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Is An Outdoor Kitchen Worth It?

We’re living at home while building our extension, and as part of that we’ve just had the old kitchen ripped out. Until the new one is built, we’ve been using a temporary outdoor kitchen on the patio and quite like it. So would a permament one make a good investment?

An outdoor kitchen will add significant value to your home. Depending on how much you invest, your ROI could be between 60% to over 200%. The average price of an outdoor kitchen is around $13,000, and they represent a great lifestyle investment too.

Let’s dive down into the subject of outdoor kitchens in more detail, and discover what goes in one, how you build one – and how much they cost…

Is an Outdoor Kitchen a Good Investment?

No doubt, an outdoor kitchen will add to your home’s value. But will you get your money back? We’re not sure, but we are sure you’ll love having one.

Outdoor kitchens are designed for cooking in. Outdoor kitchens have at least one way to cook stuff – either a freestanding or built in BBQ grill, an oven, cooktop or a pizza oven. 

Then there’s the fun stuff: k​egerators, sinks, dishwashers, trash drawers, fireplaces, refrigerators, wine coolers, icemakers, bars with barstools, bars with fire pits, storage, heaters, flat screen TV’s, automatic shade screens, EVOs, giant green Eggs, griddles, rotisseries, electric smokers, ice bins, bar centers, and vent hoods. 

If you can’t picture the outdoor kitchen that’s right for you and your family, then check out this video with 75 fabulous outdoor kitchen ideas.

Does an Outdoor Kitchen Add Value to Your Home?

I​t does add value, but an exact ROI (return on investment) is hard to determine. The ROI ranges between 60% to over 200%.

How Much Does It Cost to Build an Outdoor Kitchen?

I​n a recent article by LawnStarter, the national average price of an outdoor kitchen was around $13,000, with the extreme low end at $5,000 and the high end at $41,000.

The same article on outdoor kitchens listed their cost based on the size of the kitchen. A small kitchen had around 100 square feet. A medium-sized kitchen had 300 square feet and a large outdoor kitchen was 400 square feet or larger.

F​or a small outdoor kitchen, the cost range ran from $3,250 up to $10,000. A medium-sized outdoor kitchen ranged from $9,750 up to $30,000. A large outdoor kitchen ranged from $13,000 up to $40,000.

H​ere’s the LawnStarter article on outdoor kitchen prices. The article breaks down costs by size and materials.

How Do I Build an Outdoor Kitchen on a Budget?

W​e love to DIY, but be aware that kitchens – both indoor and outdoor – are not for everyone. You’ll need some hard core skills to do it all yourself. If you aren’t a licensed plumber and electrician, best leave that stuff to the experts.

B​ut. There are ways to save money. Estimators say that labor alone will cost you 70% of the total bill. To save money, consider labor you can do safely yourself. Consider leveling your kitchen area and pouring the slab yourself. Or, if your outdoor kitchen is small, set pavers.

B​uild the structure around the kitchen yourself. There are lots of kits for pergolas or gazebos, or DIY your own design. 

Consider going modular. Look into the choices of prefabricated (aka modular) outdoor kitchens. See our section below on modular outdoor kitchens.

S​tart small but design in room to expand. Then, treat yourself to an outdoor kitchen addition yearly.

Does an Outdoor Kitchen Need to Be Covered? (To Protect It From the Weather)

P​robably. There aren’t too many places we can think of that have very little rain, snow or sunshine – all of which will weather your beautiful outdoor kitchen.

C​heck out the huge range of kit options. I​f your budget just won’t stretch to a covered space, then invest in some heavy-duty covers.

Do Outdoor Kitchens Rust?

If you have any stainless steel outside in your kitchen – and many grills and outdoor kitchen components are – then yes. Stainless steel is a beautiful, tough material, but it needs some TLC. 

How Much Does a Covered Outdoor Kitchen Cost?

