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NEC Requirements for Installing Receptacles in Your Home

April 27, 2006

Requirements for the placement of receptacle outlets for dwelling units are covered in 210.52(A) through (H). These general provisions apply to most of the rooms inside dwelling units. In every kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library, den, sunroom, bedroom, recreation room or similar room or area of dwelling units, receptacle outlets must be installed in accordance with the general provisions specified in 210.52(A)(1) through (3). Within these rooms or areas, receptacle placement is determined by wall space.

A diversity of names for similar rooms and areas may appear on blueprints, especially in larger houses. Various other names not specifically mentioned in this section of the Code include: sitting room (area), great room, bonus room, Florida room, morning room, keeping room, breakfast nook (area), study, office, media room, loft, studio and play (game) room. Other names, besides the ones mentioned here, may also be seen on blueprints. If there is any question about whether or not the general receptacle provisions are applicable in a room or area not mentioned above, consult the local authority having jurisdiction.

Certain rooms or areas in dwelling units not covered by the general provisions include bathrooms, laundry areas, basements, garages, hallways, outdoors and kitchen countertop surfaces. Each of these rooms or areas must comply with specific receptacle requirements listed in 210.52(C) through (H).

Although this list includes basements, the general provisions are applicable to any part of a basement containing habitable rooms, such as a den, recreational room, play (game) room, etc. One location not mentioned is closets. Although receptacle outlets within closets are permitted, they are not required.

210.52(A)(1) Spacing

The amount of wall space determines the minimum number of receptacle outlets in a given dwelling. Wall space is measured horizontally along the floor line. Although the Code spells out requirements for the minimum number of receptacles in a dwelling, it does not limit the number of receptacle outlets.

Receptacles must be installed so that no point measured horizontally along the floor line in any wall space is more than 6 feet or 1.8 meters from an outlet in that space. Following the floor line from a doorway, fireplace or similar opening, the maximum distance to a receptacle is 6 feet (1.8 meters). Sometimes this requirement is known as the “6-foot rule.”

Since the maximum distance to a receptacle is 6 feet (1.8 meters), the maximum distance between two receptacles is doubled. Therefore, the maximum distance between receptacles is 12 feet (3.6 meters).

An easy way to understand and remember the placement of receptacles in dwellings is to imagine having a floor lamp with a 6-foot cord. Anywhere this lamp is placed around the wall, a receptacle should be within reach (unless the space is less than 24 inches wide). No extension should be required to supply power to this lamp. 

Since a receptacle is required within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of a door opening, if the lamp is placed next to the opening, a receptacle will be within reach. Unless the wall is less than 2 feet wide, the 6-foot rule is applicable.

210.52(A)(2) Wall Space

This section contains three sentences that clarify the term “wall space.” As used in this section, a wall space is any space that is 2 feet (600 mm) or more in width. [210.52(A)(2)(1)] This provision is straightforward. If the space is less than 2 feet (600 mms) wide, it is not considered wall space; therefore no receptacle is required. If the space is 2 feet (600 mm) or more in width, then it is considered wall space, and consequently a receptacle outlet is required.

For example, two bedrooms located in a dwelling unit are almost identical. In each room, a small wall space is located between the entry door and the closet door. The wall space between the doors in the first room measures exactly 2 feet (600 mm) wide. Since this room’s space measures 2 feet (600 mm), a receptacle outlet is required. 

The wall space between the doors in the second room is only 23 inches in width. In this room, no receptacle is required.

Although receptacles are permitted in a space less than 2 feet (600 mm) wide, they are not required.
Note: Since these receptacles are located in bedrooms, they must be arc-fault protected. All branch circuits supplying 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere outlets installed in dwelling unit bedrooms must be protected by an arc-fault circuit interrupter listed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit.

Wall space includes the space measured around corners, regardless of whether the corner is an inside or outside corner. The wall space continues unless broken by a doorway, fireplace or similar opening.

The space occupied by fixed panels (in exterior walls) is considered wall space and must be included when determining the minimum number of receptacle outlets. Sliding panels, also in exterior walls, are treated like doorways. Therefore, the space in front of sliding panels is not counted as wall space. Even if a window is designed to resemble a door, the space must be counted as wall space.

For example, a dwelling unit’s back door is a glass panel door. A window, located on each side of the door, is almost identical to the door. Since the windows are fixed and do not open, the space they occupy must be counted as wall space. The space in front of windows extending from ceiling to floor must also be counted. For example, a sunroom is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows.

Although there is virtually no wall space in the sunroom, receptacle outlets must still be installed in accordance with the general provisions. Floor receptacles can be installed if they are located within 18 inches (450 mm) of the wall.

Sliding glass doors contain fixed and sliding panels. Most sliding glass doors are comprised of two panels, one fixed and one sliding. While it is not necessary to count the space in front of the sliding panel, it is necessary to count the space in front of the fixed panel.

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9 Responses to “NEC Requirements for Installing Receptacles in Your Home”

  1. Tony Haig on January 22nd, 2008 6:54 pm

    What is the distance (in Inches) required or most used between the finish floor and the bottom (or the center?) of a receptacle and for a wall switch?


  2. Wayne Gilchrist on January 27th, 2008 1:23 pm

    Hey Tony,

    I typically set my receptacles at 18 inches to the top of the box and switches 48 inches to the top of the box. However, it is personal preference unless this needs to meet handicap accessibility requirements.

  3. Dennis on March 11th, 2008 4:02 pm

    In the state of Indiana Arc Fault Circuit Interupters have been amended.I am a electrical inspector and a I.A.E.I board member.

  4. Billy Green on June 25th, 2008 9:41 am

    Is it ture that when you install a receptacle now that the ground slot must be on the top? If so where can I find that in the code book? Thanks BG

  5. Tim Houser on January 5th, 2009 11:31 am

    On the supject of Receptacle spacing in habitable room, are the walls that enclose a closet in the corner of a room considered “WALL SPACE”?

  6. mike on January 17th, 2009 3:39 pm

    i just installed a gfci receptacle and the wires are only black and white there is no ground wire can i still use the outlet.

  7. Kelvin on September 3rd, 2009 7:05 pm

    I have got rid of my woodburning stove and a wall too the side of it. There was one outlet in the wall. Is there a minimum distance that must be maintained from one outlet to the next outlet when the outlet is facing the opposite direction?

  8. Marc Ramos on October 22nd, 2009 9:17 pm

    What written directive constitutes replacement of residentail electrical receptacles? What justifies a receptacle to be replaced and where is this requirement? I have several receptacles
    that are loose and does not hold the plug in place.

  9. martha chalker on September 29th, 2016 8:30 am

    I have a very large bathroom, only 1. Plug, in a mobile home bathroom how many plugs should. Have, it is 14 feet wide?