I am planning to replace the backsplash in the kitchen at my home. NEC 210.52 requires that every spot on the countertop should not be distanced more than 2ft from a receptacle. the current condition does not comply with this rule. To comply with the code, I need to rewire a lot of parts of the house since the main panel is full, and need to make two dedicated circuits for the countertop receptacles, which I do not want to.

The work I want to is pretty simple; I just want to replace the backsplash. I do not want to update the wiring! The question is, do I need to update the countertop receptacles once I tear down the backsplash walls??

I am assuming that the answer is NO, since the tiling itself does not requires inspection. So, as long as not reporting to the inspector, I assume it will not be a problem. The part of the reasons why I am asking is that I am going to sell the house soon. I don't want to have a trouble when I sell it...

I would appreciate your advice. Thank you!

  • Of course, this tiling project need to remove the existing receptacles once, and I am thinking of putting back the existing receptacles after tiling... Well, technically, this requires an inspection. So, it sounds like that the inspector requires me to update to comply with 2ft/4ft receptacles rule on the countertop?? I don't know... – M1985 Feb 4 '19 at 5:54
  • You are allowed to disconnect an outlet and then replace it without an inspection. – brhans Feb 4 '19 at 12:44

Even though you are replacing a backsplash you are not really remodeling or upgrading your electrical. I can't speak for every inspector but most would say it is alright to leave your receptacles as is under the grandfather clause.

One important note, even though you are being allowed to leave the receptacles in place I would recommend you add GFCI protection if it is not present, and it may be a required upgrade by your inspector. Since removing existing receptacle is a modification.

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  • I agree, updating finishes is not a requirement for changing the wiring.+ – Ed Beal Feb 4 '19 at 14:35
  • Thank you for comments! Yes, I will definitely change the receptacles to GFCI. – M1985 Feb 6 '19 at 6:24

Since you have easy access to the area where the work would be done, you need to do that part of it.

Here's what you don't get to do:

  1. Rework the kitchen countertop area, and refuse to upgrade the electrical because doinng a complete job of that would involve altering the fuse box, which is out of scope.
  2. Later... Replace the service panel, but refuse to upgrade the kitchen countertops because that would involve updating the backsplash, which was recently done, and doingit again would be madness.
  3. Result: total remodel, wiring still from 1949.

So yes. You need to do the work that is possible. That means installing all the circuits you are able short of expanding the scope of the overall project.

For instance you might run the new circuits to the old service panel and simply join the new wires to the same old breaker, so the electrical is functionally unchanged but is "new panel ready". Having 2+ circuits on one breaker is fine, e.g. A basement receptacle circuit that serves outlets on both sides of the panel.

An intermediate junction box would also suffice, but will not be as appealing since obviously, a splice is less desirable.

Aside from getting an approving nod from every inspecetor... This then becomes an upsell, "look, the work was done forward-thinking". $50 of Romex then becomes a $1000 value bump, simce the buyers will then presume all the work was done so thoughtfully.

Believe me, homebuyers and inspectors see plenty of half-assed work freshly done by people trying to sell. Whenever a homebuyer sees fresh work, they know it was done for the sale and it'll be the worst tenant-grade shlock job that they think will pass inspection. So unless you can show them the multiple new Romex runs, they will believe you did exactly your original plan.

A big annoyance for a busy chef is breaker trips. Heat-making appliancs in kitchens wish they had 2000-3000 watts (and they do in Europe). But in America, UL limits them all to 1500 watts (12.5 amps) and obviously two won't fit on a 20A breaker. *That means a kitchen wired to bare code minimums can only support two countertop appliances at once, and the chef has a 50/50 chance of tripping the breaker anyway.

My answer is more circuits. The cost is only $10 for the cable plus a $20 GFCI per circuit. I would have one receptacle per circuit up to four, then leapfrog them, so same-circuit receptacles are not adjacent.

Now, when you're selling this house, you ask "who cooks?" and tell them what you did and why. If the chef has veto power... You just sold a house.

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  • Thanks for your advice, Harper! Well, the current my main panel is full. This is why I am hesitant to prepare two circuits for the countertop receptacles... I recently installed a new range hood and a dishwasher which occupy two slots in the panel. Probably, I will take the plan B; I will put two more GFCI receptacles above the countertop, and extend with Romex, and stop in junction boxes downstairs... – M1985 Feb 6 '19 at 6:29
  • @M1985 well there you go, land the new kitchen receptacle circuits on existing breakers, just have them share with whatever's already on it. You don't need to solve the panel problem today. Probably leave it for the next owner. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 6 '19 at 7:29
  • Thanks again, Harper! I will definitely do so. – M1985 Feb 10 '19 at 4:50

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