How to Set Standard Outlet Height

Setting a standard and uniform height for your electrical outlet is essential. It makes it convenient for homeowners to use the outlet and easy for electricians to lay the cable. When there is standard and uniform outlet height, it is easier and faster for you to install multiple boxes around your wall. A slight variance in height causes friction on your NM (non-metallic) cable to increase, as you fit it into the well-drilled holes through your wall. This uniformity is even more important when you are pulling a rough-surfaced BX armored cable via the studs. A uniformly positioned box height also helps when cutting and putting insulation in your walls and attaching drywall to your home’s studs.

When you think about ergonomics and access, it is hard to miss how important it is to set a standard height for your home outlet. Uneven height for switches, like a light switch, is disorienting. Placing boxes very high or very low can be inconveniencing and inaccessible to the elderly and disabled residents. Therefore, how do you set standard outlet height?

Electrical Code and Boxes Heights

Important: As a homeowner, realizing that you need to waste another Saturday waiting for the landlord or handyman to come over to fix another damaged appliance is frustrating. It shouldn't feel like the norm to constantly have damaged appliances and systems in your home since it can come to a huge cost at the end of each year.

The Home Improvement Solutions eBook covers everything you need to do in your home when it comes to maintenance and improvement so you can avoid wasting another weekend waiting for someone to come to your rescue.  
While the NEC, National Electrical Code, has set specific residential wiring regulations, it has not provided a unique height for light switches or standard wall outlets. Therefore, heights are subject to a person’s preference. Nonetheless, you need to use your local electrical code as the ultimate guide on this matter as municipalities usually adapt to model building codes. For this reason, you have to ensure you consult the building department of your city for unique requirements before embarking on a construction undertaking.

Electricians often abide by a common industry standard with regards to height for your home’s box installation. They limit themselves to a specific range considered acceptable by most electricians.

Even though installing your electrical code and boxes at a uniform height is generally encouraged, you are allowed to lower or raise the box based on prevailing circumstances. In some cases, it is virtually impossible to drive a nail on a given area on the wall, thus requiring you to lower or raise the box.

Standard Height for Outlet Box

Ideally, the standard height of your wall outlet box (view on Amazon) is approximately twelve inches from your floor’s top, all the way to your receptacle box’s bottom. It could also be sixteen inches when you extend all the way to the top of your box.

In case you are setting you’re the height of your box before installing a subfloor or an underlayment or a floor covering, you should ensure that you account for the height difference created by this condition. For the elderly and disabled, placing the outlet box fifteen inches above the top of your floor covering is often considered the lowest standard height. However, you can raise them higher to suit your purpose. Persons in a wheelchair may benefit a lot from higher outlet boxes provided the bottom of these boxes are not placed any lower than fifteen inches above your building’s floor.

The countertop outlets are ideally positioned fifteen to twenty inches above the surface of the countertop. Given that these outlets are conspicuous and would attract attention, it is important for you to ensure that they are placed on the same height throughout the wall.

How do You Set Standard Outlet Height?

There are several ways of setting the standard outlet height with measuring each outlet using a tape measure being a preferred choice for many. Here are other methods to use to speed up this process.

Measure Using a Drywall Square

This is a quick method best used before installing the floor covering. Put the long end of your square’s T perpendicular to your floor. Place the longest end of your square almost parallel to your floor. Draw a line marking running across four studs using a pencil, at the bottom of your wall’s straightedge. Put your receptacles at this particular height. You will end up with a height of fourteen inches. When you lay your floor, you will raise the floor height, thus ending up with a total height of twelve inches above your newly laid floor.

Measure Using a Laser Level

Use a laser level to define your ideal box height and mark the stud’s level using a pencil. Do this by positioning your laser level on the far end of your room, opposite to where you want to measure and shoot a line across the measuring wall. You can either make markings along the wall’s length or work on the wall with the laser on. The former option helps you save your laser’s battery.

Measure Using a Hammer

Your typical sixteen-ounce hammer is approximately thirteen inches long. Put your hammer on the floor with its head facing down, and then put the box on top of your hammer handle. This results in an outlet height of bout twelve inches off the floor.

Light switches also have a standard height that most building owners can use during installation. These heights have to be placed right for you to get a nice finish throughout your home. Follow these steps.

Standard Height for Light Switch Boxes

Ideally, most rooms in a building, except the kitchen, have their switches placed forty-eight inches on above the top floor cover. This height is arrived at when you measure from the bottom of your box. This is also the maximum height, 48 inches, for wheelchair users, because higher levels are hard for them to reach. How do you measure the standard height for light switch boxes?

Measure Using a Story Pole

The story pole is not only free but also easy to make a tool that can be re-used to place multiple light switch heights. It is a simple two by four tool, made from scrap and marked with all the heights you need for your work.

With the story pole, you only measure all your heights once, that is when making the pole itself. Most people prefer to use a single story pole where all the marks for both light switches and outlets are indicated. This helps you to outline your top and bottom points of the wall box without confusing the marks.

All electricians can use the story pole because of its ease of use. You need to stand it against the wall stud and mark the stud at all the right height according to your plan. Ensure that you mark your story pole clearly. Make crucial notes such as the center of the switch box and bottom of the outlet box to avoid confusion as you use the pole.

Once you are done measuring the stud, you can convert the story pole to be used as part of your building material or store it for use at a later date.

Despite the fact that you are not required to position your outlet switch in any uniform or standard order, it helps when you abide by the ADA specifications to make your building appropriate for occupancy by every type of person, including people with disabilities. It is for this reason that most electricians observe a maximum height of between forty-eight to fifty-four inches and a minimum height of eighteen inches to the box’s top. In some cases, you will have to use your best judgment to position your switch or outlet.

In case you are embarking on an outlet installation journey, consider using this guide to place each switch and outlet in the right position. This guide will help you make the right choices and maintain consistency throughout your home. It is also important to deal with a qualified electrician with experiential knowledge. In case you do it yourself, make sure you have the right skills to do a good job and avoid future accidents.

You Need to Know This About Your Home!

If you want to save $100s on Home Repair, learn the most important home maintenance and home improvement procedures, and increase the value of your home, you can download our Home Improvement Solutions book now. With it, you’ll learn about a wide range of home maintenance and improvement topics, and you’ll be able to make your home a better place to live in. There are also a bunch of tips in there that’ll save you loads of time and money when it comes to repairs, DIY, and general home hacks that you can’t find anywhere else.

Whether you are a new homeowner, have owned a home for years, renting, or just love home repair and improvement topics, our guide will give you an in-depth explanation of many everyday home maintenance procedures. A lot of our readers use this book to increase the value of their homes, and they’ve saved a lot of money on things like repair that would have cost a professional handyman $100s of dollars.