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#28726 - 08/29/03 06:16 AM Receptacle/Switch Heights  
yomomma  Offline
Junior Member
Joined: Aug 2003
Posts: 2
Arlington, Texas, USA
I have noticed in various installations that heights of switches and receptacles vary, but it most often seems in consideration of someone'/anyone's sense of style.

The most common standards I have built are 54 inches AFF (above finish floor) for switches, and 12 inches for receptacles and phones. I would also sometimes put in switches at 48 inches if someone wanted. What seemed the silliest thing was what was considered swank in the '80s to put the receptacles in sideways (long side parallel with the floor) about 2 inches AFF, so that they would wind up in the floor edging.

A couple of years ago, we rebuilt a classroom / lecture hall for ADA/Wheelchair compliance and internet access. I put the light controls at 3-foot center AFF. It started as a joke during pre-construction design meetings, but the architect thought I was being serious, so that was how they drew the plans, and that was how we built it. OK, whatever. Actually, everybody seemed happy that we considered it.

On the home front, we had a baby a little over a year ago, and from watching other little kids play with cords, plugs, etc, I thought I would do some hme "experimentation." (experimenting with your baby sounds scary, huh?) It seemed anything I could come up with could not be more dangerous than the conventional 12 inch AFF that is so cleverly designed for electrocuting toddlers.

So, I have played with putting plugs at different heights in our warehouse/home.

[Actually, it does not really qualify as a wareHOUSE in my mind, but rather more of a wareHOLE. Sort of a Possum-Lodge land if you are familiar with Red-Green. We live in a bombed out ex-industrial area of Dallas, but it is pretty handy to have three-phase power and industrial feeds right in the shop end of the place to play with "toys" But the place is such a wreck, anything we do is an improvement]

In the home end of the place, I have wired our place by running boxes and conduit around the walls at 4-foot, and mixing outlets for switches and plugs, dedicated circuits, etc. as seem needed, and it seems to work pretty well, at least from experiment end.

From my point of view, so far, the 4-foot plugs and switches seem to work pretty well. Our little carpet ape does not really seem to be able to get to anything too dangerous, the worst I have seen her doing is climbing up on a bed, out on a nightstand, and then and trying to swing on a lamp cord . . . . I suppose the fall would be more likely to hurt her than the plug . . . geeezz.

But at any rate, with the rug-rat growing quickly as the weeds, we are getting ready to put our real plans together for a more real, more long term and hopefully more civilized homestead. Although the boss-lady has not yet decided exactly where that will be. (She says anywhere but Texas) I am sure I will be told when I need to know.

However, the Mrs. is not so enthused about the 4-foot plugs, she figures they make the plug and cord an even more attractive target for a toddler. She is also less than enthused with the atheistic or visual appearance of plugs high on the wall. [I guess I better hope she does not start looking too hard at me with that mindset] I have worked on upper-end homes where the plugs are recessed in the wall, with a cover that matches the wall. The cover stays over them unless they are in use. Maybe that would help.

But if anyone has any design considerations . . . safety, ease of use, various codes, etc., with regard to plug and switch heights—not just for our warehouse, but other commercial, residential, special use, as well -- it would be appreciated.


Phil Timmons

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades

#28727 - 08/29/03 12:19 PM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
iwire  Offline
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,391
North Attleboro, MA USA
In the area I work it is 18" for outlets and 44" or 48" for switches etc.

The 54" seems high to me and might be a problem with ADA requirements.

Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician

#28728 - 08/29/03 07:43 PM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
Electric Eagle  Offline
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 914
Alpharetta, GA
In our area the receptacles are hammer height, The switches are 44" to the bottom unless someone requests otherwise. Our large custom homes always have the outlets mounted horizontal in the basemolding on the first floor.

Receptacles at 48" will never be accepted. I'm sorry, but it would look like crap. Just put a safety cap in the outlets or use safety plates. One of my earliest memories is of me putting a paper clip in an outlet, I was about 3 years old and it taught me a valuable lesson.

#28729 - 08/29/03 09:23 PM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
Speedy Petey  Offline
Joined: Aug 2003
Posts: 173
Upstate, NY
I put all standard switches at 48" to the top and receptacles 16" to the top.
Most bathroom receptacles I put at 44" ttt so they are closer to the vanity and I put all garage receptacles at 48" ttt.

I can not understand why some people use a "to the bottom" measurement. Isn't it easier to glance at the top of the box rather than bend over, especially for receptacles, to see your mark?
Just curious.

Speedy Petey

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." -Albert Einstein

#28730 - 08/29/03 09:30 PM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
targetshootr  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 55
i ususally cut a 2x4 the correct size to use as a template for outlet heights.

i was taught switches were 48" ttb. no one ever said why and it still doesnt make sense especially when a nearby counter outlet is 4" lower.

#28731 - 08/29/03 09:53 PM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
Sandro  Offline
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 444
Stoney Creek, ON, Canada
We normally put our switches at 50 inches to the bottom. At 48" t-t-b, we find it interferes with the 4' width drywall taping and the tapers end up making a mess inside our box. For receptacles, we use 16" t-t-b.

#28732 - 08/29/03 10:06 PM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
Bill Addiss  Offline
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 3,878
Welcome to ECN Phil,

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned "Height of a Hammer" for receptacles. (if working with someone else you'd have to "synchronize" Hammers of course). This puts the receptacle at about 13" to the bottom.

I figure 48 to the center for switch boxes makes it's easier to sheetrock, and if the Tapers don't have an attitude it really doesn't affect them.


#28733 - 08/30/03 07:51 AM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
Electric Eagle  Offline
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 914
Alpharetta, GA
Hey Bill,

Go back and look at my 1st post. I've never measured a receptacle except to match an existing one.

#28734 - 08/30/03 09:37 AM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
Bill Addiss  Offline
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 3,878
OOPS! [Linked Image]

Sorry about that EE !!

[Linked Image]

#28735 - 08/30/03 01:16 PM Re: Receptacle/Switch Heights  
electure  Offline

Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 4,260
Fullerton, CA USA
As iwire mentioned, anything that requires ADA compliance has to be:
1. Switch-Maximum height 48" AFF to center.
2. Receptacle-Between 18" to 24" to center.
3. Thermostat-Maximum height 48" to center...S

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