GFCI Receptacles – When and Where Were They First Required?

GFCI Receptacles – When and Where Were They First Required?

The requirement for GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection for receptacles was phased in over the years by the NEC (National Electrical Code), beginning with the 1971 edition. The NEC is updated every three years and nearly each new edition since 1971 has expanded or clarified the required locations. The following is a summary of major changes to the NEC. And while New Hampshire State Building Code has adopted the NEC 2014 codes, it is recommended that you consult with local code officials as local rules may be adopted that are stricter than the New Hampshire State Building Code.

NEC Edition ’71 ’73 ’75 ’78 ’81 ’87 ’90 ’93 ’96 ’14
Laundry Area X
Kitchen Dishwasher X
Unfinished Out Building (8) X X
Kitchen – All Counter Top (5) X X
Wet Bar X X X
Crawlspace X X X X
Unfinished Basement (7) X X X X X
Spa/Hot Tubs – Indoor (6) X X X X X
Kitchen –Within 6’ of Sink (5) X X X X X
Boathouse X X X X X
Spa/Hot Tub – Outdoor (4) X X X X X X
Garage (3) X X X X X X X
Bathrooms X X X X X X X X
Exterior Receptacles (2) X X X X X X X X X
Swimming Pools (1) X X X X X X X X X X


  1. 1971: Receptacles within 15 ft. of water.
    1984: Changed to receptacles within 20 ft. of water.
  2. 1978: Changed to ‘with direct grade access to dwelling and outlets’.
    1987: Direct grade access defined as 6’-6” or less above grade.
    1996: Changed to ALL outdoor receptacles, including balconies.
  3. All, except receptacles not readily accessible (6’-6” or higher?) and receptacles for dedicated appliances which are not easily movable (freezer, refrigerator, etc.).
  4. Receptacles within 15 ft.
  5. The refrigerator receptacle should not be a GFCI receptacle.
  6. Receptacles within 20 ft.
  7. 1987: At least one, which must be identified as being GFCI protected.
    1990: Changed to all receptacles in unfinished basements and crawl spaces. Exceptions: laundry, sump pump, refrigerator or freezer.
    1996: Additional exception: where not readily accessible (6’-6” or higher?).
  8. 1996: Unfinished accessory buildings are treated like garage.
    1999: Accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade and not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and areas of similar use.

As you can see, depending on the age of your home, there may be no requirement for GFCI’s to have been installed. And sellers are not required to upgrade the receptacles unless the electrical system has been modified. So, if the kitchen in a 1970’s house has been remodeled and receptacles were added or moved, chances are they should have been upgraded to GFCI receptacles.

And while the seller may not have to upgrade the receptacles, I recommend upgrading current standard receptacles to GFCI receptacles for your family’s safety. And since GFCI-protection can be provided by either a GFCI receptacle (one receptacle will protect others downstream in the circuit, which should be marked as GFCI protected), or a GFCI circuit breaker in the electric panel, or a GFCI dead front (often used for indoor spa tubs), I  also recommend using a qualified licensed electrical contractor to perform this work.