Electrical outlet in vanity drawer? How?

staceyneilNovember 7, 2009

OK, so everyone's always raving about how great this is... but how is it actually done?

Is the outlet/receptacle in the wall, and the (hairdryer, etc) plugged in behind the drawer? That doesn't seem too practical... Is the outlet in the drawer, with some sort of extension corn between the drawer back and the wall? How does that work?

Inquiring minds want to know!

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I've seen this done...and I generally think it's a really bad idea. Here are the problems: 1) if the receptacle's mounted to the drawer, the supply cord to the receptacle is being flexed every time the drawer is opened and can crack or get trapped; 2) if the receptacle is mounted in a stationary position at the back of the cabinet, and the cords go out through the back of the drawer, whatever is plugged into the receptacle can also be flexed or can get trapped; and 3) if a heat generating appliance such as a curling iron is permanently plugged in inside a drawer it is too easy to put it away when it is still on and start a fire. Sometimes electricians will use special strain relief connectors and cords to make this safer, but this is still a problematic type of installation in my view. And, in any case, it is something that may not even be permitted in your jurisdiction.

If it were me and I was determined to do something like this, but wanted to do it more safely so I wouldn't have to worry about an electrical problem several years down the line, I would install an outlet in the back of a cabinet, with the drawer fixed in place, and use hinge hardware so the drawer front could flip down. That way there are no moving parts to get damaged, and you can still reach in and pull out your plugged-in appliance. Of course, you can still start a fire with an appliance left on, but, I guess that's your call. I wouldn't do it: the potential problems outweigh the minor advantage in my opinion.

If you check out the link below, you can see that I'm not alone in this view...

Here is a link that might be useful: Drawer receptacle

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 3:20AM
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I was asking about this myself and it is kinda hard to do the search and find it, well at least when I did the search. What they did was put the electrical outlet in the wall behind the drawer. Then they pull the drawer out plug in the hairdryer, replace the drawer and then the cord just goes over the top of the back of the drawer and into the wall socket. Most drawers don't go all the way to the back of the wall so there is room.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 8:57AM
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Seems perfectly safe when used as intended. We will be installing one following the linked instructions below.

Here is a link that might be useful: dryer drawer

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 1:03PM
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It's hard to evaluate your plan as the link doesn't work for me, at least at the moment...

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 3:06PM
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The back of the drawer does not go all the way to the wall.
There is no crimping of the cord. There is no more flexing to the cord than if it was plugged into an outlet above the vanity. Nothing is trapped. It's just plugged in two feet lower than normal and out of sight. If I used a curling iron (I don't) I'd let it cool before placing it back in the drawer or I'd have a fireproof *tray* of some sort to place it on if I put it away hot enough to cause a fire.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 3:57PM
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I must be missing something....why not just take the dryer out (which you need to do anyways) and plug it into the outlet along the vanity? Oh, it saves 2 seconds.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 7:32PM
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Materials List

-Finished drawer box, ready to be installed
-SurgeMaster surge protector.
Fleming cuts the surge protector off and uses the plug-end, because it is offset at a 90-degree angle (allowing the best clearance) and because the plug-end swivels

-Plastic outlet box 1¼ inches deep by 2 3/8 inches wide by 3½ inches long

-Receptacle and receptacle cover

To do this, Fleming shortens a standard drawer box to leave 2 inches between the back of the box and the back of the cabinet. So for a 21-inch drawer, he builds a custom 18-inch box to allow for clearance for the plug. The electrician must provide a wall outlet located approximately even with the opening in the rear of the drawer box.

"Then we use an SO Cord  a flat extension cord with prongs at a 90-degree angle. We cut it to 3½ feet long, with the molded end wired into the outlet box. We place another outlet behind the drawer, mounted on the wall," says the owner of Classic Remodeling.

There's a handy pic at the website.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 7:32PM
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Actually, parkplaza, storing a dryer in the drawer as described is safer. Non-drawer users wind the cord around the dryer in storage, weakening it and causing a fire hazard along with shortened dryer life.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 7:53PM
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i had lots of these installed in our last home and am planning for more again. and yes, in the past i tended to wrap the cords around all the small appliances since there was no other solution. true, it takes little time to take something out of a drawer and plug it in but i found myself in a hurry so often that i'd end up leaving the hair dryer lying around on the counter. and since i was only going to use it again the next day i may as well just not put it away at all. of course i was always rushing to my office then. i would of course put it away now if i needed to. but it's such an amazing convenience i could never imagine not doing it this way.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 10:11PM
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This is a huge convience for me and one of my favorite things in the remodel --- I know sometimes it is the small things that make you so happy. Mine is the same as monicakm's pic - fixed outlet in the back of the cabinet with an extension cord. There is plenty of space in the back and over the back of the drawer - safety is not an issue. This does save me time in the morning and yes - it may only be a few minutes but sometimes I don't have a few minutes and need all the help I can get!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 1:00PM
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I asked for of these and my electrician suggested locating the outlet on the wall a few inches to the side of the drawer so that I will be able to check to make sure it is okay by looking into the cabinet under the sink.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 8:34PM
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OK, what about a wall-mounted hair dryer? I've had one for 10 years, and it may not be gorgeous, but it's safe and extremely convenient. (However, in my remodel, I do want to have outlets in medicine cabinets for our Sonicares . . .)

