Outlets for island countertop spaces
In recent years the electrical code has taken a very minimalistic approach for islands, partly to provide some clarity, and to also minimize any confusion and misinterpretations. In the 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC), only one receptacle outlet is required to be installed for each uninterrupted, basic island countertop space that has a long dimension of 24 inches or greater, and a short dimension of 12 inches or greater. That’s it, a minimum of one receptacle outlet. However, it’s common for island countertop spaces to be interrupted by a range, counter-mounted cooking unit or a sink; in those situations the island countertop space is considered to be divided and each of the two countertop spaces would need a receptacle outlet, simple.
Outlets peninsula countertop spaces
Peninsulas often generate more confusion than islands because the peninsula intersects with a wall countertop work space at some point. Which rules are applicable? The wall countertop rules, the island rules, or both? Similar to islands, only one receptacle outlet is required to be installed for each uninterrupted peninsula countertop space that has a long dimension of 24-inches or greater, and a short dimension of 12-inches or greater. The long dimension of the peninsula is measured from the end of the peninsula all the way to the wall, not the leading (connecting) edge of the intersecting countertop.
Be sure to talk to your electrical inspector to find out how they are interpreting this tricky part of the code. Some installers will argue that the wall countertop receptacle outlet is sufficient and a separate receptacle outlet out on the peninsula is not required (especially if the peninsula countertop is simply supported with legs like a table, and has no base cabinets). Others will argue that there is no overlap between the wall countertop rules and the peninsula rules, and a separate receptacle outlet is required for the peninsula. This confusing area of the code will surely be addressed once again in the 2020 NEC. The practical and reasonable thing to do is treat the wall countertop space and the peninsula countertop space as two different countertop spaces. For kitchen countertops, more receptacle outlets are better than not having enough receptacle outlets. Nobody ever complains about having too many receptacle outlets.
Looking ahead to the 2020 National Electrical Code (NEC)
And just when you thought we had smooth sailing around our islands and peninsulas, the 2020 NEC is going to change the way we calculate countertop spaces. The 2020 NEC is scheduled to be published in September of 2019. A proposed revision looks like it will most definitely be part of the new code. Instead of measuring the long and short dimensions of the countertop work surface for the purpose of determining the minimum quantity of receptacle outlets, the total square footage of the countertop work surface will be used to determine the minimum number of receptacle outlets. At least one receptacle outlet will be required for every 9-square feet (or fraction thereof). An additional receptacle outlet will be required for every additional 18-square feet (or fraction thereof) of countertop work space. At least one receptacle outlet will be required to be located within 24-inches of the outer end of a peninsula countertop work surface. Stayed tuned for more information.
Always check with your local electrical inspector about the specific code requirements in your area.
About the author
John Williamson has been in the electrical industry for 40 years and is a licensed master electrician and certified building official. John has worked for the state of Minnesota for over 23 years and is the Chief Electrical Inspector. For the past 25 years John has also provided electrical code consultation to various book and magazine publishers.