I’ve been looking into a new bathroom mirror, and it seems that it may not be as simple as selecting a design that you like. A lot of people say that a bathroom mirror needs to be made from tempered glass. Now, tempered glass mirrors are obviously going to be more expensive than a regular mirror, so I did some digging to find out precisely what is required and what is recommended.
I’m going to take you through the International Residential Code (IRC)—not the whole thing!—just the parts about bathroom mirrors. Then we can look at the necessary differences and the possible differences between bathroom mirrors and regular mirrors.
Section R308.3 of the IRC says bathroom mirrors must be tempered if they are placed in a hazardous spot or they are not mounted on a solid wall. Most regular mirrors are not tempered. Bathroom mirrors can also come with extra design features, like anti-fogging tech, waterproof frames, and in-built lighting.
You Decide the Differences
There are many options for you to take under consideration when it comes to a bathroom mirror.
For the most part, you are in control over what type of mirror you install; even regular mirrors are an option. So, what decisions will determine the differences between a regular mirror and your bathroom mirror? There are two main ones:
- Where is the mirror going to hang/stand?
- Do you want special features?
Differences: Mirror Location
Technically, there do not have to be any differences between a regular mirror and a bathroom mirror. However, there is often at least one difference: bathroom mirrors are more likely to be made from tempered glass.
Some people will tell you that this difference is a “hard and fast rule”, i.e., that bathroom mirrors have to be made from tempered glass, but this is not actually true. It really depends on where the bathroom mirror is positioned.
What Does the Code Say About Mirrors?
Section R308.3 of the IRC covers human impact loads in regard to glazing. Here is what it states:
“Individual glazed areas, including glass mirrors in hazardous locations such as those indicated as defined in Section R308.4, shall pass the test requirements of Section R308.3.1.”
We will discuss these other two sections in a moment, but first, I want to point out that already this means that any mirror not located in a defined hazardous spot does not have to be specially designed or tempered in order to be installed in a bathroom and still be code-compliant.
Then, there are three exceptions to the rule in Section R308.3. The applicable exception in our case states:
“Mirrors and other glass panels mounted or hung on a surface that provides a continuous backing support.”
This means that a mirror mounted onto a solid wall, as is typically the case in bathrooms, will not have to conform to the requirements of Section R308.3.1.
It is tempting to interpret this exception to further supposed that if the mirror is mounted onto a solid wall in a hazardous location, then it still does not require additional fortification.
However, this does not make reasonable sense, as you will see in the next section, and all mirrors hanging in hazardous locations, even if they are on a solid wall, should pass the impact test.
What Is a Hazardous Location?
Section R308.4.1 covers glazing in doors, and Section R308.4.2 covers fixed glazing (like a mirror) adjacent to doors. Applying these to a mirror, we can say that the following locations are hazardous:
- The mirror is located on any swinging, sliding, and bifold doors.
This is considered to be a hazardous location because the mirror is constantly moving, increasing the risk of damage.
- When the bottom of the mirror is less than 60″ (1524 mm) above the floor.
The reason this is considered to be a hazardous location is because things low to the floor are more at risk of being kicked, bumped by pets, etc.
- The mirror is located on the same wall as the door AND
- The mirror is within 24″ (610 mm) of either side of the door itself.
The reason why this is a hazardous location is that the door could swing open and hit the mirror, causing it to shatter. Additionally, if the door was slammed, it could cause vibrations in the wall, and the mirror could be bounced off the wall.
- The mirror is on a wall that forms an angle of less than 180 degrees with the wall that the door is in, AND
- The mirror is within 24″ (610 mm) of the hinge side of the door AND
- The door swings inwards.
The reason why this is a hazardous location is that the door could swing against the mirror, causing it to shatter.
I would like to propose another hazardous location, although this one is a little more up for interpretive debate when it comes down to it.
Section R308.4.3 covers fixed glazing in windows. Mirrors are not installed as windows in bathrooms. However, there is a point that I think we can apply to mirrors based on logic and reasoning.
- Wherever the exposed area of the mirror glass is more than 9 sq. ft. (0.836 m2).
