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Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Kitchen Edition

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Sep 26, 2014 01:16 AM
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by Janet Hall last modified Sep 25, 2014

Appliances, faucets, countertops, and cabinetry. The to-do list for a kitchen remodel is daunting. An often overlooked but crucial detail? Strategically placed electrical outlets that enhance the room's functionality and aesthetics. Here's what you need to ensure plentiful power in the kitchen. N.B.: This is the third in our series of electrical outlet primers; scroll to the end for links to our posts on living room outlets and the latest flush-mounted wall outlets. Above: Black outlets are mounted horizontally on either side of the sink in Remodelista editor in chief Julie's kitchen, designed by architect Jerome Buttrick , a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory. Buttrick is a storage wizard; see his  Great Advice for Kitchen Design . Photograph by Matthew Williams . Know electrical code rules and restrictions Step 1: Educate yourself about the requirements and restrictions defined by the International Residential Code, National Electrical Code (NEC), and any local codes. The good news is that the rules primarily focus on the minimum requirements for outlet placement (by number of feet between outlets and from corners, etc.). Those minimums may be exceeded, so you can generally add outlets when necessary. Because of the prevalence of water and other cooking liquids, kitchens come with their own special electrical requirements, including, but not limited to: GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlets above countertop level to protect from electrocution Dedicated outlets and circuits for major appliances No installation of outlets in a face-up position on work surfaces or countertops Outlet placement on kitchen islands and countertop peninsulas Above: GCFI outlets don't have to come with the standard red and blue "test" and "reset" buttons. Manufacturers such as Leviton (shown here) make GFCI outlets in solid colors to better blend in. The Leviton GFCI Black Receptacle is $12.70 at Amazon. Assess your kitchen's electrical power needs  Kitchens are power hungry and the placement of outlets is key for usability— form needs to follow function. Here are key questions to ask when considering placement.   1. Where are your fixed appliances located? These are the big-ticket items (refrigerators, cooktops, range hoods) that are not likely to migrate. Major appliances will require (by code) dedicated circuits. Small but still permanent appliances should have outlets installed at their packing spots (don't forget to add an outlet under the sink for a garbage disposal).  2. What portable appliances will you use and where? This may require more forethought than your fixed appliances. Think long and hard about where you'll use your small appliances and place outlets accordingly. Do you plan to store most appliances and bring them out for use? Are there some that will live on your countertop? Place outlets to keep cord exposure to a minimum. Speaking of cords, keep in mind that most small appliances have relatively short cords (18 inches or so).   Above: Certain appliances, like a shiny KitchenAid mixer, look great displayed on a countertop. For ease of use, place an outlet near its designated spot. Photograph by Nicole Franzen for Remodelista.  3. Where do you stand and work at your kitchen counters?  For new builds and gut renovations, here's where play acting comes in. Before you map out your outlet placement plan, walk around your kitchen and tape off the counter, island, sink, and appliance locations. Then think about where you're likely to be cook and use electric tools in the space.  Above: For recipes, do you rely on a tablet (check out designer Andrea Ponti's Bosco Cutting Board and iPad Stand )? Will you need to plug it in?  4. What are your lighting sources? While freestanding lamps are not common in a kitchen, don't forget to consider lighting and switch placement. You need to be able to have good light where you work.  Above: In a kitchen by  Whiting Architects  of Melbourne, a Tolomeo Clip Spot Light is powered by an outlet strategically placed in the box shelf. (Read about the two ways the light can be installed in Izabella's recent Design Sleuth .) 5. Do you like to play music or hang holiday lights in your kitchen? Not all of us have wireless sound systems. In my old Seattle kitchen, our Tivoli radio sat on a shelf where we had an outlet installed just for it. And do you like to put up string lights or any other electric-powered decor in your kitchen for festivities?  6. Do you plan to charge personal electronics in the kitchen? Kitchens are popular as charging stations, especially for families with kids. Would it be handy to have outlets in the back of a drawer or a cupboard to power up phones overnight?    Above: A charging drawer in a kitchen by German company  Hulsta . Plan with aesthetics in mind  So you've figured out the functionality of your kitchen outlets. It's also essential to think about what they're going to look like—and to select outlets that harmonize with your kitchen. Do you want to conceal, camouflage, or incorporate power outlets into the design? Conceal Hiding outlets doesn't have to be complicated, but it does require advance planning. Some helpful options include installing under-cabinet power strips, outlet garages, in-cabinet outlets, and recessed outlets placed behind appliances.  Above: This TriBeCa kitchen by Melissa Baker and Jon Handley of Pulltab Design  appears to be void of outlets. "We used an aluminum-cased plug mold recessed into the bottom of the upper cabinets that runs parallel to the LED under-cabinet lighting," says Handley. "We don't place outlets in backsplashes as we feel they detract from the aesthetics." Photograph by Mikiko Kikuyama . To tour the whole duplex, go to  The Architect Is In: A Skylight Like a Moon in Tribeca . Above: A concealed outlet garage in a  Henrybuilt  design. Above: Outlets are cleverly concealed in this kitchen by architect Jennifer Weiss . Says Weiss, "We have a few tricks for hiding outlets, such as placing them on the side of the cabinets (at the end of the counter), or under the upper cabinets, or under a cantilevered countertop. We've even done a coffee-bean-grinder drawer. The messy grinds stay in the drawer until it's time to clean it." Photograph by  Lucas Fladzinski , courtesy of J. Weiss Architecture.  Camouflage While people go to great lengths to hide outlets, there are also ways to make them much less noticeable. Laying outlets on the horizontal can minimize their profile. High or low placement pulls outlets out of the center of a backsplash and better integrates them into the design. Also there are flush outlets and pop-up outlets that are barely noticeable when not in use.  Above: Outlets are placed on the horizontal, to run with the tiled backsplash and minimize visual disruption, in architect Elizabeth Roberts 's compact guest kitchen. See chapter one of the Remodelista book and House Call: Elizabeth Roberts in Brooklyn for more. Photograph by Matthew Williams  for Remodelista. Above: White outlets are in practical locations—and without visual blight—in Dagmar Daley and Zak Conway's remodeled San Francisco Victorian. See more in the kitchen chapter of the  Remodelista book . Photograph by Matthew Williams  for Remodelista. Above: Multi-outlet strips can be placed discreetly under counter overhangs and open shelving. Shown here, a handy outlet strip at the end of a kitchen island. Photograph via  Leite's Culinaria . Complement Embracing the utility of modern electricity can be done in a way that works with and even enhances the design.  Above: Nickel outlet covers are a nice finishing detail in Michelle McKenna's London kitchen. For a tour of the whole house, see The Power of Pastels: A London House Reimagined , and learn more about McKenna's multifaceted work at her site Space and Grace . Photograph by Emma Lee .  Above: A black industrial outlet is used as a contrasting design element in a kitchen with a wall of beveled subway tiles. (See our White Tile Pattern Glossary for more ways to use subway tile.) Photograph by Anna Kern for Skona Hem . For more kitchen-specific outlet solutions, go to  Remodeling 101: Pop-Out Outlets  and  Hidden Power in the Kitchen . Not remodeling soon? There are ways to reduce outlet blight. See  10 Easy Pieces: Switch Plate Covers  and Switch Up Your Switch Plates for ideas.  Read our other electrical outlet primers: Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Living Room Edition Remodeling 101: Flush Electrical Outlets   More Stories from Remodelista 5 Favorites: British Boutique Paint Companies DIY: A Mod Pendant Light Made from Drinking Straws Rehab Diaries: A Pristine Laundry Room Remodel






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