electrical wiring under kitchen island

platronNovember 30, 2010

We recently moved back into our apartment after an extensive renovation that included installing a kitchen island. I noticed belatedly that there is a good 3/8" gap between the base trim of the island and the floor, which makes cleanup annoying of course, but I'm most worried about electrical safety. Peering with a flashlight, I can see bx cables lying directly on the floor beneath the island. The fear is that a large amount of spilled water could electricute someone standing in it and, say, touching the kitchen sink. The outlets on the island itself are GFCI, but that wouldn't affect this situation.

Since noticing this, I shut off power to the island from the circuit breakers (which also shuts off half the kitchen wall outlets). Was this paranoid or prudent? How is the safety of floor level wiring supposed to be assured?

Thanks in advance,


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The main issue with safety of wiring in any place is the risk of damage to the wire, by, say walking on it.

Since you said BX, you do mean the armoured cable, right? Where I am in Canada, they only use Romex (non-armoured) under islands etc, the code allowing this because the wires are enclosed.

Provided the wires are not damaged in any way, they are quite waterproof and presumably there are no junction boxes or anything at that floor level, so at worst, they could be lying in a pool of water.

For that matter, if you had a flood in the kitchen, and water ran through the floor into a light fixture in the floor below, you could potentially be in the same situation, yet it's allowed.

If you were really concerned, you could have that breaker replaced with a GFCI one (what do these wires supply power to anyway?) which certainly couldn't hurt.

I'm not an electrician but I work with electricity as part of my job and I see a lot of new construction, and, like I said, if it's armoured cable, it's *better* than most of what I see, so from what you've said, I wouldn't worry.

As for the gap, it keeps the kick out of any potential water and allows some airflow. If the kick is a clip-on panel, you may be able to slide it down.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 7:43PM
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Ron Natalie

I'd be more worried about rust. If this area is a wet location AC is not allowed for wet locations. Electric shock however is probably not a concern. In most cases lying on the floor doesn't qualify as proper support either. The whole installation sounds shoddy.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 5:48AM
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"If this area is a wet location AC is not allowed for wet locations. "

Under an island in a residential setting is NOT a wet location.

In a commercial kitchen it would be (garden hose cleanup is common).

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 9:39AM
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Thanks for the responses.
Alan - The GFCI breaker sounds like a reasonable idea. I believe there is a junction box at floor level, but I can't see it clearly under the kick.
ronnatalie/brickeyee - The location is not officially wet, but since the wires are just under the kick they could easily get wet. I was thinking about this while brining a turkey last week...

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 1:52PM
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I wouldn't be super concerned. There's a big difference between an occasional spill and standing water. In 30 years I think I've only had one kitchen incident where I had a large amount of water on the floor (someone left a faucet running full on and walked away for a couple of minutes). Nevertheless, the GFCI breaker is always a good idea.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 3:36PM
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"since the wires are just under the kick they could easily get wet."

That is not going to be an issue.

If you get enough water under the island to cause problems with AC you are looking at a lot of other even more serious problems.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 3:57PM
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