When was the current receptacle/outlet spacing of 12-feet first required?
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
The requirement that any point along the floor line of the interior walls of a home be no more 6-feet from a receptacle (12-feet apart max) dates back to the 1959 edition of the National Electric Code (NEC). The minimum standards for kitchen and exterior receptacles of a home have been upgraded since then, but the “no more than 6-feet to a receptacle” rule for other rooms has remained unchanged for over 50 years.
The spacing of residential electric receptacles was first addressed way back in the 1933 NEC, which “recommended” no more than 15-feet from any point along the base of wall to a receptacle. The 1935 NEC added a requirement of at least one receptacle per room; and that is exactly what many homes from the 1930s have, except that the dining room apparently did not count. Most homes from that era have no dining room receptacle, but dad wasn’t carving the Thanksgiving turkey with an electric knife back then either.
But just two years later, in 1937, the NEC recognized the rapidly increasing use of electric lights and appliances in homes and the “recommendation” was changed to a requirement of a maximum of 10-feet to a receptacle.
The language used to describe minimum spacing was changed to “one receptacle per 20 linear feet of wall” two years later, which was essentially the same thing stated differently. Over the next two decades the spacing was tweaked further and, finally, the NEC settled on the current language and spacing in the 1959 edition of the code.
This standard does not apply to bathrooms, closets, hallways, foyers, kitchen, garage, or outdoor receptacles. See our blog posts How far apart should electric receptacles be spaced in a bathroom? and What is the code requirement for receptacle outlets in a closet? and How many electrical receptacle outlets are required in a hallway? and How far apart should kitchen counter receptacles be spaced? and How far apart should electric receptacle outlets be placed in a garage? and What is the code requirement for receptacle outlets in a foyer? and Is a house required to have outdoor electric receptacle outlets?
For a timeline on the phase-in of GFCI-receptacles, see our blog post When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?
While the year that the NEC added a new requirement is easy to define, each local juridiction’s building codes don’t necessarily adopt the latest edition of the NEC immediately. The state of Florida, for example, did not make the 2011 NEC effective until mid-2015. Other jurisdictions have sometimes waited even longer to adopt a newer NEC edition and, to complicate things further, they might make amendments that exclude parts of the newest requirements. So the year when the NEC first adds or changes a requirement can be several years before your local building department adopted that edition of the code and began enforcing it.
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To learn more about electrical wiring, devices, and receptacles, see these other blog posts:
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