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?

4 Answers 4


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.
    – user23752
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 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
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 1:30
  • @benrudgers I simply quote from the most current code available to me.
    – Tester101
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 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
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 3:26
  • When you split countertop receptacles to feed them from 2 circuits, the breakers must be handle-tied for common maintenance shutoff... so you don't shutoff one and get bit by the other. They also must be GFCI breakers or deadfronts, because kitchen. You can't split GFCI receps. You can run 2 hot 2 neutral 2 GFCI single breakers and handle-tie them, or MWBC/2-pole GFCI, or handle-tie any breakers and have the circuit visit 2 deadfront GFCIs on the way to the kitchen. Deadfront because countertop recep circuits can't have outlets anywhere else. Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 17:05

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...


The minimum two small appliance circuits are specifically for over the counter plugs. Per NEC refrigerator, microwave fixed in place, disposal, dish washer, trash compactors all need individual dedicated circuits.

  • 1
    Well your answer is way behind the time and not current code 2017 code may require GFCI unless a dedicated circuit but if you don't want down votes don't give opinions, this question was under an older code than today's code and in the 14 code you have errors this is why I down voted. Including the answer below, other than the fridge a clock and gas stove ignighter can be on the the circuit. 210.11 covers required branch circuits.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 2:48

As you say,

"Receptacles installed in a kitchen to serve countertop surfaces shall be supplied by not fewer than two small-appliance branch circuits."

So, you can't have one circuit for countertops and one for the fridge. No outlets can be shared with other rooms. This of course only applies to new remodel jobs and new construction. But this has been in the Code for a long time.

  • Hello, and welcome back to Home Improvement. Please keep your answers factual; it helps no one to insult the other contributors. Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 1:53
  • 1
    Nope 2 small appliance circuits are required the fridge can be on one but the outlets are within 2' of a sink or no more than 2' from each other or 4' apart , you need to look at the code book.-
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 2:07

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