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I guess my bottom line is that the whole project is best left to the pros. I am very cautious (perhaps too cautious) about DIY electrical work. It's just the one thing I won't mess with.
Remember all outlets must be installed on any wall 2 foot or longer. So that no point along the floor is more then six feet from an outlet. Lighting requires one switched light or receptacle per room.
Per NEC 220.14(J) : "code does not mandate a maximum number of receptacle outlets on residential circuits. However, typically 8 - 10 devices (lights, receptacles and smoke detectors) are installed on each branch circuit. Appliances and higher wattage lighting fixtures (such as chandeliers)
If you plan on multiple recess can lights, follow the above rule. Also, be sure to bore through the studs leaving as close to one inch from the outside edge to prevent dammage to the wires when the drywall (etc) is nailed or screwed to those studs. When stapeling the wires, hit the stple gently to just hold the wire in place..not so tight to cause possible damage to the wires. Lastly, leave at least 8 - 10 inches of wire in each junction box for your electrician to work with.
I have been using ceiling light socket with electrical plugs to get power to various spots down there as needed. Someday the basement will be finished so i have decided to get more breakers added and some of the outlets wired. To save some $$$ I am running the wires from the Breaker box
I will not be doing any of the electrical work- that is definitely for the experienced. I am using the Yellow -3wire - it says 12- the associate at Home Depot said it was the best- got it even though more expensive..
1 room is workshop area and other is what will someday be Media Room.
More circuits will be added later.
Have 11 ceiling lights in basement & they are all on same circuit. When I turn on the switch- all the lights come on. To keep some of the lights off- I hve the old fashion screw in light sockets with pull cords to keep off those not needed to be on.
I have enjoyed this site- reading solutions to other's problems. This is my 1st question. thanks.
I would suggest before you begin cutting or using any materials that you purchase a home wiring book from perhaps Better Homes or any of the other ones you find at the big box stores in their library section. This will give you a much better idea of exactly what kind of wires you need, how to place them in the room, and provide you with enough knowledge so when you do get the electrical contractor in you will have a better understanding and appreciation for the work that they will be doing for you.
Power and Lighting Distribution
Chapter 38 addresses the rough-in stage of construc-
tion in which the wiring systemis installed for the purpose
of distributing receptacle and lighting outlets throughout
the dwelling. This chapter covers receptacle outlet spac-
ing, GFCI and AFCI protection, lighting outlet locations,
raceway and box fill limitations, box and panel board
installation, equipment grounding, and flexible cords.
The intent of Chapter 38 is to protect occupants fromfire,
electrical shock, and accidents. By eliminating the need
for extension cords, by providing adequate lighting, and
by requiring equipment grounding and GFCI and AFCI
protection, the code substantially increases the level of
safety in homes.
E3801.1General. Receptacle outlets shall be provided in ac-
cordance with Sections E3801.2 through E3801.11. Recep-
tacle outlets required by this section shall be in addition to any
receptacle that is part of a luminaire or appliance, that is lo-
cated within cabinets or cupboards, or that is located over 5.5
feet (1676 mm) above the floor.
Permanently installed electric baseboard heaters equipped
with factory-installed receptacle outlets, or outlets provided
as a separate assembly by the baseboardmanufacturer shall be
permitted as the required outlet or outlets for the wall space
utilized by such permanently installed heaters. Such recep-
tacle outlets shall not be connected to the heater circuits.
❖ Section E3801 covers the requirements for the loca-
tions of receptacle outlets. A receptacle that is built in
or is an integral part of light fixture, appliance, or cabi-
net is not counted as one of the outlets required by this
section. However, a factory-installed receptacle in a
baseboard heater is permitted to serve as one of the
required outlets, but such a receptacle must not be
connected to the circuit supplying the heater.
