How High Should an Electrical Box Be From a Bathroom Sink

Electrical outlets in bathrooms are very convenient, but they can also present a hazard. A standard outlet placed close to a sink can create a shock hazard. One way the electrical industry has created to reduce this risk is with a GFCI outlet. GFCI is an acronym for ground fault circuit interrupter. It is a circuit breaker, or a trip-switch so that should a hair dryer fall into the sink, the circuit will trip, shutting off the electricity to the outlet. These are now code for any outlet within 6 feet of a sink. Some jurisdictions provide other rules on where an outlet can be positioned in relation to a sink.

Circuit Breakers

A set of bathroom sinks with outlets immediately above the sink.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet that is required around sinks.

Ground fault circuit interrupters look similar to standard outlets except that they have buttons that replicate the function of a circuit breaker box. When a circuit is blown the buttons will pop out and the outlet will cease producing electricity until the button is manually depressed and the outlet is turned back on. When renovating a home, replace your standard outlets with GFCI outlets in your bathrooms and kitchen, which will protect your family and guests from accidental injury.

Local Codes

Standard outlet without a GFCI feature.

Contact your local building department to ask about the requirements for outlet locations in your area. Every area is not alike. Some communities allow you to position outlets as high or low on a wall as you want and as close to a sink as you want so long as the GFCI is used. Other communities have strict guidelines for new outlet installations in bathrooms and kitchens. Outlets are commonly positioned several inches above the countertop and off to the side of the sink.

National Codes

The National Electrical Code requires that a GFCI outlet must be positioned within 3 feet of the outside edge of the sink. The Code also requires that the outlet be at least 48 inches above the floor. No outlet can be installed face-up on the counter or floor. Other outlets, not in relation to the sink, shower and tub, can be positioned at the home owner's convenience. The code recommends that shower lights and lights over tubs also use GFCI circuits.

Remodeling Requirements

Your existing bathroom is likely to have outlets that do not conform to the National Code. You should correct the type and placement of your outlets to conform both to protect your family and to prepare your house to meet minimum requirement for resale. Any bathroom remodeling requires you to correct the type and placement of outlets around sinks, tubs, kitchens and other wet areas.

About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.