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 8:46PM
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I do not get it either. No way is it safer. So you just drop this contraption into the drawer, the cord is still a big mess either way. Do not get it.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 9:46PM
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We didn't do it...it just didn't seem like that much of a time saver and I never leave it out on the counter anyway. I have a nice deep full-extension drawer with all my hair goop to the front and my hair dryer (cord not tidied, because I'll just unwind it tomorrow!) dumped in the back.

We did have our contractor put outlets in the inset medicine cabinets for the electric toothbrushes...love that. I love an empty counter!

Here is a link that might be useful: outlet in medicine cabinet

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 10:20AM
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Youngdeb, that's a *gorgeous* medicine cabinet!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 10:51AM
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It looks like there are three points of view:

1) It's a potential fire/electrical hazard, or
2) It's so convenient, and I haven't had a problem yet, or
3) What's the big deal about having it?

As Fox News says: You Decide

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 1:30PM
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how is it I have missed seeing pics of your remodel?!? Gorgeous!!!! Totally fantastic. Is there a kitchen someplace???

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 3:00PM
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I am in the midst of a remodel right now and have done this. Rather than drawers, I have a cabinet door with a couple of pullouts behind it. The sides don't go all the way up on them, so there was room to mount an outlet on the wall about midway from front to back. I had originally planned to do it like the picture above, but this seemed more practical as our plans unfolded. I was like why have it in the back when we could just have it on the left wall?

If someone can post a link to remind me how to post pics, I will post a pic of it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 8:46PM
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That's nice! No kitchen in this house, we did one in ourlast house that was a 40's bungalow. This is a MCM house, but the PO did the kitchen and actually did a great job, so we're leaving it be for now. A few cosmetic upgrades at some stage, but I'm still recovering from decision overload from our latest work!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 10:39PM
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I say go for it but heed the warnings!!! I get chastised all the time in some of the forums for supporting and helping folks accomplish unconventional work.

I'll admit, I am not one of those who will use scare tactics like "you'll burn your house down" or "The mattress police will lock you up if you tear that tag off". Many codes and safety precautions are made by as little as one negative incident. Others are made to justify a councils existence. I have sat in on some of these "policy making" sessions and it is unbelievable how some things come about when handed to a committee.

With that said, I'd like to support KUDZU9 's warning. And I think what he is saying is "if you are going to do this, be aware of the possibilities". I've witnessed scenario's where the parents left for work, the teenage daughter did her hair and left the curling iron on and went to school. Cologne, after shave, cosmetics, hair gel, etc. contain flammable and combustible materials. Some basins are made of no more than plastic. How many of us who claim to be conscientious and responsible have "left something" on when we left the house. Any distraction could cause us to do that.

I see nothing wrong with doing things, such as the above, out of the ordinary as long as you know the possibilities and use "due diligence" when doing them. Taking care of some of the "what ifs" can give you piece of mind. For example, I've seen some really good looking, long tins that would fit into the drawer where a hot curling iron can be dropped in. Taking the warning and doing something about will help you (Kudzu9 and me) sleep better. Common sense should kick in somewhere in the operation.

The below site is from a web search which gives statistics on various fire causes. With enough information, "risk management" will be easy!!


    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 9:17AM
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I would give serious consideration to putting a mechanical timer on a receptacle that has an always plugged in heat producing appliance present.
Mount the timer in a surface box a the front of the drawer.
Open drawer, set timer, use curling iron.

Even if someone shoved the iron back in the drawer, the timer would shut off the receptacle.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 2:27PM
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I think since you are doing this initially, the timer suggestion would be a good idea. Another thought as I've been going over this in my mind. If you put the recepticle behind the drawer on the wall, the cord may end up too short for someone to do their hair. I think an extension cord would be unwise. Also, in that position, resetting a GFI would be a bit cumbersome.

In my own home, we had 2 issues that required a receptacle to be placed. Since I'm out numbered by women here, I had to address the issue where the cord catches on drawer pulls. So we have drawer pulls in all the bathrooms that don't catch wires. We all were also looking for a way to protect our electric tooth brushes from the "toilet flush/toothbrush" issue. I removed the wooden medicine cabinets and ran branch circuits so when the cabinets were replaced, the receptacles were inside and the toothbrushes could recharge inside all the cabinets. It turns out the receptacles are used for curling irons and blow driers and so far, no complaints.

Another thought I had...the receptacle could be installed in the drawer itself. The connection to the circuit would be via a coiled pigtail designed for movement, such as doors, windows, etc. I've bought them from my supplier, don't know if they are sold retail. I'm sure someone online sells them. It would make resetting the GFI easier and the cord would reach further.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 9:43AM
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maryland_irisman: Can you tell me what the technical name for the coiled cable would be? I googled around and could not find anything. I could go ask at our electrical supply place on Monday- but we need to do rough electrical this weekend and I'd love to see if this is an option for us :)

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 6:01PM
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I did a quick search for "coiled cable" on line, here's the first of the list that came up. You can refine your search from there.


Another thought was a retractable cord. There are various contraptions designed for commercial applications.

Another real simple solution would be to use a stranded wire pigtail (stranded wire is designed for movement of the wire.) and let it droop behind the drawer, allowing the drawer to be pulled open and closed, into a receptacle in the drawer. Make sure it is secured to the electrical box with the proper lug so that it won't be inadvertently pulled out. Your refrigerator doors or even your car doors can give you some idea what you would be doing. You can look to hinge areas to see how they ran flexible wire to power any electrical's in the doors.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2009 at 10:24AM
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