I've attached a rough sketch of our house layout. My question is about the room labeled with a "?". Would the NEC consider this a "dining room", even if there isn't any typical dining room furniture - that is, no dining room table/chairs, no buffet/sideboard, no dish/china storage, etc? (We have a couch, a piano, and a desk in there.) It's largely open to what we call the "living room", with an open doorway to the kitchen. All walls are full ceiling height. The kitchen has a small table (like a breakfast nook) in it where we usually eat, when we're not eating in the living room in front of the TV, or outside on the back patio. We don't have any room in particular that we use as a "dining room", but if a future owner were to have a dining room, this "?" room would most likely be it.

The question arises because the NEC requires 20 amp circuitry in a "dining room", per 210.52(B) below. The house is currently wired such that that entire "?" room is served by one (dedicated) 15 amp circuit, with 14/2 wiring and a 15 amp breaker, for all the receptacles and lighting in that room.

(The kitchen does have the 2 required 20amp small appliance circuits.)

EDIT to clarify: the house is about 100 years old; the 15amp circuitry is already in place (an has been for decades). There are some wiring updates happening - addition of a couple of receptacles. I know I can just ask the inspector, but... I'm afraid to even raise the issue, in case he never raises it either. :)

I believe the 2014 NEC says the following:

210.52 Dwelling Unit Receptacle Outlets.

(B) Small Appliances.

(1) Receptacle Outlets Served. In the kitchen, pantry, breakfast room, dining room, or similar area of a dwelling unit, the two or more 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits required by 210.11(C)(1) shall serve all wall and floor receptacle outlets covered by 210.52(A), all countertop outlets covered by 210.52(C), and receptacle outlets for refrigeration equipment.

EDIT to add: After reading the answers below... I still don't know if the room is even required to be classified as a "dining room" (which was my original question), but if it is, then I guess that if I want to add 2 wall receptacles to that room, code would require hooking them up to one of the existing 20-amp kitchen circuits, rather than hooking them up to the existing 15-amp circuitry in that room.

Or just keep everything as is and continue using extension cords as we have been. (Safe? No. Compliant? Yes.)

It's funny that the reason we want to add receptacles of course has nothing to do with "dining room" purposes; we just want a convenient outlet for an audio system and a computer. Tying those in to the kitchen circuitry seems absurd, as does installing a new 20-amp circuit just for those outlets. But oh well. Maybe somebody someday will want to put a hot plate in that room, and boy will they thank me for having put in a couple of 20-amp outlets! (Even though they're not required to be labeled as such. Go figure. Here's hoping they don't plug the hot plate into the wrong outlet, or the breaker will trip. Heavens! I can see why the NEC can't allow that!)

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  • You are right. The words "shall serve all wall and floor receptacle outlets" are the key. You do not have to do anything retroactive, but if you add any receptacles to a DR they must be served by a 20A circuit. Dec 14, 2016 at 12:59
  • 1
    Thanks - appreciate the input. But this takes me back to my original question, which is... is this somehow de facto a "dining room", just by virtue of being next to the kitchen, even if it's not a dining room?
    – PhilPDX
    Dec 15, 2016 at 1:28
  • Whether it is a dining room or not depends on your stated use for the room to the inspector. Since you have a dividing wall and intend to put a sound system and computer in the room, when the inspector comes I would have a couch and tv in the room also and call it a study, den or family room and have a kitchen table in the kitchen. After the inspector is gone, you can put the furniture wherever you like. The main reason for the 20 amps in the DR is for a serving table with crock pots and such that people use. Your 15 amp circuit will not hold much so you may need to upgrade it anyway.
    – ArchonOSX
    May 11 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


Regs are designed to account for common usages and provide safe levels of service. Dining rooms often use hotplates or coffee makers that might need higher amperage. A 20 amp circuit requirement attempts to account for that.

There is no use inspector who comes in after your construction to make sure that you follow convention. But houses that do not meet basic expectations are harder to sell, and often result in a compliance problem when they are sold (No closing until we get a new certificate of occupancy!)

