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Proper eletrical outlet location in bathrooms (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesElectrical Outlet Location FAQs
Questions about electrical receptacle placement, height & clearances

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Questions & answers on how & where to locate electrical receptacles:

This article answers FAQs about where should electrical receptacles (outlets or wall plugs) be located or placed in a building.

This article series describes how to choose, locate, and wire an electrical receptacle in a home.



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Q&A on Locations for Electrical Receptacles (Outlets)

Questions & answers about electrical outlet locations posted originally at ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE LOCATIONS now found at ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE LOCATION FAQs

Question: how do I install multiple electrical outlets (receptacles) along a wall?

putting in more than outlet on along a 12ft wall - Mike Tucker

Reply:

Mike, if your comment is a question of how to put in more than one outlet along a 12 foot wall, yes it's perfectly permitted to exceed the minimum number of receptacles along a wall.

The wiring system is unchanged except that in some cases I recommend installing two different circuits and alternating which outlet is served by which circuit. That avoids overloading one circuit if you are plugging in lots of devices in one area.

Question: When adding an electrical outlet in a garage, what's code: metal or plastic junction box?

I am putting outlet in garage wall that has kitchen on the other side. What is code, plastic or metal? I would think in a garage fire that a plastic box would melt and fire would go through the wall faster? - Steve Smith

Reply:

Steve both plastic and metal receptacle boxes are code-approved and neither, properly installed and wired, should violate the fire-rating of 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 prope 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 hazrd.

Question: electrical outlet height requirements

I was looking at some height requirements on electrical outlets this is a very informational site.

thanks Jerm 4/19/12

Reply:

Jerm, in the article above at ELECTRICAL RECEPTACLE HEIGHT & CLEARANCES we give the data you want. Let me know if anything is unclear.

Question: can I add an electrical outlet on the wall where there is already a light switch?

I would like to wire in an outlet on the same wall where there is currently a light switch. Can I run wires from the light switch to power the outlet?The light switch is a 2 way switch. thank you. - Marv Walker 7/10/12

Reply:

Marv.

Well yes, maybe, sort-of.

Because a light switch is indeed switching a hot wire to the light, you've got power at the switch location. But depending on how the building is wired, you may not have an acceptable neutral wire, and in some still older circuits you may not have a safe ground wire.

Provided that you know how to work on electrical wiring without getting killed by electrocution, you (or your electrician) will open the switch box, carefully pull the switch assembly out enough to inspect for additional wires that may be present, and then use a VOM or DMM or even a simple neon tester to determine what wires are present.

To add a receptacle you need a proper hot, neutral and ground wire.

Watch out: if the "hot" wire in your light switch is on a 3-way circuit you may not always have power at your add-on receptacle.

Question: armor around wire through concrete?

I am running a new 15A outlet into the back of a bookcase in a 50 year old house with updated electrical. The wire runs out the back of the retrofit box and down through the concrete foundation into the crawlspace to a wire I plan to splice into. Do I need to put armor around the wire run through the foundation? It goes through open air for about 2 feet and there is no way to secure it to anything.

Thanks!
Tom - 7/19/12

Reply:

You need to look at the type and rating of the electrical wire to determine if it is permitted to bury it in concrete or not.

Question: AmI allowed to add one more outlet onto an existing string?

I have an existing outlet being used for lamps I wanna run one more outlet shares from the hot on is it okay? - PHantum 113 8/1/12

Reply:

Phanum:

Usually, yes provided all safe and proper wiring code procedures are followed.
If the circuit is overloaded already, no.
If the circuit is knob and tube wiring, no - we don't extend knob and tube.

Question: I am trying to hook up two receptacles from a single line pair

I’m attempting to wire two separate receptacles from one (line) wire, not in-line one after the other but effectively as a “Y” from a junction box with two load lines out (one to a north wall receptacle and the other to a south wall receptacle in my barn).

Using screw-on connectors, I connected the three black wires together; the three white wires together; and the three green wires to a pigtail screwed into the junction box. One receptacle works fine, but plugging anything into the other receptacle trips the circuit breaker. If this is not the correct wiring configuration within the junction box, what is the solution? - Robert 8/9/12

Reply:

Robert:

I agree that you've got a miswired connection and it sounds like a short somewhere, but no way can nor should someone risk killing you by pretending we can see what you did. There are plenty of possible snafus, such as overtightening a wire clamp that cuts into and shorts a wire.

Reader follow-up:

Thanks
Turns out the overtightened wire clamp cutting into a wire was the problem.

Question: which way is "right side up" for electrical outlets - more views

One comment regarding 'inverted' outlet mounting (ground up, vs down).
While not specified in the code, I have noted that several electricians PREFER to mount a switched outlet so that the ground prong is up while mounting the non-switched outlets with the ground down. That way the homeowner can quickly determine a switched from a non-switched outlet. - Anon 9/5/12

Reply: secret codes are confusing

Anon,

About upside down electrical outlets - thanks for the interesting comment. Unfortunately because there's no standard mount position associated with switched electrical receptacles, the next owner in a home will probably be confused unless the secret code is passed-on to everyone.

Question: I need to add a light, fan, and fan switch to an existing bath - I can't find where to kill the power

very informative article thumbs up . I have a question tho.
I am renovating a customers bathroom and need to install another light as well as a fan witch requires a larger box to be installed in the wall. when i checked the existing switch there was a black and a white wire on the switch and when i attempted to shut the power off to the light and switch at the panel there is no breaker that kills the power to the light what is the likely cause of this and how do i fix this problem - Blinden 12/12/12

Reply:

Blinden,

It would be odd for a bath light circuit to be wired with no over current protection, and very dangerous too. Try each breaker in the panel in turn to find the one controlling the circuit.

As the switch is interrupting only the hot wire it is common practice to run a standard 2-wire line from the light to the switch. In meticulous electrical work the installer would wrap black tape near the ends of the white wire to indicate that in this use it is a hot lead not a neutral wire.

Depending on the light location, such as near a shower, it may need GFCI protection as well.

Question: which circuit is better to use when adding a closet light

If I want to add light to closet, which circuit is it better to pull from? I have access to 120 plug and switches in outside wall facing away from closet that could be pulled into closet. Also, can you help explain the two different wiring configurations on my non GFI plugs.

On two different plugs on different walls the plugs are 8 wire push in style (4 hot and 4 common), but the wiring config is different between the two plugs. One one all white and black are inserted in the bottom 4 connectors with tabs in place. On another same style plug, one set of 4 wires (2 blk and 2 white) are inserted in bottom left row, and other set of 4 wires are inserted in opposite side top row.

These plugs are not controlled by switches. Thank you. - Chris 12/30/12

Reply:

Chris,

In my OPINION, it's best to connect a closet light to the room lighting circuit if possible.

About your other question, I'm a little confused by the query, but in general, receptacles and switches often have more than one permittted connection point, such as under a screw terminal, on older devices via a back-wiring push-in connector (something we do not recommend using), or on newer devices a side-clamp operated by a screw.

In all events, regardless of which connection point you are using, receptacles and switches have a designated side or screw or connector set for the white (neutral wire) (typically the side that has a silver colored screw and that is marked NEUTRAL on the device) and for the black (hot wire) (typically the side that has a brass-colored screwe and is marked LINE or HOT or BLACKI).

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