Electrical Code Requirements by Room

The electrical code contains specific regulations and requirements for wiring and electrical equipment in different rooms and areas of a home. Understanding these code requirements is important for ensuring safety and proper installation. With some planning and knowledge of the code, you can design an effective and code-compliant electrical system for your home.

Kitchen Electrical Code Requirements

The kitchen contains many electrical appliances and devices that need ample power and safe installation. Here are some key electrical code requirements for kitchens:

Kitchen Receptacles

  • Receptacles in kitchen countertop surfaces must be GFCI protected. This applies to receptacles within 6 feet of the sink.
  • Kitchen counter receptacles must be spaced no more than 4 feet apart. Islands and peninsulas over 24 inches wide must have at least one receptacle.
  • Receptacles behind refrigerators and freezers are exempt from the 4 feet spacing rule but must still be GFCI protected.
  • The NEC requires two 20-amp small appliance branch circuits to serve kitchen countertop receptacles. No other outlets should be on these circuits.

Kitchen Lighting and Exhaust Fans

  • The kitchen must have adequate lighting, usually provided by a central ceiling fixture plus task lighting.
  • Light fixtures over sinks must be listed for a damp location.
  • Exhaust fans must be powered separately from kitchen lighting circuits.

Kitchen Appliance Circuits

  • Major appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, and microwaves need dedicated 20-amp circuits.
  • Gas cooking ranges require a 120-volt, 20-amp circuit. Electric ranges need a 240-volt circuit.
  • Garbage disposals require a switch at the sink and a dedicated 15-amp circuit.

Kitchen Electrical Panelboard

  • The electrical panelboard (breaker box) serving the kitchen should be located in an adjacent room, not in the kitchen itself.
  • Two 20-amp small appliance branch circuits are required at a minimum. More circuits may be needed for large kitchens.
  • A dedicated circuit is needed for refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, and other major appliances.

Bathroom Electrical Codes

Bathrooms present an increased shock hazard due to the presence of water. Bathroom electrical equipment and wiring must comply with strict safety standards.

Bathroom Receptacles and Lighting

  • Receptacles in bathrooms must be GFCI protected. At least one receptacle must be installed within 3 feet of each basin.
  • Luminaires (light fixtures) in bathrooms must be marked suitable for damp locations.
  • Exhaust fans must be on a GFCI protected circuit separate from lighting and receptacles.
  • Standard switches and receptacles must be located at least 3 feet from bathtubs and showers.

Bathroom Ventilation

  • Bathrooms must have proper moisture resistant exhaust fans vented to the outside.
  • Bathroom exhaust fans need a minimum airflow of 50 cubic feet per minute (CFM). Higher CFM rates are required for large bathrooms.
  • Exhaust ducts should be insulated and sloped to allow moisture drainage.

Whirlpool Tubs and Spas

  • Permanently installed tubs and spas must have accessible disconnecting means within sight of the equipment.
  • Whirlpool tub motors must be GFCI protected with an insulated equipment grounding conductor.
  • Hot tubs and spas require a disconnect switch and GFCI protection. Panelboards in nearby rooms may serve the disconnecting means.

Bedroom Electrical Codes

Bedrooms have specific receptacle requirements to prevent overloading circuits. Safety is also a primary concern.

Bedroom Receptacles

  • Receptacles must be installed so that no point along a wall space is more than 6 feet from a receptacle. This applies to both floors and walls.
  • Receptacles must be on a minimum of two separate 20-amp circuits to prevent overloading.
  • Arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection is required for all 15-amp and 20-amp branch circuits supplying outlets and devices in bedrooms.

Bedroom Lighting and Ceiling Fans

  • Permanently installed luminaires (light fixtures) are required. Switched outlets do not meet this lighting requirement.
  • Ceiling paddle fans under 70 pounds may be supported directly on electrical boxes rated for this purpose. Heavier ceiling fans require additional bracing.

