How big of an investment is an outdoor kitchen?
Like any major upgrade, an outdoor kitchen could be a simple affair that costs a couple grand or it could easily run into six figures. When deciding how much to invest in an outdoor kitchen, consider how you will use the space and how often it will be used, and how long you plan to live at your current location. Each of these factors will help determine the size and scope of your project. Here are some of the more specific factors to consider when budgeting for a new outdoor kitchen.
You aren’t likely to make or eat many meals in the middle of a weed field. You will need some hardscaping for the outdoor kitchen floor and seating area, as well as some landscaping for the surrounding garden.
On both counts, hiring professionals can get pricey. Hardwood decks and stone patios are among the most expensive options, albeit some of the most attractive hardscapes. On the other hand, paver patios and concrete slabs are relatively cheap and easy for do-it-yourselfers. Pavers start at about $1 per square foot, and the simplest patios require little more than sand and perhaps gravel under the pavers.
For the surrounding yard, some garden centers offer simple landscaping plans for free in return for buying all plants and supplies at the center. City officials or others may also offer cheap or free landscape design assistance, particularly if you plan to xeriscape, or use low-water landscaping. Or partake in local garden tours for inspiration, then design your own landscape.
Running power to an outdoor kitchen is another potentially major expense. A top-end outdoor kitchen will have both electric and natural gas lines running to appliances, gas-fueled tiki torches, lighting and more in a kitchen space that is separated from the house.
On the other hand, building a simple kitchen adjacent to the house will let you use existing outdoor electric outlets. Also, running natural gas is not necessary if you use electric ovens and cooktops, or use propane tanks.
Likewise, it’s not cheap to run new hot and cold water lines to the outdoor kitchen, as well as drainage lines. However, a simple cold-water sink can be attached to a garden hose, and drained through a French drain system under the yard.
As with indoor appliances, the options for the outdoor kitchen range in price, quality and features. Compact under-counter fridges start at under $300. At the other extreme, high-end combination fridge-and-kegerator appliances cost more than $7,000.
Similarly, a basic propane or charcoal grill starts at about $100, and may be the only cooker you need in an outdoor kitchen. Or you can spend $13,000 on a pizza oven and natural gas grill with double side burners, a warming rack and other bells and whistles. Regular gourmet entertaining could justify the high-end model, but the $100 grill is adequate for the occasional family barbecue.
If your outdoor kitchen budget is limited, consider adding cabinetry, pergolas and other furniture in later years after establishing the basic setup the first year.
You can save on chairs and tables by searching Craigslist, Habitat ReStores and other sources. The furniture may need some TLC, but people seem to constantly be replacing outdoor furniture.
On the other hand, it doesn’t pay to skimp on cabinets and countertops. Some woods and other materials may not be able to withstand the elements in an outdoor kitchen. Be sure to buy outdoor-rated cabinets rather than trying to waterproof indoor cabinets. Tile may be the least expensive option for a sufficiently durable countertop material.
There are plenty of cost considerations when budgeting for an outdoor kitchen. Try to optimize the space while staying in your price range.