When design clashes with electrical code . . . WWYD?

MizLizzieMay 1, 2013

So, kitchen is now down to 2x4s and a little drywall. New cabs arrive Monday-ish. My contractor's crew has measured them out against the drywall and come up with an electrical issue. The KD's plan places a small china cabinet left of sink. (See drawing.) The run of countertop between sink and the cab is just enough that code will require an outlet. But the window is framed with four 2x4s -- yes, count 'em -- four. Why? No one seems sure. This was not seen until post-demo. So there really is not room for an outlet face plate on the left side. Just the outlet will fit. Barely. So . . .

Option #1 is to wedge in the outlet, but rip down the faceplate on the china side. The faceplate will be tucked up against the china, and the rough edge will be a little hidden by the applied side panel. But still . . . it will look crammed in and cut down.

Option #2 is to cut into the side of the china cabinet and fit the outlet into the side of it, instead of in the backsplash. This will meet code. We will have to cut into the cabinet and the applied panel, and build a box on the inside of the cabinet to hold the wiring. This will require the 2 small drawers to be cut down in the back as well. So I'll lose a little drawer space.

Option #3, the electrician's plan, was to shave into the right 2x4 with a sawz-all and fit the box into it, but KC says that won't get past our city's very anal inspectors, and they will consider it structurally compromising. So nix that.

Option #4 is to go forward with Option #1. Get past the inspector. Then after inspection is complete, have my brother in law remove the outlet, cap the wires, and have the backsplash tile guy come back and set a full piece of tile over the hole. This does not bother me ethically. I do not want or need the outlet there. If we ever sold the house, I would reinstall the outlet, having salvaged the old tile.

So what would you do? My faceplates are decor plates in a shade of dark almond that very, very closely matches the Rixi dore field tile. Is this the sort of outlet that only I will see? If I want to go with Option #2, I have to decide no later than tomorrow.

Interestingly, the one option that I would have liked -- to put the outlet inside the china cab -- will not meet code. Sigh.

On the other hand, this is (so far) the worst issue we've run into. The plumbing roughed in easily, and the electrical is almost done. All smoothly. Any advice from the experts?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Can you put the outlet below the window?

It's hard to imagine that the four 2x4's around the window can't be cut down. Since you're down to studs anyway, can't you cut out for the outlet box, and frame above and below it? That would seem to be simplest way to meet the code requirement. I'd hate to cut into the china cabinet.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would go for the electrician's idea. If there are 4 2x4's, only two are needed for structural purposes (most likely). Often extra wood will be added in a window opening to fill space when the window was installed if it wasn't sized perfectly to the opening.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Cutting into the 2x4 would be my preference but the KC will not do it. He says the inspector will call him on it, and he won't take responsibility.

The idea of mounting the outlet sideways behind the sink and under the window was mentioned. Somehow the idea of one outlet mounted sideways when all the others are right side up bothered me. Not sure.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Option #2. If you use a shallow work box, you can put it in the china section and a plate will hide it, or you could use a skin and panel around it so that it disappears from view. Or, if you did it horizontal, one drawer would need to be notched, but that's not a big deal at all. Get one of the paintable outlet covers and order a bit of your cabinet paint and the outlet will completely disappear.

Or, challenge your inspector. The code reads that any counter section longer than 12" must have an outlet. Behind the sink doesn't count, and that doesn't look like 12" to me.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 12:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mama goose_gw zn6OH

Having an outlet in the cabinet side wouldn't bother me, but if you really don't want or need it there ... can you do option #2, but put the outlet in the cupboard section, instead of the drawer section, and use a 'sacrificial' fake cabinet skin (cheap beadboard or a scrap of something). After the inspection, remove the outlet as you planned in option #4, remove the fake skin, then install/reinstall the real cabinet panel?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 12:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Does your local code allow a popup electrical socket, per NEC 2011?

Eclectic Kitchen by Mountain View General Contractor Harrell Remodeling

Contemporary Kitchen by Denver Design-build Design Platform

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think this is the type of thing that seems very serious when considered in isolation . . . but when you look at the entire room, finished and decorated . . . it's not such a big deal.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The space is 15" from sink edge to cupboard edge, sadly. Now I'm wishing I'd ordered a bigger sink! Ha.

I did consider ordering an extra applied panel for the right side of the china, and patching the inside of the cab after the electrical box came out. But I think, honestly, that a tile patch will be cheaper. If I go with that option, I will have the tile guy cut tile to fit both scenarios when he comes the first time. Then he won't have to drag out all his equipment to chisel out the cut tile and apply the solid tile. Or -- remarkable thought -- I might be able to do it myself. I once tiled and grouted my own kitchen floor and countertop back when that sort of thing was popular and my knees weren't arthritic.

And -- yes, it is always a possibility -- that the outlet won't look as crappy as I think. I guess I could put a vase in that corner and keep it filled with eucalyptus or gladioli.

