How many outlets in the backsplash area?

rocketmomkdFebruary 21, 2012

After reading the electric code, is seems we need to have an outlet every two feet along the counter top. That seems like alot to me! I don't think I need that many, but if it's code I'll have to do it. Do you all have that many? If so, do you use them all?

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Not only do I have the, but I had quads put in.
Single outlets are electrically useless in this day and age - at least for me.
I find even in my den, I wish I'd put in 6!

I think the 2' isn't taking into consideration there could be more at in each box.

More is better than not enough or trying to put those 4-outlet things into your 2-holed outlet!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 9:18AM
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Local code here sez 4 feet between them plus one needs to be a dedicated microwave circuit. We did not hide our outlets but have them quite obviously positioned. Am glad--this is a working kitchen. If one outlet is already full, I can move a few feet to the side and access another one. I don't think that there is any outlet that hasn't had at last one item plugged in and some consistently serve two items. Think through the positions--in our case because of windows we have outlets where the space allowed. There is one outlet where I wish there I could serve 3 plugs--coffee maker, coffee grinder, plus a lamp. The microwave circuit is very closeby--we anticipated this and had to put the two outlets about a foot apart, but because the microwave outlet lies directly behind the appliance, there is an unused outlet opening on it.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 9:20AM
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Yes it's code and yes I have that many. One wall is about 12 ft. long with a 36 inch cooktop in the middle and there are 2 outlets on each side of the cooktop. Another section of counter is about 5 ft. And it has 2 outlets. I will never use that many outlets but at least it gives you lots of options on where you can plug things in and you don't have to see electric cords stretched across your counters/ backsplash areas.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 9:24AM
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I have more outlets than code required. We went down to the studs, so I had an extra set of outlets put in. They may not get much use, but far better to have too many than too few.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 9:33AM
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Our code says there must be outlets every 2 feet of counter space. We are using undermount type outlets, which will go on the underside of the upper cabinets (and will be hidden by the undercabinet light valence). That way, you don't break up the look of the pretty backsplash tile.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:43AM
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Circus Peanut

Ours also have to be GFCI outlets, too, or in a chain of outlets where the first is GFCI.

If you want to disguise them, Lutron makes gorgeous outlets and switchplates in lots of great colors, even GFCIs.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:12AM
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The code is that no point on the counter can be further than 2' from an outlet. That is because of the length of appliance cords. They don't want you using extension cords in the kitchen. However, to achieve code compliance only requires outlets every 4 feet along the backsplash. The midpoint between the 4 feet is the 2' maximum distance from any outlet.

(That answers your direct question, but I took the liberty of adding additional information regarding the electrical requirements in a kitchen remodel.)

You should also have two dedicated 20 amp small appliance circuits. Practically speaking, I prefer that the outlets alternate between the two circuits. ABABAB, etc. I also prefer to have 3 circuits, as electrical needs have done nothing but increase over time. So, ABCABC. That will avoid you overloading any single circuit and tripping the breaker. Of course, these outlets are all GFCI protected. If you have a gas range, it can use an outlet from the small appliance circuits to supply the power needed to operate it's electric ignition.

You also deed dedicated circuits for the refrigerator, microwave, vent, and any hot water dispenser or chiller. The DW and disposal traditionally share a single circuit. None of these are GFCI protected. If you have an electric range, it will need it's own 50 amp circuit, but if this is new wiring, I'd err on future upgradability and put in wiring suitable for a 60 amp circuit (4 gauge) because future induction ranges may require that much power. Just install the breaker required by the current range, and if you ever upgrade, because the wire is already there, all that will need to be done is change the breaker. Separate wall ovens and cooktops should have separate 50 amp circuits. I might also upgrade the wire for a cooktop for future technological breakthroughs as well.

You will also need separate circuits for your under cabinet lighting. Depending on the maximum number of fixtures served by your kitchen's current overhead light circuit, the electricity can be sourced from that circuit. It can NOT be sourced from the small appliance circuits on the backsplash. That is a code violation.

And this is why a "simple" kitchen remodel can turn into such a costly project if the home is more than a few years old. Older homes began life with 60 or 100 amp panel, and they can't electrically handle the demands of a modern kitchen without upgrading that panel, and possibly the wire from the utility service coming into the home. The standard service is now 200 amps, and many newer homes are putting in 400 amp services as 200 amps has become borderline for family homes with lots of electronics. If I had to upgrade to 200 amps, I would certainly investigate the price difference in just going ahead to 400. Luckily, I live in an oddball older home with an 800 amp service, so I never have any electrical demand issues.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:18AM
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I believe code is not more than 2' from any point along the counter which makes it 4' between outlets. And what circuspeanut said about GFCI outlets or chained where the first is GFCI is how I understand code.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:19AM
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I agree its overkill, but it is pretty much a code requirement everywhere now. It looks, however, as if some are confused about the actual requirement.

