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Proper eletrical outlet location in bathrooms (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesElectrical Outlet Height, Clearances & Spacing
How much space is allowed between electrical receptacles, & what height or clearances are required?

  • ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE HEIGHT & CLEARANCES - CONTENTS: how to properly locate wall receptacles above the floor; clearance distances, spacing. Which way should an electrical receptacle be installed: ground connector up, down, or sideways? What about electrical receptacle height in garages?
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to install and wire electrical outlets or receptacles in buildings.
  • REFERENCES
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Height & spacing of electrical receptacles or "outlets" in buildings:

Requirements for electrical receptacle (outlet or wall plug) spacing, height, and clearances in buildings. In general electrical receptacles are installed along building walls such that at no point along the wall is the distance to the nearest electrical receptacle more than six feet - i.e. receptacles can be spacesd 12 ft. on center. Details about spacing, height, and clearance for receptacles are provided in this article.

This article series describes how to choose, locate, and wire an electrical receptacle in a home. Electrical receptacles (also called electrical outlets or "plugs" or "sockets") are simple devices that are easy to install, but there are details to get right if you want to be safe.



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Specification of Proper Spacing, Location & Height for Electrical Receptacles (Outlets)

Proper eletrical outlet location in bathrooms (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesAn electrical outlet must be properly located on the wall, according to local electrical codes and the National Electrical Code. Examples of proper electrical outlet locations are shown in our two sketches below, courtesy of Carson Dunlop and in the following list of electrical outlet location requirements:

Tub-Shower clearance: Keep electrical receptacles at least three feet (one meter) away from a tub or shower.

Electric baseboard clearance: Keep electrical outlets offset above and to the side of vanity sinks, not right over the sink (left hand sketch below)

Electric baseboard clearance: Keep electrical receptacles off to one side, not right over electric heating baseboards to avoid overheating and possibly melting electrical cords draped over the heater (a fire risk) - see photo at below right, courtesy of Timothy Hemm.

Outlets in floors, countertops: Generally we do not mount electrical outlets flush in countertops or floors, though in some codes and jurisdictions the inspector may require that special (protected) floor-mount electrical receptacles be installed in order to meet the requirement that electrical outlets are available within six feet in any direction along a wall, and where no "wall" is available to install such receptacles (such as along a sleeping loft).

Garage electrical outlet location: In the garage electrical outlets should be 18" or more above floor level.

Article Series Contents

Electrical Outlet Height Above the Finished Floor

Proper eletrical outlet location over heating baseboards (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesReader Question: Can I put an electrical receptacle up five feet from the finished floor level?

Before I contact an electrical contractor, I would like to know whether there are any Michigan electrical codes that apply to the "HEIGHT" above floor level - when adding a new (GFCI) A/C outlet to an existing residential home?

Specifically: I very much need to add a dedicated outlet in my bathroom to feed a nice quartz (1,500 W) wall space heater. And - to avoid a messy cord situation, I want to locate the outlet "up" (about 5 feet) off the floor - with a 60 min. wall timer in series.)

Is this OK? (The outlet will be more than 4 feet from the bathtub).

Thanks for your great website! (I read through - but couldn't find the answer to this.) - T.V.M., Grand Rapids MI

Reply:

Because local building code jurisdictions may have their own local requirements, I'd give a call to your local building department and ask (please let me know what happens).

Most of the sources we have reviewed for details about the required height of electrical receptacles above the floor (see Mike Holt's Forum for example) assert that there is no National Electrical Code (NEC) specification of the height of wall-mounted electrical receptacles in homes.

After all, we regularly install a ceiling-mounted receptacle to power garage door operators. One electrician cited 5'6" maximum above floor level for receptacles meeting the 6' horizontal spacing rule (NEC 210-52) [4]. So you'd be OK with your high receptacle.

Just be sure it's a GFCI-protected receptacle as you're installing in a bathroom, and that the circuit amperage is high enough to operate the electric heater safely.

Electrical receptacle and zipcord wiring (C) D FriedmanBut there are some ADA requirements that might make you want to put the receptacle a bit lower on the wall.

If your bathroom might need to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, you'd want to respect those heights - the ADA (Section 4.2.5 and 4.2.6) requires that outlets be at least 15" above the floor and switches and outlets should not be more than 48-54" (the variation is due to other conditions).