Y​ou can go two ways with a cover: custom or kit. A recent HomeAdvisor article says that building a gazebo or pavilion yourself will cost from $3,000 to $9.000. If you choose to go custom, then costs range from $5,000 up to $11,000.

How Do You Plan an Outdoor Kitchen?

  1. Get real with money – check out your bank balance and decide how much kitchen you can afford. 
  2. Choose your location. Many people choose a location close to the back door and close to an existing patio or deck with table and chairs. Consider where winter winds come from and try to find a protected space. Mark the area with chalk or a garden hose.
  3. Make a list of the kitchen components you want. Include their cost and their physical dimensions.
  4. C​hoose your kitchen layout. Two popular kitchen layouts are: a straight counter with a grill in the middle, (aka a grill station), or a J or L-shaped counter. Don’t forget plenty of storage space. 
  5. Choose your building materials and price them out. Check out our section below on the three common frame building materials: wood, brick and steel. Then, choose the finishing material: tile, stone, cement, metal and brick. For dry climates, consider stucco. Make sure to include the countertop cost, too.
  6. D​ecide on your foundation. Read the section below about whether you can lay out your kitchen on pavers or a cement slab. Price out the foundation.
  7. Draw out – or blueprint – your kitchen – get out some graph paper or go online and make a detailed drawing. 
  8. Make a list of services you’ll need – like an electrician, plumber or general contractor. Try to find some realistic labor costs.
  9. Circle back to the budget. Do a reality check and scale back if you need to.  

Do You Need a Permit to Build an Outdoor Kitchen?

I​f you are considering a built in kitchen with new electrical outlets, natural gas and water lines, you will probably need a permit. Be sure to check with your HOA, village, town, city or county. 

What is a Good Size for an Outdoor Kitchen?

The average size of an indoor kitchen in a 4,000-square-foot house is around 200 square feet.  Medium-sized outdoor kitchens range slightly larger, at around 300 square feet.

What is a Modular Outdoor Kitchen?

A​ modular outdoor kitchen ( also called RTA, or ready to assemble) is made up of several large, boxy pieces that fit together. All you have to do is assemble them. 

For example, you may want a sink for your outdoor kitchen. A modular sink has the sink, but it comes fitted into a freestanding cabinet that has storage space underneath, with a countertop on top.

The same manufacturer will have units with grills, drawers, dishwashers and cooktops. They will have lots of options but they’ll all be the same height, finished in the same style and with the same type of countertop. 

I​f you are interested in what modular outdoor kitchen pieces look like and how much they cost, check out the following manufacturers: Char-Broil, Mont Alpi, Thor, Weber, Ikea, Napoleon, Pottery Barn, MOKS and New Age.

People say that the biggest downside to modular kitchens is that they are impermanent. Some reviewers say that they aren’t sturdy and don’t last. We recommend that you go with a manufacturer with great reviews, good customer service, the longest warranties and a long track record. Be sure that the stainless steel is the highest quality and the heaviest weight. 

How Do You Build an Outdoor Kitchen?

O​nce you have a design that fits your budget, plan out the build. Here’s a video to help. T​his is the first part of a DIY video, where a 10 foot by 10 foot kitchen is made using metal studs and cement board. This kitchen has water, electricity and natural gas plumbed in. In Part 2, he covers the cement board with a stone fascia and installs countertops of leathered granite.

Does an Outdoor Kitchen Need a Foundation?

This gets tricky. Some experts say that a four-inch poured slab will crack and some say pavers are fine. The answer depends. I​t depends on your climate, materials and size of your kitchen.

M​ost old slab patios are 4 inches thick. A four-inch thick slab can support up to 40 pounds of weight per square foot. While that’s plenty for people and patio furniture, the weight of several kitchen cabinets, grills, smokers, and granite countertops are too much. Your old patio may crack. 

We recommend that you get the opinion of a patio expert. Here’s a helpful article.

How Do I Run Water to My Outdoor Kitchen?

First, check with your local building code offices. Check with your HOA, village, city or county for rules. Many times, a permit is required for new water, electric or gas lines.

