2014 outdoor kitchen trends spice up backyard bashes

If your idea of a backyard barbecue still involves a Styrofoam cooler and a portable grill, it might be time for an upgrade. From basic outdoor grilling stations to outdoor living spaces with refrigerators, big screen TVs and cooling systems, experts say the sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor kitchens.

“Basically anything you can do to an interior kitchen, you can do to an outdoor one,” says Jeff Herman, owner of highly rated Water Rock Custom Pools & Outdoor Living in San Antonio. Herman says alfresco kitchens afford homeowners the opportunity to include design elements that don’t work inside, such as streaming water features, and other comforts like misters and space heaters.

Increased popularity

Outdoor refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens are increasingly popular this season, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, which reports that spending on these outdoor appliances increased 8 percent in 2013. Stainless steel appliances, cabinets and grills dominate outdoor living spaces, according to the association.

outdoor kitchen grill and TV
Intricate masonry work, large TVs and multipurpose grills are popular this year. (Photo submitted by Member Debra M. of Washington D.C.)

Bigger, multipurpose grills are also popular. Gas-powered grills with temperature control, side burners, a warming rack and searing grill add sophistication to the kitchen and cost under $1,600. You’ll still have to pay for installation, which starts around $100, Herman says.

Many clients also add wood fire-brick ovens for vegetables or pizza. These cost between $2,000 to $8,000, depending on the size of the oven.

Consumers’ outdoor living spaces now often include weatherproof cabinets, wicker or wrought-iron island furniture, weatherproof acrylic fabrics that don’t fade and dry quickly, space heaters, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, the HPBA reports.

Outdoor kitchen costs

Herman says basic outdoor kitchen projects, which include a concrete patio, a fully functioning kitchen and an awning, start around $10,000. However, Herman says his higher-end projects range from $30,000 to $145,000. These projects feature custom countertops, wine chillers, heating and cooling systems, and sound systems.

According to the HPBA, outdoor kitchens range in price from $8,000 to $30,000.

All-season enjoyment

Castle Hills, Texas, member Adam Gonzalez says he researched several companies and visited outdoor living spaces nearby to figure out what features he wanted. He hired Herman’s company for his $80,000 backyard overhaul. Gonzalez added a pool with a grotto, a stone-covered patio and an outdoor kitchen.

His high-capacity kitchen includes a refrigerator, stove, grill and sits close to the custom waterfall Water Rock created.

outdoor kitchen with fire pit
This member incorporated a fire pit in his outdoor kitchen to keep guests warm on Indiana nights. (Photo submitted by Member Rob Q. of Carmel, Ind.)

“I’m still amazed every time I cook out there, it’s like nothing I’ve ever cooked on before,” Gonzalez says, adding that the outdoor kitchen gives him the opportunity to enjoy parties while cooking. “We spend more time in our outdoor living area than we do outside [in general].”

For homeowners living in warmer climates, like Gonzalez, outdoor kitchens expand their living spaces year round. Builders add misters and space heaters, allowing homeowners the option of using the kitchen in extreme heat or cold.

Others, like Alexandria, Va., member Todd Weiler, use the space as much as possible before snow falls, and sometimes even after that. Weiler grew up in Texas and fell in love with outdoor entertaining as he grew up.

DIY outdoor kitchens

After receiving estimates ranging from $6,000 to $8,000 for a custom-built outdoor kitchen, Weiler looked for more affordable options. He found an outdoor kitchen unit, which includes a grill, cabinets, stovetop, bar-like counter, small refrigerator and an umbrella for shade, at Home Goods for $2,000.

DIY outdoor kitchen
Member Todd Weiler purchased his outdoor kitchen at a hardware store and installed it himself, but hired an electrician to handle a portion of the job. (Photo by Weiler of Alexandria, Va.)

He took on the DIY project, but saved the risky electrical work for highly rated Gem Orion in Manassas, Va.

Weiler placed the kitchen unit on a U-shaped deck by his pool. Three sides of his home surround the area, protecting it from the harsh winds. It only took a few days to pull it all together.

“I use it about four times a week during spring and summer, and a few times a month in the cold for steaks,” Weiler says. “We entertain a lot, so I love the outdoor kitchen.”

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