Our photo (left) shows an electrical receptacle mounted just about 2" above the finished floor - which is ok except for the ADA requirements, but that zip cord wiring that is run into the wall is improper, unsafe, and a fire hazard.

Here are some general guides: (heights pertain to electrical receptacles mounted in walls except where we note switches or other devices)

Example CA code on layout and heights http://www.sanjoseca.gov/building/PDFHandouts/5-7CommercialReceptacle.pdf

Readers of this article should also
see ELECTRICAL DEFINITIONS and

also SAFETY for ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS. Our photo at page top is not an example of a proper electrical outlet installation.

This website provides information about a variety of electrical hazards in buildings, with articles focused on the inspection, detection, and reporting of electrical hazards and on proper electrical repair methods for unsafe electrical conditions. Critique and content suggestions are invited. Credit is given to content editors and contributors

Reader question on citation for electrical outlet height in garages

(Jan 6, 2015) Kevin O'Hornett said:
Hi, Dan, Re: Garage electrical outlet location: "In the garage electrical outlets should be 18" or more above floor level." Is this a personal recommendation based on your own knowledge regarding the potential for arcing/sparking at receptacle outlets under certain conditions or do you have a specific NEC or other authoritative regulatory document reference which specifies a minimum 18" height?

Thanks, Kevin

Note: PROSPEX owner Kevin O'Hornett has been a consultant and advisor throughout the U.S. and in Canada for the past twenty-two years. He also taught at Arizona SunTech from June of 2002 through May of 2004. Mr. Hornett can be reached at Prospex, P. O. Box 80 - Golden, Colorado 80402, Phone: (303) 517-1980 Website: http://www.prospex.us/

Reply: electrical practice suggestion vs. code requirements: NEC 210.52(G)

Hi Kevin,

Short answer: garage receptacle height is a practice suggestion not an electrical code requirement. NEC 210.52(G) requires at least one receptacle, in addition to those for specific equipment, to be installed in each attached garage and in each detached garage with electric power.

However in the U.S. the NEC does not specify a height for electrical receptacles installed in a residential garage.

IMO the origin of the 18" minimum electrical receptacle height above the floor in residential garages is the same reason we elevate heating appliances: avoiding blowing up vehicle gasoline fumes presumably collected at floor level. Actually I see electricians putting the receptacles at 36-48" for reasons of easy access - also a practice not a code spec.

Of course GFCIs are required in the garage.

Commercial garages are a different matter.

I have found the assertion that NEC 505-9(c) could support a requirement for explosion-proof fittings on an electrical receptacle installed in a garage *below* 18" from the floor height - for the same reasoning I cited in the more general "opinion".

Also see NEC 210.23(A)(2).

I hope that when people are teaching home inspection or electrical wiring they will emphasize that building codes are a minimum requirement and can by no means include all possible situations nor all best practices.

Electrical Wire Clearance from Ducts & Pipes

This information has moved to a separate article now found at ELECTRICAL WIRE CLEARANCE FROM DUCTS & PIPES

How many electrical receptacles are allowed on a 20-amp circuit? How many receptacles on a 15-amp circuit?

Reader question: How many receptacles can be wired To one 20 amp circuit No. 12. Wire - John K.

Reply:

20 Amp electrical outlet (C) D FriedmanJohn K:

Our photo (left) shows a 20-Amp electrical receptacle - you can recognize it by that horizontal opening that makes the left-hand slot look like the letter "T" on its side.

In general, the Electrical Code [NEC] allows

Our photo (left) illustrates an electrical receptacle intended for use on a 20-Amp circuit.

Notice that extra horizontal slot? You won't see that on a 15-Amp electrical receptacle

Details about how to wire up an electrical receptacle are at ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE CONNECTION DETAILS - where to connect black, white, red, green, ground wires.

Electrical outlets ground hole should be up, down, or sideways?

This topic has moved to ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE POSITION: WHICH WAY UP

Electrical Receptacle Relocation Wiring

Reader Question: I don't have enough wire to lower receptacles on the wall

I recently moved into a 3 1/4 story home, and I have a basement that I am trying to finish with drywall. The room is down to the studs and the electrical receptacles are about 4' up the wall. The Romex wiring is stapled, and there isn't enough wire to lower them.

