Are Laundry Areas Habitable Rooms?

Dedicated 20-ampere branch circuits are required

Most dwelling units are required to have a laundry area within the living area or have a laundry area provided on the premises for a multifamily building. However, some multifamily buildings do not provide laundry areas within the individual apartments and do not have or permit laundry facilities within the complex. However, a closer look at these requirements in the 2002 National Electrical Code may be warranted.

Section 210.52(F) requires at least one receptacle outlet to be installed for the laundry in a dwelling unit. Two exceptions appear immediately after this general rule. The first exception permits the laundry outlet to be deleted within the apartment or living area of a dwelling unit of a multifamily dwelling where laundry facilities are provided on the premises and these laundry facilities are available for all the building occupants.

The second exception in Section 210.52(F) permits the laundry receptacle to be deleted within dwelling units of a multifamily building where laundry facilities are not installed or permitted. The complex may be too small to warrant a central laundry area or the owner of the complex may not want to deal with the maintenance required for laundry areas with water leakage and drain problems.

Where a laundry outlet is supplied for a dwelling unit in a multifamily building or in a single-family dwelling, Section 210.11(C)(2) requires at least one 20-ampere branch circuit to supply the one laundry receptacle required by Section 210.52(F). It is permissible, however, to install more than one laundry receptacle in the laundry area, and these additional laundry receptacles can be connected to the laundry branch circuit. Other than the laundry receptacle outlet or outlets, the laundry branch circuit is not permitted to supply any other outlets. In other words, the laundry branch circuit cannot supply living room or kitchen outlets, even where these rooms are adjacent to the laundry area.

So far, the NEC is very clear that a dedicated 20-ampere branch circuit must be installed for the laundry circuit, if a laundry circuit is required or permitted. In most dwellings, this amounts to the installation of a receptacle for a washing machine. Where natural gas is available and connected to the laundry area, an additional receptacle can be installed to supply power for electrical control and the motor for drum rotation for the dryer. Both receptacles installed for the washer and the dryer can be connected to the dedicated laundry circuit. Additional convenience receptacles installed in these laundry areas can also be connected to this same branch circuit, but the laundry branch circuit must not be connected to any outlets outside the laundry area.

Once the initial 20-ampere branch circuit has been installed, can additional receptacle branch circuits be installed in these laundry areas or rooms, and must these circuits be 20 amperes at 120 volts or can the branch circuits be 15 amperes? Section 220.16(B) is very clear in requiring a load of not less than 1,500 volt-amperes for each two-wire laundry branch circuit installed as required by Section 210.11(C)(2) for either a service or a feeder calculation. Since the initial laundry branch circuit is required to be a 20-ampere branch circuit and 220.16(B) requires a load of 1,500 volt-amperes for this circuit, it would stand to reason that all other two-wire branch circuits installed for the laundry area or laundry room would also be 20-ampere circuits. Many large laundry rooms or areas in a dwelling unit have multiple branch circuits with receptacles for the washer, the dryer, built-in ironing boards, and other multiple convenience receptacles located around the room. Based on Section 220.16(B), the implication is that all laundry branch circuits are 20-ampere branch circuits based on the 1,500 volt-ampere load requirements for feeder and service calculation. A clarification of the wording for the 2008 NEC on this issue may be warranted.

Are these laundry areas or rooms also considered to be habitable rooms and must receptacles be installed to comply with 210.52(A)(1) with a receptacle installed so that no point along the floor line of any wall space is more than six feet from a receptacle outlet? Section 210.52(A) provides this receptacle spacing requirement for every kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library, den, sunroom, bedroom, recreation room, or similar area or room of a dwelling unit. This six-foot spacing for receptacles is not required for bathrooms, garages, or small atriums and, since none of the specific rooms named in 210.52(A) are similar to a laundry room, the six-foot spacing may not be required for the laundry room or area.

Check with your local authority that has jurisdiction or install the receptacles until the NEC is clarified. Installation at the electrical rough-in stage is much less expensive than at the trim stage when the walls are finished. EC

ODE is a staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He can be reached at 919.549.1726 or at


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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