A Complete Guide to Building an Outdoor Kitchen: Designs, Plumbing, Costs and More
Outdoor kitchens have exploded in popularity in recent years, as homeowners embrace the idea of an outdoor lifestyle and extending their entertaining space. We’re seeing the trend in all types of climates, not just the South. Even in regions with colder weather, homeowners want to take advantage of outdoor living when they can.
Outdoor kitchens make outdoor parties and barbecues more fun and convenient. The cook doesn’t have to run back and forth to the kitchen to grab tongs and other kitchen tools. They don’t have to cart drinks and dishes back and forth. Instead, that time can be spent relaxing and socializing with family members and friends.
Outdoor Kitchen Prices and Designs
Outdoor kitchens can be very basic or very luxurious, depending on your budget and your needs. They range from simple kitchen islands that cost about $1,000, not including plumbing and appliances, to custom kitchens that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Basic outdoor kitchens typically include counter space, a grill, and storage areas for utensils and supplies. High-end versions usually have sinks and refrigerators, which can double the project cost due to the required plumbing.
All told, the average price of an outdoor kitchen nationwide is somewhere around $2,000 to $5,000. However, some people get away with spending less and others pay upwards of $30,000. There’s a lot of variation in price.
Here’s more specific information about your options:
- Real stone vs. stone veneer - Most outdoor kitchens are made with some kind of stone, real or artificial. Real stone is heavy, expensive and it requires an experienced mason. Stone veneer is much lighter, easier to install and easier on the budget. High-quality veneer also looks very much like natural stone.
- Plumbing vs. no plumbing - Outdoor plumbing makes it possible to have convenient features like a sink, and it can increase the resale value of your home because you can list the home as having a full second kitchen. However, as we mentioned, plumbing can easily double the price. If your outdoor patio is right next to the inside kitchen or you anticipate using the outdoor kitchen only occasionally, this might be an option to skip.
- Professional custom work vs. DIY - If you’re handy, you might be able to build a basic outdoor kitchen island with the help of a few friends. It involves framing the counter space, laying the stone veneer, and installing all countertops and appliances. This Old House offers a great step-by-step DIY guide. However, if you’re unexperienced with this kind of work or you’re looking for a fancier design with curved countertops and real stone, you’ll need to hire a pro.
Speaking of custom design, the possibilities are practically endless for how creative you can be. Some people do outdoor pizza ovens, fireplaces or fire-pits, outdoor theaters, elaborate built-in seating, pergolas, and custom flooring like stamped concrete, brick walkways, natural stone or concrete pavers. You’re only limited by your imagination -- and, of course, your budget.
Plumbing Costs for Outdoor Kitchens
Unless you’re extremely handy, plumbing tasks are best left to the professionals. Costs vary based on the size and features of the outdoor kitchen, its proximity the house, local labor rates and more. On average, outdoor plumbing for a sink adds $1,500 to $3,000 to the total project, while connecting your grill to the natural gas line adds about $500 to $750, not including the monthly cost of natural gas. If natural gas isn’t an option in your area, you can opt for a propane tank, but those are expensive at about $1,500 to $2,000. Many people find they’re not worth the cost.
When it comes to running the plumbing for a sink, keep in mind that the project will cost far less if the kitchen is next to the house. You can also save money by skipping the hot water and just running cold water. Don’t forget that if you live in a frost zone the plumbing needs to be designed so it can be winterized.