Bedroom Safety

  • For fire safety, bedrooms should have a smoke alarm to provide early warning.
  • GFCI protection is advisable for receptacles, especially if they are near sinks or potentially wet areas.
  • Tamper resistant receptacles are required in childcare facilities and K-12 educational buildings, but are also a good idea in homes with small children.

Home Office Electrical Codes

Home offices have specific needs for computer equipment, lighting, and receptacle outlets.

Home Office Receptacles

  • Receptacles should be provided at multiple wall locations to allow flexibility in furniture arrangements.
  • Dedicated 20-amp circuits may be desirable for larger offices with more computer equipment and devices.
  • GFCI protection is required if receptacles are within 6 feet of water sources like a sink.

Home Office Lighting

  • Task lighting at desks should provide adequate light levels for reading without glare. Under cabinet LED strips often work well.
  • General ambient lighting must meet code minimum light levels. Recessed LED panels or track lighting help provide uniform overall lighting.
  • Switches for office lighting should be readily accessible at the entrance to the space.

Home Office Computer and Phone Lines

  • Data, network, and coaxial cables should be properly installed for internet modems, routers, and computer networks.
  • Conduit may be installed to allow for future upgrades to wiring for office systems.
  • Electrical circuits for office equipment should be isolated from noisy appliances like air conditioners to prevent interference.

Garage Electrical Codes

Garages contain many potential electrical hazards that must be properly addressed.

Garage Receptacles

  • GFCI protection is required for all 125-volt, 15-amp and 20-amp receptacles in garages.
  • Receptacles must be tamper resistant if the garage is attached and accessible to the house.
  • At least one receptacle must be provided in each attached garage bay or car space.

Garage Lighting

  • Lighting must provide adequate visibility for parking vehicles and accessing equipment.
  • Garage ceiling luminaires must be located high enough to be out of the normal path of vehicles. 8 feet is common.
  • Exposed (hanging) light bulbs must be protected from accidental contact by vehicles or objects. Fluorescent tube guards often provide this protection.

Garage Door Openers

  • Electric garage door openers must have a readily accessible disconnect switch that cuts off power to the device.
  • The opener receptacle should be on a dedicated 15-amp circuit.
  • Underground low voltage wiring for keypads, sensors and safety edges must be buried at the proper depth.

Garage Fire Safety

  • Electrical panels and junction boxes must have proper clearance space in front as required by the code. Stored items must not block access.
  • Flammable liquids like gasoline and paints must be stored away from electrical equipment.

Laundry Room Electrical Codes

Laundry rooms contain both water and electrical hazards. Proper codes must be followed.

Laundry Receptacles

  • Receptacles within 6 feet of a laundry sink must be GFCI protected.
  • Wall receptacles should be provided behind and near washing machines and dryers. They should be on dedicated 20-amp circuits.
  • A wall switch must be provided to control lighting within laundry rooms.

Laundry Room Ventilation

  • Exhaust fans and ductwork that comply with local codes must be installed if dryers are not vented directly to the outside.
  • Make-up air inlets must be provided to replace exhausted air. Louvered doors can allow air transfer.
  • Rigid or flexible smooth metal duct must be used to vent dryers. Vinyl, plastic, and “foil” ducts do not meet code.

Laundry Electrical Appliances

  • 240-volt circuits with proper grounded receptacles are required for electric dryers. 4-wire connections must be used.
  • Ground fault protection is required for outlets within 6 feet of laundry sinks. Dryer circuits normally do not need GFCI.
  • Individual appliance disconnects ahead of washing machines and dryers allow maintenance access.

Basement Electrical Requirements

Dampness and limited clearance require special consideration for basement electrical systems.

Basement Receptacles

  • 15-amp and 20-amp receptacles are required to be tamper resistant if they are readily accessible.
  • One receptacle must be provided for dehumidifiers or sump pumps. Additional outlets may be needed for shops or equipment.
  • All receptacles must have GFCI protection due to potential dampness. GFCI breakers that protect full circuits are recommended.

