Outdoor kitchens have exploded in popularity in recent years. They allow homeowners to entertain or simply eat family dinners outdoors without making too many trips indoors.
But before you jump on the bandwagon, ask these five questions:
Can you afford an outdoor kitchen?
“The goal is a balance of bringing the comfort of the indoors outside and the outdoors in,” says Ron Price, co-owner of DFW Improved in Frisco, Texas.
Depending on how many comforts you desire, outdoor kitchens can range from $5,000 for a basic grill setup to $50,000 or more for televisions, refrigerators and stone countertops, Price says.
Sonny Nazemian, owner of Michael Nash Design and Build in Fairfax, Virginia, says he only installs projects over $25,000, but says homeowners can get a nice outdoor kitchen for about $15,000.
Elaborate outdoor kitchens with all of amenities can cost more than $75,000.
How often will you use it?
Homeowners who already eat outside often will likely enjoy cooking outdoors, Nazemian says. But if you don’t think you’ll use it very much, it’s probably not worth the expense.
An outdoor kitchen isn’t for everyone and doesn’t add a lot to a home’s value, Price says. “It makes much more sense to financially savvy homeowners to spend $100,000-plus on a project when they know it will have a tremendous impact on the appraised value of their home,” he adds.
J.D. Durst, president and landscape architect at BPI Outdoor Living in Indianapolis, says more of his clients are expressing the desire to entertain or eat family dinners outside, despite seasonally cold weather that prevents year-round use.
“The popularity [of outdoor kitchens] has to do with the growing trend of outdoor living in general,” he says. “The outdoor kitchen now serves as the hub of the space just as it would inside the home.”
Experts advise power washing the stone façade of your outdoor kitchen each year, and sealing it every three to five years.
Which features do you need in an outdoor kitchen?
Maybe you don’t want draft beer on tap or a giant fireplace or TV. But Nazemian advises clients to include a water supply, direct gas line for grilling, and a mini refrigerator for beverages. Homeowners can save money with less expensive amenities, such as cheaper appliances or skipping the sink and expensive countertops.
Price says he advises clients to install a nice built-in grill if the seating area and patio already exist. The difficulty of running water lines makes sinks a luxury. “Sinks are … typically one of the first ‘wish list’ items to get cut,” Price says.
Besides the premium, built-in grill or smoker, additional features depend on the homeowner’s space and budget, Durst says. “A lot of our clients install outdoor refrigerators, trash drawers, sinks for preparation and even drawers for storage of grilling items,” he says.
Do you have the right space?
Homeowners who don’t already possess enough patio or deck space will need to expand — and maybe add a pergola or other overhead covering, Nazemian says. If your patio sits far away from the house, he says it might be difficult to run water or gas lines.
Nazemian expects these features to become standard for new homes, though only 20 to 30 percent of his clients want an outdoor kitchen now. “In 10 to 15 years, it will become the norm,” he says.
How much maintenance do outdoor kitchens require?
Price says if the kitchen is installed correctly, it shouldn’t need serious work.
“The hardest thing my wife and I have noticed with our outdoor kitchen is keeping the area and appliances clean all the time,” he says. “Otherwise, there’s not much unless you have a sink, and then you just have to be sure the supply lines are drained in the winter.”