Cooking outdoors has practically become a national pastime. Flipping a few burgers for the family is just a start; smoking, deep-frying and baking in the backyard have become the dream of many homeowners who want to create their perfect outdoor kitchen. But just like kitchens inside the house, outdoor kitchens can quickly become budget busters if you’re not careful. Fortunately there are ways to get everything, well almost everything you want without taking out a second mortgage.
Dream Big – Then Dream Small
Hand sketch a blueprint of your dream outdoor kitchen that includes every amenity you’re fantasizing about. Now decide what you can live without. Before designing an extravagant outdoor kitchen think about how you use your outdoor space now. If your lifestyle actually supports the need for an outdoor kitchen with all the bells and whistles – then go for it. But if it doesn't, why not invest your money in the best appliances and finishes you can afford, instead of the most.
An outdoor kitchen that’s situated close to the house is convenient when running water, refrigeration and cooking supplies are just a few steps away – meaning you save money by not having to outfit the space with every appliance and utensil in order for it to be functional. To stay cooler in your outdoor kitchen, place it against a north-facing wall instead of a warm west- or south-facing wall. And if the kitchen’s protected by a roof overhang, awning or other covering remember to place grills near the end of the covering to prevent cooking odors and smoke from becoming trapped.
Building an outdoor kitchen in a far corner of the yard has many advantages, but is also more expensive. An independent kitchen will need most of the amenities of an indoor kitchen to function, including lighting. Running plumbing, gas and electrical lines out to an independent site is expensive. However, when properly stocked an outdoor kitchen tucked away from the house creates a sense of privacy and retreat.
Wherever you locate the outdoor kitchen, remember that some type of shade is necessary to protect not only the cook, but the guests from blazing sun or an unexpected rain shower.
Finishes and Extras
Selecting economical finishes is a great way to keep costs down without giving up the amenities you most want. Use pressure treated lumber for counter tops instead of more expensive options like stone veneer or stainless steel. In fact, a moderately skilled DIYer could use pressure-treated lumber to build his or her own cabinetry in a couple of weekends, saving money for that deluxe smoker or outdoor dining set you’ve got your eye on. Other finishes to consider are natural stone, tile and concrete.
A wood-fired pizza oven has a rustic appeal, but if you don’t think homemade pizzas are really your thing, opt for a small wood-burning fireplace, a fountain or a built-in television instead. After all, outdoor kitchens are about more than just cooking, they’re entertainment centers where friends and family can relax and enjoy their time together.
Of course, before you start making any plans, check with your city to learn about coding, permits and restrictions. If your dream kitchen requires the services of professional contractors don’t agree to the lowest bid just because it’s cheap. Poor workmanship can cost you more money in the long run. Hire licensed, experienced professionals who will turn your dream into a safe, well-built and durable reality.
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