Placing an Outlet on an Island Cabinet

Tips on code issues and esthetic concerns for the required electrical outlet on an island cabinet. February 26, 2007

I need to locate a 110v outlet on a kitchen island we've made. The island has frame and panel finished ends with rails and stiles being 2.25" wide, and the outlet will need to be mounted right smack on a stile. I'm thinking a single plug outlet would be the most discreet but I have no idea where to find one. I can fit a standard box behind the stile, but the only thing that can protrude is the plug. Does anyone have any ideas or sources?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
Can you not move the outlet to a better place? It sounds like you're thinking you'll put the box behind the stile and allow only the face of the outlet to protrude through it. That would set you up for a number of code problems, I believe, because the wood is a combustible material and because it would be extremely difficult to access the connections inside the box after the whole thing was installed.

From contributor L:
Code requires there be an outlet on the island. I'm not sure if this necessitates a duplex receptacle but since code is written for safety (in this case it's so you don't run extension cords to plug in the coffee pot), I would imagine that it implies a duplex device.

There are also requirements for placement location within the island. You might want to consult the codebook, or the GC, or the electrician who will hook it up or even the building dept.

As for the actual installation of the device box, it must be within .25" of the surface of combustible material (that's your cabinet's FF or paneling). It would be worth your while to buy a single-gang device box and mount it in a mock-up of your cabinetry. Then you will know where it can be mounted and still be physically possible. Be aware that in some instances type NM (Romex) cable will not be allowed and either conduit, Greenfield or BX will need to be run. All of these will need more space around them than will Romex, simply because the bends in these type cables or conduits take more room. The type of device box I use is metal, with mounting ears on the face that surround the device mounting screw holes. Rout out enough space so that these mounting ears and the screws used to mount the box to the cabinetry sit below the surface. This will allow the switch-plate to sit flat and flush on the cabinetry.

Usually this hole is cut in the field but there’s nothing worse than being the field guy and having to butcher someone's casework in order to make the electric work because of poor planning. As far as aesthetics, people expect to see an outlet - just put it where it needs to be. As long as it fits with some symmetry within the cabinetry, you'll be fine. Both receptacles and covers come in a variety of colors from electrical supply houses.

You could, if you'd rather, make your own switch-plate of wood to match the cabinetry. For this you will need a metal intermediary glued to the inside of the switch-plate shielding the device from it's wood cover.

It sounds like a lot of work to me, but if you chose to, check with the building dept first to make sure it will be permissible. I’ve seen wood switch-plates available commercially but usually in limited species, like red oak.

From contributor L:
One more thing to remember is that the switch-plate is wider than the device box by about an inch in both directions, so make sure there's enough room for it, too.