According to David Lupberger at ServiceMagic.com (a nationwide resource matching homeowners to prescreened contractors), "In the last few years, the demand for outdoor kitchens has skyrocketed," and he should know. ServiceMagic processed over 1,000 requests for building outdoor kitchens in the first half of 2008 alone. This is, of course, good news for those who have already invested or are thinking about building one.
While the uncertainty in the housing market might make expensive home improvement projects something to be wary of, the fact that outdoor kitchens have seen such a rise in popularity coupled with the fact that they can be built pretty inexpensively makes outdoor kitchens something worth considering. Even with the uncertainty of our current housing market, the increase of homeowners building outdoor kitchens (ServiceMagic recorded 638 outdoor kitchen requests this spring which is an increase of 148 [or about 30%] over last spring's 490 requests) is reassuring for anyone planning on this type of project in the future.
Outdoor Kitchen Basics
What do you get with an outdoor kitchen? Depending on how much you want the space to reflect an indoor cooking space, you could get quite a bit. The basic components of a good outdoor kitchen are counter space, storage areas for utensils, glasses, and plates (as well as a place to wash them), and a seating area to enjoy your freshly cooked food. These components can be as basic or elaborate as you like, but as long as they are built to stand up to the elements, you're good to go.
Your Grill: The Heart of your Set-Up
The central and most important facet of your outdoor cooking space is, of course, the grill. While you can certainly opt for a model that uses charcoal, outdoor kitchens that are fitted with grills that run on natural gas from a utility line are often preferred due to lower fuel costs, faster cook times, and more convenient operation. Gas grills can range in price from well under $500 up to around $13,000 for the most expensive models, but most would agree that a very respectable grill can easily be found in the $500 to $1,500 range. Hiring a contractor to install your grill and connect it to a gas line averages about $200.
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Outdoor Kitchen Costs
Since the components can vary dramatically in both quality and size, it's difficult to say how much your average outdoor kitchen costs. ServiceMagic puts the average price of building an outdoor kitchen at about $1,000 (not including the grill); Outdoor-kitchens.org says that prices can range from $750 to over $100,000! The fact is, an outdoor kitchen can be as pricey or as inexpensive as you like, so there is literally a design out there for every budget!
Outdoor Kitchens and Property Value
Of course, practically any reasonable improvement to your property will increase its value, but in today's market it is difficult to tell just what kind of impact a particular project will have. However, the fact that outdoor cooking is something that is appealing to just about everyone (unlike the look of vinyl or the color yellow) is a good indicator that adding an outdoor kitchen will NOT have a negative effect on your home's resale value.
Benefits of Planning Now
In many areas of the country, it's pretty darn cold right now; though this might make it seem like the wrong time to begin thinking about cookouts, there are some pretty big benefits to planning your outdoor kitchen in the off season. In the same way that the prices of summer apparel go down in the winter, the cost of many outdoor kitchen components (most notably, the grill) are likely to be discounted right now. Additionally, you will have plenty of time to solidify exactly what you want to construct and may even save on contractor bills by getting certain aspects of the project completed in the off-season!