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Type A Kitchen Counters: 24” Reach Range Depth

Image 3 Cropped
Apr 22, 2024
Michael Grochola

If you work in multifamily residential, in particular with Type A and B dwelling units there is a commonly overlooked accessibility requirement pertaining to the Type A kitchen. Why this issue gets overlooked is due to an exception that the code provides only in Type B units.

Type B units kitchens are allowed to have an obstructed parallel reach range measuring 25 1/2” maximum in depth over a countertop measuring 36” maximum above the finish floor to any electrical outlets or switches installed on the backsplash. (ICC ANSI A117.1-2009, Section 1004.9 Exception 10)

However that exception is not permitted in Type A dwelling units. Within Type A units, when you have a clear floor space positioned for a parallel approach at a countertop, the accessible reach range is 24” maximum in depth over a countertop measuring 34” maximum above the finish floor to any electrical outlets or switches. (ICC ANSI A117.1-2009, Section 1003.9, 308)

The easiest way to tackle this issue before it becomes a problem in Type A units would be to order custom cabinets with a smaller depth from the manufacturer. More and more the smaller cabinet sizes are becoming a typical option that cabinet makers will offer as a non up-charged item, especially in cases of projects ordering large numbers of cabinets.

Yet what if custom cabinets with a shortened depth are too expensive for your project? What if the cabinet manufacturing lead times are months out? Or if this accessibility issue was missed and construction is already underway? Luckily no matter the reason, there are still options available in order to resolve the reach range issue.

What are my options?

One option would be to use standard depth cabinets, but to then install additional sheets of drywall to the wall above the kitchen countertop. By adding additional sheets of drywall to only the space above the countertop but below the upper cabinets, it is possible to bump out the wall where the switches and outlets will be located. Meaning that the depth from that finished outlet or switch will be reduced from the standard 25 1/2” countertop depth down to 24” or less. The backsplash wall can be finished with tile or painted like any other wall and there would be no visual differences between kitchens in Type A and B units.

The other option would be installing extender boxes at the outlet and switch receptacles. The extender boxes will relocate the face of the switch or the outlet horizontally away from the tiled backsplash or wall, in effect reducing the reach range depth to an accessible dimension of 24” or less.

In my experience this is not the most well-liked option, for the simple reason that it’s not aesthetically pleasing. Most builders and designers won’t hesitate to say they stand out like a sore thumb.

Nevertheless, it would be an option to consider for both renovations or as a last minute solution for a kitchen far into construction. The installation of extender boxes would only require the services of an electrician and does not involve more extensive work such as modifying cabinets, cutting into drywall, or adjusting countertops. So while not attractive, they do resolve the reach range issue quickly and efficiently.

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A switch with a extender box installed.

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The depth of the extender box measured at 1-1/2"

There is a third option, but whether or not it's permitted depends on the project jurisdiction and the adopted electrical code. Prior to NEC 2023, outlets were allowed to be installed up to 12” below the kitchen countertop at the front face of the base cabinets. In NEC 2023, Section 210.52 (C)(3) the language was changed to no longer allow outlets below the countertop.

While installing outlets at the front of the cabinets does ensure an accessible reach range depth, we strongly recommend checking the applicable electrical codes before even considering this third option.

Please keep in mind that the options discussed above only pertain to the reach range depth requirement and not the height of the countertops, the height of outlets/switches, or any other obstructions affecting reach range.

Hopefully this discussion helps out with designs on the drawing board or those that are already under construction. Please feel free to reach out to MAPS If there are questions about these design options or any confusion about reach range requirements. MAPS will gladly have a conversation about your project, help with one-off questions, perform a plan review, or set up a site visit.