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How far apart should kitchen counter receptacles be spaced?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Homes built during the 1950s had one, or maybe two, electric outlets at the kitchen counter. And that was sufficient before the explosion in countertop food prep appliances. But the average homeowner today has a couple of electric appliances on the counter and a half dozen more stored below: blender, toaster, microwave, bread machine, food processor, toaster oven, grille, coffeemaker, coffee grinder, can opener, waffle iron, rice cooker, panini press, and crock pot...just to name a few.

   So the building code for kitchen countertop receptacles has been ratcheted up over the years to match the increased kitchen appliance usage. The current standard is that they be spaced so that no point along the back wall of the counter is more than 24-inches from a plug, as shown in the photo below. 


Here’s seven further requirements:

  1. Receptacles serving countertop must have GFCI shock protection.
  2. A receptacle is required for any wall behind counter space that 12-inches or more wide. 
  3. The space behind a sink or range does not count as countertop space if there is 12-inches or less behind it to the back wall.
  4. Minimum of two 20-amp small appliance circuits serving refrigerator, all countertop and exposed wall receptacles in kitchen, dining room and pantry. Refrigerator can be on separate circuit.
  5. Receptacles cannot be more than 20-inches above the countertop.
  6. No receptacles allowed face-up on the countertop.
  7. Minimum one receptacle for an island or peninsula countertop.
  8. The receptacle serving the dishwasher is required to have GFCI-protection since the 2014 edition of the NEC.

   Also, placing a receptacle directly behind a sink, like in the photo below, is not recommended because of the potential for the cord to fall into the sink.  

   Visit our ELECTRICAL 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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