It is way to much work for me to replace all of the downstairs wiring right to the breaker box, so I'm wondering if it is possible to add onto the existing wires and attach wire screws or marrets within the walls before I start adding drywall, or whether I should add some kind of junction box to contain the marreted wires in between.

My building code stipulations would differ in some cases because I live in Canada, but I just want to do the job right, and I do not want to take the chance of having any fire hazards, as I also have small children. - Dave 2/10/12

Reply: if you have to move an entire string of electrical receptacles complete re-wiring is faster and cheaper than adding a splice box for every device.

Dave,. you are correct to be careful about moving outlets or any other device when the existing wires are too short. The temptation is to just splice on an extension and bury that in the wall or ceiling: an illegal, improper, unsafe as well as really aggravating approach.

The proper approach is to add a junction box at each splice - we never splice 120/240V wires without including them in a box. You can reduce the wiring work a little by using plastic boxes instead of steel - avoiding having to also connect the box to the ground wire.

The proper approach also means that you don't then bury any of these splice-boxes in the walls either. Each box has to be brought to the surface and covered.

The result is a lot of work and expense and an ugly wall with an extra junction box and blind cover all along the wall over each of the now moved or lowered electrical receptacles.

Frankly I figure that especially as you've already got the wall open to the studs, if there are more than one or two receptacles to be moved you'll probably find it is actually much less total work to re-wire the entire circuit, allowing proper lengths of wires for each box.

You might carefully remove and re-route the existing wire lower in the wall or you might buy all new electrical wire - depending on the age and condition of the existing materials.

Watch out: when removing wire that appears to be in good condition, if you nick the insulation you've created a new hazard.

Allowable Recessed Depth of Receptacle Boxes in Walls

What is the maximum depth to which the face of a receptacle box can be recessed in a wall cavity?

U.S. NEC 314.20 In Wall or Ceiling.

In walls or ceilings with a surface of concrete, tile, gypsum, plaster, or other noncombustible material, boxes employing a flush-type cover or faceplate shall be installed so that the front edge of the box, plaster ring, extension ring, or listed extender will not be set back of the finished surface more than 6 mm (1⁄4 in.).

In walls and ceilings constructed of wood or other combustible surface material, boxes, plaster rings, extension rings, or listed extenders shall be flush with the finished surface or project therefrom. 

U.S. NEC 406.4 Receptacle Mounting.

Receptacles shall be mounted in boxes or assemblies designed for the purpose, and such boxes or assemblies shall be securely fastened in place unless otherwise permitted elsewhere in this Code.

(A) Boxes That Are Set Back. Receptacles mounted in boxes that are set back from the finished surface as permitted in 314.20 shall be installed such that the mounting yoke or strap of the receptacle is held rigidly at the finished surface. 

Electrical Outlet Box Fire Separation Between Inside Wall & Exterior Wall Receptacles

Question: can there be an indoor (into kitchen) and outdoor outlet in the same bay?

2017/09/01 Sharon said:

In new construction, can there be an indoor (into kitchen) and outdoor outlet (on back porch) in the same bay?

Reply: 3 1/2" or 5 1/2" separation requirements for indoor & outdoor receptacles in the same stud bay

You ask in essence, "What is the required offset or separation between an inside electrical receptacle box and an outdoor receptacle box mounted in the same wall cavity".

To have space for explanation and citations we've moved this discussion to ELECTRICAL BOX FIRE SEPARATION DISTANCES.

...


Continue reading at ELECTRICAL WIRE CLEARANCE FROM DUCTS & PIPES or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see BUILDING CODE DOWNLOADS - free downloadable PDF files of building codes & standards

Or see ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE HEIGHT FAQs questions & answers posted originally at this article

Or see ELECTRIC BASEBOARD HEAT INSTALL for discussion of clearances from electrical receptacles

Or see ELECTRICAL WIRE CLEARANCE DISTANCES

Or see JUNCTION BOX TYPES

Or see these

Articles on Electrical Receptacle Wiring

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ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE HEIGHT & CLEARANCES at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to ELECTRICAL INSPECTION & TESTING

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