A baseboard heatermust not be installed on the wall
below a receptacle outlet unless specifically listed for
such installations. Where a cord is plugged into a re-
ceptacle, it could drape over the baseboard heater or
come into contact with it; thus, the cord would become
hot, which could melt or weaken the insulation and
create a possible fire or shock hazard. If the plan calls
for baseboard heaters, the required receptacles must
be either integral with the heater or be positioned so
that cords will not contact the heater.
E3801.2 Convenience receptacle distribution. In every
kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor,
library, den, sun room, bedroom, recreation room, or similar
room or area of dwelling units, receptacle outlets shall be
installed in accordance with the general provisions specified
in Sections E3801.2.1 through E3801.2.3. See Figure
❖ The receptacles in all rooms of a dwelling unit except
bathrooms and laundry rooms are referred to as con-
venience receptacles. This section and the following
three subsections cover the location and spacing re-
quirements for convenience receptacles. There is no
minimum or maximum number of receptacles for a
room. There is no height requirement for convenience
receptacles except that any receptacle located over
51/2 feet above the floor is not counted. There are cer-
tain height requirements for accessibility standards;
however, they usually do not apply toa privatedwelling
unit. Although there are specific requirements for
countertop receptacles in a kitchen, the location and
spacing of all other receptacles in kitchens and dining
areas are included in these provisions.
E3801.2.1 Spacing. Receptacles shall be installed so that no
point along the floor line in any wall space is more than 6 feet
(1829 mm), measured horizontally, from an outlet in that
space. Receptacles shall, insofar as practicable, be spaced
equal distances apart.
❖ This requirement is intended to eliminate the need for
extension cords. In any of the rooms listed (or a similar
area of a dwelling), a lamp, appliance, radio, TV, or
other electrical appliance can be placed at any point
along the floor line, and a receptacle will be available
within six feet of that location. It is important to not cut
corners when measuring. The floor line is measured
along the wall all the way into and around corners.
Where a door opens against a wall, it may seem rea-
sonable to begin the measurement at the end of the
door swing, about 30 to 36 inches (762 to 914 mm)
from the hinged side of the door casing, but the code
requires that the wall space be counted all the way to
the door jamb.
E3801.2.2 Wall space. As used in this section, a wall space
shall include the following:
1. Any space that is 2 feet (610 mm) or more in width, (in-
cluding space measured around corners), and that is un-
POWER AND LIGHTING DISTRIBUTION
38-2 2003 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE COMMENTARYVOLUME 2
For SI: 1 foot = 304.8 mm.
GENERAL USE RECEPTACLE DISTRIBUTION
❖ See the commentary for Section E3801.2.
broken along the floor line by doorways, fireplaces, and
2. The space occupied by fixed panels in exterior walls, ex-
cluding sliding panels.
3. The space created by fixed room dividers such as railings
and freestanding bar-type counters.
❖ An appliance or lamp, for example, could be placed in
front of the fixed portion of a sliding door, which must
be counted as wall space for determining the spacing
requirements of receptacle outlets. An example of a
fixed room divider is a railing installed along an open
balcony or loft. Appliances could be placed by the
homeowner along the railing, and a receptacle must
be installed at a point no further than six feet from any
point along the railing. A floor outletmay be necessary
in this situation.
E3801.2.3 Floor receptacles. Receptacle outlets in floors
shall not be counted as part of the required number of recep-
tacle outlets except where located within 18 inches (457 mm)
of the wall.
❖ Where the furniture layout is known, floor receptacles
are sometimes located in themiddle of a room. For ex-
ample, power may be required for a lamp on an end
table at each end of a couch that is placed away from
the walls of a living room. Such receptacles are not
counted as part of the required number of receptacles
as measured along the wall line. In the example under
Section E3801.2.2 above, a floor outlet must be
installed a maximum of 18 inches (457 mm) from the
railing to count as the required receptacle.
E3801.3 Small appliance receptacles. In the kitchen, pantry,
breakfast room, dining room, or similar area of a dwelling
unit, the two or more 20-ampere small-appliance branch cir-
cuits required by Section E3603.2, shall serve all receptacle
outlets covered by Sections E3801.2 and E3801.4 and those
receptacle outlets provided for refrigeration appliances.