The reason that I suggest this is an applicable hazardous location is that most mirrors are larger than 9 sq. ft. Larger panes of glass, or mirrors, are heavier and thus more vulnerable to falling. They are also larger targets, and if smashed, they can create a lot of dangerous debris.
What Are the Mirror Test Requirements?
CPSC stands for Consumer Product Safety Commission, and CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations.
I am not going into the test details here, but mirrors located in hazardous locations and those which are not mounted onto a solid wall need to pass an impact test and an accelerated environmental test. Both tests are all about safety.
Now, as you can imagine, it is not a feasible endeavor to test every mirror! So, how do we get around this? The answer is simple: a mirror made out of tempered glass.
Tempered glass, if made correctly, can withstand Category II impact tests (400 foot pound impact test), and it is exempt from accelerated environmental testing; thus, it is the perfect option for bathroom mirrors.
Differences Based on Mirror Location: Final Thoughts
I would like to point out here that these rules regarding mirrors are not actually specific to bathroom mirrors, although it can be easy to make that assumption because the IRC section on glazing speaks a lot about shower doors, hot tub enclosures, etc.
However, as I mentioned earlier, bathroom mirrors are more likely to be tempered than regular mirrors. There are three reasons for this:
- Bathrooms are more likely to be of a size that necessitates installing a mirror in a hazardous location.
- People are more likely to fall or slip in a bathroom because of the “wet-floor factor”.
- Furthermore, they are more likely to be in a state of undress when slipping occurs, eliminating the protection that clothing would usually provide.
This makes shatterproof glass a really good idea in bathrooms.
Differences: Special Features
Now we get to the more obvious differences between bathroom mirrors and regular mirrors.
There is no doubt that bathrooms often require specifically designed equipment. After all, they very easily develop a climate of their own—a moist and warm climate.
Moreover, they serve a very specific function.
Bathroom Mirrors Counter Moisture
You’ll have to pay extra for it, but you can buy bathroom-specific mirrors that have built-in anti-misting technology. Regular mirrors do not have this feature.
The major benefit of anti-misting bathroom mirrors is convenience. No more waiting for the mirror to clear up before you can shave or put on your makeup. No more ugly streaks that appear when you try to wipe the condensation off of the mirror with a towel. Bliss!
I have written countless articles revolving around extractor fans and the terrifying results of poor bathroom ventilation, but the truth is that no matter how effective your ventilation system is, anything in your bathroom will be subjected to prolonged and repeated exposure to moisture (steam).
This is why many bathroom mirrors have a frameless design. Regular mirrors more often come in frames.
Alternatively, bathroom mirrors are set in moisture-resistant frames, while regular mirror frames can be made of wood and metal that have not been treated to withstand the high levels of moisture that exist in a bathroom.
Function-Oriented Bathroom Mirrors
Regular mirrors are just that—regular mirrors. Their function is to reflect an image of whatever is in front of them.
Bathroom mirrors, on the other hand, are frequently decked out with bells and whistles that make them ideally suited for bathroom activities.
Mirrors with built-in illumination are most often designed for use in bathrooms as they create perfect task lighting for shaving, putting on makeup, inserting contact lenses, etc. Check out the mirror pictured below; it is a frameless mirror with anti-fog technology, and built-in lighting, particularly aimed at bathroom use.
Last update on 2023-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
You also get bathroom mirrors that come equipped with a plug point for an electric razor, hairdryer, etc. This is not a feature in your standard mirror.
Furthermore, because water and electrical appliances are not the friendliest of combinations, the wiring of these mirrors and the installation instructions will be specifically tailored to make them safe to use in bathrooms.
Summary: Differences Between Bathroom and Regular Mirrors
|Bathroom Mirrors||Regular Mirrors|
|More likely to be tempered||Less likely to be tempered|
|Often equipped with anti-fog technology||Seldom equipped with anti-fog technology|
|No frames or moisture-resistant frames||Wood and metal frames|
|Often have built-in illumination||Do not have built-in illumination|
|Can house electrical sockets for electric razors||Are not wired at all|