Changes to Receptacle Spacing in 2005 NEC

Most electricians are very familiar with the spacing requirements for receptacles in dwelling units. In kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sunrooms, bedrooms, recreation rooms or similar rooms, receptacles must be installed so that no point along the floor line is more than six feet measured horizontally from a receptacle outlet in any wall space. As a minimum, all of the rooms mentioned above are considered to be habitable rooms by the building codes and thus are required to have receptacles based on the six-foot rule.

Any floor receptacle is counted as a wall receptacle where the floor receptacle is within 18 inches of the wall. For kitchen countertops, the spacing is reduced so that no point along the wall line is greater than 24 inches from a receptacle. These dimensions certainly need no further clarification or additions.

Some changes have been made to the 2005 National Electrical Code (NEC) dealing with receptacle spacing requirements, however; additional clarifications and changes may be warranted for the 2008 NEC. Rooms or areas such as laundry rooms, workshops, mudrooms, and foyers or entries are not as clear an issue since these rooms or areas are not specified in the list in Section 210.52(A). These rooms or areas also do not fit within the “similar room” category as specified in 210.52(A) so the installation of receptacles becomes an interpretation issue.

Depending on the interpretation of the local authority having jurisdiction, the requirements for the placement of receptacles in these rooms or areas vary. Some inspectors consider a foyer, a mudroom or an entry area to be a hallway and, if the entry or foyer wall is less than 10 feet in length, no receptacle is required for this area. Other inspectors consider this area and the wall space to be usable and require at least one receptacle to be located in the wall. Others require receptacles to be placed using the six-foot requirement.

The same situation exists for laundry areas or rooms. Many inspectors require these rooms or areas to have receptacles installed on the walls in compliance with the six-foot rule, while others only require receptacles in the laundry room for the washer, the dryer or both. Workrooms or tool rooms are often treated the same as laundry rooms and receptacles are only required for the workbenches, not the usable wall space.

As mentioned above, subtle changes to Section 210.52 in the 2005 NEC will provide clarification on certain location requirements for receptacle outlets in single and multiple family dwelling units. For example, an exception and a diagram have been added to Section 210.52(C)(1) covering wall receptacle placement in the wall space for kitchen countertops. The exception states as follows: “Receptacle outlets shall not be required on a wall directly behind a range or sink in the installation described in Figure 210.52.” The diagram shows two illustrations.

The first illustration is a range or a sink extending from the face of a countertop. A receptacle is not required on the wall behind the sink or range, unless the countertop space behind them measures equal to a greater than 12 inches to the wall. The second illustration shows a sink or a range mounted in a corner of a countertop. A receptacle is not required behind the sink or range if the space is less than 18 inches to the wall.

An exception has also been added to Section 210.52(D) covering receptacles in dwelling unit bathrooms. In the 2002 NEC, at least one receptacle outlet shall be installed in bathrooms within three feet of the outside edge of each bathroom basin and must be located on a wall or a partition. This new exception permits the receptacles to be located in the side or face of the basin cabinet and is stated as follows: “The receptacle shall not be required to be mounted in the wall or partition where it is installed on the side or face of the basin cabinet not more than 12 inches below the countertop.” This exception would permit receptacles to be installed below the countertop in a bathroom cabinet, similar in application to those permitted for kitchen countertops in Section 210.52(C)(5).

Finally, there has been a significant change in Section 210.52(E) concerning outdoor receptacle outlets in multifamily dwellings. An additional paragraph has been added as follows: “For each dwelling unit of a multifamily dwelling where the dwelling unit is located at grade level and provided with individual exterior entrance/egress, at least one receptacle outlet accessible from grade level and not more than 6.5 feet above grade shall be installed. See 210.8(A).”

As can be seen, Code Making Panel 2 has provided some much needed clarification for the 2005 NEC, but some additional changes may be warranted. 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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