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When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The requirement for GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection for receptacle outlets was phased in over the years by the NEC (National Electrical Code), beginning with the 1971 edition. The NEC is updated with a new edition every three years and the locations required have been expanded or tweaked with almost every edition since then. 


    But, while the year that the NEC added a new location 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 listed below indicating when the NEC first required GFCI-protection for a new receptacle location can be several years before your local building department adopted that edition of the code and began enforcing it.

Bathrooms - First required in 1975 NEC. 

Crawl Spaces - Beginning with 1990 NEC

Dishwasher - GFCI required with 2014 NEC. If a receptacle, must be accessible. Not yet adopted in some jurisdictions. 

Disposal - Required by 2020 NEC. Because an earlier code citation could be interpreted either way (based on the meaning of the word “door”), some juridictions enforced this requirement years before 2020.

Exterior - All outdoor receptacles in 1975 NEC. Amended to include only receptacles with readily accessible to the ground (defined as below 6’-8” above grade) with 1987 NEC, then returned to all outdoor receptacles in 1996 NEC.

Garage - All garage receptacles readily accessible (defined as below 6’-8” above floor), with exception for receptacles for dedicated appliances not easily movable (such refrigerator, sprinkler control panel) in 1978 NEC. Expanded to include all garage receptacles in 2008 NEC.

Kitchen - Required for counter receptacles within 6 feet of sink in 1987 NEC.  Expanded to include all kitchen counter receptacles with 1996 NEC. 

Laundry & Utility Sinks - Receptacles within 6-feet of a laundry sink starting with 2005 NEC. Changed to include all sinks in 2014 NEC.

Pool - All receptacles within 15-feet of pool edge in 1971 NEC, and no receptacles at all allowed within 10-feet of pool edge. Later expanded to all receptacles within 20-feet of pool in 1996 NEC. Minimum distance from pool reduced to 6-feet from pool edge in 2008.

Spa Tub Indoor - 1987 NEC required GFCI for receptacles within 10-feet of tub, but no receptacles allowed within 5-feet. Changed to no receptacles within 6-feet at 2008 NEC.

Spa Tub Outdoor - 1984 NEC requires within 10-feet of edge, but no receptacles within 5-feet.

Unfinished Basements - Required beginning with 1990 NEC.

Wet Bar - Receptacles with 6-feet of wet bar sink on counter require GFCI protection beginning with 1993 NEC. Wet bar sink, with or without counter, 2005 Edition.


One last note: GFCI-protection can be provided by a GFCI receptacle (one receptacle will protect others downstream in the circuit, which should be marked as GFCI protected), a GFCI circuit breaker in the electric panel, or a GFCI dead front (often used for indoor spa tubs, essentially a GFCI receptacle without the slots to plug in a cord, usually located in bathroom or next to electric panel). 

    Also, see our blog post Are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) really necessary and worth the trouble?


    Visit our AFCI AND GFCI page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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