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In my master bathroom, I am creating a "water closet": a private space for the toilet. It is 6'6" x 3'6" and similar to a stall in a public bathroom. It has full walls, a full-height door, and a ceiling. It has its own light fixture, switch, and exhaust fan, but no sink.

IRC Chapter 39 specifies electrical outlet requirements for bathrooms but it's not clear whether this water closet counts as a separate room and requires its own outlet(s). I know that if I put in an outlet, it needs to be GFCI and on a different circuit than the light & fan. I am in the United States. My local codes defer to IRC.

Do I need to put an outlet in the water closet?

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  • 7
    Yes, you need to be able to charge your phone or tablet...
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 5 at 15:59
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    But will you want to use it after you drop it.
    – crip659
    Jul 5 at 16:10
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    You have a misunderstanding of the US bathroom receptacle rules. They're a bit easier than that, they give you 2 options and. you can follow either one. NEC 2020 also changed it in ways relevant to you (the 2 options for the dedicated circuit only applies to countertop receptacles, not lower-wall receptacles e.g. for your bidet or seat warmer). Jul 5 at 21:53
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    Even if an outlet isn't needed by code, an increasing number of toilets can use power, e.g. for a bidet, heated seat, lighting, odor control, flush, etc.
    – Tim M.
    Jul 6 at 2:57
  • A toilet doesn't require a sink, but the building requires a 'bathroom' (somewhere), which requires a sink, which requires an outlet : "“Every dwelling unit shall be provided with a water closet, lavatory and a bathtub or shower.” (See ICC R306.1) However, it doesn’t say every bathroom shall be provided with a lavatory." - Would it make sense to have a bathroom without a sink?
    – Mazura
    Jul 6 at 7:52

2 Answers 2

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From NEC 2014 100-1 (Definitions)

Bathroom. An area including a basin with one or more of the following: a toilet, a urinal, a tub, a shower, a bidet, or similar plumbing fixtures.

Since your toilet stall / water closet does not contain a basin, it is not considered a bathroom, so no outlet is required.

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  • This is correct as there is no basin, in the US it is not considered a bath without a basin unless having the basin separated by a door but the receptacle is required at the basin not the toilet.+
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 5 at 17:36
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    Technically correct. However, having an outlet in the WC seems a simple, practical, and inexpensive upgrade in case there's ever a future use for power in the bathroom. Whether it be powering a fancy toilet setup or just keeping the phone going for those texts that are so urgent they just can't wait.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 6 at 13:38
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    NEC 2020 now reads "An area including a sink (basin) with..." - slight change in wording, no change in applicability of this answer.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 6 at 17:10
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Interesting question. I don't actually know the direct answer. However:

  • In general, lights and receptacles in a bathroom can be on the same circuit. The exception is a heat fan, because that normally uses so much power that you can't have receptacles on the same circuit. As long as the circuit for the lights does not power anything outside the bathroom, it can be used for receptacles in the bathroom.
  • A convenience receptacle (could even be right next to the switch, getting power from the same circuit with basically no installation cost) would be very useful. Obviously many bathroom activities require a sink and/or mirror, but extra receptacles are always a plus.

So if the circuit you are planning to use for the lights is not used for a heat fan or for another room, go ahead and put in a receptacle, whether you technically need to have one or not. If it is shared (e.g., lights in other rooms) then it gets more complicated because a circuit for receptacles normally needs to be "bathrooms only".

As far as GFCI with lights, there is no need to do that (except for lights above a tub or shower, not applicable here) and easy to avoid. Simply pigtail the hot and neutral to split to the switch/light fixture and to the LINE side of the GFCI/receptacle. Do not put the switch/fixture on the LOAD side of the GFCI.

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  • I hadn't thought of putting a convenience receptacle by the light and fan switches. Good idea! I don't like putting the lights on the same circuit with GFCI outlets — no fun losing the lights if the GFCI pops!
    – Gary R.
    Jul 5 at 16:26
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    @GaryR. If you add a GFCI outlet with the light switch, connect the switch/light to the LINE side of the GFCI, not the LOAD side. This way, popping the GFCI will not cut the lights. This is assuming that the light does not seen GFCI protection. If it does, add a blank-front GFCI.
    – DoxyLover
    Jul 5 at 20:40
  • My understanding is that whether lights & fans can share the dedicated circuit is subject to different interpretation in different localities, and that a fair number do not allow this. This is arguably silly, with incandescents banned and all lighting going to LED. But you should not assume you can put them on the circuit without calling your local authority and confirming that they allow this (very reasonable) configuration.
    – sribe
    Jul 6 at 20:37

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