1. In addition to the required receptacles specified by
Sections E3801.1 and E3801.2, switched receptacles
supplied from a general-purpose branch circuit as
defined in Section E3803.2, Exception 1, shall be
2. The receptacle outlet for refrigeration appliances shall
be permitted to be supplied from an individual branch
circuit rated at 15 amperes or greater.
❖ Small appliance receptacles are supplied by at least
two 20-ampere branch circuits and include all of the re-
ceptacles in the kitchen, pantry, dining, and similar
areas of a house. The countertop receptacles as well
as all of the other low receptacles (usually installed
around 12 to 18 inches (305 to 457 mm) above the
floor) in these rooms are included on one of the small
appliance receptacle branch circuits. In a dining room,
a receptacle controlled by a wall switch can serve as
the required lighting outlet. Such a receptacle would
not be served by one of the small appliance branch cir-
cuits but would be served by a general purpose lighting
The receptacle serving a refrigerator can be in-
cluded on one of the small appliance circuits or can be
supplied by a separate individual branch circuit.
Where it is an individual branch circuit, it can be a
15-ampere or 20-ampere rated branch circuit.
E3801.3.1Other outlets prohibited. The two or more small-
appliance branch circuits specified in Section 3801.3 shall
serve no other outlets.
1. A receptacle installed solely for the electrical sup-
ply to and support of an electric clock in any of the
rooms specified in Section E3801.3.
2. Receptacles installed to provide power for supple-
mental equipment and lighting on gas-fired ranges,
ovens, and counter-mounted cooking units.
❖ Receptacles for specific fixed-in-place appliances
such as a disposal, dishwasher, or trash compactor
cannot be served by the small-appliance branch cir-
cuits. The small-appliance circuits cannot supply any-
thing else, such as the hood fan over the range.
A half century ago, a receptacle for an electric clock
installed high on the wall was a standard feature in the
kitchen in some areas of the country. The power for a
FIGURE E3801.2 - E3801.3.1
2003 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE COMMENTARYVOLUME 2 38-3
clock is minimal, and although this type of receptacle
outlet is not as common now, it has been permitted for
many years to be served by one of the small appliance
branch circuits. Where a gas range is installed in the
kitchen, a 120-volt receptacle outlet is needed to oper-
ate such items on the range as the timer, lights, and
ignitor. This receptacle can be connected to one of the
small appliance branch circuits.
E3801.3.2 Limitations. Receptacles installed in a kitchen to
serve countertop surfaces shall be supplied by not less 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 Section E3801.3.
Additional small-appliance branch circuits shall be permitted
to supply receptacle outlets in the kitchen and other rooms
specified in Section E3801.3. A small-appliance branch cir-
cuit shall not serve more than one kitchen.
❖ Small appliance branch circuits can serve receptacles
in a dining room. In a formal dining room, where no
cooking is done and it is not likely that any appliances
will be used, itmay seem that the receptacles could be
served by a general purpose lightingbranch circuit, but
these receptacles must be included on one of the two
or more small-appliance branch circuits.
There is not a limit on the number of outlets served
by a small appliance branch circuit. Some electrical
contractors have traditional ways of laying out these
circuits. For example, one practice is that all counter-
top receptacles on one side of the kitchen sink are
wired on one circuit, and another circuit is used for all
receptacles on the other side of the sink. Another
method is to alternate countertop receptacles on two
different circuits so that no two adjacent receptacles
are on the same circuit. Yet another method is to use
three-conductor cable and wire the top half of the du-
plex receptacle on one circuit and the bottom half on
another circuit. These methods are not code require-
ments but only preferences. The code simply requires
that all receptacles in the kitchen, pantry, and dining
areas be served by two or more small appliance
E3801.4 Countertop receptacles. In kitchens and dining
rooms of dwelling units, receptacle outlets for counter spaces
shall be installed in accordance with Sections E3801.4.1
through E3801.4.5. (See Figure E3801.4.)
