Is it legal to put your breaker box in a cabinet?

Like, a kitchen cabinet with stuff in it? (Mine is currently in a little fake 2-inch deep cabinet to hide it.)

I have a whole wall that I’d love to put more cabinets on, but I can’t because of the stupid breaker box and also the position of the door leading out of my kitchen. (If I put in cabinets too close to the door, I wouldn’t be able to take big heavy things out to the laundry room because the path between the cabinets and the stove would be too narrow.) What I’m getting is a freestanding drawer unit that I can move in case I need to do that. (This one.)

But what I’d REALLY like to do is put full height cabinets along that wall up until where I’d need to be able to get past them, if that makes sense. But there’s that goddamned breaker box.

Could I put it in a cabinet? Is that really dumb? (I can see a few problems in having to haul out all the canned tomatoes to get at a breaker to turn it back on, yes.) But is it legal? This is Columbia, South Carolina, United States of America, Earth, etc.

You will need to check your local building codes.

Generally, you can’t put it in a cabinet or a closet. You need to have 3 ft clearance in front of the breaker box.

you would want it readily assessable, in an emergency you would want to quickly open it and shut off the power in a second. if your local building code follows the National Electrical Code it would be against the code.

When we had our basement remodeled, we were able to have a wood door on the wall where the breaker box was. So you open the door, and there’s the breaker box, with its own metal door. This was approved by the inspector, but that’s almost flush with the wall, and with no shelf in front of the box. ETA: :smack: like yours…

You could have it moved, if that would help. We had to have ours moved three feet, because it would be over a counter we were having put in. That was about $300 additional cost. If it wasn’t along with other work, it might have cost more, though.

Whoa, you can move it?

Wait, I just realized… I bet I could put a cabinet over it! (Vertically, I mean.)

Yep. Call an electrician and get a quote.

the breaker panel in my unit is in the broom closet in the kitchen. these apartments were built in the mid '60s, though, so code probably has changed since then.

Now you tell me after I order cabinets!

ETA - actually, upper cabinets would work better, I think.

you might want to put a hold or cancel the cabinet order until you the the project planned and priced totally. you may be able to move the breaker box though the cost would depend on so many things, like where to and how far. also there will be work on the building and interior depending on how and where the breaker box is moved, this would add a lot of cost.

I could do upper cabinets all up in there, because they don’t protrude as far! Y’all, I have some measuring to do! (Ideally I’d like to get rid of one of the corner cabinets on the other side of the kitchen and just have the cabinets be on the one wall, because corner upper cabinets suck balls.

Moving the electrical panel can be very expensive. It’s one thing to shorten existing wires, but lengthening them can require some significant rewiring. You can’t just leave spliced wires inside the wall-- they have to be capped off and accessible.

What’s on the other side of the wall? Sometimes it can be turned around pretty easily.

Yes, but it’s okay to open a door to have that clearance. However doing it properly is usually going to require custom cabinetry (not something you can “order,” but a cabinet actually built for that unique location’s requirements), so that the cabinet walls and the opened door don’t block access (e.g., if the panel’s own door can’t swing 180 degrees, you’re not doing it right). Still, that’s almost always going to be cheaper than relocating the whole thing.

Yup. Did that in my house. Moved the entire panel when I built an addition. (didn’t just spin it around, though that is an interesting idea) The box just for the splices is about the size of a big shoe box. But I could put a washing machine below it. Couldn’t pass code trying to put anything below the breaker box.

Exactly…Ensure that the opening to the door is completely clear of the full dimensions of the box (and that there’s at least 3’ clear after opening the door), and you should be good to go.

My understanding is that even if you move it, then the junction box where the old breaker box was has to be unobstructed, but the code isn’t 100% clear on what that means.

a junction box has to have an accessible removable cover though it doesn’t have to be unobstructed like a breaker box.

All junction boxes must be accessible, but need not be continuously or immediately accessible. There can be various kinds of doors or covers in front of them, or for that matter access may require going into an attic or crawl space–but you can’t bury them in finished walls. There is not the same clearance requirement as there is for enclosures with energized bus bars. The junction box requirements are to permit maintenance of the system. The additional requirements for the breaker box are to reduce the working hazard for electricians.

Code in our town requires that a breaker box be out in the open, where the fire department can find it, in case they need to cut power. Once it was explained to me that way, it made sense.

We moved a breaker box just last winter. The original one was in a closet, off of a bedroom. We installed a new kitchen, which involved changes to the breaker box. In order to bring the project up to code, the box had to be moved out of the closet.
The cost of moving the box about 5’ to the side was about $700. We were able to use the existing box, so the material costs were kept down.