Height of kitchen receptacles

lourockMay 15, 2006

Hello everyone, More questions. My wife has requested that I place the countertop receptacles as close to the bottom of the wall cabinets as possible. This is a complete remodel, back to the studs, and we have not purchased the cabinets yet. How high do I need to place these receptacles from the floor?

We are also going to install a microwave/hood combo. How should I address the wiring for these two? Thanks again

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Ron Natalie

The countertop receptacle may be anywhere from the countertop up to 20" above the countertop. You have to space them such that no countertop more than 12" wide is without a point on the wall (horizontally only) more than 24" from a receptacle (other requirements apply for peninsulas and islands). The kitchen has to be served by (at least) 2 20A dedicated circuits.

The hood/microwave manufacturer information will spell out the requirements, but they usually require a 15 or 20A dedicated 120V circuit.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 1:34PM
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20A GFCI required for countertop plugs now.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 6:25PM
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bigbbird, is that Canada? You were allowed 15a correct?

We have been 20a circuits for quite some time. We not too long ago added "ALL" kitchen counter recetpacles to the GFI protected list, not just within 6'.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 6:34PM
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We were 15A split receptacles, now 20A split GFCI countertops, just like you.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 7:09PM
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No, no split receptacles required. Just two 20a circuits minimum.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 8:25PM
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Standard measurements are 36" from finished floor to top of countertop and then 18" from top of countertop to bottom of upper cabinets. But, standards only go so far. Floors can be out of level and cabinets get shimmed. To accurately install kitchen electrical requires full working drawings of the kitchen cabinets. There are so many obstacles to deal with and still end up within appliance and code requirements.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 9:11PM
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Thanks folks, I believe I will go with the 36" and 18" for the receptacles.
For the Hood/Microwave I know I need separate circuits. Do I install outlets in the upper cabinets, J-boxes in the cabinets, wire coming out of the wall? Whats the best way?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 9:25AM
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Ron Natalie

You need to look at the instructions for the particular unit. It will tell you where and what sort of termination the circuit needs.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 10:46AM
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Pretty much every OTR micro I have done has needed a receptacle inside the cabinet above, to the right side.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 3:56PM
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In the USA (NEC territory) the circuits need to have a 20 amp capacity, and there needs to be at least 2 such circuits. However, the individual receptacles can all be the NEMA 5-15R configuration (e.g. won't accept a 20 amp plug).

Split receptacles are not required, but they are allowed.

The ability to plug in an appliance that needs a 20 amp circuit really should be done on a dedicated circuit. Plugging in such an appliance on the regular multi-outlet circuits means you are pushing that circuit to its maximum capacity immediately, which means you can have overload problems using the same circuit elsewhere in the kitchen.

Where there might be an issue is people who use a split receptacle and put each receptacle on a separate circuit. Since the code requires the circuit be a 20 amp circuit, and also requires that a circuit with a single outlet be protected at the rating of the outlet, this may require the NEMA 5-20R configuration. This comes down to the interpretation the rule regarding the rating. A duplex NEMA 5-15R receptacle is really rated at 20 amps. But whether that rating is usable when the receptacle is split to still protect it with a 20 amp breaker is the issue.

My own kitchen receptacle plan avoids that issue. Each point where receptacles will be located will have 2 duplexes (4 outlets total). The left duplex will be on one circuit and the right duplex will be on the other circuit. For my own reasons (not required by code) these will be wired with split neutrals (not shared) and use a 2-pole breaker so that if the breaker is opened (intentionally or tripped) everything in the same box will be de-energized. I can then wire this arrangement with a separate breaker for each outlet box (a lot of circuits) or parallel everything (2 120 volt circuits) or something in between (say, maybe 4 120 volt circuits). One reason for putting 4 outlets this way is I want to have the ability to have 2 plugs in without one being above the other. They will all be 5-15R (not 5-20R), which is fine on a 20 amp circuit because it is at least 2 outlets per circuit. I may also have additional outlets with 5-20R, 6-15R, or larger, if I identify specific appliances that need them.

