A common simply electrical problem

Real Estate Agent with DeLex Realty

In my years as an electrician, the most common service call I received was receptacles not working. More often than not it turned out to be a GFCI receptacle. GFCI recepts can control a variety of receptacles throughout the home from one place. Prior to certain code changes throughout the year it was not uncommon for a home to come with only 1 GFCI receptacle which controlled multiple locations.

Homes built prior to 1971, homes did not have any GFCI receptacles. In 1971 they became required to be on all outlets within 15 feet of a pool. In the later 1970's they became more common place in bathrooms which controlled the outside receptacles and later even garage receptacles. Yes, that means that your one GFCI in the bathroom could control the receptacle in your garage and outside your home. This was common until the later 1990's.

In 1987, the code required GFCI receptacles to be included on any kitchen counter top within six feet of water. As the code also requires counter top receptacles to be strictly for the kitchen, it is not common to have a kitchen GFCI control anything but the kitchen.

In the late 1990's and early 2000's the code changed to require bathrooms to have their own circuit. This changed the way construction of homes was completed and now it is more common that garage GFCI receptacles control the garage and the exterior outlets while Kitchen and Bathroom GFCI's control only the kitchen or bathroom.

Today, GFCI receptacles are required in all kitchen receptacles EXCEPT dedicated appliance receptacles like a fridge or dishwasher. They are also required in spa's, pool lights, exterior receptacles and most garage receptacles.

If your power is out and only receptacles are affected, try looking for a GFCI before you call your local electrician.

If you are buying a home and are curious to the requirement of that home at the time it was built here is a great list someone once gave me:

1971 Receptacles within 15 feet of pool walls
1971 All equipment used with storable swimming pools
1973 All outdoor receptacles
1974 Construction Sites
1975 Bathrooms, 120-volt pool lights, and fountain equipment
1978 Garages, spas, and hydromassage tubs
1978 Outdoor receptacles above 6ft.6in. grade access exempted
1984 Replacement of non-grounding receptacles with no grounding conductor allowed
1984 Pool cover motors
1984 Distance of GFCI protection extended to 20 feet from pool walls
1987 Unfinished basements
1987 Kitchen countertop receptacles within 6 feet of sink
1987 Boathouses
1990 Crawlspaces (with exception for sump pumps or other dedicated equip.)
1993 Wet bar countertops within 6 feet of sink
1993 Any receptacle replaced in an area presently requiring GFCI
1996 All kitchen counters – not just those within 6 feet of sink
1996 All exterior receptacles except dedicated de-icing tape receptacle
1996 Unfinished accessory buildings at or below grade
1999 Exemption for dedicated equipment in crawlspace removed


Posted by

James (Jim) Lord




Comments (1)

MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
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Thank you for the education and advice, especially "If your power is out and only receptacles are affected, try looking for a GFCI before you call your local electrician."

Jan 18, 2017 09:57 PM