It sure would be convenient to be able to turn on a switch near your sink in the kitchen or bathroom. Yet you’re well aware that electricity and water are not a good mix, which has given you pause about the idea of adding a light switch next to your sink. Is this a good spot for a light switch or do you need to get a switch installed elsewhere?
You can install a light switch near a sink, but if it’s in the kitchen, you can’t get the switch wired to either of the 20-amp appliance circuits. Bathroom outlets for a light switch must be 3 feet from your sink, while in the kitchen, it’s at least 2 feet.
In this article, we’ll talk more about outlets in your kitchen or bathroom so you can decide whether adding a light switch near the sink is feasible. We’ll also discuss GFCI protection for your light switches. Let’s dive in!
- 1 Can You Get a Light Switch Installed Near a Sink?
- 2 How Close Can a Light Switch Be to the Sink in the Kitchen?
- 3 How Close Can a Light Switch Be to the Sink in the Bathroom?
- 4 How Close Can a Light Switch Be to the Bathtub?
- 5 Can the Outlets in a Bathroom Be on the Same Circuit as the Lights?
- 6 Conclusion
Can You Get a Light Switch Installed Near a Sink?
You may have a few reasons why installing a light switch in your kitchen or bathroom near the sink would be useful. If the first thing you do when you get in the house is wash your hands, you’d only need to flip the switch (with the back of your hand, no less) and make a beeline towards the sink.
In a bathroom, especially a smaller one, you might not have many options for where you could even put a light switch. Near the sink seems as good a spot as any.
Can you get a light switch installed near a sink in your kitchen or bathroom? In most instances, indeed, you can. In the next section, we’ll discuss the recommended outlet distance for a bathroom and a kitchen sink. If your outlet placement doesn’t follow National Electrical Code (NEC) standards, then no contractor should install the light switches for you.
You must make sure your light switch has its own source of power in the kitchen as well. By connecting the switch power to that of either of the 20-amp appliance circuits, you’re drawing power from your appliances. You might notice that your fridge and other kitchen appliances work less than optimally when your light is on.
How Close Can a Light Switch Be to the Sink in the Kitchen?
Okay, so let’s talk more about the recommended outlet distances, first in the kitchen, then in the bathroom. These rules are mandated by the NEC, which dictates the distance between the sink and the outlet. Without a minimum distance, you could cut it a bit closer, but we wouldn’t advise you to do so.
If your countertops in the kitchen are a certain depth (24 inches) and width (12 inches), then your kitchen must have outlets per the NEC. The same rules apply for kitchen islands and bars despite that these fixtures might lack a sink.
All outlets near the countertop require ground-fault circuit interrupters, also known as GFCIs. This circuit-breaker can turn off the power to your outlet in record time, about 1/40th of a second. That’s literally blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed. The GFCI determines how much electrical current the outlet is receiving and sending out from any equipment connected to the circuit conductor.
From where your outlet is installed in the kitchen, you must also have 24 inches of distance from one part of the wall to another. In other words, each outlet must be separated by 4 feet. This means that the closest your light switch can be to your kitchen sink is about 2 feet away on either side.
How Close Can a Light Switch Be to the Sink in the Bathroom?
The NEC has different rules about bathroom light switches. Regardless of the size of your bathroom, the NEC insists that the room have at least one outlet, if not more. This outlet or outlets need GFCI protection just like your outlets in the kitchen.
Any outlets in the bathroom, including those with a light switch, have to be 3 feet from your sink, specifically the edge of your sink. If you want the outlet to the side of the sink or even behind it, you have both options. However, you can’t stray too far from the sink. For example, if you wanted the outlet installed on the wall opposite your sink, you can’t do that per NEC rules.
What if your bathroom has double sinks? The rules do change somewhat. Now you need at least two outlets, each within 3 feet of the respective sink. Some homeowners opt for doubling up on outlets between the two sinks or just getting the outlets installed near the edge of either sink. It’s up to you.
If you want another outlet in your bathroom, you can get that added, and this one doesn’t have to be 3 feet from the sink. However, once you get too close to the sink, such as 6 feet away, your sink requires GFCI protection. Also, this extra outlet cannot replace the mandated single outlet near the sink.
How Close Can a Light Switch Be to the Bathtub?
If you have a smaller bathroom, then you may worry where the light switch will go in relation to the tub or shower. For instance, on this InterNACHI forum discussion, a homeowner shows a shower with light switches installed very, very close to the opening of the shower.
NEC’s regulations as of 2017 address shower light switch installation in section 404.4 of their rulebook in a section called Damp or Wet Locations. According to the rules in 404.4(C), Switches in Tub or Shower Spaces, here’s what the NEC says: “Switches shall not be installed within tubs or shower spaces unless installed as part of a listed tub or shower assembly.”
The same goes for flashes and time switches per 404.5, in which the NEC says these devices “shall be of the enclosed type or shall be mounted to cabinets or boxes or equipment enclosures.”
In separate guidance, the NEC establishes what are called wet zones, which are considered spots where water spray is likely to accumulate. For example, wet zones are near the edge of a basin, a bathtub or shower, and even a sink in some instances.
In the wet zone, light switches should be installed at least 36 inches away.
Can the Outlets in a Bathroom Be on the Same Circuit as the Lights?
If you can safely add light switches to your bathroom, you may have one more question. Are you allowed to use the same circuit for your lights as the other outlets in the bathroom currently occupy?
To answer that question, let’s look again at NEC’s electricity codes, this time 210.11(C)(3), a section called Bathroom Branch Circuits. That part of the code says this: “In addition to the number of branch circuits required by other parts of this section, one or more 120-volt, 20-ampere branch circuit shall be provided to supply bathroom(s) receptacle outlet(s) required by 210.52(D) and any countertop and similar work surface receptacle outlets. Such circuits shall have no other outlets.”
However, interestingly, NEC offers an exception. Here’s the exception: “Where the 20-ampere circuit supplies a single bathroom, outlets for other equipment within the same bathroom shall be permitted to be supplied in accordance with 210.23(A)(1) and (A)(2).”
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s take it a bit slowly. The 210.11(C)(3) rule states that branch circuits are allowable in the bathroom per NEC rules. On top of that, countertop and bathroom receptacle outlets can be powered by a branch circuit that’s 20 amps and 120 volts.
The exception says that if your 20-amp circuit is used for one bathroom, you can use the outlet on that same branch for equipment within the bathroom. What kind of equipment is the NEC talking about? Mostly personal grooming equipment such as hair dryers or hair straighteners.
If you want a light switch next to the sink, it’s allowable in most applications. NEC rules insist that bathroom outlets are 3 feet from the sink while in the kitchen, the outlet for the light switch must be 2 feet away.
Best of luck with adding more lights to your kitchen or bathroom near the sink!