Any homeowner who loves to spend time outdoors, grill, picnic, and socialize with friends and family should consider adding an outdoor kitchen to their back yard. When executed well, an outdoor kitchen will boost your home’s value, and give you brand-new ways to enjoy your outside living area.

Outdoor kitchens in the US cost an average of $13k. The lowest end of the price range is $3k, while the high end can reach $40k. When you’re making this kind of investment into your home, it’s essential to nail both the design and the execution. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a space-hogging feature you aren’t excited to use. 

Today, we’re sharing tips for building an amazing outdoor kitchen. From initial plans to finishing touches, we have thoughts on perfecting your backyard oasis.

Choose the Right Features

Your outdoor kitchen should cater to your cooking and entertaining style. In addition to basics like aesthetics and the type of grill you prefer, your new kitchen should provide sufficient prep space, storage space, and appliances you know you’ll use often.

The layout must flow easily, as well. For example, if your ice chest is tucked away behind the cooking zone, your guests will constantly be underfoot as they grab their drinks. As you begin to plan your dream layout, think about what does and doesn’t work well in your current indoor kitchen, and think back to features you’ve appreciated in kitchens you’ve cooked in throughout your life. Before too long, you’ll be picturing a convenient, streamlined layout.

Functionality should be your main focus at this stage. You’ll need four zones: dry, wet, hot, and cold. Your dry zone is for prep, while your wet zone will be for bartending and your sink. Your hot zone is where the cooking will happen, while your cold area will house your refrigerator and/or ice chest. Keep utilities in mind as you plan, because you’ll need electric, water, and possibly natural gas connection(s). 

Your new countertops should be durable, attractive, and of course, weather-proof. Common materials include concrete, tile, and stone, each of which is great to prep and cook on, and well-suited to the demands of an outdoor kitchen.

Lighting is an essential part of an outdoor kitchen as well. While you’ll be firing up the grill while it’s hot and sunny, your guests will likely linger until after you lose the natural light of the sun. Keep things humming along by hanging lanterns or LED lights – both of which will bring a hefty dose of ambiance as well as functionality. Alternatively, consider incorporating lighting into your kitchen’s backsplash. LED lights are energy-efficient, stay cool to the touch, last for many years, and can easily be purchased in styles that are weather-proof for outdoor use.

Often, homeowners picture outdoor kitchens with concrete floors that are identical to a standard patio. While this is an option, you may prefer to install flooring that provides some level of cushion for comfort. Sore feet and an aching back aren’t welcome guests at any backyard barbeque! Outdoor flooring should also: be easy to clean, resist damage from the elements, and add beauty to your new kitchen.

Choose the Ideal Location 

The perfect spot for your outdoor kitchen will be close to features like patios, hot tub and pools, water features and ponds. Your grill should face the back yard but be close enough to the house that you aren’t carting ingredients and dishes to and from the far corner of your yard. Still, avoid putting the grill too close to the house, or beneath awnings that are prone to heat damage.

Consider your privacy, as well. If you prefer that your neighbors don’t have eyes on your backyard festivities, take advantage of foliage, fencing, or privacy screens.

Hire a Designer and a Contractor

Unless you have extensive experience creating blueprints and home design plans, hiring a professional designer just makes sense. Once your design has been finalized, you can work with a contractor to turn your plans into reality.

Selecting the right designer and contractor is an absolutely crucial component to any successful renovation project. While you’ll likely have a budget to stick to, we warn against accepting the least expensive bid you receive. When interviewing potential candidates to take on your outdoor kitchen build, take the time to carefully view their portfolio. Do any of their past projects represent the outcome you’re imagining? Read through reviews from past clients, paying special attention to adherence to projected timelines, ability to be flexible, and overall customer satisfaction.

Purchase Outdoor Appliances 

It’s time to purchase your appliances! Make sure you choose appliances that fit the dimensions of your space and are rated for outdoor use. Outdoor kitchens commonly include a grill, sink, refrigerator (either miniature or full-sized), and for the pizza enthusiasts, a wood-fired pizza oven.

If you have a meat smoker, you may want to keep it further away from the kitchen and central gathering zones. As delicious as smoked meat is, the aroma and smoke can be overpowering during social occasions. 

Outdoor Kitchen Decor

Your final step will be adding décor. Depending on your overall aesthetic preferences and the space you have available, you may wish to include potted plants, colorful accents, outdoor table and chairs, hammock, fire pit, and an appropriate amount of comfortable seating, especially if you want your guests to hang around after the meal is over.

If possible, keep your outdoor appliances out of direct sunlight with a shade structure or awning. Your guests will likely appreciate some shade as well, so consider adding a gazebo or shade structure over your seating area.

We want to hear from you! Have you added an outdoor kitchen to your back yard? Or are you planning to do so this year? Tell us about your favorite features, share tips and tricks, or let us know what you’d do differently next time by leaving us a comment below.

Thank you for visiting the Parks blog. We hope you’re having a lovely summer.

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