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How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen on a Budget

October 6, 2020

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If you’re interested in how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to create a functional yet stylish deck or patio space without spending a fortune! Even the most basic outdoor kitchen plans can include all the appliances needed to entertain in style, while still leaving you with some extra funds and plenty of room for comfortable furniture and accessible storage.

Before you get started on your outdoor kitchen plans, however, you might consider a few tips for choosing what to include and what you might leave out, as well as some added money-savings suggestions. It’s also helpful to consider what tasks you should leave in the hands of a contractor versus DIY installations, so you know you end up with a stunning space you’ll love for years to come.

outdoor kitchen on a budget

What to Include & What to Leave Out of Your Outdoor Kitchen Plans

When considering how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget, your first step should be to carefully list what’s needed in your plans, and what you can leave out. For most homeowners, running plumbing to an outdoor space will use up quite a bit of their budget for building an outdoor kitchen, so note if you need anything more than a basic sink outdoors. Installing a dishwasher, for example, often requires more plumbing pipes and connections and lots of added labor costs.

  • The cooking space is typically the most important part of your outdoor kitchen plans, so consider what you need by way of a grill, but this is not an area where you want to skimp on quality or size! For example, consider carefully how often you would actually use a rotisserie, smoker, and other such features. Scaling down those add-ons while still choosing a grill large enough to cook for a crowd will mean saving money without sacrificing function.
  • Note, too, that a propane or charcoal grill means not having to run electrical wiring to your cooking space, saving on your labor costs for an electrician. A charcoal grill might also allow you to cook with hickory and other seasoned woods, making your food taste even better while still saving you money!
  • Consider other appliances and fixtures you need in your outdoor kitchen plans and how you might save money on each one. A smaller refrigerator might not hold all the food and drinks you need to be stored outside, so choose a size that works for you but note if you really need an icemaker and water dispenser. Not only do those features increase the cost of the appliance itself but they also typically require more plumbing fixtures, which also adds to your expenses!
  • While it’s vital to consider what things you might leave out of your outdoor kitchen ideas, remember to leave room in the budget for comfortable seating, storage, and trash bins. When considering how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget, the first price needed to consider is furniture; this might include a dining table, side tables for holding beverages, and ottomans for added comfort.
  • You might even make a list of all items that need storage in your outdoor kitchen, including cooking utensils, your fuel source for the grill, cleaning tools, food seasoning, pots and pans, and whatever else you plan on keeping in your new outdoor space. Functional yet stylish trash receptacles are also needed, to keep your space clean, presentable, and safe for food prep and cooking.

Placement! Critical for How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen on a Budget

Choosing the best placement is a critical step in how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget! While you want to keep a smoky grill away from exterior walls, the further away from your home you install those appliances, the more plumbing fixtures and electrical wiring you’ll need.

As with an indoor kitchen, your outdoor kitchen plans should keep everything accessible and easy to reach. For example, a refrigerator and grill shouldn’t be located at opposite ends of a long, countertop kitchen. Carrying heavy meat and vegetables from one end of that long counter to another is cumbersome and increases the risk of spills.

When including placement in your outdoor kitchen ideas, you might also note the best shape for your new kitchen. A long counter seems like an obvious choice for placing all your appliances along one side of your patio or deck; however, you might also consider an L-shaped kitchen. By putting one side of your kitchen at a 90-degree angle, you pull everything close together and can easily work with a smaller kitchen overall, saving you money and space!

outdoor kitchen with a view of the backyard

Choosing Materials to Build an Outdoor Kitchen on a Budget

Once you’ve decided on appliances and placement, it’s time to shop for materials needed for building an outdoor kitchen. Use as many natural, water-resistant materials as possible so you spend less on sealing over the years. Stone and brick counters are both attractive and durable, and typically last for years before they need replacing; you might also find reclaimed or remnant stone and brick, for even more affordability!