Its not an outlet every two feet...its that any area of 12" or longer must have an outlet no farther than 2' (linearly) from any spot on the other words, if you have a 4' or less counter, you need one outlet in the area (assuming it is centered). The outlet is then only 2' or less from each end.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:20AM
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I was beaten to the punch! Sorry for the redundent info...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:22AM
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NOT two feet.

And then you can move them around a little for symmetry while obeying the no more than 24 inches from a receptacle rules.
Nothing looks worse than just putting them every four feet without regard to counter arrangement.

Sinks and ranges also create areas without receptacles being required.

They all must be GFCI protected.
You can either install all GFCI receptacles, or install one and connect regular grounded receptacles to the LOAD side of the GFCI receptacle, or even use a GFCI circuit breaker ($$).

Two 20 amp circuits are also required.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:31AM
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There is an easy source of confusion on this topic. The National Electrical Code, NEC, (upon which most local codes are based), requires "that no point along the wall line is more than 600 mm (24 in.) measured horizontally from a receptacle outlet in that space." (Article 210.52(C)(1)) That is NOT the same as saying you need one every 2 ft. If other factors align, i.e., on a straight, uninterrupted counter run, you only need one every 4 ft. (That is the max. distance they could be.) Sinks and ranges are said to divide a counter into different parts, each of which must meet the requirement stated above.

I would be kinda surprised if your local code really requires 2x the number of outlets as the NEC.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:35AM
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We haven't figured out our locations yet but will be doing so this Friday - so very helpful.
GC says every 4 feet (which matches what I am reading above)
I am thinking of some quads in high use areas also.
Abbeys - what system are you putting under the cabinets? I am considering it but not sure.
Are you also putting in under cabinet lighting?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:46AM
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And as an addendum to the above, any counter space larger than 12" needs an outlet above it. So if you have a range with a small cabinet ending a run, and that small cabinet is a 9" tray base, you won't need an outlet above it. If the cabinet is a 12" base, you WILL need an outlet above it. So all of those isolated little runs of separate counter will need at least an outlet. If the counter is no longer than 48" and you are able to perfectly center (which as was explained often is a wrong choice aestheticaly, and thus you would need more outlets) an outlet there, all you will need would be a single duplex outlet. I prefer quad outlets instead of duplex, but if it is indeed a small 12" run, a duplex outlet would be fine.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:51AM
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Thanks everyone for great info.
livewire- the extra info is great! Def be needing that. Another question since you all seem to know so much- Here's a pic of our layout. On the right is a 42" bar height wall. It is 36" from the back wall(wall where the sink is) to my range and the backsplash is only about 6". Do I still need to follow the 24" rule here?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 12:50PM
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Yes, the pony wall counts as a wall. You must have an outlet above the small section of counter to the right of the range. In addition, I would also add outlets to the end of the wall there in case you wanted to plug in a crock pot or warmer for serving when using the counter as a buffet.

However, I would reverse your layout and put the sink there and the range where you have the sink. An island hood is much more expensive and difficult to vent by thousands. Putting the range on the back wall would make a better focal point and make venting MUCH easier.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 1:53PM
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is that a peninsula on the left hand side- if so, you may need to put an outlet on the end of it to meet the 24" rule. Our peninsula is 5' from the wall to the end and we had to put one in. Ugly and never used but we didn't have a choice.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 2:27PM
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blfenton- yes it is a penninsula and it's 6' long. I know we'll need to put one there. I agree, it will be ugly to be the first thing you see as you walk into my kitchen on the end of the penninsula.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 2:38PM
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What about this type of setup? I was liking this a whole lot better than any outlets in the backsplash. Can this be used in place of the traditional and meet code?

eclectic kitchen design by san diego interior designer Bonnie Bagley Allied Member ASID, NKBA

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 3:01PM
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I'm putting in one every 16". Outlets are cheap, and I don't want to be running cords across other stuff on the counter, or hunting for a free outlet.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 3:21PM
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One thing to consider about that, deedles, is that then all your cords are snaking down quite visibly instead of being hidden behind the blender/toaster/whatever.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 3:37PM
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Yes, that's true. My plan (haha) is to have my counter clear when I'm not cooking, so theoretically, cords wouldn't be an issue. Not sure I'd care about cords showing when I was using the appliance. The coffee pot and grinder are going on a smaller cabinet off the main counter area and probably will stay plugged in, so there could be a regular plug down low. I just thought it made for a tidy backsplash look.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 4:17PM
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I also just did the plug mold, as pictured above. I thought I was getting the power strip looking kind, but they just installed a regular outlet mounted under the cab. I asked why, they said it interferes less with the under cab lighting, which is mounted next to. They can't pull the cab lighting forward. They can't have any wires exposed. Soma long the back of the cabs run the light bar, and an outlet . I didn't want my backsplash interrupted by the outlets. The one area whee I will be keeping stuff plugged in (coffee, ect), I had a regular wall outlet installed, so I wouldn't see the cords above.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 4:19PM
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Yes deedles that counts. We do not have a single visible outlet anywhere in our backsplash. You can also use a standard electrical box thingy upside down on the bottom of your cabinet which is what we did in certain areas b/c we did not want to pay for plugmold.

