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What do you need to know about planning an outdoor kitchen in 2019? There’s a lot to consider, and it’s not a home addition you should take on lightly. There are a ton of different factors that go into the design, build, and maintenance of an outdoor kitchen, and the price of the build reflects that. Going the DIY route is an option, but not a realistic one for most. We’re going to break down everything you need to know about outdoor kitchen design.
First things first, is an outdoor kitchen right for you?
The idea of cooking outside, lounging on the patio, and entertaining friends and family every weekend is a great idea, but is it realistic? There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you commit to an outdoor kitchen.
Will you use it? Do you live in a climate that’s appropriate for outdoor kitchens? Warm and dry climates are going to be the best for outdoor kitchens so you can get the most use out of them. It might feel like a waste of money if you can only use it for 3-4 months out of the year. If you love to cook outside, but aren’t sure if you can commit to the cost and upkeep of an outdoor kitchen, splurging on a nice smoker or grill might be a better bang for your buck.
If you skipped reading all of that because you already have your heart set on building the outdoor kitchen of your dreams, right on, we’re here to help make the planning process a little easier.
Obviously, your outdoor kitchen is going to be outdoors. The real question is how close to your house do you want your outdoor kitchen? This is more important than you might think. Having your outdoor kitchen close to your house will make your life a little easier and potentially decrease costs later on in the build process. If you’re closer to your house, you’ll have easier access to things like running water and power. Also, if you forget something, you’re just a few steps away from your real kitchen. The common term for this type of outdoor kitchen is “perimeter kitchen”.
An outdoor kitchen away from your house is going to be more expensive and require more planning. You’re going to need running water, electric, gas, etc. This means you’ll have to run gas, water, and electric out to your outdoor kitchen, which will be a little pricey. It’s a good idea to check with the city to ensure that all changes you’ll be making will be up to code. However, your outdoor kitchen will feel like it’s own little oasis. This is called a “satellite kitchen”.
While putting together your outdoor kitchen design, establishing a layout is an easy next step. Many people are familiar with the indoor “kitchen triangle” setup. This puts the stove, refrigerator, and sink within a comfortable triangle space that makes accessing all three appliances relatively easy. This isn’t quite as necessary when designing your outdoor kitchen, but still something to think about. Another thing to think about, designing your outdoor kitchen so the grill is in a place where you can cook without being interrupted. The last thing you want is kids running around next to the grill!
Outdoor Kitchen Appliances
One of the most important decisions for your outdoor kitchen is picking the perfect grill. Grills can be expensive, but it’s worth spending the money to purchase a quality piece of equipment. The majority of grills you’ll be looking at will be gas grills. This will require a gas hookup, which we’ll cover later. You could go for the charcoal grill route which provides a unique flavor when grilling, but it’s a little harder to maintain.
The two main options you have when deciding on a grill are a built in option and a drop in option. The size ranges from 24 – 48 inches wide and 15 – 26 inches deep. Based on the amount of cooking you’ll be doing, something within those ranges should work for you. The range of prices is pretty large, so it’s worth understanding what you’ll be getting at each price point. The general range is $200 – $4,000.
The $200 grill will be your standard portable grill with a propane tank inside the bottom. This is a quick, cheap option that allows some flexibility. In general, this is going to be a smaller option with less power than a higher end grill. As you move up in price, you get more features, more power, and higher quality construction. Rather than a portable grill, you’ll be looking at a built in with a surround and a direct gas line to the grill. After the obvious quality and performance benefits, a high end built in grill is going to be a nicer looking, more luxurious option for your outdoor kitchen.
If you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck, buying before or after the summer season will save you the most money. At the end of the summer season, older models will be going on sale to make room for new additions. This is consistent with most seasonal products available. We looked around and the BBQGuys have an awesome list of the best built in grills based on price. They cover durability, performance, style, and popularity, as well as giving you a breakdown of what to look for in a grill. Many of the built in grills are available in a freestanding style as well, so don’t worry if you’re not looking for a built in.
