Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor kitchen designs

Save the kitchen in your home for cooler weather and rainy days. When the sun is shining and the weather is calling you, the best place to cook is in your own outdoor kitchen. With a few additions, you can transform the plain space outside into a cooking oasis the entire family will adore.

Most patios have a grill of some kind. While this is fine for cooking some chicken and a few hot dogs, you may want more in the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. Consider adding a brick pizza oven for warmth, ambience and the fresh smell of pizza. Include a wet bar to make serving drinks easy when you have company.

READ MORE: Angie's List Guide to Gas Grills

A cooler or refrigerator is necessary for keeping the party outdoors.

For the majority of homeowners working within a budget, it makes good sense to plan the project in phases. If you can only afford to do the patio or the landscaping this year, stick to that part of the plan.

That way, if you never implement Phase Two or Phase Three, it doesn’t look incomplete.

You can also save money and time by combining store-bought appliances with a few custom elements. For example, by using waterproof cabinetry and the right flooring surface, an outdoor kitchen can come together quickly.

If enough space is available, and you can afford the expense, an outdoor kitchen can include everything that an indoor kitchen has.

Because the purpose of an outdoor kitchen is often to allow the homeowner to entertain guests while doing his or her own cooking, the most practical designs include a full range of appliances as well sinks and work surfaces that keep homeowners outside and among their guests.

The first step in designing an outdoor cooking space is to determine how much space can be devoted to it. A space that is too large can take away from the yard, seating and landscaping. Making the space too small can mean frequent trips to the main kitchen.

Once measurements are taken to determine available space, some homeowners use graph paper to plot the location of appliances, cabinets and utility connections. Some home improvement stores offer free design services to homeowners who buy materials or appliances from them.

Contracting with a professional home designer is another option.

The choice of flooring for the outdoor cooking area depends on the style of the kitchen and the budget. Poured concrete foundations usually require professional installation, but homeowners can often lay pavers and put down gravel or natural stone surfaces themselves.

outdoor kitchen

Try to imagine how you will use your outdoor kitchen when selecting the types of appliances for the design. (Photo courtesy of member Todd M.)

Outdoor kitchen appliances

Outdoor kitchens are usually focused around a grill, pizza oven or hearth. They can also include a cooktop, a griddle and a rotisserie. Some even feature built-in stereo systems and advanced lighting controls.

The right grill is an important choice. Both size and the preferences of the cook must be considered. Gas grills are perhaps the cleanest and easiest to use, and they and can be connected to the home’s natural gas supply if they are permanently installed.

Many outdoor cooks prefer to cook over charcoal. The coals must be safely emptied and removed from the kitchen area, but charcoal imparts a unique flavor to cooked foods. Still others prefer to use a wood-burning grill with an attached or separate smoker.

A wood-burning pizza oven makes a striking and functional addition to an outdoor kitchen. These can be expensive; however, since they often require custom masonry work to install. Do-it-yourself installation is not recommended in this case.

Other appliances like refrigerators, wine coolers and traditional ovens are available in models that are specifically designed for outdoor installation. Installing these items is sometimes as easy as putting them in place and plugging them into a properly positioned outlet.

Some trim pieces may require a bit of installation experience.

Many designs also include an island that houses a steel sink as well as sturdy cabinets with doors made of treated wood or stone veneers to blend in when not open. A small refrigerator, liquor cabinet or even the console of a stereo system can be obscured within the island.

Some homeowners even add a fireplace and a roof or retractable cover over their outdoor kitchens to make them usable in the cold and rain.

By carefully deciding when professional help and custom design input is needed, homeowners can easily create an outdoor kitchen that allows them to be the life of the party while preparing the food, too.

Building an outdoor kitchen

The construction and installation of your outdoor kitchen may require the assistance of a team of professionals. For example, a complete outdoor kitchen with appliances and functioning sinks, you may need the services of a plumber, an electrician, mason and general contractor to oversee the entire project.

Use a licensed plumber to run the permanent lines to the grill and stove as well as running new water lines that will be required for the sink or ice maker. An electrician is necessary to run electrical lines to the refrigerator, and it's a good idea to have extra outlets installed.

An electrician will be able to install proper outlets for the outdoors that will function safely during all kinds of weather.

Mason workers and general contractors may be needed if you are planning on using stone and tile in the construction. It is also advisable to work with a landscaper who can help make the transition from the outdoor kitchen to the rest of the yard.

Before you hire anyone to construct your outdoor living space, find out as much as you can about the projects they've worked on. Portfolios are fine, but are meant to show the best work.

Ask for examples of existing hardscaping projects the company has done in your area, so you can see it in person. If possible, ask to see a  project that was completed several years ago so you can see how well the work held up.

Your outdoor kitchen should be built close to your existing house to make it easier for wiring electricity and plumbing to that location, says Wood. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Richard J. of Tampa, Fla.)
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