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How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen

February 05, 2021 · 6 minute read

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How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen

Whether you’re looking to spruce up your barbecue area or design a fully-equipped kitchen, there are plenty of options and logistics when considering an outdoor kitchen.

This guide will go through the steps of siting, designing, and building an outdoor kitchen, along with some typical costs and considerations for making your home improvement dreams a reality.

Settling on a Location

Before diving into the details of outdoor kitchen designs, settling on a location can help focus your planning and creativity. For starters, you can take stock of existing structures in the yard that could be incorporated into the design, such as patios and decks.

When envisioning options, measuring the square footage of potential kitchen areas can inform what types of equipment and accessories will fit.

Having some essential design features in mind like a grill or wood-fired pizza oven could help guide the siting process, too. If you have your eyes on heavier equipment, such as furniture or a bar, you may need to reinforce a deck or patio to safely accommodate the extra weight.

Consulting with a professional contractor is advisable to prevent sagging in the floorboards or more severe damage that could lead to a complete backyard remodel.

Slope and distance from the house could also impact the feasibility and cost. Building on an inclined surface might require a more robust foundation than a level area.

Situating an outdoor kitchen a greater distance from the home may add the expense of connecting electricity or plumbing, not to mention the practicality of walking back and forth. Adding outlets can cost between $100 and $185 each, while new wiring costs $6 to $8 per foot, excluding the cost of labor for installation.

If possible, utilizing existing structures or buildings next to the house can reduce such costs and integrate an outdoor kitchen with the rest of the living space.

Creating an Outdoor Kitchen Design

After hashing out where to build, it’s time to delve into the details of the outdoor kitchen design. While browsing through dream kitchens on HGTV and Pinterest can provide inspiration and creative ideas, being realistic with your budget and desired kitchen features can keep you on track for realizing your backyard sanctuary.

To avoid the impulse of keeping up with the Joneses, it may be beneficial to make a ranked list of possible equipment and design components alongside a budget.

Keeping in mind your own cooking habits and diet can be a useful litmus test to determine what you may use frequently and what could likely accumulate dust. It’s also worth considering how many people you’d like to accommodate.

If you’re overwhelmed with ideas but don’t know where to begin, finding a focal point to design around is one option to consider. For instance, barbecue connoisseurs may want to orient the outdoor kitchen design around the grill, whereas skilled mixologists might prefer to showcase their craft behind a central bar area.

Here are some further ideas for accessories and appliances to outfit an outdoor kitchen.

Grill

For many households, grilling is an essential component for cookouts and summer gatherings. Besides choosing whether to go with gas or charcoal, there is a choice between built-in and rolling grills.

On one hand, a built-in grill can look sharp and tailored within an outdoor kitchen design. But on the other, the grill can’t be wheeled away for additional entertainment space when you’re not cooking.

Opting for a freestanding grill could help stretch your budget further and add some flexibility to an outdoor kitchen design.

Kitchen Island

The cook in the household is probably familiar with the challenges of simultaneously hosting and putting a meal together. In some cases, kitchen layouts can separate the cook from the rest of the party, which is not always ideal.

Adding a kitchen island for a mixed-use of counter space and seating can further integrate the cooking and dining space to bring everyone together at a dinner party or family gathering. Opting for the roll-away variety can help you customize an outdoor kitchen depending on the occasion.

Sink

Including a sink in an outdoor kitchen is useful for cooking, easy clean up, and sanitation.

The practicality of installing a sink and plumbing also depends on how far the outdoor kitchen is from the house. Carrying dirty dishes and pans a short distance for washing inside may not be worth the added cost of plumbing for some people.

Refrigerator

Whether storing food or drinks, a fridge can keep an outdoor kitchen stocked and ready and cut down on trips between the house. This requires running electricity for ongoing operation. For a full-size fridge, you can expect the cost to average between $1,000 and $2,000.

Countertops

As the cook in any family can attest, counter space is big help when it comes to staging and preparing food. On top of stains and wear and tear over time, outdoor kitchen countertops may need to be weather resistant too.

Marble is a popular interior countertop surface, but it’s cost and vulnerability to staining and wear mean it’s not the most durable. Some more hardy choices include slate and granite. Tile is a cheaper sturdy alternative, but typically requires more maintenance to clean the grout and replace cracked pieces.

For a functional amount of space, consider having at least 18 inches on each side of a sink, as well as 18-24 inches on either side of a grill.

Cabinets

To house all your outdoor kitchen utensils, pots, and pans in one place, cabinets are a good bet.

Similar to the countertops, durability is a key factor to consider alongside cost. Using a marine-grade paint or stain on wood cabinets can improve their weather resistance and tie in the outdoor kitchen design with the house.

Lighting

Unless the outdoor kitchen will be built on an existing porch or patio, adding lighting may be a necessary investment to make a backyard dinner party possible.

As mentioned previously, extending electrical wiring and adding outlets comes with costs. Given that 5% of home energy expenditures go towards lighting, going with solar lights could save on both the electric bill and wiring.

Landscaping

After construction is completed, landscaping can further beautify the outdoor kitchen space and provide privacy and shade in the way of bushes or trees. Landscaping costs can be as little as $500 to $700 for smaller jobs, though this is an easier opportunity than say plumbing or electric to recoup some money as a DIY project.

Choosing a Shelter

Even in the fairest of climates, having some protection from the sun and assurance you won’t be caught in the rain can be an asset to an outdoor kitchen design. In addition to making a more comfortable space, a shelter could also increase the lifespan of your outdoor kitchen equipment and furniture.

Check out some possible options that can protect and enhance an outdoor kitchen design.

Awning

Awnings are an option for shading an outdoor kitchen area. Based on size and materials used, a built-in awning costs between $1,380 and $4,100 on average.

Canvas awnings are not the most durable choice for areas that can have harsh weather conditions, but they can be removed and stored during winter and inclement weather to extend their lifespan. Metal awnings are another option, and are generally cheaper and sturdier.

Upgrading to a mechanically retractable awning will likely increase cost, but can be handy in locations where weather changes quickly and frequently.

Gazebo

A framed gazebo can protect furniture and kitchen equipment while creating a comfortable space for cooking and dining. Whereas awnings are often attached to a structure or need to be taken down seasonally, gazebos can offer longevity and more options for placement.

Pergola

Composed of vertical posts and overhead cross-beams with open lattice, pergolas can add some architectural appeal to an outdoor kitchen area. The structure is well-suited for growing vines to increase shade while allowing for ample breeze.

The Takeaway

After figuring out the location, dimensions, and trimmings for your outdoor kitchen design, you can begin itemizing costs within a budget.

If you come to realize you’re biting off more than you can chew, it’s okay to do the project in pieces. After all, cooking in your outdoor kitchen could be up to five times cheaper than ordering from a restaurant, thus helping pad your savings further.

There are also options to finance an outdoor kitchen project, such as personal loans.

Personal loans are repaid with monthly payments of principal plus interest. Generally, there is some discretion on how the borrower spends the money, whether on an outdoor kitchen or paying off credit card debt.

Building an outdoor kitchen could also qualify for a home improvement loan.

In contrast to a home equity loan, a home improvement loan from SoFi doesn’t require using an applicant’s house as collateral or approval from an appraiser.

Ready to dine al fresco? Check out home improvement loan options from SoFi.



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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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