The next piece of the puzzle when it comes to outdoor appliances is the sink. The outdoor sink is a relatively simple decision to make because there’s once choice that stands above the rest. Since your sink will be outside in the elements every day, stainless steel is the way to go. Stainless steel outdoor sinks won’t corrode or fade in the sun and additionally, they’re super low maintenance. A quick wipe down will be all you need to clean your sink. They’re also durable and look great with any outdoor kitchen design choices.
The cost of an outdoor sink isn’t nearly as significant as a grill. On average, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $100 – $250. A quick cost saving tip for outdoor sinks, don’t install a hot water line. Almost everything you’ll need your sink for outside can be done with cold water. If you really need hot water, using your indoor kitchen should work just fine.
Another crucial piece of your outdoor kitchen design is the refrigerator. Like the sink, we suggest going with a stainless steel option that’s rated for outdoor use. Don’t go too crazy with the fridge, you don’t need anything too big. All you’ll be using it for is storing food that needs to stay cold. Storing drinks is an option, but if you’re looking at a smaller fridge, you can always fill a cooler with ice for drinks.
The majority of outdoor kitchen designs place the refrigerator under the countertops. This can be within your “kitchen triangle” like we discussed earlier. It’s best to build your outdoor fridge into the rest of the kitchen so its protected from the elements and easily accessible. A few top brands to consider looking into are Marvel, Blaze, and Lynx. Prices can fluctuate dramatically depending on what you’re looking for, so it’s best to determine your budget before shopping around. The price of outdoor refrigerators usually range from $500-$2000.
Outdoor flooring for your kitchen is another piece of the puzzle when it comes to outdoor kitchen design. As you would expect, there are multiple material options you can choose, although a few stand out above the rest. The most popular materials available are:
Concrete is a consistently popular choice because of the price and ease of installation. In general, the cost of installing a concrete floor for your outdoor kitchen is about $8 – $10 per square foot. The versatility of concrete is a big positive if you are looking to match your outdoor kitchen with the rest of your patio and house. Concrete can be dyed or stamped, and concrete pavers are another option. The only downside to concrete is that it is prone to staining, which might be a deal breaker if you have a problem with spilling drinks! A lot of wear and tear can also lead to cracks in your concrete, and it’s notoriously difficult to match new concrete color with previous pours.
Tile is another popular choice for outdoor kitchen flooring. There are all kinds of patterns and colors to choose from when thinking about tile as flooring. Another great aspect to note, the price usually ranges from $10 – $30 per square foot, so there’s an option for any budget. The downside to tile is that the tile and grout has a tendency to crack in cold weather. Tile isn’t the most durable choice when it comes to flooring.
Finally, stone is the third main material for outdoor flooring. Stone is widely praised for it’s natural aesthetic and durability. Natural stone is easy to match and looks great in almost any outdoor kitchen setting. You’ll often see high end outdoor kitchens feature stone throughout. The only downside is that stone is about $25 per square foot, making it one of the more expensive options available.
Picking a material for your outdoor kitchen countertop is almost as important as picking a grill! This is where you’ll be doing your prepping, cooking, and serving. You want to give yourself enough space so you don’t feel too cramped. Indoor kitchen counters usually have a depth of about 24”, but to accommodate a built in grill, you should plan for a depth of at least 30” – 36”. The counter height should be at 36”, which is the standard for an indoor kitchen counter as well. It’s worth considering adding a bar top counter area for entertaining guests while you cook. A standard height for a bar top is about 42”.
Now, on to picking your counter material! There are a bunch of options to choose from, but the best outdoor kitchen countertop material is going to be granite. There are a few downsides, like the weight, price, and installation, but the pros far outweigh the cons. First of all, there are many different colors of granite, and they’re all naturally occurring. This will make it much easier to find the perfect aesthetic for your outdoor kitchen design. Additionally, granite is resistant to heat, durable, easy to clean, and hold up to the elements. Although granite is a little pricier than other options at $50 – $100 per square foot, you’ll be glad you made the investment because it will last for years to come.
