Your Guide to Creating an Outdoor Kitchen
Why a kitchen in your backyard?
Grilling outdoors is one of Canada’s favourite pastimes. Given our temperate climate and the fact summers can get quite hot—requiring a substantial amount of energy to cool your home—one of the biggest benefits of using an outdoor kitchen is keeping the heat outside.
Another benefit is when you entertain outside, you get to spend more time with your guests instead of running in and out of the house constantly. Everything you need to prepare, cook, eat, and drink can be conveniently within reach. Plus, you can’t go wrong with more surface area for food, drinks, and condiments!
For the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) Past Chair Barb Sukkau, a sales representative at Royal LePage NRC Realty, the idea of installing an outdoor kitchen came from a desire to expand their living space outdoors.
“We are so thrilled with our backyard renovation. We grill and entertain around our outdoor kitchen and have a large dining space for our large gatherings,” she said. “In the evening we enjoy the warmth of our outdoor gas fireplace, comfy couches and a little television in our outdoor living room. Honestly we have never enjoyed our backyard so much and are happy with the investment that we feel adds tremendous value to our home.”
Where is the best place for an outdoor kitchen?
Positioning your kitchen close to an entrance means less time carting supplies back and forth at the beginning and end of the season, or when you need to resupply.
While an outdoor kitchen’s function goes beyond a standalone barbecue, it’s important to be mindful of safety. You may build closer to the house for convenience or due to available space, which is fine, as long as you aim for 1.5 metres away from fences, entries, windows, or air intakes (such as for a furnace vent). Too much heat can shatter your windows—not to mention if you’re prone to igniting your food while cooking, you’ll want to keep all that smoke outside. On that last point, always keep a fire extinguisher handy when cooking anywhere.
Some other things to consider when choosing the location of your outdoor kitchen include:
- proximity to your indoor kitchen in case you need to restock or grab something;
- available shelter so everything can be covered from the elements;
- access to power; and
- proximity to your neighbours.
Note: Check your municipality’s regulations regarding barbecues and propane canisters, as some have specific clearance rules in place for your safety and that of your neighbours. Consult with a certified HVAC technician if you’re moving or installing gas lines to your appliances.
Depending on your budget, complexity of your plan, and equipment to use, this type of home improvement project can come with a hefty price tag. While a simple outdoor kitchen setup for basic prep and cooking can be accomplished for under $2,000, more complex executions can easily exceed $10,000. Aside from the appliances, things that can impact your price include masonry work, the types of countertops you choose, whether or not you need additional gas and power lines, the overall size of the layout, and any necessary permits. For example, the lower end of the cost scale will get you a functional kitchen with basic appliances and a standard ceramic countertop. However, if you want to add brickwork and stainless steel countertops, you’ll have to spend more.
Outdoor kitchens are often considered a luxury and may add value to your property over and above your initial financial investment.
Fuel source and hookups
If your home is already fed with natural gas or propane, then it might be worth investigating the installation of a feed for your outdoor kitchen, otherwise a portable propane tank is the go-to, and you can incorporate tank storage into your design.
If you wish to include a sink in your setup, then you’ll need to plan for water supply and drainage. You can use your outdoor spigot to supply water to your sink, or run a dedicated line from your home’s water system. Convenience and budget may dictate your approach.
You can hook into your home’s existing drainage system, which can get pricey and may involve a building permit. Alternatively, you can install a dry well for your grey water to drain into your landscape. Just be mindful to stick to biodegradable cleaners.
Don’t forget about electricity, too. If you plan on having a mini-fridge and small appliances like blenders or food processors, or things like sound systems, fun lighting, or other electronic elements, you’ll need to figure out the power hookup for your kitchen. Consider proximity to outlets, and if you require additional electrical work, be sure to contact a professional.
Equipment and appliances
How extravagant you choose to be with your space will obviously impact your budget. The grill, drawers, sinks, and other features you choose will all factor into the overall cost. You’ll also want to ensure the appliances you choose are built for the environment. Most outdoor kitchen components are generally made with stainless steel to prevent rust, which also helps them withstand the elements and makes them easier to clean.
The grill is arguably the most important part of your outdoor kitchen, so it’s a good place to start. If you’re looking to optimize your budget, stick with a basic built-in grill assembly and prep counter with storage underneath. With many options across a variety of notable brands, you can build your own counter structure to accommodate a grill head, assemble your kitchen with built-in components, or go with a full kit for an all-in-one approach.
Stainless steel drawers, shelves, and cupboards are a must to store flatware, cooking utensils, and supplies. If you’re dreaming big, you’ll likely be interested in accessory appliances, like an outdoor fridge, wine cooler, kegerator, or even a sink and outdoor dishwasher for maximum clean-up convenience.
Layout and design
Depending on your space, there are several ways to approach your layout. The most space-conscious option is a basic galley approach, which provides counter and prep space on one or both sides of your grill. It also leaves plenty of room to build guest seating and a dining area around your kitchen. If space is ample, then you may be partial to an L-shaped setup, or get fancy with an angled or curved design.
Creating your own outdoor kitchen will take some planning and commitment, but the prospect of countless delicious meals being prepared by your expert hand for family, friends, and neighbours is hard to ignore. Like all home improvement projects, take your time, do your research, and always seek professional advice to ensure the best possible outcome. If you need help finding a contractor to complete your project, your REALTOR® can provide recommendations.