Height & Location of Electric Outlets on a Kitchen Counter

... Know the correct spacing needed for outlets mounted above your countertops.

It can be very frustrating when using a small kitchen appliance and not having an outlet where you need it. Older homes may lack outlets that an appliance can reach from the countertop. If you are contemplating a kitchen remodel, consider that this may be the perfect time to bring your kitchen up to electrical code by having plenty of outlets installed at the correct placement.

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Outlet Height

Small kitchen appliance cords, such as coffee pots, toasters and mixers rarely have a power cord that is more than 24 inches long. Since it is not desirable to use an extension cord on these devices, most electrical codes require a higher number of electrical outlets above a kitchen counter than anywhere else in the home. The height of the outlet should be high enough to clear the built-in backsplash on the countertop, but no higher than 18 inches from the top of the countertop work surface. Depending on local codes, outlets that are mounted at the higher end of this range may need more frequent spacing along the length of the countertop.

Space Between Outlets

Whereas some electrical codes require 6- to 12-foot spacing between wall outlets, a much closer 4-foot gap is required for outlets mounted above kitchen countertops. Further, these same codes may specify that all of the outlets above the countertop must be divided into at least two different circuits. This keeps a single circuit covering all of the outlets from being overloaded and tripping the circuit breaker. A good rule of thumb to use when determining the placement of outlets, is that the power cord of a small kitchen appliance should reach the closest outlet from anywhere on the countertop.

GFCI Outlets

Ground fault circuit interrupter outlets are designed to trip if moistness or water laying on the countertop surface causes arching. Most electrical codes require that every outlet mounted above a countertop be of the GFCI variety to offer the protection from shock or electrocution. These types of outlets are meant to power small kitchen appliances. Permanently-mounted appliances such as microwave ovens, range hoods or lighting fixtures do not require GFCI protection and can have their own electrical circuits.

Electrical Codes

Always check your local electrical codes before doing any electrical work in your home. Some localities may require work be done by a licensed electrician to ensure it is safe and correct.