I am in the process of renovating an older home where I require just two or three counter top receptacles. I discovered in the NEC that:

The countertop receptacle outlets in kitchens must be supplied by no fewer than two small-appliance branch circuits.

Unless I am mistaken, it seems that this requirement primarily pertains to counter top receptacles. Considering the limited electrical requirements of the kitchen, would I still need two circuits for the two or three counter top receptacles that I am to install? Additionally, there is a wall outlet on the opposite corner of the kitchen as the L-shaped counter top and it is branched off of the living room circuit which doesn't have much connected to it. Is this a code violation?

Looking at the actual code...

National Electrical Code 2014

Chapter 2 Wiring and Protection

Article 210 Branch Circuits

210.11 Branch Circuits Required.

(C) Dwelling Units.

(1) Small-Appliance Branch Circuits. In addition to the number of branch circuits required by other parts of this section, two or more 20-ampere small-appliance branch circuits shall be provided for all receptacle outlets specified by 210.52(B)

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.

(3) Kitchen Receptacle Requirements. Receptacles installed in a kitchen to serve countertop surfaces shall be supplied by not fewer than two small-appliance branch circuits, either or both of which shall also be permitted to supply receptacle outlets in the same kitchen and in other rooms specified in 210.52(B)(1). Additional small appliance branch circuits shall be permitted to supply receptacle outlets in the kitchen and other rooms specified in 210.52(B)(1). No small-appliance branch circuit shall serve more than one kitchen.

The receptacles supplying the countertop, must be supplied by at least two 20 ampere circuits. However, these two circuits can also supply receptacles in a "pantry, breakfast room, dining room, or similar area of a dwelling unit", as well as "receptacle outlets for refrigeration equipment". One of the more common ways to meet this code, is by splitting the duplex receptacles. One circuit powers the top outlet of the receptacle, while the other powers the bottom outlet. Another option is to supply the countertop receptacles with one circuit, and the refrigerator with a separate circuit.

As for the receptacle in the kitchen, supplied by the living room circuit. While this is likely not a violation. This receptacle does not count towards the two 20 ampere small appliance circuits required in the kitchen.

  • While the requirement for two 20A circuits has long been a part of the NEC, it is not necessarily the case that the 2014 is the adopted code in the jurisdiction where the property is located because few jurisdictions immediately adopt codes as they are released. – ben rudgers Jul 14 '14 at 22:35
  • What I should have included in my original question is, does the two-circuit requirement pertain ONLY to counter top receptacles, or, as your answer seems to hint to, does having a refrigerator on it's own circuit count for one of those outlets? – Evan Jul 15 '14 at 1:30
  • @benrudgers I simply quote from the most current code available to me. – Tester101 Jul 15 '14 at 3:13
  • @Evan No, it's not two circuits for countertop receptacles. It's at least two 20 ampere small appliance branch circuits per kitchen. – Tester101 Jul 15 '14 at 3:26

It's not the size of the kitchen - it's the fact that it's a kitchen. Run the coffeemaker, toaster and microwave, perhaps the waffle iron, fire up the mixer to beat the waffle batter...

Even with limited counter space I'd consider 2-3 receptacles a bit under-populated for a kitchen these days. Consider using a larger box and putting a pair at each location, perhaps one white, one brown, on different 20A circuits (color-coded to outlet.) Or just put in more boxes...

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.