Basement Lighting

  • Switched lighting controlling at least one luminaire is required at each basement stairway.
  • 3-way switching allows overhead lights to be controlled from both top and bottom of stairs.
  • Luminaires must be rated suitable for damp locations or installed in enclosures.

Exposed Basement Wiring

  • Cables running along joists must be protected from physical damage by running boards or conduit.
  • NM cable must be stapled every 4.5 feet and within 12 inches of junction boxes. Running boards provide protection.
  • Exposed wiring must be at least 8 feet above floor level or attached to ceiling joists.

Basement Electrical Panels

  • A clear workspace 30 inches wide by 36 inches deep must be maintained in front of electrical panels.
  • Underground branch circuit wires entering at the bottom of panels require protection from damage.
  • GFCI protection for the full circuit is recommended for basement receptacle branch circuits.

Crawl Space Electrical Requirements

Crawl spaces present challenges due to lack of access, dampness, and clearance requirements.

Crawl Space Wiring Methods

  • NM cable wiring must be protected from damage by securing cables to joists or running boards.
  • Conduit or UF cable buried beneath the vapor barrier provides the most durable wiring method.
  • Junction boxes must be accessible without removing ducts, pipes or permanently installed equipment.

Crawl Space Electrical Hazards

  • Exposed wiring must be run high enough to secure it from damage. At least 8 feet above the floor level is recommended.
  • GFCI protection is required for all receptacle outlets in damp crawl spaces.
  • Open junction boxes and loose cables present a hazard if accidentally touched. Proper covers must be installed.

Crawl Space Lighting

  • At least one switched light fixture controlled from the access opening is required.
  • Lights must be rated for damp locations unless installed in sealed fixtures or enclosures.
  • Light fixtures with diffusers prevent exposed bulbs from accidental breakage.

Crawl Space Access

  • At least 18 inches of headroom is required to access junction boxes and wiring at crawl space access entry points.
  • Access doors should be close to electrical panels when located in crawl space areas.
  • Access points must be free of debris and stored items that block entry.

Outdoor Electrical Codes

Outdoor wiring requires protection from weather and damage. GFCI protection is mandated in wet areas.

Outdoor Receptacles

  • GFCI protection is required for all outdoor receptacles on porches, patios, balconies and similar locations.
  • Outdoor receptacles must have weatherproof covers and be rated suitable for wet locations. In-use style covers provide protection when cords are plugged in.
  • Receptacles for pools, spas and hot tubs require special GFCI protection devices.

Outdoor Lighting Fixtures

  • Exterior luminaires must be rated suitable for wet locations and have weatherproof gaskets and fittings.
  • Post mounted and pole fixtures require proper grounding and wiring methods. Buried conduit is often required.
  • Low voltage landscape lighting must use wiring rated for direct underground burial.

Outdoor Wiring Methods

  • Wiring to detached garages and outbuildings requires specific approved wiring methods. Buried conduit is common.
  • Outdoor feeder wiring must be protected from physical damage. Rigid metal conduit is recommended.
  • For underground wiring, a GFCI protected circuit is required at each building structure supplied.

Electrical Codes for Additions and Renovations

Additions, kitchen remodels, basement build-outs and other renovations require compliance with electrical codes during construction.

Electrical System Expansion

  • New additions may require new service entrance wiring, metering equipment, and electrical panels sized for expected load increases.
  • New interior circuits must match the wiring methods and installation rules used for existing electrical systems.
  • Local codes may require arch fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection on all newly installed 15-amp and 20-amp circuits.

Kitchen and Bath Remodels

  • Code requires GFCI protection of all receptacles serving countertop surfaces located within 6 feet of sinks.
  • For new bathroom circuits, 20-amp GFCI protected circuits are recommended instead of 15-amp circuits to allow for hair dryers and other devices.
  • Lighting fixtures above shower stalls and sinks must be rated for damp or wet locations.

