Keep functionality in mind when replacing bathroom mirror

Dear Gail: We’re going to be starting our bathroom remodel and would like some ideas regarding mirrors. We currently have the standard plate mirror you see everywhere, so we want to do something different. I know the big thing has been to use one over each sink, but we’re open to other suggestions. If we go that direction, do you have any guidance or other ideas to share? Thanks. — Ronelle

Dear Ronelle: I’ve written many articles about mirrors in a home, specifically addressing the question: What are they reflecting? You always have to think about what you are seeing in the mirror. But a bathroom mirror is a necessary object, so those reflections rules obviously don’t apply.

Bathroom mirrors are important in helping us see what we are doing, reflect light in the room, especially if you don’t have any windows, and help make the space appear larger. So in a bathroom, it is a functional piece first versus decorative, but that doesn’t mean you have to hang an ordinary mirror.

Since its functionality is important, you have to be careful when remodeling to make sure you can get the right size. One thing you need to be careful about is the height.

Two things you have to keep in mind are the height of your backsplash and the location of your bath bar. If the height of either one of these change, it will affect the size of the mirror you can use, especially if you’ll be shopping for one versus having a custom mirror made. This can be a frustrating process as sometimes you are not going to find that perfect size in the stores.

When shopping online always check what the actual mirror or glass size is. This can be very deceiving as the size shown will be the outside dimensions. You need to look further into the specifications. If it’s not listed, contact their customer service department and they will find out from the manufacturer.

If you’re buying the mirror locally, bring it home and prop it up on your counter to make sure you have enough glass space. It will feel much different from the wall-size mirror you currently have. If you can, try to locate it first before making changes to the wall space.

I normally like the glass around 30 inches wide by 40 inches high, but everyone is different. If you’re not finding one the right size, consider a frameless. I particularly like the ones where the frames of the mirrors are mirrors themselves. The bevel cuts are beautiful as they sparkle, shine and visually expand the glass size.

Another question I’m often asked is how high the mirror should be installed. Well, mirrors can be installed at different heights depending on the type of mirror, how much room you have, as well as your height. But as a general guideline, they can be installed between 38 and 42 inches from the bottom of the mirror to your floor.

Many times we will mount them on top of the backsplash, but you have to look to see how much wall space you have from the top of the mirror to the bath bar. I’ll normally center it if it won’t be too high.

For more of a custom look, have them match your cabinetry. Most times this is more costly, but if you’re a DIY person, it could be the way to go to get the exact size and finish you want.

Other options are tilting and backlit mirrors. I’ve found most tilting mirrors are smaller in size. But a glass shop can make it for you. That gives you the ability to see the angles you want if that’s important to you.

Backlit mirrors are flattering on your face and can be helpful when putting on your makeup. But you will have the added expense of hiring an electrician to install it. Personally, I’ve found that my clients end up using it for the ambiance when relaxing in a bath versus functionality.

Nothing says that you have to remove your mirror if you like the size and look. To update it you could mount a mirror on top of it. This is a great way to jazz up a wall-to-wall mirror. When doing this application, my favorite is to use a frameless mirror.

Then, finally, one that I’ve shared many times is to frame your mirror with molding. I use Mirror Mate, but there are a couple others on the market now. It is an inexpensive option and normally easy to install. But you do need to be careful with your measurements if you have a mirror that is wall-to-wall and/or up to your ceiling or soffit.

In order for it to fit, there needs to be an allowance on each side. The best thing to do when remodeling is to install this before your sink and faucet go in. If you have medicines cabinets on each side, it is a more difficult installation but can be done.

I hope, Ronelle, this gives you a couple ideas to consider before purchasing your mirrors. Enjoy your new bath!

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to Or, mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is

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