Ya know, I'm normally very pro-inspection, and I think these laws pertaining to building code really do matter. I don't even run yellow lights, for heaven's sake. But in a case like this, a reasonable homeowner ought to get a little leeway.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mrs Pete, I hope you are right. I kind of think you might be. I think it will depend on how the plate looks on the tile. How it looks when the light hits it, etc.

Oh, I LOVE those pop-up sockets!!!!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"If you use a shallow work box"

You will likely exceed box fill limits.

If only two studs are required, pull out the extras.

Make SURE they are extra and not part of a local requirement.

Minimum box fill is 2 for receptacle, + 1 for grounds + 1 for hot + 1 for neutral = 5 #12 wires and you need to use a separate outside cable clamp.
Inside cable clamps = +1

This post was edited by brickeyee on Wed, May 1, 13 at 13:43

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What about a Sillite?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just did one of these as LWO suggests, horizontal in a shallow box, had a matching cover plate from cabinet company- the drawer box did not need to be notched
and it fit wires without issue.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Would using Silllites provide any help? I've seen others use them in islands or window trim. It's a single round socket which is installed in a minimal depth of wood. I plan to use these for my island, and possibly the window if required by code (due to enlarged counter-height window).


It may not help in your situation however.

This post was edited by seosmp on Wed, May 1, 13 at 14:43

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

seosmp, THANK you. Have shown the electrician your link and he says it should work. Have fired off an email to the KC. I would mount the thing in the lower most corner of the applied panel, all the way to the rear. I hope that will work.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 2:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Will the electrial code allow for the plug to be placed in a drawer? I thought there was an exception in the code that allowed for a receptacle to be placed below the countertop if there was no space for it on the wall ... ?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 2:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Circus Peanut

Can you place the outlet below the sink, on the back of the sink cupboard wall? That's how it was done in my current house to meet local inspector's code; don't know if this is universally applicable. (It's a quad outlet so there are still 3 open receptacle slots after garbage disposal is plugged in.)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 2:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sure - hopefully it will work out!

Angie_DIY - I see we had the same thought! I did not see your post before posting my message :).

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 2:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I used sillites and checked with my municipality's electrical inspector beforehand to make sure my applications followed code.

One I set into the end of a stud wall behind my fridge to avoid placing it smack dab in the middle of my peninsula's end panel, ugly for the whole world to see. (It still needed a longer screw to pull it tightly in when I took this pic.)

I used another at the back of my island to satisfy code for outlets on both sides of my island's prep sink.

The footprint is much smaller than a duplex outlet, and works well for when code dictates an outlet but you don't want to use a large, duplex outlet for aesthetic reasons. Code can be so frustrating sometimes!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 3:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Circuspeanut, I asked that but they said no. I was agreeable to have one inside the cab, even, but they said no.

Breezy, those look amazing! I am going to put one in my prep island instead of a duplex.

I wonder, honestly, that people don't use them more in backspashes. I use only about 25% of the outlets I have now. If I had just one little circle every few feet, and the GFIs interspersed appropriately, I would be a happy camper and just slap the painted covers on until needed.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 3:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, sillites aren't cheap, and folks are used to the traditional duplex.

Another electrical tip from an "I hate electrical code" person. Put your GFI outlets upstream of your backsplash outlets so you don't have to install those ugly monsters so visibly. I hid mine in my pantry. They meet code for protecting the rest of the kitchen and are invisible. Granted, I didn't need two GFI duplexes in my pantry, but it was a small price to pay, IMHO.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 5:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

breezygirl - you can actually get GFI breakers and have all normal outlets.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 5:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd apply for a variance on the grounds of the 4 2x4s.

Just because they are anal about procedures doesn't mean they won't grant a variance--it usually just means that they need the application in triplicate and a good reason (which you have).

Or if it's not too late, I'd make the china cabinet just enough wider that the counter run wasn't enough to require an outlet.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 5:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mama goose_gw zn6OH

I was just watching an episode of This Old House online, and saw an idea that you might be able to use.

Here is a link that might be useful: look at 5:45

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 6:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Seosmp, that is okay. It appears the OP did not see my message either! Glad it will work out.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:33PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
It starts with the sink... Kohler Stages 33 or 45?
Hi all, I'm new to the forum and just starting a kitchen...
Week 45: He'p me!
He'p me! I have no idea what to ask about this week,...
Advice Please, granite overhang
We've been planning on 1.5” granite overhangs --...
Help with galley kitchen layout ... please.
Hi everyone! I am hoping you can help me with my layout...
Sexist or Fun?
Trouble from young feminists over this billboard.
Joseph Corlett, LLC
Sponsored Products
Kenya Clashing Bucks Wrapped Canvas
$99.99 | zulily
Jamie Young St Charles Mercury Glass Pendant Chandelier
Lamps Plus
Ramon Soler by Nameeks US-4734K Bath Shower Mixer - RAMON SOLER US-4734K
$760.98 | Hayneedle
Shift Shelving Unit
$197.99 | Dot & Bo
Polyester Diamante Shower Curtain - Gray
Signature Hardware
Crystal Rectangle Column Table Lamp
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™