We have areas w/ no upper cabinets to hide outlets in and we had outlets put into the side panels of the fridge and appliance cabinet, and then had a magnetic wood piece made to fit over them. The wood piece can pop off IF you want to plug something in, but otherwise the side panels look uninterrupted and you cannot tell there are outlets there, and our backsplash is outlet free.

Writersblock is right though and we would not have done this if we planned to have appliances on our counters. We do not. We will keep them in the appliance cabinet.

We also put a long strip of plug mold under our island area for plugging in laptops, etc.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 4:20PM
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Oh, that's called a "plugmold?" So what you and Christine are referring to otherwise is just a regular plug box mounted upside down on the bottom of the cab? And the electrical box isn't too deep that you'd see it from the side and the box doesn't have to stick up into the cabinet box at all (just trying to get DH's questions answered before he asks them)?

Christine: am I right that what you said is that they just put a regular one way up high on the wall under your cabs so it wouldn't interfere with the undercab lighting but it's not under the cabinet bottom like beagle is referring to?

I'm liking that under the cab thing if the answers to my questions are what I hope they are. I can just see trying to get this UNHEARD OF type of wiring past the DH firewall. God love him but when introduced to new stuff the initial reaction is usually skeptical/negative to the 10th power. He usually comes around, though if like water dropping on stone, I keep talking.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 5:42PM
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Deedles, what you showed in your picture is called plugmold. There is regular and angled plugmold. I believe it is like $100-$150 for a strip of it and I sort of remember that only contractors can buy it (maybe I don't know why I think that). I believe you do need to have at least some molding on the bottom of the cabinets for it to be hidden. You can also get thin electrical boxes and those will work too as long as you have at least some molding.

You cannot see the electrical boxes under or inside of our cabinets at all. Both of these cabinets here in this picture below have electrical boxes underneath them:

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 5:52PM
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You can use what they call "pancake" boxes under the cabinets themselves with a light rail molding. Plugmold is available at the box stores in an ugly beige, but an electrical wholesaler can sell your electrician the better looking stuff. It is a premium to install because it's difficult to work with.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 5:57PM
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Mine is a metal electrical type box, shallower than a regular box, mounted beside the undercab lights. I will snap a pic and post when I get the chance.....check back for me tomorrow! No time this eventing, sorry.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 8:22PM
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We have angled plugmolds under all our upper cabinets. There are no visible outlets. The only appliance we leave out is the coffee maker (which covers up the hanging cord, anyway.)

I can't remember a time when I had more than one thing plugged into a given outlet on the perimeter, but it is lovely to have options to plug in all along the counter. (My island is another story..... it constantly has laptop chargers, cell phone chargers, etc. plugged in)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 9:39PM
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Okay then, thanks all. At least now I have an idea of what I'm talking about. I'll look forward to your pic, christine. I, too can't imagine having to plug in more than one thing under the 18" pr. of cabs next to my stove so probably a single box there would be fine.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:01PM
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For your penninsula you could use the type of outlet pictured below. It has a cover that is paintable so it will blend with your cabinet and be nearly invisible. You can get more information about them on

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:05PM
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There have been several posts regarding plugmold since this thread, I posted my pics of my under cabinet outlets on this thread!

Here is a link that might be useful: Pics of under cab outlets

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 2:00PM
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Hope it's ok to piggyback onto this topic. My question seems related.

For a boxed bay window in the dinette area, right next to the kitchen, there will be added vanity height cabinets with a countertop. The countertop surface will be the same as that used in the kitchen, but at a lower height.

The boxed bay itself is 8ft wide by 2ft deep. The present plan is to only have outlets (GFCI) on the left and right sides of the box bay. However that would mean more than 2ft from an outlet to the center of the counter, and would not satisfy the 2ft/4ft rule.

The main problem is that there isn't enough space between the window and countertop to add an outlet (unless the size of the window is changed, or the cabinets shortened, neither of which is a good option here).

So here is my question. Could this new countertop be considered as not part of the kitchen, since it is really in the dinette area, and thus not be subject to the 2ft/4ft rule?

When standing in the kitchen, looking at the back wall, the boxed bay (and new counter) starts right where the existing kitchen counter ends (but with new counter at lower height, and set back into the bay).

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 11:59AM
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Sophie Wheeler

That is a judgement call from your local code inspector. Draw out the problem so that he can view an elevation. Then take a trip to his office first thing before he gets out into the field doing inspections.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 12:23PM
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Thanks very much for the advice !

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 4:26PM
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