Whether home or business, all buildings have electrical code requirements they’re supposed to meet in order to keep people safe. But what are those specific code requirements? No matter where you live in the United States, most states follow the National Electrical Code. However, you need to pay to get access to the actual codes. So here’s a free, basic guide for each of your home’s rooms and their general electric code requirements – check it out to see if your house is up to date!
Standard kitchens with standard appliances require at least 7 circuits, but usually more.
Kitchens must have at least two 20-amp 120-volt circuits for countertops; these circuits are typically for smaller appliances.
If your oven/range is electric, it has to have its own 120/240-volt circuit.
Both the dishwasher and garbage disposal each require their own 120-volt circuits. The dishwasher circuit requires ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection, but the garbage disposal circuit does not.
The refrigerator and microwave each require their own dedicated 120-volt circuits, with the amperage rating appropriate to the electrical load of the appliance.
Any receptacle within 6 feet of a sink (as well as any countertop receptacle) must be GFCI-protected, with countertop receptacles spaced no more than 4 feet apart. This is to keep all points of the countertop within 2 feet of an outlet. However, no outlet should be more than 20” above a countertop, with exceptions for kitchen islands or handicap-specific kitchens.
Each kitchen island or peninsula should have at least one receptacle.
Kitchen lighting must be supplied by a separate circuit, at a minimum of 15-amps.
No face-up receptacles.
At least two branch circuits must supply the countertop receptacles.
New garages require at least one 120-volt 20-amp circuit specifically for the garage, or the garage’s exterior.
There should be at least one light switch, with recommendations that three-way switches be installed between the doors.
At least one receptacle, ideally with one for each car space.
All garage receptacles must be GFCI-protected.
Requires at least one 20-amp circuit for receptacles that supply power to washers and gas dryers.
An electric dryer needs its own 30-amp, 240-volt circuit wired with four conductors. (Keep in mind that older circuits often have three conductors.)
All receptacles must be GFCI-protected.
May require more than one circuit.
Receptacles must be served by a 20-amp circuit. The same circuit can supply the entire bathroom (outlets plus lighting) as long as there are no heaters (including vent fans with built-in heaters) and as long as the circuit serves only a single bathroom and no other areas. If this is not the case, then there should be a 20-amp circuit for the receptacles, in addition to a 15-amp minimum circuit for the lighting.
Vent fans with built-in heaters must be on their own dedicated 20-amp circuits.
All receptacles must have GFCI protection.
At least one 120-volt receptacle within 3 feet of the outside edge of each sink basin. However, double sinks can be served by a single receptacle positioned between them.
Light fixtures in the shower or bath area must be rated for damp locations unless they are subject to shower spray, in which case they must be rated for wet locations.
There must be a receptacle within at least 3 feet of the outside edge of the sink basin.
No receptacles face-up on countertops.
Receptacles must be on at least one separate 20-amp branch circuit.
Usually served by standard 120-volt 15-amp or 20-amp circuits that may serve more than one room.
A wall switch must be placed by the entry door of the room so that you can turn on the light when entering. There’s flexibility in whether the controls a ceiling light, wall light, or lamp receptacle. However, the ceiling fixture must be controlled by a wall switch instead of a pull chain.
Wall receptacles no farther than 12 feet apart on any wall surface, and any wall section wider than 2 feet must have a receptacle.
Dining rooms usually require a separate 20-amp circuit for one outlet that can be used for a microwave, entertainment center, or window AC unit.
Stairs & Hallways
All stairway steps must be properly lit.
Three-way switches are required at the top and bottom of each flight of stairs so that lights can be turned on and off from both ends. If stairway turns at a landing, you may need to add additional lighting fixtures to make sure all areas properly lit.
Enough lighting needs to be present so that no shadows are cast when walking, as hallways and stairways both can serve as escape routes in the event of emergencies.
Three-way switches are required at each end of the hallway, allowing the ceiling light to be turned on and off from both ends.
While not a requirement, you may want to add a four-way switch near the door outside of each room with hallway access.
Hallways more than 10 feet long must have at least one receptacle for general use.
Incandescent light bulbs (which get very hot) must be enclosed with a globe or other cover and cannot be installed within 12 inches of any clothes storage areas. (It’s 6 inches for recessed fixtures.)
Fixtures with LED bulbs must be at least 12 inches from storage areas (6 inches for recessed).
Fixtures with CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs may be within 6 inches of storage areas.
All surface-mounted (non-recessed) fixtures must be on the ceiling or the wall above the door.