Personally, I think the "at least 2 circuits of 20 amps each" rule is a bit silly. I think instead, it should be "at least 2 circuits of 15 or 20 amps each with at least a total capacity of 40 amps in these circuits". With the latter rule, 3 circuits of 15 amps would be allowed, and satisfy all the intentions I can see for a kitchen. Personally, I prefer an even higher total capacity in the kitchen, since peak demands in rare instances could be very high, such as when "the family is all here" and you end up with half a dozen cooks in the kitchen, each having brought along their favorite monster cooking appliance. Though rare, the 5-20R and maybe even the 6-15R might be needed (along with some big A/C BTUs).

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 4:41PM
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(We were 15A split receptacles, now 20A split GFCI countertops, just like you.)????????Where in Canada do you live bigbird ????????????????and how do you split a gfci?unless it's just the breaker.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 5:03PM
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Yes, a two-pole GFCB.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 7:21PM
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gfcb cool never seen one,i just finished up a block app in montreal and as far as i know canada has the same old rules from the 2002 canadian code.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 7:15PM
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I'd think twice about putting receptacles right below the upper cabinets. People think they are hiding them, but when in use all you see is a bunch of very ugly cords dangling down. A better spot might be right above the counter top, mounted horizontally. Wherever you put them, be sure to use a level to make sure they are at the same height. A new tile job can really show off how unlevel they are sometimes.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 5:57PM
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How much capacity does an insta-hot use? Can it be added to an existing circuit in place for a disposal or DW? The disposal and DW are run on 20 amp breaker, 14-3. Would a better option be to combine with a circuit that has 3 countertop outlets and one wall outlet? How about with the dedicated circuit for the MW or the dedicated circuit for the fridge? Running a new circuit would be a big undertaking that I'm trying to avoid. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 11:59AM
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You are not allowed to use the countertop receptacle circuit for anything else. I'm not sure about the DW/disposal circuit. However, if the hot water dispenser's instructions call for a separate circuit for it, then you'll have to provide one.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 12:26PM
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"The disposal and DW are run on 20 amp breaker, 14-3."

You already have problems. You cannot put 14awg on a 20amp breaker. You are going to have to pull new cable to fix that.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 12:37PM
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Your double-pole breaker idea is good if just based on your explanation but it can be dangerous. When you use a double pole breaker, the two hots that you run are NOT on the same leg of the service... Adjacent locations on a service panel alternate between the two service legs and therefore they constitute a 240 volt circuit - whether or not you run any number of neutrals. This puts 240 volts in each outlet box that has both of your circuits and it puts a potential of 240 volts, not 120 volts, between two appliances that are plugged into one "split" outlet or into each of the outlets in a quad arrangement. I NEVER run adjacent circuits in a panel into the same outlet box -- I either skip a slot or use the slot that is opposite, on the other side of the panel. Another reason to double-think the double-breaker idea... If you encounter a short in such an outlet box, the problems you could have could be twice as bad as with two single, non-adjacent circuits. In an outlet box with two single, non-adjacent circuits (I'll call that a 120 volt box), the potential between the two hots is 0 volts and the potential between either of the hots to neutral or ground is 120 volts. In a box with two adjacent circuits, the potential between the hots is 240 volts -- double the voltage that one might expect in a standard outlet box and a worse short circuit. Also, IF (maybe a big if) the neutral feeding a 240 volt box is broken/disconnected and allowed to "float", appliances plugged into opposite circuits in that box will then be connected in series with 240 volts feeding the pair. In that case, if one appliance is high power, say a toaster, and the second is low power, say the charger for your laptop -- the majority of the 240 volts will end up on the plug of the laptop charger -- whose input is only built for 120 volts, and the charger will be damaged -- possibly to the point of catching fire. I know this was complicated but it's something that most people would never run into and anyone, like @skapare who knows about double breakers, would understand. If not, I can draw-up some diagrams...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 6:43PM
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Do you realize you're responding to a message that's almost 6 years old?

I kind of understand wanting a two gang box, with two receptacles on different in a kitchen for countertop appliances. It might be convenient to, say, have the toaster and waffle iron close to each other and not have to worry about overloading a circuit. I did that in a garage workshop in locations where I knew I would be using two, high draw, tools at the same time. Rather than run an extension cord, I could plug the tools right into the wall.

I don't understand using a double pole breaker just to kill all the power to a particular box. It just seems like overkill to me. A MWBC would make much more sense, especially since three wire cable is more readily available.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 9:15PM
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