Fibre optics in the Bathroom

One of the great things about fibre optic lighting is that it allows you to separate the electrical component of your lighting scheme - the light source - from the output end, where the light is actually seen. So, by locating the light source safely away from the wet areas of the bathroom you can avoid all of the regulatory and safety issues which would normally feature in a bathroom lighting project.

The light source can go in the loft above a bathroom, in an airing cupboard or anywhere else that is convenient. Ideally, you should keep the light source as close as you can, for economy's sake, but if necessary it can go many metres away.

This is a disk with a Starscape fibre optic custom kit. Roots Kitchens Bedrooms Bathrooms of Kent provided us with the photos.

A fibre optic star ceiling panel is installed above the shower enclosure.

The fibre optic stars in this bathroom have been fitted to a panel of Foamalux, rather than directly into the plasterboard of the ceiling.

A lot of our DIY star ceiling kits end up in bathroom ceilings, providing mood lighting for a relaxing, soothing environment. Because of the lack of safety concerns already referred to above, there's no reason why a star ceiling shouldn't go above a shower enclosure.

The glowing points among the tiles are fibre optic end points.

The glowing blue points are fibre optic end points. The fibres run from all over the bathroom back to a light source in the attic above.

But you can take this much further: the fibres can be run behind ceramic wall tiles or below floor tiles, to emerge either in the gaps between tiles or in holes drilled in the tiles. We have links here to a few such projects, and to a project where the fibres were inserted in holes drilled in marble wall cladding.

A single row of optical fibres creates a nice formal lighting effect in this marble clad bathroom.

In this project holes were drilled in the marble cladding to accommodate the optical fibres arranged in a single column.

This produces very dramatic effects, but is simple enough in concept. Optical fibres run from the light source (possibly in the attic above) down and along the wall to wherever the exposed ends of the fibres will be. The fibres can be temporarily taped in place, and once you have all the fibres measured out and positioned, you start to tile backwards towards the point where the fibres leave the tiled area and head back to the light source.

The last few centimetres of each fibre are bent at 90 degrees to emerge either in the gap between two adjacent tiles or in a pre-drilled hole in the tile. We'd generally recommend using 0.75mm fibres in this application, although 1mm is also suitable. As you put your tile adhesive onto the wall or floor you can remove any tape that you've used to temporarily hold the fibres in place. The fibre simply beds into the adhesive behind the tile.

Fibre optic end points add a nice touch to this bathroom

Another example of a simple but elegant line of fibre optic end points set in ceramic tiles. Drilling holes in tiles adds to the work but produces a very nice result. Installation by Andrew Wedlake Electrical Ltd of Swansea.

The more neatly you've run your fibres before starting, the easier this part of the job will be. Once the tile adhesive has set you can then grout the gaps in the normal way, leaving the ends of the fibres to protrude from the surface of the grout. Once the grout has set you can trim the fibres back flush to the surface using either a hot knife or the blade from a Stanley knife. A light brushing with a fine grade of sandpaper or emery cloth is the final touch.

The fibre ends should be more or less invisible until the light source is turned on. You can lay out these fibre optic light points in a totally random way as in Customer Project 27 or Customer Project 49, or go for a more formal arrangement as in Customer Project 41 and Customer Project 51.

There are variations on this technique. For instance, Starscape was once commissioned to put optical fibres into niches in the tiled walls of the bathrooms of a new house. The niches were designed to accommodate shampoo etc., and the architect wanted to illuminate them as part of the overall lighting scheme. 2.5mm optical fibres were run from the attic to each of the niches. The fibres were set into the top of each niche pointing downwards, so as to illuminate the niche below, rather than create a visible star point.

Another technique which works very well in the kitchen or bathroom is to run optical fibres behind glass tiles so as to illuminate those tiles. In our Customer Project 46 the glass tiles are part of mosaic tile kit, in which the translucent glass tiles are interspersed with conventional ceramic tiles. A single halogen light source has the capacity to illuminate hundreds of such glass tiles, with just the one bulb to ever change.

Starscape has also explored an even more dramatic form of tile lighting, experimenting with "crystal caviar" glass tiles, which are manufactured in the Czech Republic ( see ). Each tile consists of hundreds of little beads of glass which have been fused together. Set into the top surface of each tile are larger beads of glass. The texture and reflections of these tiles make for a very attractive product and when illuminated from behind by optical fibres they are even more dramatic. Colour can be introduced in the light source, via a colour wheel, but the tiles are also available with special coatings which produce their own colours.

This crystal caviar glass tile is illuminated from behind by several optical fibres embedded in the tile adhesive. The tile itself is uncoloured glass - the red colour is produced by the colour wheel in the light source.

Take a look at this video showing showing one of the tiles lit from behind with a halogen light source fitted with a colour wheel. The speed of change is a bit high - in fact it's probably better with a static colour selected - but the video does demonstrate the overall effect.

Using fibre optics to illuminate glass blocks from behind is also very effective in the kitchen or bathroom. Create a void behind the blocks and illuminate this with fibres running from a light source in the loft above, or any other suitable nearby location. See Customer Project 65 for details of the panel shown below.
This glass block wall feature is illuminated from behind by a tangle of sideglow optical fibres

Sparkle fibre in a spaghetti-like tangle creates an interesting glow behind this panel of glass blocks.

Glass tiles illuminated by optical fibres

Optical fibres embedded beneath these glass tiles are a striking feature in this bathroom which uses fibre optics in several different kinds of effect.

Optical fibres terminated in acrylic end fittings add a touch of style to this bath panel.

Acrylic end fittings have been used here to diffuse the ends of the optical fibres in the front of this bath panel. See Customer Project 19.

Fibre optic end points brighten up this kitchen splashback.

Another example of fibre optic "stars" in wall tiles, although here in a kitchen splashback, rather than a bathroom.

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Bathroom fibre optic lighting

Project 91

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