That argues for equipping rooms in compliance with what the typical inspector would expect. Most inspectors would think that the room in question was a dining room (since most people would have one in that location). I would wire it as a dining room, but use it as I saw fit. Wiring to a higher standard is never frowned upon, and only costs a bit of wire and a little time, and may avoid headaches down the road.

And, who knows, you may want a dining room and a hotplate someday?

SUPPLEMENT: After reading Ed Beal's answer, I am inclined to agree so long as there are no countertops in the room in question.

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    I'm actually not so sure that saying that a dining room requires a 20A circuit when a kitchen with 2 20A SABCs is already present is a correct way to interpret the Code... Dec 13, 2016 at 0:04
  • Just updated the question to indicate that the house is 100 years old and the wiring has been in place for decades. We're adding a couple of receptacles in that room, but would much prefer to just add on to the existing 15amp circuit than to re-wire everything to 20amps.
    – PhilPDX
    Dec 13, 2016 at 0:04
  • @ThreePhaseEel - doesn't 210.52(B)(1) indicate that in the kitchen, pantry, or dining room, the two kitchen/pantry/dining SABCs "shall serve all wall and floor receptacles covered by 210.52(A)"? See also my comment to Ed Beal's answer. I hope your interpretation is correct! But could you explain your reasoning?
    – PhilPDX
    Dec 13, 2016 at 17:16

There are 4 required 120V 20 amp branch circuits in a dwelling unit 210.12.C (1,2,3). 2 for the kitchen small appliance branch circuit, 1 for the laundry and 1 for the Bathroom. Other than the spacing (no point more than 6' from an outlet 210.52.A.1) There is no requirement for the size of other 120v branch circuit. The 20A small appliance branch circuits can be used in A pantry and dining room 210.52.B.1 but they are not required to be on the Small appliance branch circuits. A single 15A dedicated circuit in a dining room is legal (and exceeds general code requirements) in the 2014 code 20A is not required. Response two long for a comment so added to answer. The 2 small appliance branch circuits must be available in the kitchen even if there are only 2 outlets. It is Ok to use them in the dining and pantry but not required unless there is a local code amendment and they can not be used in any other rooms (210.52.B.2 No other outlets) exceptions A clock outlet in the kitchen, Pantry or dining room is allowed Outlet for the ignition circuit on a gas fired range.

The code reference states General provisions A1 thru A4 . A1 spacing no space greater than 6' to an outlet. A2 wall space any space 2' or more needs outlet. A3 outlets on floor need to be within 18" of wall to count for that space. A4 counter top 210.52.C outlets do not count for required outlets in 210.52.a That is the requirement A1-A4. This has been code for many cycles the addition of the 20A circuit is newer and I have not been required to change the ampacity of wiring when doing updates like this. 4 Wire Electric ranges are required by current code but 3 wire systems in older homes like yours are still legal unless a local code change is in place.

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    Thanks, Ed. I hope that's true! But - doesn't 210.52(B)(1) indicate that in the kitchen, pantry, or dining room, the two kitchen/pantry/dining SABCs "shall serve all wall and floor receptacles covered by 210.52(A)"? I've got several wall receptacles in the dining room; I imagine they're covered by 210.52(A), and thus would need to be served by 20-amp SABCs. Am I misinterpreting?
    – PhilPDX
    Dec 13, 2016 at 17:13
  • See added information in answer. Your home could still have some Knob & Tube wiring and still be totally legal because of the age. Can we use Knob and Tube today NO and we have not been able to install it (without approval of the AHJ very difficult) in the 70's when I was an apprentice. I don't know the year K&T was no longer used but I am pretty sure there no one alive today that installed it.
    – Ed Beal
    Dec 13, 2016 at 20:04
  • I'm gonna completely disagree here. The code is very clear on this. It states the two (or more) small appliance circuits SHALL serve the kitchen and similar rooms. So the DR must be served with at least one 20A circuit for general use receptacles. Both the 2011 and 2014 NEC read the same on this. Dec 14, 2016 at 12:53
  • @PhilPDX, your interpretation is correct. Dec 14, 2016 at 12:57

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