Running a water line from your house to an outdoor kitchen is a medium to hard DIY project. Here’s an article on the process. 

What Should I Build My Outdoor Kitchen Out of?

The most common outdoor kitchen build materials are wood, brick/cinder block, and metal. For those with a strict budget, wood will be cheapest, then steel and then brick.

W​ood is a good choice for your budget and most DIYers are comfortable using wood. See the next section for advantages and disadvantages. 

Bricks are classically beautiful. B​ricks or cinder blocks are impervious to weather and won’t combust. They are sturdy, heavy materials that will last a lifetime with very little maintenance. 

T​he biggest downside of brick is the cost. Also, most DIYers don’t have the tools or skill set to build a brick kitchen counter with grill inserts, appliances and storage. You many need masonry help. Also, brick and cinder blocks are heavy. You may need a slab foundation to handle the weight.

B​uilding with steel may be intimidating for many DIYers, but it can be a cost effective, long-lasting material to use for an outdoor kitchen. Many experts say it’s the best one to use. Steel components are costly but strong – so with careful planning, steel won’t break the bank. 

One disadvantage of a steel kitchen is that steel will eventually rust, particularly if you live in a damp or salty climate. They may be damaged with freeze/thaw cycles if you live in a cold climate. 

Another disadvantage is that many homeowners don’t have the building experience or tools to work with steel. Also, steel is strong, but it may not hold up to the weight of some finishes, like stone veneers with a granite countertop. 

Can You Build an Outdoor Kitchen Out of Wood?

Y​es, you can build an outdoor kitchen from wood. The advantage of building with wood is that it can be very cost-effective and it’s easy to build with. Most DIYers have the power tool set and experience to work with wood. 

But wood is combustible, so you’ll have to add special (expensive) insulators around anything that gets hot. Also, you’ll need to build your kitchen with pressure-treated wood or cedar and you’ll have to maintain it routinely with weatherproofing. 

What Does Every Outdoor Kitchen Need?

Ideally, outdoor kitchens need the same functionality as indoor ones. 

Outdoor kitchen experts say the biggest mistakes people make are: not planning enough counter space, not having enough storage space, and choosing the wrong (permanent) built-in grill. 

What Appliances Are Necessary For an Outdoor Kitchen? (Fridge, Oven, Dishwasher, etc)

T​he core appliance of every outdoor kitchen is the grill, typically a gas one. It’s the appliance used most often and is usually the focal point. If you are going to get a built-in grill, consider doing plenty of research first. Built-in grills are – built in. They are not easy to replace like a freestanding one.

S​ide burners are ideal for sauces, soups, and vegetable side dishes. Once you start using a side burner, you won’t believe you grilled without one.

A​ mini refrigerator is handy to store foods until the grill is ready or to have some cold brew handy for the grill master. For mixed drinks or soda, an ice maker is handy or at least an ice cooler.

A​nother core outdoor kitchen essential is the trash drawer. Who can cook without trash? Plan ahead with a large-size trash drawer with two compartments: one for trash trash and one for recyclables.

D​epending on your grilling tastes, you may want a pellet-style grill for those low and slow meals or a smoker. If you have a covered kitchen, you may need a vent hood. 

Not many outdoor kitchens have a dishwasher as you’d usually take the washing up back inside to clean up. But if you’ve got a sink with a water supply and drainage – then a dishwasher is certainly an option too if your outdoor kitchen is covered and protected from the elements.

Does an Outdoor Kitchen Need a Sink? (Yes)

R​unning water – and sinks – are underrated. Any place with food, drink, kids or pets should have a place for washing stuff, because stuff will get spilled. So, yes. You need a sink.

Can You Use Kitchen Cabinets for an Outdoor Kitchen?

They are not ideal, but y​ou can. Be aware that wooden cabinets will need some help outdoors. Without added protection, indoor cabinetry will warp and fade.

