What is code for bathroom receptacle outlet spacing?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The minimum requirement is one receptacle within three feet of each sink on an adjacent wall, or inside or on the face of the sink cabinet not more than 12 inches below countertop. Additional receptacles are not required, but no receptacle can be placed within or directly over a shower or tub.

    There are two circumstances where we find no receptacle near a bathroom sink as required. The first occurs in older houses that originally had a small, single receptacle built into the bottom of the light fixture above the sink. Those type fixtures are no longer available so, when the light is replaced, there’s no receptacle anymore. Here’s a pic of one of the mid-20th century light/receptacle combinations.

    Also, the receptacle requirement sometimes gets forgotten in a handyman bathroom remodeling. Here’s an elegant double-sink bathroom remodel we saw recently with no receptacle anywhere near the sinks.

   Bathroom receptacles have also been required to have GFCI shock protection for about the past 30 years. The GFCI-device may be located at the center of the receptacle, at a receptacle in an adjacent room, or in a breaker in the electric panel.

   Placement of a receptacle directly behind a bathroom sink, as in the photo below, is not recommended because of the potential for an electrical cord to fall in the sink when it is full of water. 
    Different standards apply to 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?  

    Also, see our blog post What are the most common problems/defects found with electric receptacle outlets during a home inspection?

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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?

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

What is a "backstab" receptacle outlet? 

Why are some electric receptacle outlets upside down (ground slot up) in a house?   

What is the height requirement for an electric receptacle outlet? 

Where are GFCI receptacle outlets required?

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

 Does a home inspector remove receptacle outlet cover plates?

What is the minimum height for an exterior 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?   

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

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? 

How can adding wood paneling or a wainscot create an electrical safety hazard?

 How far above a kitchen countertop do electrical outlets have to be?

What is reversed polarity at an outlet/receptacle? Why is it dangerous? 

How high above the floor do electric outlets/receptacles in a garage have to be? 

Is an ungrounded electric receptacle outlet dangerous?

My bathroom electric receptacle/outlet is dead and there are no tripped breakers in the electric panel. What's wrong?  

Is there an adapter that can be placed on a two-slot receptacle to make it safe? 

How do the new tamper-resistant electric outlets work?

Why is there no bathroom electric receptacle in this old house?

How can I tell if the electric receptacle outlets are grounded? 

   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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