Basement Finishing

  • Habitable rooms like bedrooms require AFCI protected circuits for receptacle outlets and lighting.
  • Escape windows and proper ceiling height are mandated for basement bedrooms and living areas. Local codes apply.
  • Fireblocking must be added wherever walls intersect floors and ceilings to slow fire spread.

Wiring Installation and Protection

  • During framing and drywall, all wiring must be properly protected from nails and screws through the use of nail plates.
  • Cables and conduit must be secured within 12 inches of boxes and at intervals matching code requirements.
  • GFCI protection is required for receptacles in unfinished basement and accessory building areas.

Electrical Code Resources

Familiarizing yourself with the legal electrical requirements for your jurisdiction is an important step in designing and wiring a code-compliant home.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) provides the standard reference used across the United States. However, local and state codes can vary. Check with your municipal inspection office to get copies of applicable local codes.

Free access to the NEC is available online from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) at www.nfpa.org. The code contains comprehensive regulations and explanatory graphics. Online access allows keyword searches.

Independent electrical code books are published that incorporate NEC regulations with clarifying commentary and diagrams. These can provide an easier path to understanding code rules for those less familiar with electrical terms.

Some jurisdictions provide electrical code handbooks detailing specific local requirements. These help guide contractors and homeowners to install electrical systems that will pass inspections.

Code guides tailored to home wiring are also published. They explain legal requirements using everyday language and practical examples for typical home electrical projects.

Key Takeaways

  • Electrical codes contain specific regulations for each area of a house to ensure safety and proper performance. Requirements vary by location and jurisdiction.
  • GFCI protection, tamper resistant receptacles, and AFCI breakers are all mandated by modern codes in certain locations to prevent shocks and electrical fires.
  • Bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor areas require special consideration to address electrical hazards posed by water exposure and appliances.
  • Lighting fixtures, wiring methods, and clearance space around panels and equipment is strictly regulated. Following code ensures safe, durable, and effective electrical systems.
  • Homeowners undertaking electrical work must research the applicable codes thoroughly. Licensed electricians are experienced in legal requirements across different local areas and building types.


Understanding the specific electrical code requirements for different rooms and areas of a home is vital for safety and proper performance. Careful planning using the code as a guide provides the best way to design an effective residential electrical system. With smart preparation and design, you can create a code compliant electrical installation that will provide safe, trouble-free service for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most important electrical codes for a kitchen?

Key kitchen electrical codes include GFCI protection for countertop receptacles within 6 feet of sinks, adequate receptacle spacing (4 feet maximum), dedicated 20-amp appliance branch circuits, appropriate lighting/fan circuits and ratings, and specified clearance for the electrical panelboard.

How should bathroom electrical be designed to meet code?

Bathrooms require GFCI protected receptacles and lighting, ventilation fans rated and wired for damp locations, proper clearances from showers/tubs for switches and lighting, and GFCI protection and disconnects for installed tubs, spas and hot tubs.

What electrical codes apply to bedroom circuits?

Bedrooms have requirements for receptacle spacing, AFCI protection on outlets, proper switching and lighting fixtures, circuit capacity limits, and tamper resistant receptacles in locations with children. Special codes apply to nurseries.

Are there code requirements for home office electrical systems?

Offices need ample receptacle outlets, task lighting without glare, adequate ambient lighting, safely installed data and network wiring, and possible dedicated circuits for computers. Isolated ground circuits help avoid electrical noise issues.

What are key electrical codes for garage and outdoor installations?

Garages and outdoor areas require GFCI protection, weatherproof components, burial depths for underground wiring, overhead light fixture heights, fire-rated building separation for garage walls, and conduit for feeders.

Where are the electrical codes found for residential projects?

The National Electrical Code (NEC) provides the basis for US residential codes. Local jurisdictions adopt versions of this code with their own amendments. Check with your local building department for applicable codes.