❖ This section introduces five subsections. The first four
subsections cover the countertop spaces where re-
ceptacles are required, and the fifthcovers thelocation
of receptacles in those required spaces.
E3801.4.1 Wall counter space. A receptacle outlet shall be
installed at each wall counter space 12 inches (305 mm) or
wider. Receptacle outlets shall be installed so that no point
along thewall line ismore than 24 inches (610mm),measured
horizontally from a receptacle outlet in that space.
For SI: 1 inch = 25.4 mm, 1 foot = 304.8 mm.
❖ See the commentary for Section E3801.4.
❖ Inmany kitchens, there is a short section of countertop
between the refrigerator and the range on which it is
helpful to place items when getting them in and out of
the refrigerator. The literal code requirement is that if
this countertop is 12 inches (305mm) or more wide, a
receptacle is required along the wall at this space.
Some installers have omitted the receptacle where the
countertop space is only 9 or 10 inches. This is a case
where good judgment should prevail. For example, a
toaster could be placed at such a countertop space,
and if therewere not a receptacle available, the toaster
cord could be placed across the range to be plugged
in. This would create an unsafe situation. Providing a
receptacle at a 10-inch (254 mm), for example, coun-
tertop space is a good idea, although not a code re-
As indicated in Figure E3801.4 of the code, recep-
tacle outlets must not be spaced more than 48 inches
(1219 mm) apart along the wall line of the countertop.
For this measurement, it is not permitted to cut cor-
ners. Notice the measurement at the left of the sink in
the figure. The edge of the sink is considered the be-
ginning of the countertop, and an outlet must be avail-
able within 24 inches (610 mm) of that point. Continu-
ing to the left from that point, themeasurement follows
the wall line.
E3801.3.2 - FIGURE E3801.4
38-4 2003 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE COMMENTARYVOLUME 2
Using Figure E3801.4, it is not correct, for example,
to draw an imaginary line along the front edge of the
countertop in front of the sink all the way to the wall left
of the sink, consider that one countertop, then begin
at that point to measure to the refrigerator. The wall
line in the corner must be included in the measure-
E3801.4.2 Island counter spaces. At least one receptacle
outlet shall be installed at each island counter space with a
long dimension of 24 inches (610 mm) or greater and a short
dimension of 12 inches (305 mm) or greater.
❖ At an island counter space, one receptacle is required.
More may be installed, for example, at each end. The
24-inch (610mm) spacing requirement does not apply
to the island countertop space, because there is no
wall line. An island might be divided into two counter
spaces by the presence of a sink or cooktop.
E3801.4.3 Peninsular counter space.At least one receptacle
outlet shall be installed at each peninsular counter space with
a long dimension of 24 inches (610mm) or greater and a short
dimension of 12 inches (305 mm) or greater. A peninsular
countertop is measured from the connecting edge.
❖ The connecting edge of a peninsular countertop is an
imaginary line along the front edge of the adjacent
countertop. At least one receptacle is required at the
peninsular counter space. It is not required to be at the
end of the peninsula.
E3801.4.4 Separate spaces. Countertop spaces separated by
range tops, refrigerators, or sinks shall be considered as sepa-
rate countertop spaces in applying the requirements of Sec-
tions E3801.4.1, E3801.4.2 and E3801.4.3.
❖ The intent of this code requirement is to prevent cords
from being stretched or laid across the range or sink or
other separations of the countertop space. The left and
right edges of the kitchen sink are points where the
measurement begins for the countertop space.
E3801.4.5 Receptacle outlet location. Receptacle outlets
shall be located not more than 20 inches (508 mm) above the
countertop. Receptacle outlets shall not be installed in a face-
up position in the work surfaces or countertops. Receptacle
outlets rendered not readily accessible by appliances fastened
in place, appliance garages or appliances occupying dedi-
cated space shall not be considered as these required outlets.
