Receptacles in Damp or Wet Locations: Notable NEC changes for dwelling units

By Mark C. Ode | Feb 15, 2023
Illustration of rubber duck in bathtub with an outlet next to it
There have been some major and minor changes in Section 406.9 applications of the 2023 National Electrical Code dealing with receptacles installed in damp or wet locations.




There have been some major and minor changes in Section 406.9 applications of the 2023 National Electrical Code dealing with receptacles installed in damp or wet locations. It is important for users to keep track of any changes in the Code, because installing in these conditions could cause hazardous conditions.

Existing text in 406.9(A) for damp and 406.9(B) for wet locations state that all 125V and 250V nonlocking receptacles must be a listed weather-resistant type. Weather-resistant receptacles are manufactured with a built-in flexible plastic boot located within the receptacle where the cord cap blades will penetrate. Weather-resistant receptacles are a safety function that keeps water out of the receptacle slots even if it intrudes through the weatherproof cover.

New text in 406.9(A) and (B)

New text inserted into 406.9(A) and (B) is a requirement that hinged covers of outlet box hoods must be able to open at least 90 degrees, or fully open if the cover is not designed to open 90 degrees from the closed to open position, after installation. This is one of the 2023 NEC changes that is more of a clarification, since not being able to open covers to permit connection to the receptacles is more of a common-sense issue. However, anyone who has ever tried to insert a cord cap into a receptacle with a weatherproof cover that did not open to 90 degrees or more would impress a professional contortionist. Always keep in mind who the users are. Many of us may not even be able to get down to a ground-mounted receptacle, let alone put a cord cap in, and then less-than-gracefully stand up.

Section 406.9(B) dealing with wet locations is subdivided into two subsections, with (1) covering receptacles of 15A and 20A in a wet location and (2) covering all other receptacles installed in a wet location. Section 406.9(B)(1) states the following: Receptacles of 15A and 20A, 125V and 250V installed in a wet location must have a waterproof enclosure, whether or not the attachment plug cap is inserted. 

An outlet box hood installed for this purpose must be listed and identified as extra-duty. Other listed products, enclosures or assemblies providing weatherproof protection that do not use an outlet box hood do not need to be identified extra-duty. These types of identification and requirements are not applicable to listed receptacles, faceplates, outlet boxes, enclosures or assemblies identified as either being suitable for wet locations or rated as one of the outdoor enclosure-type numbers of Table 110.28 that does not use an outlet box hood.

What about exceptions?

An exception states that 15A and 20A, 125V through 250V receptacles, installed in a wet location and subject to routine high-pressure spray washing, are permitted to have a waterproof enclosure when the attachment plug is removed.

Section 406.9(B)(2) does not apply to receptacles rated 15A or 20A, 125V and 250V. It does apply so all other receptacles installed in a wet location must be listed weather-resistant type, and installation must comply with 406.9(B)(2)(a) or (B)(2)(b). 

Section 406.9(B)(2)(a) applies to receptacles installed in a wet location where the product intended to be plugged into it is not attended while in use, so it must have a weatherproof enclosure with the attachment plug cap inserted or removed. Section 406.9(B)(2)(b) permits a receptacle to be installed in a wet location, where the product intended to be plugged into it will be attended while in use (e.g., portable tools), to have a weatherproof enclosure when the attachment plug is removed.

Bathtubs and shower spaces

Section 406.9(C) covering bathtub and shower spaces has been totally rewritten. Receptacles must not be installed inside of the tub or shower or within a zone measured 3 feet horizontally from any outside edge of the bathtub or shower stall, including the space outside or below the zone. The zone also includes the space measured vertically from the floor to 8 feet above the top of the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold.

The identified zone is all-encompassing and includes the space directly over the bathtub or shower stall and the space below this zone, but not the space separated by a floor, wall, ceiling, room door, window or fixed barrier.

There are four exceptions to these rules, two of which are as follows: (Exception 2) In bathrooms with less than the required zone, the receptacle(s) required by 210.52(D) shall be permitted to be installed opposite the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold on the farthest wall within the room. (Exception 4) In a dwelling unit, a single receptacle shall be permitted for an electronic toilet or personal hygiene device such as an electronic bidet seat. The receptacle shall be readily accessible and not located in the space between the toilet and the bathtub or shower. Become familiar with these rules.

shutterstock / Buravleva stock/ vectortatu

About The Author

ODE is a retired lead engineering instructor at Underwriters Laboratories and is owner of Southwest Electrical Training and Consulting. Contact him at 919.949.2576 and [email protected]

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