Kitchen Outlets

By Brad Arnold

© Brad Arnold


Building a new house?  Remodeling? Buying?  If so, here are some tips regarding the electrical outlets in your kitchen.


If replacing outlets, replace them with "spec grade" receptacles. These receptacles will be more costly than the standard residential grade receptacle. The average residential grade receptacle costs less than a dollar, and the cheapest spec grade receptacle will be two to three times higher. Why spend the extra money? For the average receptacle location that is seldom used, and then only by a vacuum cleaner or electronic device, you may not need the better quality outlet. Spec grade outlets/receptacles should be used for high wattage devices, such as toasters, countertop grills, waffle makers, coffee makers, irons, and hair dryers. Spec grade outlets have stronger connectors for your appliance plugs. This also means you will have to push a little harder when inserting plugs into the receptacle.


The National Electrical Code requires receptacles at least every two feet for all countertop spaces, for all counters that are over 12 inches in length. Keep in mind it is cheaper to add a receptacle while remodeling or building than after your kitchen is complete. You may even want to use a double receptacle (two receptacles in the same outlet box) in some counter locations where you do a lot of work. Microwave and Kitchen counter OutletsPut the two receptacles on different circuits to avoid overloads and tripped breakers. Remember, the electrical code requires at least two 20 amp circuits be installed in the kitchen for outlets. A microwave should be on a circuit by itself.


If you are changing the receptacles yourself, be sure the power is off to the circuit. If the outlet box is not flush with the wall surface, use small washers on the screws between the receptacle and the box to provide a solid installation. Not doing so can cause your cover plate to break when plugging in devices. Be sure all connections are tight.


If your kitchen does have the cheap residential grade receptacles, be sure the wiring is not simply stabbed into the back of the receptacle. Earlier receptacles had the quick wiring feature of allowing this method of wiring.  But it is dangerous because it leads to overheating of the receptacle when plugged into a high-wattage device.  If you find that your plugs are starting to fall out of your receptacles, change the receptacle immediately. It is not safe, and could start arcing from the weak connection. If you hear a buzzing or frying sound when you plug your device into an outlet, immediately unplug it and don't use the outlet until it is replaced. Pay special attention to outlets that do not hold the plug tightly in place.


GFCI Kitchen OutletYour electrician, or current installation, should include GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting)

outlets near sources of water, for example, the kitchen sink.   Make sure your outlets within six feet of the sink are GFCI protected (pre 1996 electrical code), (after 1996) all kitchen outlets must be GFCI protected.  GFCI circuits are extremely sensitive to shorts, and will immediately trip the circuit off if a problem exists. Some people may remember the old days of working with an old electric mixer and touching a stainless steel sink and getting shocked from it. GFCI outlets keep this from happening.


Outlets are one of modern society's greatest conveniences, providing many timesaving tools for the home.  Keep them safe and use them with care and respect, and they will provide you with good service.  Consult a qualified electrician before attempting serious electrical work around the house.

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