Adding Outlets and Switches
Most rooms in old houses have a single electrical
outlet, and all the outlets in the house may be on the same 15-amp circuit. That’s enough power for a few lamps and
not much more. It certainly won’t support a modern lifestyle. You may be able to turn on the lights and watch TV in
the evening, but forget the microwave popcorn!
The NEC sets standards for residential electrical outlets. These standards
may or may not be enforced in home improvement projects in your community. The degree that these regulations affect your project
may be a matter for negotiation between the Parko Home Renovations and the building department. Parko Home
Renovations has the experience in negotiating with building inspectors. Remember, however, that the code exists for a
reason and most of what it requires is simply good professional practice.
Spacing of outlets
Spacing of Outlets
– In most rooms, the code requires that no point along the floor line be more than 6' from a receptacle. That means
you need an outlet at least every 12' along walls. Floor outlets don’t help meet this requirement unless they’re
near the wall. Different standards apply to kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Spacing in hallways can be 20' and closets
don’t need any outlets at all.
Spacing of outlets - kitchens
Kitchens – Plan at least two 20-amp small
appliance circuits to serve the kitchen, pantry and dining area. These circuits are in addition to circuits used by the refrigerator,
dishwasher, oven, range, garbage disposer and lighting. Every kitchen counter wider than 12" needs at least one outlet.
No point on a kitchen counter can be more than 24" from an outlet. That means you need at outlet at least every 4' over
counters. Outlets have to be mounted on a wall, not face-up in the counter. The outlet next to the sink must be protected
with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Plan on dedicated circuits for the range, dishwasher, garbage disposer, refrigerator,
and microwave oven. A microwave oven will trip the breaker if it’s on the same circuit with another large appliance,
such as a refrigerator.
Spacing of outlets - bathrooms
Bathrooms – Every bathroom needs at least one GFCI-protected
outlet by the sink, even if the vanity lighting fixture includes an outlet. Keep the receptacle far enough away from the bathtub
and shower to prevent the use of electric shavers or hairdryers while bathing. New updates in the Electrical code suggests
to upgrade the bathroom circuit to a 20amp.
Laundry – Provide at least one GFCI-protected duplex receptacle in
the laundry area. The laundry receptacle must be on a dedicated 20-amp circuit.
Unfinished Basement or Attic –
Provide at least one outlet.
Outdoors – Include a GFCI-protected duplex receptacle at the front and rear of the
Garage – Provide a GFCI-protected duplex receptacle for each parking space. Detached garages may not need
Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter – GFCI protection opens the circuit when a ground-fault is detected
– such as when someone gets an electric shock. Outlets over the kitchen and bathroom sinks, in the laundry room, garage
and outdoors have to be GFCI-protected. Installing GFCI outlets is easy, assuming the circuit includes a ground wire. we need
to remove the old outlet and replace it with a GFCI outlet. You don’t need to have a GFCI outlet for every
receptacle that requires ground-fault protection. Several regular outlets can be wired to a single GFCI device. Circuitry
in the GFCI outlet will protect all attached receptacles. That’s the good news. The bad news is that GFCI outlets require
a ground to work properly. If the old circuit has no ground wire, we will have to run grounded cable to GFCI outlets.
Interrupter – The NEC now requires these special breakers for circuits that serve sleeping rooms. Regular breakers open
when there’s an overload. Arc-fault breakers open any time the circuit is creating sparks, even if there’s no
Outlets per Circuit – Plan on six duplex outlets per 20-amp circuit. Parko Home Renovations may suggest
ways to put 10 or even 12 outlets on a circuit and still meet NEC requirements. The code doesn’t prohibit mixing light
fixtures and outlets on the same home run (connection to the breaker panel).
Lights – Every room needs either
a switch-operated overhead light or a switch-operated outlet. The code requires the switch to be located by the door at the
room’s entrance. Parko Home Renovations can run the wiring to any ceiling fixture that’s still in good
condition. If the fixture is worn, broken, or simply unattractive, replacing it is a simple task. But don’t go overboard
on wattage, such as replacing a 75-watt bathroom fixture with a 500-watt heat lamp. If your choice of replacement fixtures
is a fluorescent, be sure there isn’t a grounding problem. Many fluorescent fixtures require a ground wire. If we
install a ceiling fan or a chandelier, plan on Parko Home Renovations to set a ceiling fixture box specifically rated for
Nearly all of the Michigan communities require some type of smoke detector. When
performing a major renovation the building code dictates to have a central wired smoke detector system. This system is wired
so that one detector will trigger all detectors connected. Locations for detectors include and are not limited to one on each
floor, one in each bedroom, and one located outside the bedrooms. The most common are ionization detectors that recognize
products of combustion even before flame is visible. Other types of detectors recognize smoke or detect a rapid rise in temperature.
If you have the opportunity, we recommend an AC-powered detector with a battery backup, rather than a battery-powered unit.
Surveys show that a high percentage of battery-powered smoke detectors have a dead battery at any given time. For that reason,
many building codes require AC detectors, some with a battery backup.