 1.5 v batteries = 6v and can be mounted any where with in 50 ' of the reciever

you may have to go to several stores to find the switch as not all clerks are familiar with it

i found one years ago when i was doing wiring in a CBS home of mine , it also comes in the 3 way switch configeration

(post #83149, reply #12 of 20)

My current NEC book is at work, so this is from the 1999 edition I have here at home.  Section 380-4 says, "Switches shall not be installed within wet locations in tub or shower spaces unless installed as part of a listed tub or shower assembly."  To me that would indicate as long as it's not inside the shower it's okay, but there's always the chance of overspray or splashing so common sense says it should be as far away as possible, but it probably comes down to how your local inspector would define the word 'within'.