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In an answer to this question Iggy's answer contains a picture that says "Maximum spacing between receptacles on the same countertop space is 4ft."

Does this mean if I were to build a house with 28 feet of countertop in the kitchen, I'd be legally required to have at least 7 outlets, or more? That seems like a lot, what if I just want 2 or 3?

  • Or would it would be six outlets; starting at the 4th foot, ending at the 24th? – Ben Welborn Mar 22 '16 at 18:43
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    @BenWelborn A receptacle has to be within 2' of the start/end of the countertop space. So the first receptacle would be at 2', and the last would have to be at 26'-28'. – Tester101 Mar 22 '16 at 18:53
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    If you put 3 outlets in that kitchen you'd kick yourself for it as long as you lived there. – isherwood Mar 22 '16 at 19:05
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    The area of a sink or range is not included in the measurements. Most electricians place the outlets up to 24 inches away from the sink on either side. This can make a space of 9-10' without an outlet and still be to code. same for a range. – Ed Beal Mar 22 '16 at 19:11
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    The purpose of the code is to prevent people from using extension cords, while still keeping kitchen-appliance cords short enough to avert other problems. The extension cord end is likely to lay on the counter, and counters get wet, and narrow gaps wick up liquid. They don't want the puddle from your spill energized at 120v. And a person who can afford 28' of counter can afford many appliances, and will tend to cluster them. Every 4' is not enough. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '16 at 20:02
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Yes, in the US under the NEC and most local codes, kitchen counters require that receptacle are spaced no more than 4' apart. Also, any counter space 12" or wider require a receptacle.

Bear in mind, breaks in the counter like sinks or ranges do not count as counter space.

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  • NEC 210.52 "wall counter top spaces" any space 12" or wider shall have a outlet. outlets installed so that no point measured along the wall will be more than 24" away from an outlet. so 4' is correct. – Ed Beal Mar 22 '16 at 19:07
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Start by looking at the code directly.

National Electrical Code 2014

Chapter 2 Wiring and Protection

Article 210 Branch Circuits

210.52 Dwelling Unit Receptacle Outlets.

(C) Countertops. In kitchens, pantries, breakfast rooms, dining rooms, and similar areas of dwelling units, receptacle outlets for countertop spaces shall be installed in accordance with 210.52(C)(1) through (C)(5).

(1) Wall Countertop Spaces. A receptacle outlet shall be installed at each wall countertop space that is 300 mm (12 in.) or wider. Receptacle outlets shall be installed so that no point along the wall line is more than 600 mm (24 in.) measured horizontally from a receptacle outlet in that space.

Exception: Receptacle outlets shall not be required on a wall directly behind a range, counter-mounted cooking unit, or sink in the installation described in Figure 210.52(C)(1).

So if you had a straight 28' countertop, with no sinks, ranges, fridges, etc. Then you'd need at least 7 receptacle outlets, if you wanted to be code compliant.

If, however, you do have sinks, ranges, refrigerators, etc. Then each bit of the countertop, will be considered its own separate countertop space.

(4) Separate Spaces. Countertop spaces separated by rangetops, refrigerators, or sinks shall be considered as separate countertop spaces in applying the requirements of 210.52(C)(1). If a range, counter-mounted cooking unit, or sink is installed in an island or peninsular countertop and the depth of the countertop behind the range, counter-mounted cooking unit, or sink is less than 300 mm (12 in.), the range, counter-mounted cooking unit, or sink shall be considered to divide the countertop space into two separate countertop spaces. Each separate countertop space shall comply with the applicable requirements in 210.52(C).

If you have a countertop space that's 4' or less, you'll only need one strategically placed receptacle. A countertop space between 4'1" to 8', you'll need two receptacles. 8'1" to 12' would require three receptacles, 12'1" to 16' needs four, and so on.

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    And you don't want to end up like the guy who engineered his ADA ramps to exactly the 8% grade specified in the law, but construction tolerances being what they are, wound up with an 8.2% grade and had to rip it all out and start over. So I would aim for 8-9 outlets at less than 4‘ spacing, e.g. Alternate which side of joists the boxes are on. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '16 at 20:11
  • @WolfHarper I agree that more is better, but the question is about code requirements, not personal preference. – Tester101 Mar 22 '16 at 20:19
  • You misread my motivation. "Better" is not my target. Compliance is. 7 outlets in 28’ leaves 0 margin for error in the actual build. Not gonna happen with common dimensional lumber. I would say 8 outlets evenly spaced starting 21” from each end, but in the real world, some joists would be in the way, rather than re-engineer the joist spacing, easier to deal with standard spacing even if it means a 9th outlet. The inspector might let you slide on 48-1/2” spacing, but I wouldn't bet a bunch of drywall and cabinet work on it. Compliant is compliant. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 22 '16 at 21:12

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