Aren't all electrical outlets near sinks supposed to have a safety reset switch? This one is for the garbage disposal but also has outlets for electrical equipment. Should I call an electrician or just unplug the night light and can opener?

It doesn't seem up to code like this.

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  • 2
    For typically under $5 you can get a GFCI tester (plug in flavor, typically combined with a "3 lights" outlet tester) - if you push the test button on that and the outlet does not go off, you can be sure you don't have a (working) GFCI upstream. I would personally prefer to have the GFCI upstream (feeding this outlet from its Load terminals) in this case, as this location seems prone to getting the device wet, which is prone to killing GFCIs.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 15:00
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    What year was the home built? Pre mid 70’s GFCI protection was not required and code has never required updates to existing homes even with known bad panels like FPE Stablock panels that are known and proven to fail.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 17:12
  • Within 6ft of any sink you will need a gfi receptacle.. Def a code violation Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 4:29
  • Meanwhile keeping the night-light & can-opener in the outlets might make sense, because it prevents water from entering, at least to some degree. Apart from GFCI, I'd suggest a wet-room switch/outlets, according to IP54 or better, because it's quite close to the tap.
    – user55391
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 8:47
  • Management sent maintenance over and the switch was changed to a compliant one on 2/12/2030 Thanks for all the great answers. I'm now aafe and up to code.
    – Kathleen
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 0:43

6 Answers 6


If there is an upstream GFCI device protecting that outlet it is fine.

See if any other outlet in the kitchen has a test and reset button, when you test it and it trips does the outlet by the sink also lose power? If so then the outlet is protected by the GFCI.

The GFCI device can also be the breaker in the panel feeding the circuit. So check there as well.

If you find that they are protected by GFCI take your label printer and print out a "GFCI protected" label to put on the outlet.

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    It depends on the year the building was built. Code has never required updates for existing buildings, is it a good idea sure but not required if the original install was to code
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 17:10
  • I've been told by various electrical contractors that having upstream protection is no longer considered sufficient for outlets near water. Indeed, the six or seven outlets in my remodeled kitchen are on the same circuit and yet each one is its own GFCI. Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 23:15
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    @AdrianMcCarthy what? That makes no sense.... Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 0:56
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    @AdrianMcCarthy If downstream protection doesn't work, then you have a broken GFCI. It makes no difference where it is. Having multiples will cause them to trip each other and you may need to reset more than one, and even turn off power at the panel just to reset all of them. Maybe you should try testing them and see if they work properly.
    – Nelson
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 3:15
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    @AdrianMcCarthy those contractors probably lied to you to sell more GFCI outlets or don't understand how GFCI protection works. Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 13:49

It depends on the year the house was build. The requirement for GFCI protection within 6’ from a sink was adopted in the 70’s. The protection may be in the breaker panel if the home is newer, the breaker will have a test button. If your house was built prior to the GFCI requirement you can replace that receptacle with a GFCI receptacle and meet current code. you will need a new cover plate that would fit a GFCI and switch but we are talking under 20$ for both unless you get a fancy plate. I do install GFCI’s in cases like this as it makes sense even though code does not require older houses to be updated.

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    +1. IDC what the code is. That should be a GFCI.
    – Mazura
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 0:52

As installed, this would be a Code violation if the kitchen was built or renovated since the GFCI requirement was added to Code; or, if your locality requires GFCI retrofit in kitchens and bathrooms as a condition of sale. If so, it requires either

  • Somewhere else, there is a GFCI device which is providing protection to this outlet, and, this outlet has a sticker that says "GFCI Protected". Or
  • There is the GFCI receptacle you expect to find.

It is not as simple as "no GFCI recep = no GFCI". A GFCI device anywhere can confer GFCI protection to any other location it's fed to. GFCIs have special terminals called LOAD for that very purpose (they shouldn't be used for anything else).

However, dumb home inspectors won't even use a GFCI tester to see if the sticker is missing; they just say "Hup, you need a GFCI receptacle here". Realistically, the stickers fall off -- or are removed by homeowners who thought it ugly. Or they were never applied in the first place (99% of the time lol).

