Do All Countertop Outlets Need To Be GFCI?

Date: January 9, 2020
Author: Jon Smith
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With all the new regulations and rules, it can be difficult to keep your home up to every remodeling and construction standard. This is especially problematic when it comes to the really dangerous stuff like electricity and outlet codes. Sometimes you can’t separate fact from fiction so it can be hard to know whether your outlets need to be GFCI or if a regular outlet will do. Do your countertop outlets need to be GFCI? Find the answer below.

[box] The Best GFCI Receptacles [/box]

Do all countertop outlets need to be GFCI? Outlets within 6 feet of a potential water source need to be GFCI or downstream of a GFI receptacle, so kitchen countertops at a 6 feet distance from the sink or plumbing must be GFCI protected, outside that zone, it’s mostly recommended.

The rules are fairly simple once you know the most recent regulations and can decode the tough legal language. For additional details on GFCI receptacles as well as where they are required, read below.

 

What Are GFCI Receptacles

GFCI stands for a Grounded Fault Circuit Interrupter. Conventional circuit breakers only protect your house from catching on fire. Essentially when multiple items are plugged in or during a power surge, there may be a large flow of electricity to a wire, causing a spark and fire. So traditional circuit breakers don’t prevent you from getting electrocuted.

GFCI protectors, on the other hand, stop people from electrifying themselves. A grounded-fault refers to the unintentional flow of electricity from electrical current to a grounded surface or object. Grounded objects include things like exposed plumbing fixtures. So if you were to come into contact with an energized part that has electricity flowing from the source to the grounded item, you would be electrocuted.

A GFCI receptacle consistently monitors the electrical circuit, and when it detects a slight flow of electricity to a grounded source, it will shut off all electricity, effectively preventing electrocution or any risk to you. Electricity will be shut off within 1/40th of a second so there is really no risk. This is especially helpful in areas where there is exposure to water sources and you use plugged in items including hair dryers in the bathroom and items like toasters, boilers, and phone chargers on kitchen counters.

 

Brief History of Regulations and GFCI Use

GFCI receptacles were not employed until 1971 and even at that time they were only required on the exterior of a home where you would plug in Christmas decorations or a lawnmower. They were also required around pools. However, every three years the regulations are updated in accordance with the National Electrical Code or NEC.

 

New Regulation and Requirements

Today regulation will vary from state to state, and from the type of property you are on, we will go into detail on those below, but for your reference, any outlet within 6 feet of a sink or dishwasher should and must have a GFCI receptacle. Still, you should check with your building, town, and state for specifics on your properties location. Every state is different but I am pretty sure most of the codes for each area will require this in some fashion.

Keep in mind also that whenever you install a GFCI protector within a 15 or 20-amp circuit that you will also have to include an AFCI protector (this is similar to your standard circuit break which protects against small sparks and fires.) The cheapest solution is to buy and install a dual AFCI and GFCI receptacle.

 

Regulation On Older Homes

In many cases, older homes are not required to upgrade to GFCI’s. Again you have to check with your state laws, and you should also ask the seller when purchasing a new home if the home is up to code regarding GFCI outlets. A good practice is to get a real estate inspection of the house. It may seem like the home inspector is eager to recommend GFCI outlets but it is a valid investment into the safety and wellbeing of you and your family.

 

Do All Countertop Outlets Need To Be GFCI?

Not at all! In fact, when done right within a single stream, you can only have one main GFCI receptacle. This is especially true for outlets on and around kitchen counters and the bathroom. Again this is true in most cases, but you have to check with the rules and regulations of your property and state.

Essentially, one main GFCI outlet can supply protection for the regular outlets that go “down-circuit” when installed and maintained properly. Construction workers will often take this method for entire floors where there are multiple bathrooms or a washroom and kitchen, but it can also be done for an entire house. This may end up saving you a lot of money, but you need to find an electrician who really knows what he or she is doing.

 

How To Upgrade Outlets

Here is how you can upgrade your current outlets to make the GFCI protected. We recommend getting a professional to upgrade outlets for you, but if you want to take on the slightly difficult and dangerous task, here is how.

  1. Turn off all power to the specific circuit you will be working on. This is super important and paramount to your safety.
  2. Remove the cover plate with your fingers or using a screwdriver (be careful not to damage your wall or chip the paint). Unscrew the outlet form its box.
  3. Disconnect the wires and remove the outlet.
  4. You’ll see on the GFCI are two marked areas one labeled “line” the other “load”. Attach both the black and white wires to the line side.
  5. Attach the white wire to the light-colored screw and the black to the dark-colored one.
  6. Wrap the copper wire around the ground screw (this is the one at the bottom), tighten it and tick all the wires into the box before you screw the outlet back in place and replace the cover plate.

 

You can check the GFCI outlet by pressing the power off and power on buttons. Fairly simple, but again you should hire someone who knows what they are doing, especially if you only want to use one or two GFCI protectors for the whole house.

 

Codes and Regulations for Specific Properties

Let’s go over a few types of properties and whether or not GFCI protection is required or just recommended for kitchen countertops.

 

Commercial Residency

GFCI outlets must be places for all 15A, 20A, and 125V outlets in kitchens. This goes for all outlets in the kitchen that meet these standards, not just those 6 feet away from the sink. If you place a dishwasher, it must also be connected to a GFCI outlet.

 

[box] The Best GFCI Receptacles [/box]

 

Dwelling Units

Similar to commercial properties, dwelling units are required to have GFCI protection in the kitchen for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles. However, if an outlet is not within reach or easily accessible, then a GFCI protector is not required. So outlet son the ceiling, even directly above your countertop, don’t need to be GFCI protected.

 

Temporary Installations

There are no exceptions to this rule. All outlets must be GFCI protected for temporary wiring systems to ensure the safety of construction workers during maintenance, remodeling, or demolition.

That pretty much covers it. Really the only confusion you may have is with specific regulations in your building or state. For the most part, countertops within 6 feet of a water source must have GFCI protection; however, sometimes, the rule only applies to outlets that directly serve countertops.

In other words, if an outlet is on the ground and you won’t place your toaster on the counter than for the most part, you should be good to go. Again this may seem confusing so the best thing to do is get a real estate inspector and follow their recommendations.

Conclusion

Hopefully, by now you have found the answer to your question, do all countertop outlets need to be GFCI? The answer is no but you should use GFCI outlets near water sources to keep yourself and your guests safe. Are you in a state that has a different answer to this question? I would love to read this in the comments below. It could be very useful to others who are asking the same question. Please do leave a comment below.

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About Jon - Website Owner

Jon Smith

Hi, my name is Jonathan Smith. I have been in the granite business for many years and have worked my way up from an installer helper to an installer and then a countertop business owner. 

I started my countertop company with very little and grew extremely fast because of my knowledge and helpfulness. I started this countertop resource for 1 main reason. That reason is that there are no countertop websites with all the correct information and none of them are from an industry expert like myself. 

I am still in the trade every single day installing countertops, educating people on the type of material they are using for their homes, and making people's dream kitchens a reality.

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