No Place Like Home: Electrical issues found in kitchen remodeling projects

Published On
Aug 15, 2022

Based on the amount of time spent at home in the past few years, many people have been remodeling and investing their money in upgrades, especially with the cost of construction and property values today. Depending on a home’s age and the amount of updating necessary, new and larger branch circuits may be required to replace the existing electrical equipment in the kitchen. I will try to cover as many electrical issues as I can here.

Vacuum outlets

Central vacuum outlet assemblies can be added to the entire home, but are especially useful in carpeted areas or in the kitchen with tile and hardwood floors. Flexible hoses can be installed in walls with access in either an unfinished basement or an attic. Either a 15A or 20A circuit for the central vacuum is permissible, based on the size of the motor in the unit and the listing requirements. However, connection to the kitchen small appliance branch circuits is not permitted because they are dedicated to kitchen loads. Usually, the central vacuum unit is in the garage or a utility room, and a Class 2 control circuit originating at the main unit connects to each vacuum outlet. The circuit is switched at each vacuum outlet by insertion or removal of the matching vacuum hose in the outlet.

In-sink waste disposal

Electrically operated in-sink waste disposal units are permitted to be cord-and-plug-connected, and the length of the cord cannot be less than 18 inches or more than 36 inches. The receptacles must be located to protect the flexible cord from physical damage, and the receptacle must be accessible. The flexible cord must have an equipment grounding conductor and be terminated with a grounding-type attachment plug.


Many kitchen installations will use a duplex receptacle where the top is switched for the disposal and the bottom will supply power to the dishwasher. Where two separate 20A circuits supply the receptacle, ensure that either a two-pole circuit breaker or two single-pole breakers with a tie bar is used. Section 210.7 states, “Where two or more branch circuits supply devices or equipment on the same yoke or mounting strap, a means to simultaneously disconnect the ungrounded supply conductors shall be provided at the point at which the branch circuits originate.”

Don’t forget to provide GFCI protection based on 422.5(A)(7) for dishwashers and 210.8(A)(7) where receptacles are installed within 6 feet from the top edge of the bowl of the kitchen sink.

The text in the introductory paragraph of 210.8 states, “For the purposes of this section, when determining the distance from receptacles the distance shall be measured as the shortest path the supply cord of an appliance connected to the receptacle would follow without piercing a floor, wall, ceiling, or fixed barrier, or the shortest path without passing through a window.” The word “door” was removed between the 2017 NEC and the 2020 edition, so now a receptacle under the sink must also be GFCI-protected.

Dishwashers and trash compactors

Built-in dishwashers and trash compactors are permitted to be cord-and-plug-connected. A trash compactor will have a cord that is 3–4 feet long measured from the face of the attachment plug to the plane of the rear of the appliance. A built-in dishwasher will have a cord length of 3–6½ feet measured from the face of the attachment plug to the plane of the rear of the appliance. The receptacle for a trash compactor can be located directly behind the appliance, but the receptacle for a dishwasher must be in the space adjacent to the dishwasher. Where the flexible cord passes through a cabinet dividing wall, a bushing or grommet must be used.

Over the past 15–20 years, there have been many substantial changes in NEC requirements, especially in Article 210, Article 422 and other articles associated with kitchen circuits.

About the Author

Mark C. Ode

Fire/Life Safety, Residential and Code Contributor

Mark C. Ode is a lead engineering associate for Energy & Power Technologies at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and can be reached at 919.949.2576 and

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