  • To save even more money, consider building the counters you need into existing railings or patio and deck walls. If your home’s deck has wood railings, for example, you might add to those or build them out so they provide enough space for your new built-in appliances, which then saves you some money on raw materials.
  • Your countertop materials are also important as they need to resist harsh weather conditions while providing a hygienic surface for food prep and cooking. Consider solid stones such as granite or quartz, or even poured concrete! Concrete can be buffed, polished, and stained so that it resembles stone or glass. As with your counter materials, you might also find granite or other stone remnants or reclaimed pieces that can be cut to fit your counters.
  • If you don’t already have an outdoor deck or patio space, there are many affordable materials from which to choose that also provide a durable flooring surface without breaking your budget. For example, consider engineered woods for a deck; these are made with a mixture of reclaimed wood pieces and plastic, for a durable surface that still offers a beautiful, natural appearance.
  • Real stone patio pavers might be out of your budget so consider brick flooring. If installed evenly, brick floors provide lots of durabilities and an attractive finish you’re sure to love. Brick can also be painted, so you might consider a whitewash for a more modern décor or a bold white and black pattern for something with lots of personalities.
  • As another budget-friendly outdoor kitchen idea, consider a poured concrete floor! If the idea of having an outdoor kitchen on a cold, gray concrete patio seems unappetizing, note what was said above; concrete can be buffed and stained, as well as stamped so that it easily resembles stone floor tiles. Consider a stain color that complements your home’s exterior, a pool deck, or other such outdoor surfaces for a coordinated, cohesive look.

outdoor kitchen materials

How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen on a Budget, Step-by-Step

Once you’ve decided on your building materials, appliances, and outdoor kitchen placement, it’s time to get started with your outdoor kitchen plans. Before you start tearing up your backyard or setting out patio pavers, first consider that running electrical wiring and plumbing pipes and features should always be left to a pro! Plumbing and electrical are often difficult enough when working inside the home; when building an outdoor kitchen, it’s vital that these features be protected from the elements, out of the way of other buried utilities, and upgraded as needed to support your chosen appliances.

  1. Your landscape engineer might also want to grade your property so that no water pools around the base of your new outdoor kitchen. He or she might also consider adding gravel, lime, clay, or another material along with your patio footings, to keep soil strong and stable and prevent sinking or uneven surfaces.
  2. As with installing kitchen appliances indoors, it’s vital that you take accurate measurements of your grill, built-in refrigerator, sink, and other appliances you’ll be adding to the outdoor ledge or counter. Also, ensure you have spots for a propane tank, gas for your grill, or other such fixtures that need hiding away.
  3. Start with a plywood base and frame, cut to size and bolted rather than nailed together. Ensure you cut the height of your base to sit at least 36” off the ground, which is a comfortable countertop height for most people. Consider creating individual boxes for each appliance or add-on and then bolting them together to create the counter for your new kitchen.
  4. Wherever you will be adding cabinets or heavy appliances, add a 2x4 along the bottom of the frame, for support. Once your appliances are in place, add a sheath for supporting your exterior walls. Large, heavy stones might need added bracing, whereas wood slats can be nailed or screwed directly to the base of your new kitchen counter space.
  5. If you do need to use mortar for stone or brick, add felt over the frame and then a lath, or a base that supports mortar and other adhesives. A builder’s lath resembles chicken wire but is much thicker and sturdier. Screw the lath to the frame and cut off any excess.
  6. You can then apply the mortar directly onto the lath and press your stones into place. Remember to score the mortar during application and “back butter” your new stone tiles as well.
  7. Once the mortar has set for at least 24 hours, you can then attach cabinet doors and other fixtures to your new kitchen frame. Countertops are next; if you’ve chosen poured concrete, rely on the services of a concrete to ensure the material is poured properly and then stained and stamped as needed.
  8. outdoor kitchen patio installation

Finishing Your Outdoor Kitchen On a Budget

Once you have appliances in place and a finished counter, your work to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget is not done! Be sure to test out your appliances and fixtures before your next dinner party so you know everything is hooked up properly and there are no issues with plumbing or electricity. It’s also good to add some finishing touches to your new space, so it’s as comfortable as it is functional:

  • Note if you’re in close proximity to your neighbors and if you might need to add a privacy wall. A simple trellis with thick vines or outdoor curtains can mean shade, noise insulation, and privacy from anyone next door.
  • If you love to entertain even when the weather cools off, invest in some outdoor heaters. These keep the space toasty warm and comfortable.
  • A fire pit or other fire feature is also an excellent way to keep your outdoor kitchen warm and inviting, while also offering a beautiful visual attraction.
  • Fabric breaks up the look of any patio or deck and adds softness and texture. Consider outdoor rugs, cushions, and a tablecloth for your new dining area.
  • Tools and toys detract from outdoor space and can easily get in the way of cooking and relaxing. Find a storage spot in the garage for those items or add a cabinet that hides everything out of sight!

Remember that you can also ask your landscape designer or contractor for tips on how to build an outdoor kitchen in Boston. He or she might offer some personalized suggestions for your space so everything is relaxing and inviting while also functional and ready for entertaining!

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