Working in the Garage

The required placement of receptacles in the wall above a kitchen countertop is uncertain where an appliance garage is present. The Code requirements are the following: “210.52 Dwelling Unit Receptacle Outlets. (C) Countertops (1) Wall Counter Spaces. A receptacle outlet shall be installed at each wall counter space that is 300 mm (12 in.) or wider. Receptacle outlets shall be installed so that no point along the wall line is more than 600 mm (24 in.) measured horizontally from a receptacle outlet in that space.

(4) Separate Spaces. Countertop spaces separated by range tops, refrigerators, or sinks shall be considered as separate countertop spaces in applying the requirements of 210.52(C)(1), (2), and (3).

(5) Receptacle Outlet Location. Receptacle outlets shall be located above, but not more than 500 mm (20 in.) above, the countertop. Receptacle outlets rendered not readily accessible by appliances fastened in place, appliance garages, or appliances occupying dedicated space shall not be considered as these required outlets.”

An appliance garage is a cabinetry enclosure mounted on a kitchen countertop to house one or more small kitchen appliances. A receptacle is generally enclosed within the garage but is not counted as one of the required kitchen counter receptacles because when the garage is closed the receptacle is not accessible, and even when the garage is open the stored appliance blocks access to the receptacle for the use of other than the stored appliance. For spacing of the receptacles in the backsplash of the kitchen counters adjoining the garage, common sense tells us that since the garage receptacle is intended for the stored appliance, then the counter space in front of the garage is also dedicated for the use of the stored appliance, and receptacles should be located on each side of the garage, not more than 24 inches from it. The placement of countertop receptacles is measured “along the wall line,” and because the appliance garage blocks the wall line, it must be treated the same as a range top, refrigerator or sink.

However, in the 2004 ROP there was a proposal for 210.52(C)(4), quoted here, to add “appliance garages” to “range tops, refrigerators, or sinks”. This proposal was rejected with the following Panel Statement: “The panel does not agree that appliance garages generally do not split the counter tops into separate spaces. The face of the appliance garage does not typically extend to the outer edge of the countertop; a work space is available directly in front of the appliance garage that is contiguous with the counters on either side of the appliance garage.” This suggests that for the placement of the required kitchen counter receptacles, we measure along the wall, then around the perimeter of the appliance garage to the wall on the other side, and then along that wall. This makes absolutely no sense. The counter space within the garage is dedicated space, and it is reasonable to assume that the counter space in front of the garage is also dedicated space, dedicated to the use of the stored appliance.

One solution would be to install receptacles in either one, or both, sidewalls of the garage. The box(es) inside the garage would subtract from the space available for the stored appliance; the cabinetmaker and the owner would very likely both object, and the AHJ might well consider that the side of the garage was not a wall as specified in(C)(1). The common sense solution is to install a receptacle not further than 24 inches from each side wall of the garage, thus treating the garage as we would a sink or range top.

The appliance garage illustrated on page 63 of the IAEI-NFPA Analysis of Changes in the 2002 NEC appears to be about four feet in width. Such a garage would put the wall receptacles about eight feet apart, so perhaps the best solution is to place a receptacle close to each side of the garage. (Interestingly in that illustration, there is a sink adjacent to the garage, but no receptacle is installed between the garage and the sink. On the other side of the garage, the counter space appears to be less than 12 inches, and there is no receptacle there, nor is one required. It appears that the counter to the left is the beginning of a peninsula that requires only one receptacle, so it is obviously several feet between receptacles in this kitchen, aside from the garage receptacle, which cannot be counted.)

What a mess! EC

SCHWAN is an electrical Code consultant in Hayward, Calif. He can be reached at


About the Author

W. Creighton Schwan

Former Code Columnist
W. Creighton Schwan was a long-time contributor to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine and an important figure in the electrical code world. His first article written for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR was published in January 1980 issue. He wrote a total of 326...

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