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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.  

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  To learn more about electrical wiring, devices, and receptacles, see these other blog posts:

 • What is the difference between what trips a GFCI (ground fault) receptacle and a circuit breaker?

What is the code requirement for GFCI protection for receptacles near a wet bar sink? 

What is the requirement for a service receptacle outlet for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HACR) equipment? 

Why is an opening in the wall around the side of an electrical receptacle outlet a safety defect?  

When was GFCI-protection for kitchen dishwasher receptacle outlet first required? 

What is allowable voltage range at a wall receptacle outlet in a house?

When should I replace electric receptacle outlets? 

Does an electric receptacle outlet in a storage shed require GFCI protection? 

What are "self-contained" electrical receptacle outlets and switches?

What is the difference between an electrical receptacle, an outlet, and a plug?

Does a washing machine receptacle outlet require GFCI protection?

What is the building code requirement for receptacle outlets at stairs and stair landings?

Can I remove a 240-volt range receptacle and hard-wire the range? 

What is a "backstab" receptacle outlet? 

When was the current receptacle/outlet spacing of 12-feet first required? 

When was the three-slot (grounding) outlet/receptacle first required? 

Why does painting an electric receptacle (outlet) make it unsafe?

Why are electrical outlets and plugs polarized? 

How many electrical receptacles (outlets) are required in a hallway?  

What problems does having too many electric receptacle outlets on a single circuit cause? 

Is a house required to have outdoor electric receptacle outlets?

How I can tell if a receptacle outlet is tamper resistant?

Why is there a GFCI breaker in the electric panel for the bathroom shower light and exhaust fan?

What is a false ground, bootleg ground, or cheated ground receptacle? 

   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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