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Should You Put in an Outdoor Kitchen?

Is an outdoor kitchen a good investment? Here's what you need to know.

[Updated: Feb 04, 2021 ] Apr 25, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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As a homeowner, you no doubt want to make the most of your outdoor space. As such, you may have a deck, pergola, or patio in your backyard that makes al fresco dining possible. You may also have a grill for outdoor cooking. But what about the food you're grilling? It may be coming all the way from your indoor kitchen to your outdoor dining area, which means you need to lug everything all the way from your refrigerator to your backyard. If only there were a way to make outdoor entertaining and dining more convenient...

Actually, there is. If you invest in an outdoor kitchen, you'll be able to really enjoy your outdoor living space without encountering a hassle every time you want to prepare food or feed guests.

What features might an outdoor kitchen have?

An outdoor kitchen can take on different forms. In some cases, it can be a simple setup with a gas grill, mini fridge, a small amount of counter space, and a sink area. Or it can be much more expansive and high-end -- think stainless steel appliances, large granite countertops, and multiple grills.

In fact, custom outdoor kitchens let homeowners like you design an ideal space for outdoor cooking. You could install a pizza oven across from a barbecue grill with an outdoor bar that includes a temperature-controlled wine fridge. Your backyard kitchen could also feature a full-size fridge, large food prep areas, and extra cabinets for the storage of nonperishable goods. Your kitchen design choices are virtually endless and will largely boil down to how much space you have to work with and what your renovation budget looks like.

What are the benefits of an outdoor kitchen?

There are plenty of good reasons to invest in an outdoor kitchen, whether you opt for an elaborate setup or a more modest design.

1. Increased home value

Outdoor kitchens are increasing in popularity, especially in areas where it's feasible to dine outdoors for a large portion of the year. As such, putting in an outdoor kitchen could help your property value climb so that when you decide to sell your home, you command a higher purchase price. An outdoor kitchen could also help your house stand out if it's a feature not found in most houses in your neighborhood.

2. Added convenience

An outdoor kitchen makes it easier to enjoy outdoor gatherings that involve food and drink. As a host, you won't find yourself constantly running back and forth to the house during barbecues or parties, and your guests won't have to, either. Rather, you'll have the option to store, prep, cook, and serve your food in the same space.

3. Aesthetic appeal

There's something about the look of high-end outdoor kitchen countertops and stainless steel appliances that shouts elegance. An outdoor kitchen can actually be a notable aesthetic feature in your backyard.

4. A cooler, cleaner indoor kitchen

Even if you're an avid cook, the idea of using your oven on a scorching summer's day can be enough to make you scrap your gourmet dinner plans and opt for a simple piece of toast or bowl of cereal instead. With an outdoor kitchen, there's no need to swelter inside your home just to cook a meal. Instead, you can fire up the grill and enjoy the open air and breeze as you prepare food, and then return to a nice, cool home and mess-free kitchen when you're done eating.

What are the drawbacks of an outdoor kitchen?

On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to putting in an outdoor kitchen that you need to know about.

1. High costs

Nailing down the cost of an outdoor kitchen is close to impossible because there are so many variables involved. But even a bare-bones outdoor kitchen is apt to be relatively expensive. There's plumbing and electrical work to consider and construction that'll need to take place. Permits will need to be obtained, and inspections will need to be completed before that space is deemed safe and usable.

As is the case with any home renovation, the money you spend to put in an outdoor kitchen is money you won't have available for another project. And while an outdoor kitchen will generally increase your home's value, you may not recoup your full investment when you go to sell.

2. Monopolized outdoor space

If your backyard isn't that big, each square foot your outdoor kitchen takes up is space you can't use for chairs, tables, or running around. Along these lines, an outdoor kitchen may end up taking the place of another useful feature, like a playset for your kids or a hot tub that's relaxing to soak in after a tough workout.

3. Limited usage

In many areas of the country, an outdoor kitchen is really only useful during the late spring, summer, and early fall. As such, you may end up sinking a lot of money into something you don't get to enjoy for seven months out of the year.

4. Potential damage

Both wildlife and weather events can cause damage to your outdoor kitchen. As such, you could wind up spending a lot of money to have that space created only to then fork over a whole lot more in the course of repairs.

Is an outdoor kitchen right for you?

Clearly, there are benefits and drawbacks to installing an outdoor kitchen. You might lean toward making that investment if you can check most of the following items off your list:

  • You have a large outdoor space.
  • You tend to entertain a lot.
  • You have a healthy budget for home renovations.
  • You enjoy spending time outdoors.

But if most of the above items don't apply to you, then you may want to save your money for a home improvement project that's likely to have more of an impact on your day-to-day quality of life, like a master bathroom remodel or finished basement. You may even decide to put that money toward upgrading your existing kitchen, if it needs work.

There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to investing in an outdoor kitchen. But if you do decide to go for it, take your time exploring your options so you land on the right design and setup. After all, if you're going to put in an outdoor kitchen, you deserve to be thrilled with the end result.

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