A close runner up to granite is concrete. While concrete is a little cheaper, you’ll end up paying close to the same amount as granite because of the installation costs. If concrete isn’t installed perfectly, it becomes extremely prone to cracking. Even when installed correctly, it’s still something that can happen. It’s also a softer material than granite so it’s more likely to chip and stain. It’s not a bad option, it just requires more upkeep and maintenance than granite. Pricing is usually under $100 per square foot.
When it comes to utilities that need electricity, natural gas, and plumbing, it’s in your best interest to hire a contractor that can handle the necessities of your outdoor kitchen. An electrician will know exactly how to install outlets, light fixtures, etc, while making sure everything is up to code. The same goes for installing a natural gas line and plumbing.
These installations will be significantly more expensive if you’re going with a “satellite” outdoor kitchen. This means that your outdoor kitchen will be a standalone fixture rather than a kitchen that is close to your house or shares a wall. Perimeter kitchens are generally much easier to equip with basic necessities like power, gas, and water because of their proximity to the house.
The best course of action is to get estimates from local contractors on how much these installations will cost. For gas, you can expect prices anywhere from $200 – $1,000. For electricity, you can expect anywhere from $125 to over $1,000. And plumbing, $350 – $1,800. None of these installations are cheap, but professional work will give you some peace of mind as well as ensuring your outdoor kitchen will run smoothly.
An outdoor kitchen design wouldn’t be complete without the proper seating and dining arrangements. For entertainment, it’s common to install a TV near the kitchen so you can kick back and watch sports, movies, etc. It’s not super crucial, there’s something to be said for hanging out on the patio and enjoying nature, but it’s something to factor into the total cost if it’s something that’s important to you. Finding a place to install the TV that won’t get wet is crucial. Many homeowners choose to opt for a pergola or gazebo for this kind of thing.
Patio furniture comes in hundreds of shapes, sizes, and designs. Picking the right patio furniture will set the tone for the aesthetic of your outdoor kitchen. Are you going for a casual, laid back vibe? Wicker sectionals and chaise lounges will give you plenty of space to hang out and provide some serious comfort. If you want to go for a more modern look, there are some great cast aluminum dining sets that would fit right in with a modern outdoor kitchen design. If you’re working with a smaller space, bar sets and chat sets are small enough to fit almost anywhere and still provide a great seating option.
Another aspect of patio furniture to consider is the material that you want to use. Wrought iron has a tendency to rust and offers a much more traditional aesthetic. This isn’t for everyone, so it’s worth checking out before buying. Teak has some traditional as well as modern options and is much more durable. However, teak needs to be taken care of or the natural color starts to fade into a light gray color.
When it comes to durability, low maintenance, and overall style, wicker and cast aluminum take the cake. Many synthetic wicker furniture options have a cast aluminum frame that doesn’t rust and is extremely durable. Cast aluminum and wicker furniture are often more modern and fit in well with a newer outdoor kitchen look. Cast aluminum and wicker are a little on the expensive side, but you’re paying for style, quality, and furniture that will last years to come. If you’re looking for a patio furniture option that’s a little more budget friendly, recycled plastic patio furniture is going to be your friend. Not only is it a little cheaper, it’s good for the earth!
A final patio furniture addition worth thinking about is a quality heat lamp! As warm as it gets in the summer, it’s easy to get a little chilly at night. Installing a propane heat lamp is a quick and easy way to make sure your guests are comfortable and happy all night long.
After all the planning and decision making, how much does it cost to build an outdoor kitchen? Based on our research, the average cost is between $4,000 – $20,000. However, based on the type of outdoor kitchen, materials used, gas, power, and water installations, and patio furniture selections, the price can easily pass $50,000.