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When was GFCI Protection Required?

GFCI protection residential construction

I commonly receive questions and comments during a home inspection surrounding Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection requirements.  Questions, such as “when was GFCI protection required in the kitchen?”  And, comments, such as “I don’t think GFCI protection was required in that location when this home was built”.

Let’s explore why GFCI protection is important, how GFCI protection works, how circuits and be GFCI protected and what year were certain requirements put in place.

GFCI is a safety device intended to shut off current in the event of a fault to ground, such as current passing through your body.  A ground fault is an unintentional electrical path between a power source and a grounded surface. Ground faults most often occur when equipment is damaged or defective, such that live electrical parts are no longer adequately protected from unintended contact. If your body provides a path to the ground for this current, you could be burned, severely shocked or electrocuted.

A GFCI device monitors electrical current balance between the un-grounded hot conductor and the grounded conductor. When current flowing through the hot conductor is more than the current flowing in the return grounded conductor, the GFCI sees this unbalance and trips, or opens, the circuit, cutting power off.  Protection can be provided by receptacles on a particular circuit as well as by using GFCI breakers in the circuit panel.

I will not list every date of when GFCI protection was required in each location, but below are the most common.  Also, there are slight nuances with requirements and changes to “fine print” in some cases years later.  Some examples are listed in parenthesis.  Lastly, these requirement may not be relevant outside of NC.

Exteriors – 1973 (in 1978 changed to “direct grade access…”)

Bathrooms – 1975

Garage – 1978 (all receptacles less than 6’ 8” from ground and those used for dedicated appliances.  In 2012, all receptacles in garage required protection)

Kitchen – 1987 (all within 6’ of kitchen sink to serve as countertop receptacles.  In 1996, this changed to all receptacles which serve as countertop receptacles)

Wet Bar – 1993 (all within 6’ of water which service as countertop receptacles)

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