Exception: Receptacle outlets shall be permitted to be
mounted not more than 12 inches (305 mm) below the
countertop in construction designed for the physically im-
paired and for island and peninsular countertops where the
countertop is flat across its entire surface and there are no
means to mount a receptacle within 20 inches (508 mm)
above the countertop, such as in an overhead cabinet. Re-
ceptacles mounted below the countertop in accordance
with this exception shall not be located where the counter-
top extends more than 6 inches (152 mm) beyond its sup-
❖ The intent of the code rule is that receptacles will be
available for small appliances used on the countertop.
It can be a safety hazard to have appliances plugged in
below the countertop surface because the cord would
be draped over the edge of the countertop, and the
cord could be easily snagged, pulling the appliance off
of the countertop.Where an island or peninsular coun-
tertop does not overhang the cabinetmore than 6inch-
es (152 mm), it is permitted to install the required re-
ceptacle not more than 12 inches (305mm) below the
E3801.5 Appliance outlets. Appliance receptacle outlets
installed for specific appliances, such as laundry equipment,
shall be installedwithin 6 feet (1829mm) of the intended loca-
tion of the appliance.
❖ Where the outlet is no more than 6 feet from the loca-
tion of an appliance, it is assumed that the appliance
cord will reach the outlet. The intent is that extension
cords will not have to be used. Common sense should
be used here, and the 6-foot (1829mm)measurement
may not be adequate if the measured distance is sim-
ply from the edge of the appliance space. For exam-
ple, if a 120-volt receptacle for a gas clothes dryer is 6
feet from the edge of the dryer space, the receptacle
placement may satisfy the code rule, but the dryer
cord at the rear of a gas clothes dryer may be at the
opposite side of the space closest to the receptacle.
Consideration should be given to the location of the
appliances such as garage door openers, sump
pumps, clothes washers, etc., so that extension cords
will not have to be used.
E3801.6 Bathroom. At least one wall receptacle outlet shall
be installed in bathrooms and such outlet shall be located
within 36 inches (914 mm) of the outside edge of each lavato-
ry basin. The receptacle outlet shall be located on awall that is
adjacent to the lavatory basin location.
Receptacle outlets shall not be installed in a face-up posi-
tion in the work surfaces or countertops in a bathroom basin
❖ Where a bathroom lighting fixture contains a recep-
tacle, it does not satisfy the requirement for the bath-
room wall receptacle per Section E3801.1, because
required receptacles are in addition to any that are part
of a lighting fixture. A receptacle in a lighting fixture
must beGFCI protected, and the bathroom lighting cir-
cuit is usually not supplied from a GFCI protected cir-
E3801.7 Outdoor outlets. At least one receptacle outlet
accessible at grade level and not more than 6 feet, 6 inches
(1981 mm) above grade, shall be installed outdoors at the
front and back of each dwelling unit having direct access to
E3801.4.2 - E3801.7
2003 INTERNATIONAL RESIDENTIAL CODE COMMENTARYVOLUME 2 38-5
❖ Any dwelling unit that has direct access to grade re-
quires an outdoor receptacle both at the front and back
of the dwelling. But a receptacle that is part of a yard
lightmounted on a post, for example,would not satisfy
this requirement. Where a dwelling unit has a balcony
or deck accessible only through a door from the inside
of the house, an outdoor receptacle at the balcony or
deck locationmay not satisfy this requirement if the re-
ceptacle is not accessible at grade level. If it is not over
61/2 feet from the ground and can be reached from
standing on the ground, it counts as the required re-
E3801.8 Laundry areas. At least one receptacle outlet shall
be installed to serve laundry appliances.
❖ Section E3603.3 requires at least one 20-amp rated
branch circuit for the laundry area.Typically, this circuit
supplies a duplex receptacle to serve a clothes washer
and a gas-fired clothes dryer. See Section E3801.5 for
receptacle location requirements. Laundry area is
not defined but is interpreted as including an ironing
area within the laundry area, meaning that multiple re-
ceptacle locations could be supplied by the required
laundry branch circuit. Bear in mind that a 20-amp
rated branch circuit is nearly at capacity when serving
both a washer and dryer.
