Two years of pandemic-enforced isolation has left a lasting legacy: homeowners looking to expand their exteriors into functional living spaces – creating additional rooms, in fact, for working, playing and cooking. Yes, we said “cook”: outdoor kitchens are sizzling in popularity. A recent survey of HomeLight real estate agents flagged them as the no. 1 desired pool area upgrade, and the American Institute of 2022 Q1 2022 Architects Home Design Trends Survey found that 55% of respondents (55%) report an increase in outdoor cooking demands.
Including everything from appliances to countertops, outdoor kitchens range in price (pun intended): from $5,489 to $22.08, according to HomeAdvisor, though some can reach $40,000.
Here’s what you need to know about adding an outdoor kitchen to your home.
What is an outdoor kitchen?
An outdoor kitchen goes far beyond the solitary grill and buffet. A designated area for preparing, cooking and cleaning, it includes (at least) a counter, cabinets and cooking appliances – usually a barbecue, usually featured in the center. More elaborate stations often include a sink, refrigerator, bar, cooling fans, and secondary cooking appliances/appliances: smoker, pizza oven, regular oven, griddle, or an additional grill. They can have flooring and cladding, and also extras like TVs, heaters, fire pits and tables or islands.
You can create an outdoor kitchen in many different shapes. The most basic is a stand-alone upright counter. L-shaped, U-shaped, two-tier, and a three-quarter square are other popular designs.
Types of outdoor kitchens
The outdoor kitchen design ideas are endless, but outdoor kitchens themselves fall into two basic categories.
Prefabricated vs custom-made outdoor kitchens
Prefab kitchens are kits that include the basics: an island for food prep, a built-in gas grill, and doors to access the propane tank. You can also buy accessories like a refrigerator, granite counter tops and other components. Prefab kitchens typically cost between $2,000 and $30,000.
In the other corner are custom built outdoor kitchens. Made entirely to your specifications, these require the finesse of a contractor as you design larger layouts, custom countertop materials, built-in appliances and storage. You create all the configurations and style combinations (from rustic to contemporary) that you want. Unsurprisingly, customization costs more: between $3,000 and $50,000, depending on how extensive you want the backyard kitchen and dining area to be.
Outdoor satellite or perimeter kitchens
The other big choice is whether the outdoor kitchen should be connected to your house or not.
A satellite kitchen occupies a separate space, separate from the house. Therefore, you will need separate connections for electricity or natural gas. Meanwhile, perimeter kitchens align with the layout of your home. The area can share the floor, walls, and the same energy sources as your home.
Perimeter kitchens work best in comfortable spaces or if your indoor kitchen faces your garden. You will have limitations on the design and configuration, as they must conform to the location of existing electrical or gas lines. Of course, they might not need as many features, because they are close to home, in fact an extension of the ordinary kitchen.
Alternatively, freestanding satellite kitchens give you the space to let your imagination run wild. But they generally require larger areas and will incur higher construction and installation costs, perhaps even requiring permits. You or the contractor have to do more work to install the devices (since they can’t use the same energy source as your house), and with the additional energy sources, the utility bills are higher when using them.
Portable outdoor kitchen
A unique idea is to create a mobile kitchen. You dedicate a space for the cooking appliance (often a grill) and a cart to serve as a buffet/counter. You can roll both in the area when using. Not only do you increase the functionality of the space, but the costs are also more manageable, ranging from $300 to $3,000.
How much do outdoor kitchens cost?
The majority of homeowners spend $13,000 on their outdoor kitchens. If you plan to hire professional help — general contractors, plumbers, electricians, or concrete specialists — expect labor costs to make up 70% of your total expenses, according to Fixr.com.
Outdoor kitchens are generally priced by the square foot. A typical range is between $40 and $130 per square foot. But the features, materials you use, size, and placement all play a huge part in your final price.
Here’s how integrated components impact costs:
|counters||$10 to $100|
|Cover||$25 to $100|
|Cabinets (framing)||$200 to $600|
|Plumbing||$300 to $1,500|
|Lighting||$500 to $3,000|
|Appliances||$1,500 to $7,000|
A satellite kitchen costs you $110 to $130 per square foot. Conversely, a perimeter kitchen costs between $90 and $120 per square foot.
You will need at least 100 square feet to build an outdoor kitchen. From there, your costs increase exponentially depending on the size of your kitchen. A 100 square foot kitchen will cost you between $4,000 and $15,000, while a 500 square foot kitchen will cost you between $20,000 and $65,000.
The materials used for the kitchen, its flooring and its fittings also have an impact on your bottom line. Tile is the most affordable option, ranging from $1 to $50 per square foot. Wood costs you between $30 and $60 per square foot, while quartz costs between $55 and $155. The most expensive choice is stainless steel at $80-$225.
Special considerations for outdoor kitchens
Installing an outdoor kitchen requires a space of at least 100 square feet. Relief is also an essential ingredient in kitchen design. “The ideal substrate for an outdoor kitchen is flat and firm, with good drainage,” recommends Lauren Tingley, owner of The Backyard Master. “If you have a sloping yard, you may need to create a flat space for your outdoor kitchen. This will make it easier to fit counters, cabinets and appliances. by building up the area with earth fill.
When buying accessories, surfaces and household appliances, you have to consider not only the style, but also the weather. The climate shapes the substances to be used. “Lower-grade materials are more susceptible to rusting from the sea air,” says Brian Lee, carpenter and founder of Drill and Driver. “You should opt for marine grade stainless steel for cabinets and countertops. There are also specific powder coatings advised to make their interiors more natural.
Other dos for your project, according to Shaun Martin, owner, member and CEO of WeBuyHousesinDenver:
- When choosing a grill, consider the weather (if it’s chilly at night, you’ll need a grill that produces more heat, right?)
- Design a layout based on your needs, not your wants.
- Budget for heaters to increase kitchen use (alfresco dining until fall!)
Conclusion on outdoor kitchens
Outdoor kitchens aren’t bad at recouping their costs, offering an average 71% return on your spending, according to the HomeLight Top Agent Insights Summer/Fall 2021 report. Nationally, the estimated value of an outdoor kitchen has increased by 58% since pre-pandemic times. And of course, anything that adds to a home’s living space tends to increase its overall value.
Although you should build it primarily for your own enjoyment, there are a few things you can do to spice up the value of your outdoor kitchen. “First, make sure the layout is well-planned and effective,” says Tingley. “Second, use high quality materials that can withstand the elements. Finally, don’t forget the small details that can make a big difference. Accent lighting will create an inviting space your family and friends will love.