You don't want to put a GFCI on a GFCI, because that makes for annoying problems when you try to reset them.

  • @ Harper Is a sticker required with a GFCI circuit breaker? Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 16:27
  • You are WRONG! If the home was built prior to the GFCI requirement this is still 100% code compliant! Code has not required updating existing buildings without the date the building was built it could be 100% code compliant!
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 17:07
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    @EdBeal Good point. I'm so used to the jurisdictions around me requiring retrofit of K/BR GFCI as a condition of sale of the house. Since OP is stating surprise at this situation, I assume it was triggered by having just moved in, since OP would not be surprised if having lived there 20 years. Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 17:24
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    Many inspectors say it is a code violation to sell a home without them and according to the NEC it is not. The last county I lived in required gfci’s, septic tanks to be pumped and smoke/ carbon monoxide detectors , two much nanny state for me so a local jurisdiction can mandate it but it’s not a NEC violation.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 17:34
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    @EdBeal NEC is only a model law. Localities can do anything they want. But that at least works in your favor - you have a much better chance influencing the town council than Congress. Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 18:01

Installations must meet current regulations whenever you modify a circuit. The requirements tthat were adopted locally when last modified are pretty hard to determine. The 2017 NEC (which is the edition most jurisdictions are now enforcing*) requires "Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter" protection for all kitchen receptacles that serve countertop surfaces, and receptacles within 6' of any sink. Undersink receptacles for a disposal or dishwasher would be subject to the 6' rule.

The NEC requirement for protection does not specify a receptacle at every location, or even a receptacle at all. The whole circuit could be protected by a circuit breaker, or the wires feeding a location could be fed from the "load" terminals of another GFCI receptacle. Everything connected to the load terminals of a receptacle behaves just like anything plugged into the front of the receptacle.

Pressing the test buttons on local receptacles or buttons on breakers in your panel may safely interrupt the power, but a tester designed for the purpose is generally works best, and is a one-step method to determine if protected.

*The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) which owns the NEC has no enforcement authority. States, counties, and even cities can determine when and which edition and modifications to codes they adopt. The 2020 NEC is available now, and slowly beginning to be adopted, but some places are even still using the 2008 edition.

  • It is good to check local code requirements, I can add 6’ to a bedroom circuit and not have to add arc fault protection in my state even though my state uses the 2017 NEC and is one of the strict states according to the NEC with an A+ rating we have some 26 pages of code sections that are not adopted (in the 2017 code). In a month or two I will start reviewing my state and local changes so I will be ready for the 2020 NEC when it is adopted in October.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 17:42

A tip: We recently wired our kitchen (in a new extension). We did it ourselves and just cut to the chase by installing a GFCI/AFCI breaker. The breaker is a bit pricey, but cheaper than installing individual GFCI/AFCI (or whatever) outlets.


Chances are that the receptacle is a split receptacle. Meaning the top and bottom plug are not connected to the same 'leg' of electrical power at the panel (the receptacle will have the tab broken off that ties the top and bottom hots together). Quite likely it is fed by a three wire cable (l1, l2, neutral, and bare ground). This means that a gfci plug will not work as a replacement due to the shared neutral. Older homes this setup was comman and met code, and does not need to be updated necessarily. If you find the breaker that feeds this receptacle at the panel it will be (or should be) a double pole breaker, where the breaker handle shuts of both legs simultaneously (so that you can't mistakenly shut off only 1 leg of power to the junction box)

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to contribute here. Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 12:01
  • A multi wire branch circuit has nothing to do with this question. Current code requires all 120v 15 & 20 amp circuits within 6’ of a sink to have GFCI protection. And has for decades but if built prior to that requirement GFCI is not required, even handle ties were not required in the past for multiwire branch circuits but you have to go back more than a few code cycles. Code doesn’t require updates to existing facilities that were built to code.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 1:21
  • A multi wire branch circuit is relevant to this question if it is in fact an older house that was wired with split plugs. If no renovations or changes to the wiring have been made, then it is permissible for it to remain as a split plug, and not be updated to a gfci.
    – dkehler
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 5:52

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