E3801.9 Basements and garages. At least one receptacle
outlet, in addition to any provided for laundry equipment,
shall be installed in each basement and in each attached
garage, and in each detached garage that is provided with
electrical power. Where a portion of the basement is finished
into a habitable room(s), the receptacle outlet required by this
section shall be installed in the unfinished portion.
❖ The code does not require that a detached garage be
supplied with electrical power. But if it has power, then
it must have at least one receptacle. Because there
are many uses and activities in garages and unfin-
ished basements that require power, an unfinished
basement or an unfinished portion of a basementmust
have at least one receptacle to avoid the overuse or
unsafe use of extension cords. Section E3809.1 pro-
hibits the use of flexible cord as a substitute for fixed
wiring in the dwelling and indicates that cordsmust not
be run through holes in walls, ceilings, or floors.Where
receptacles are installed at appropriate locations, the
receptacles will reduce the need for extension cords.
E3801.10 Hallways. Hallways of 10 feet (3048mm) ormore
in length shall have at least one receptacle outlet. The hall
length shall be considered the lengthmeasured along the cent-
erline of the hall without passing through a doorway.
❖ The length of an L-shaped hallway is also measured
along the centerline and includes the total L- shaped
length. The purpose for this requirement is tomandate
supply power for a vacuum cleaner. This results in
convenience and safety by helping avoid the use of ex-
E3801.11 HVAC outlet. A 125-volt, single-phase, 15 or 20
ampere-rated convenience receptacle outlet shall be installed
for the servicing of heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration
equipment located in attics and crawl spaces. The receptacle
shall be accessible and shall be located on the same level and
within 25 feet (7620 mm) of the heating, air-conditioning and
refrigeration equipment. The receptacle outlet shall not be
connected to the load side of the HVAC equipment discon-
nectingmeans and shall be protected in accordance with Sec-
❖ When servicing or repairing HVAC equipment, a tech-
nician usually needs power tools, instruments, or
equipment. To avoid the necessity of a technician
dragging an extension cord through the attic or crawl
space, a receptacle outlet provides the necessary
Ideally less outlets per run are better, and breaking the outlets on each wall to be different power runs allows you to keep power on in the room while working on another branch within the same room. Rule of thumb is 180 watts assumed load per outlet. Do the math and go that route.
Lots of good info anyway Bill.
This means people who carry a big book to check a job but are incapable of doing the job must read from the book & blah, blah, blah is their answer. I've seen/heard this when competent vendors worked at my home.
But seriously ..cut and past of the IRC is pretty dry to say the least...I keep a copy in my office for consultation now and then ..but at 672 pages it's not something I carry about in my truck.
Sherrie, I totally agree with you on government documents. Always too wordy to get to a single point. But if they were simple anyone could do it. Part of getting licensed is the ability to make sense out of what they are talking about. As a pilot we have a book called the Far Aim This booklet goes in to every detail about flying a plane and the federal air system. To understand this book is a great feat. But you can purchase a simplified book that covers everything in this several hundred page book that is only about half its size. But you cannot use this book when you take any tests because its simple. And we wonder why taxes are so high in the country.
What I have learned is to plan for a plug every 6 feet- I might have spaced a little further - so that was good info. Now I just have to get to it. now that holidays are behind us.....
Yes i do have a licenced electrician that will be finishing. It will someday have to be
Receptacles - within 6 ft of a doorway or opening, on any wall 2 ft or longer, not farther than 12 ft apart along the wall line at any location, no limitation on number per circuit but don't overdo it. I usually do 8-12 depending on total numbers. Split the number in half if there's more than 12.
Lights - Use the wattage of the bulbs to determine total number on one circuit. P(watts) /
1000w / 120 v = 8.33 amps
Max load amps allowed on a Circuit is 80%
20 amp circuit = 16 amps #12 wire
15 amp circuit = 12 amps #14 wire