The NEC underwent some big changes in 2017, including the redefinition of wall space, when it comes to fixed cabinets installed along a wall space. Prior to 2017, a cabinet affixed to a wall in a bedroom, den, library, etc. simply broke that wall space into two separate wall spaces. The measurement along the wall ended once you reached the fixed cabinet, and a new measurement began at the other end of the cabinet – but not anymore! Now, a fixed cabinet equipped with a counter-top or work surface, located in any room (except kitchens and bathrooms, as they already have their counter-top receptacle requirements) is included in the 210.52(A)(1) & (A)(2) wall space measurement. This new requirement for counting cabinets with counter-tops as part of the wall space, will – at times, require the electrician to install a receptacle to serve this counter-top, when the receptacle spacing deems it necessary.
In the late 80s I relocated my family to a little country town in North Carolina where we lived in an old two-story farm house built in 1908. The house sat on just over 2 acres, the rooms were spacious with high ceilings, tall base boards, two fireplaces, three types of heat (electric baseboard, kerosene and propane), and one receptacle outlet in every room except the kitchen, it had 2 counter top receptacles, a wall receptacle and a receptacle for the fridge.
It would be impossible to live in a 3-bedroom 2,200 square foot home today that only had one receptacle per room, no outside outlets, only two 15A general lighting load circuits, a laundry circuit that had been added to the kitchen outlets, and a bathroom circuit that was included on one of the general lighting load circuits.
Fortunately, the electrical code has changed with the times. Many of these changes have been made to discourage the use of extension cords, and to protect branch circuits from continuous overloading. These changes can be seen in the required receptacle outlet spacing for wall space, the number of required general lighting load circuits, the required 20A circuits, required outside circuits, and the required switched lighting outlets, just to name a few. One of the most recent changes concerns wall space. The NEC 2017 has added to or amended the requirements for wall space in 210.52(A)(2)(1). In previous Code-cycles, wall space was defined as (a)ny space 600 mm (2 ft) or more in width (including space measured around corners) and unbroken along the floor line by doorways and similar openings, fireplaces, and fixed cabinets (period)..In the 2017 NEC, wall space is now defined to include fixed cabinets- if they are equipped with counter-tops or similar work surfaces. Prior to 2017, fixed cabinets (with or without counter-tops) broke the wall space and therefore were not included in the linear wall space measurement.
Fixed cabinets that have counter-tops and similar work surfaces are now included in the wall space. This is another example of the Code keeping up with the times. Electronics have become smaller and more plentiful than ever. These work surfaces can now be used to charge laptops, notebooks, phones, and cordless anything. We can even put a 48” flat screen TV on a 12” shelf.
Wall space now includes fixed cabinets equipped with counter-tops or similar work surfaces. This space is now added to linear wall space measurements and considered wall space if 24 inches or more in width. Which also implies that a work surface in a fixed cabinet of 24” or more must be within 6’ of a receptacle. For example, a 24” wide, 18” deep cabinet at counter top height with 6 feet of shelving on both sides, would now require at least one receptacle be installed to serve the potential “work surface”.
The NEC 2017 change defining a break in wall space:
210.52(A)(2) Wall Space. … (1) Any space 2 ft or more in width (including space measured around corners) and unbroken along the floor line by doorways and similar openings, fireplaces, and fixed cabinets that do not have counter-tops or similar work surfaces(.)
The National Electrical Code is a living document, and as such will continue to grow… as we do.