I'm trying to figure out if I can split a single branch circuit into two runs. Basically, I want to add an outlet to a circuit, but it's not in a convenient place to put it in line with a single run. The wiring would look something like:

 | Panel   |        --------
 |         | 12/2   | Jct  |  12/2
 |     20A |--------| Box  |---------Outlet-------Outlet----...
 |         |        |      |
 -----------        --------
                       \ 12/2

Will NEC allow this? Thanks!

  • What is this circuit feeding right now, and where is this new receptacle you're adding? May 2, 2017 at 0:45

1 Answer 1


Yes, that's fine, you can "tee" circuits. I just did one that looks like a tree... starting with a 3-way split right in the service panel. And two branches themselves have splits downstream.

Now let's talk about splicing. USA receptacles provide two screws or backstabs per side. That has several uses, but the most common use is an easy way to do a 3-way splice: one for the power source, one for the downstream feed to the next outlet, and of course the receptacle itself. Here's the thing: people get hung up on this, and forget this is only one of several ways to do a splice. You can use any listed method.

So with both screws full, how do you add a third wire?

  • you cannot use both screws and backstabs. You must use one system or the other only, and don't use backstabs anyway becuase they fail a lot.
  • You can use a short pigtail to come off one screw, and then any of a variety of splices to join the pigtail and two of the wires. One remains on the other screw (or not; you can just join all the wires at the splice, I do that when the receptacle is in a really awkward location.)
  • you can use special receptacles called screw-and-clamp which can accommodate four wires (plus the receptacle itself obviously). You have to hunt these down, but they cost about $3 - not unbearable.

What kind of splices would you use? Any listed splice. Some examples are wire nuts -- Alumiconns (they work fine on all copper wire) -- Euro type terminal blocks -- push-in (unreliable) -- snap-down splice connectors. I use wire nuts myself.

  • "you cannot use both screws and backstabs." <-- This is a claim I have seen repeated without citation to either UL or NEC paragraph. I believe the claim is incorrect. NEC is not online, unfortunately, but found using "fair use" searches and this exact, quoted search: "terminals used concurrently with their respective push-in. Example: mecknc.gov/LUESA/CodeEnforcement/Tools/CodeInterpretations/… THAT SAID, I agree backstabs are substandard connections and should not be used to feed downstream outlets (and I'm just a lazy homeowner). Mar 17, 2019 at 16:33
  • @Crossfit_and_Beer I can quote it for you from memory. NEC 110.3 "Equipment must be used in accordance with its labeling and instructions". Mar 17, 2019 at 16:38
  • I am quoting it from a the ACTUAL UL doc: productspec.ul.com/document.php?id=RTRT.GuideInfo ... " The UL Whitebook states as follows: ... Side wire (binding screw) terminals used concurrently with their respective push-in (screwless) terminations to terminate more than one conductor". Please consider, your quote is not incompatible with mine. :-) Mar 17, 2019 at 16:40
  • @Crossfit_and_Beer Interesting. So you're saying UL requires that all receptacles pass that test? Or only those whose instructions authorize concurrent stab and screw connections? Mar 17, 2019 at 16:49
  • According to the UL link above, the ONLY qualification I see is "restricted to 15 A branch circuits and are for connection with 14 AWG solid copper wire only.". If they say it is allowable, wouldn't you agree it "is" (and therefore covered by their tests) UNLESS followed by explicit caveats? Mar 17, 2019 at 17:08

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