Protect the wood from the elements with an exterior stain/sealant combo or some exterior paint. Then, consider covering them with a roof.

Can You Put a Smoker in an Outdoor Kitchen?

A​ smoker is a popular choice. If you love smoking, include space for an electric smoker or a pellet one. 

Be sure to include the extra storage space for smoker accessories like thermometers, gloves, tongs, wood chips, knives, rib racks, bear claws, butcher paper, aluminum foil, pellets, and mops.

Can You Use a Regular Grill in an Outdoor Kitchen?

Y​ou can absolutely use a freestanding grill for your outdoor kitchen grill. Simply design enough space in between cabinets for you to roll it into place. When it wears out, roll in a new one.

Sometimes, a freestanding grill is the best option. A freestanding grill has its own propane tank, so you will save the expense of installing a gas line from your house. 

Where Should I Put My Outdoor Kitchen?

Does your backyard already have a patio with furniture to lounge on and a table to eat on? If so, then that’s where you should locate your outdoor kitchen. 

Consider adding your kitchen slab patio nearby. That way, guests, family and grill masters can relax while meals are cooking. After cooking, the food is carried and served just a few steps away.

Preparing food at an outdoor kitchen
Preparing food at an outdoor kitchen

How Close to the House Can You Build an Outdoor Kitchen?

M​ost safety experts recommend 10 feet, but grill manufacturers say only three feet is necessary. To be safe, we are recommending the ten feet. 

That means placing your grill, griddle, smoker or power burner ten feet away from house siding, awnings, wooden patio furniture, umbrellas, wooden fences, or wooden pergola posts. N​ot only should you maintain a distance for safety’s sake, but siding can melt – particularly vinyl siding.

This is an important question, so b​efore you build your dream outdoor kitchen, be sure to check in with your HOA, village, city or county safety offices. Drive to your local fire station and ask a helpful firefighter. Finally, call your homeowner’s insurance office.

Can You Put an Outdoor Kitchen on a Deck?

I​t’s not ideal. Some things to keep in mind: a deck is made of a combustible material – wood. If your deck is not made of wood, but a composite like Trex, it won’t catch fire but it can melt. A little. 

Another thing to consider is the weight of your particular outdoor kitchen. While Trex is strong, a wooden deck may not be able to hold the weight. We recommend trying to estimate the weight of your kitchen per square foot and then the load rating of your deck, or ask a contractor. You may need support beams.

A​lso, it may be difficult or even impossible to lay water, natural gas or electric lines under your deck.

Can You Put an Outdoor Kitchen on a Patio?

A​ patio is a great place to put an outdoor kitchen. But, if your patio is too thin, it may not hold the weight of your kitchen. If your dream outdoor kitchen is rustic – built with brick and granite – an old patio slab may not hold the weight.

M​any experts recommend starting your dream kitchen with a new slab, particularly if your outdoor kitchen has lots of appliances and heavy building materials. Pour a strong slab adjacent to the old one and slightly higher than it. 

Should an Outdoor Kitchen Be Near a Pool?

I​f your family spends lots of time in the pool, an outdoor kitchen nearby is a great idea. What could be better than cooking burgers while watching the kiddos play in the pool? 

C​heck out these fabulous pool and outdoor kitchen combo ideas.

Can You Have an Outdoor Kitchen in Cold Climates?

Y​up, you can. You may want to add an overhead heater, a fire pit, fireplace or chiminea to stay toasty. And, consider building some shelter. An insulated ceiling may be necessary, along with an insulated wall to protect your kitchen from the windiest direction.

Final Words

Our temporary outdoor kitchen experiment definitely opened our eyes to the prospect of installing a more permanent one.

Having a fixed and covered outdoor kitchen is a relatively big investment, but given the ROI when you sell the house on, and also taking into account the lifestyle benefits – then I think this could actually be a no-brainer.

And being a cross between Peter Griffin and Home Simpson, the only things I’d add in would be a beer fridge and a pizza oven! 🙂

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >