kitchen island with gfci outlets

Do Kitchen Islands Need GFCI Outlets?

A kitchen is the heart of any good home, and every good kitchen needs space to work and to entertain. A kitchen island is the perfect fixture for that much-needed countertop space, or a place for family to gather. Anyone remodeling their home knows about the codes required by the NEC for specific outlet placement, and how confusing it sounds.

Do kitchen islands need GFCI outlets?

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupt. These outlets are required to serve the countertop, island, or table space, and up to 6 feet away from the top edge of a sink. The appropriate number of GFCI outlets required depends on the island’s total square footage.

All of the requirements for electrical coding can be found in the book of National Electrical Code (NEC). And, just like the title sounds, it’s packed with captivating technical explanations that can be troublesome to understand. Fortunately, it’s enough to know that GFCI outlets have become integral to almost every room and location in your home or building, especially the kitchen. 

Do Kitchen Islands Need Outlets? 

Kitchen islands expand the feel of your kitchen. They provide the much sought after countertop for your mixer or blender. They can be a place for that second sink to wash all the vegetables. Any design is possible, but you need to keep safety and accessibility in mind for your electrical outlets.

On an island, according to the NEC, one electrical outlet should be installed for every 2 feet of the long dimension and every 1 foot on the short dimension (210.52(C)(2)). For peninsulas or islands that have one end connected to a wall or counter, at least one electrical outlet must be installed for every 2 feet on the long dimension and every 1 foot on the short dimension measured from the connecting edge (210.52(C)(3)).

Additional requirements include the following:

  • Electrical receptacles should be placed no farther than 48 inches apart.
  • No point on the countertop should be more than 2 feet away from an outlet. 
  • Countertops 12 inches or wider should have an outlet placed on the wall behind the counter.
  • Outlets should be positioned 20 inches or less above the countertop, with certain exceptions for islands or peninsulas where this height rule can’t be met.

Rather than have you be familiar with the entire NEC handbook, most states will publish quick reference guides to the information, like this one from Florida. 

What are GFCI Outlets?

do kitchen islands need gfci outlets

Ground fault circuit interrupting outlets are electrical reciprocals that protect us from being shocked or injured by electronic devices. You have probably seen them before, the most common GFCI outlets have “test” and “reset” buttons in the center. 

Here’s the science: they work by monitoring the amount of electricity being input from the “hot” end of your device compared to the output of the “neutral” end, the electrical cord attached to the outlet. If the outlet sensor detects even a fraction of a difference, the outlet interrupts the electrical current within milliseconds. Breaking the current and protecting the user from electrical shock and injury. 

GFCI outlets are so effective in preventing injury that in 2020 the NEC updated their list of required locations for these outlets. These specific areas are places in the vicinity of water that require electricity:

  1. Bathrooms 
  2. Kitchens
  3. Laundry rooms
  4. Patios
  5. Garages
  6. Pool decks
  7. Boathouses

GFCI outlets are currently industry standard in the United States because of their safety and reliability. 

What Are the Different Types of GFCI outlets?

15 amp Duplex ReceptacleThe early American standard. You’ll find them in that fixer-upper, or your fairytale rebuild. These outlets are outdated because they don’t offer ground fault protection, which leads to accidental injury.
Basic GFCIMonitors the flow of electrical input and output. Cuts off electrical flow if imbalance is detected.
Tamper Resistant GFCIFocused on protecting in the case of accidental injury, especially in the case of children. A plastic cover is moved by the prongs of an A/C cord inserted into the outlet. The plastic cover slides back into place once the prongs are removed. In 2017, NEC updated requirements for all hallways, bathroom areas, small appliance circuits, wall spaces, laundry areas, garages, and countertops.
Weather Resistant GFCIDesigned to withstand extreme temperatures and corrosion. Required for patios, porches, pool areas, decks, or any other damp and outdoor location. Typically used with a weather-resistant cover.
Self-Testing GFCIThese outlets periodically and automatically test the status of the electrical current. If the test result is imbalanced, the outlet trips itself.
GFCI Circuit BreakersThis is a breaker added to the electrical panel. They have their own “reset” and “test” buttons and protect the entire circuit from ground faults.

How Much Do GFCI Outlets Cost?

You can find these outlets at any home improvement store. They are sold individually or in bundles. Prices range from $2 to $30, depending on which features you like. 

There are outlets that have USB ports, light switches, “test” and “reset” buttons. There are styles for every location you need to place a receptacle. 

What Outlets are Needed for Small Kitchen Appliances?

Two 20-amp, 120-volt circuits are required to supply power to GFCI outlets for counter space and eating areas. There are some basics to know about your kitchen outlets:

  • 20 amps (rather than 15 amps)
    Required for the higher power appliances predominantly found in kitchens (e.g. toaster ovens, blenders, and mixers).
  • All 15 amp and 20 amp outlets (GFCI or not)
    Must be tamper-resistant in certain kitchen-related places (e.g. small appliance circuits, countertop spaces, walls, and hallway spaces).

What is the Difference Between GFCI and GFI?

The big difference is the word “circuit.” 

  • GFCI: Ground fault circuit interrupter is the breaker that protects the entire circuit.
  • GFI: Ground fault interrupter is the outlet or local device such as a surge protector.

GFI outlets became standard in the mid-’70s. Typically, they were for outdoor use, but over the years they’ve become mandatory in areas exposed to water. For the most part, GFCI is the widely used term for the breaker and the outlet (unless you’re deep into a thread discussing the semantics of electrical abbreviations). 

The difference between installing GFCI outlets and adding a GFCI breaker to your circuit board: 

  • Applying a GFCI outlet to a GFCI circuit is redundant and can cause problems when trying to fix a ground fault.
  • GFCI breakers protect a whole circuit from ground faults. Typically, one room has multiple circuits. The lighting may be connected to fixed appliances (fridge, oven, etc.), but the outlets are on another circuit entirely.
  • GFCI breakers are more expensive and more difficult to install on your own. 
  • GFCI breakers are used for larger, self-contained circuits that can be faulted by water (e.g. hot tubs, swimming pools, and patio lighting). 

GFCI outlets will suffice for any remodel where outlet installation is required. The only time you’re going to want to add a breaker is for larger projects.

Can I Install GFCI Outlets Myself? 

Installing your new GFCI outlet is easy enough to do yourself. As with any home DIY project, it’s important to know what the project entails and which tools you’ll need to get started.  

The tools you’ll need:

  • Screwdriver
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire cutters

Remember, safety is critical when attempting any household project. If you aren’t confident in working with wiring, call a professional to take care of the job. Installation is quick and easy, so it won’t cost a fortune. 

If you’re feeling confident, safe, and prepared, then let’s get started!

Install a GFCI Outlet in 7 Easy Steps

  1. Turn off power to the outlet
    • This will be found at the fuse box.
    • Test the outlet to ensure the power is turned off.
  2. Remove existing outlet
    • You’ll see there are at least three wires connected to the existing outlet.
    • These wires connect to the corresponding colored screws.
  3. Remove the outlet
  4. Prepare the wires
    • Identify the wires.
    • Use the wire cutter to manicure the existing wires to fit with the new terminal.
    • Make sure the wires aren’t touching.
  5. Connect the wires
    • Connect the copper “ground” wire to the green-colored screw.
    • Connect the black “hot” wires to the “load” brass-colored screw.
    • Connect the white “neutral” wire to the silver screw labeled “line.”
  6. Replace the wall cover
  7. Test the outlet
    • Make sure you’ve properly labeled the breaker.

Your new GFCI outlet is live. You can plug in your favorite kitchen appliance and get cooking!

Do I Need to Know the NEC?

The National Electric Code (NEC) handbook is an important resource that dictates all the standards and requirements set forth by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). Owning this text is not mandatory unless you’re a licensed electrician. In fact, you can get most of the important codes and information online. However, if you’re a glutton for punishment, it’s available on Amazon.

Comments are closed.