Planning Your Outdoor Kitchen

 In Home Improvement, Real Estate Articles

The backyard has never been more functional and elegant that it is now with the trends in outdoor kitchens. What better way to take advantage of outdoor entertaining space, than to have all you need to prepare your meal at your fingertips!  The effort that is put into the designs, with comfort, beauty, and efficiency combined, is truly extra-ordinary. From the state-of-the-art stainless appliances to outdoor wet bars, brick ovens, combinations of gas and charcoal grills and smokers, you can practically smell the BBQ just looking at the pictures!

Now, these outdoor kitchens can of course be tailored to fit your pocketbook, so don’t think for a moment that you need to spend a year’s salary to put in a beautiful and functional kitchen in your outdoor space. However, no matter what price point you are in, you are still going to need to deal with extending power (and possible natural gas), to your chosen appliances.

Making changes to wiring or plumbing in your house to accommodate the outdoor kitchen typically accounts for a significant portion of the installation costs. You can avoid the need for natural gas or propane, for instance, but that means you will have to wait longer for the grill to be ready for your use. It takes time for charcoal and wood to be ready for cooking. Let’s take a look at what you need you need to consider. Modifications to your home utilities can account for a significant portion of your outdoor kitchen installation. A closer look at the costs associated with extending your utilities can help you decide between gas, propane, electric, charcoal, and wood cooking units.

A recent survey by HomeAdvisor shows that homeowners on average spend about $12,000 for an outdoor kitchen is around $11,700–but that number can increase dramatically if you start adding in very expensive appliances and furnishings – up to approximately $35,000. If you are really on a tight budget, you may need to opt for propane as your fuel of choice, and forego the running water.

Natural Gas and Propane

Natural gas is the optimal choice. It is often more economical than propane, and it burns cleaner. It also gives you options of a variety of secondary appliances, such as stove-top burners, ovens and outdoor heaters. However, using natural gas is more complex. With propane, it’s simply a matter of purchasing a tank, and refilling it periodically. For natural gas, you actually have to have special plumbing installed to extend your home’s natural gas lines to your outdoor kitchen. If you do not already have natural gas in your home, you may need to tap into the main line, and have a meter installed, which involves the gas company.

DIY-ers would not typically install their own gas lines, as it requires specialized knowledge, skills and tools, and you may need to hire a licenses plumbing contractor in order to get the past the permitting and inspections, and the work will have to comply with all local building codes. You may also be required to have a dedicated shut-off valve for the lines outside, and the routing of the pipes will have to be carefully planned and measured to make sure they reach your appliances properly. And let’s face it – we are talking about an explosive, flammable gas, here. For peace of mind, you really need to let the experts handle it.


Of course, you could do without electricity to your outdoor kitchen. Solar lighting and candles can substitute for electrical outdoor lights. However, solar power simply won’t keep your outdoor refrigerator, electric smoker, and you it may be handy to have an outlet or two conveniently located for small appliances such as coffee makers or ice makers when needed. Because the electrical lines will be installed outside, all will need ground fault circuits that resist moisture penetration.

Most of the time, you can simply tie into your home’s electrical panel. However, if you plan to have multiple appliances and multiple outlets wired in, then your electrician may suggest that you install a dedicated electrical panel with its own breaker. This will ensure you have space to expand in the future if needed, and you have enough empty circuits with the correct amperage to power your kitchen.

For safety reasons, using a professional electrician, who is familiar with all applicable codes, would be preferred.


A skilled DIY-er may be able to handle plumbing for running water, especially if the outdoor kitchen will be close to the house. Close proximity makes it easier to tie into the existing plumbing system of the house, and to feed the wastewater back to the drainage system at the home. You will need to consider whether or not you need hot and cold running water, as this will add a bit of complexity. You will also need to plan for some restoration work, as you may need to cut through the side of the house or through the foundation, in order to run the pipes out to the outdoor kitchen. If you have a concrete patio, you may need to demolish some of the concrete to run the pipe, then patch it up when complete.

If you aren’t confident in your skills, then you will want to err on the side of caution and hire a plumbing contractor.

Let my team at Keystone Realtors® meet all your real estate needs. Paul Phangureh has over 16 years of experience in buying and selling in the Santa Clara and San Mateo County areas, specializing in the high-end, luxury market, as well as commercial and multi-use real estate. We can help you navigate the process of getting started with real estate investment. Visit our website at for listings and information. You can contact Paul at 650-924-2544, or email at [email protected].