The Minimum Number of Electrical Outlets Required in a New Room

Written by christopher john
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The Minimum Number of Electrical Outlets Required in a New Room
Outlet locations are structured for convenience and safety. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

With the exception of persons in certain locations that have different local electrical codes from the standard National Electrical Code, the minimum number of outlets needed in a new room depends on the room's size. These requirements are designed to provide electrical safety for both the inhabitants and the property.

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Minimum Number of Outlets

According to the 2002 edition of the National Electrical Code, there must be an electrical socket, also called a receptacle, within a minimum of 6 feet from a doorway or another type of break in the wall, such as when one wall meets another wall. Also, the minimum spacing between outlets on basic lighting/outlet circuits within the room is 12 feet, measured horizontally along the wall's floor line. A "wall" includes all wall areas wider than 24 inches and also encompasses dividers, such as freestanding counters. Using these minimum requirements, a wall in a new room that is less than 12 feet in length, and has no door opening, can have only one outlet on it. A wall longer than 12 feet must have at least two outlets, so that no outlet is farther than 6 feet away from a doorway or perpendicular wall.

Spacing Importance

The minimum spacing requirements set by the National Electrical Code take into account the cord length of electrical devices that are normally placed in these habitable areas, such as lamps, computers and television sets. With no more than a 12-foot distance between outlets on any one wall, a device's 6-foot cord can be plugged in at any point along a wall, going in either direction. This cuts down on the need for extension cords, which pose risks for tripping and fires caused by short circuits or damaged and overloaded cords.

Specific Rooms Covered

The minimum number of outlet requirements are not for every type of new room. The habitable spaces, or living spaces, that the outlet requirements cover are basically certain rooms in which inhabitants conduct normal, everyday living activities. These include bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, family rooms and rooms used as an office, study, sun room or den. It is important to check with your local electrical codes to learn specific requirements of these and other rooms, such as a bathroom.

Additional Outlet Concern

There are additional code requirements that you should be aware of beforehand when installing outlets in a new room. Install GFCI-protected outlets in new bathrooms, unfinished basements and kitchens. GFCI stands for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters, and the devices protect you from electrical shocks, especially in rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms, where daily water use is usually extensive.

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