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California Outdoor Kitchen: 9 Surprising Factors that Affect Cost

By Jayme Muller

June 10, 2022

Outdoor kitchens are an ever-popular feature of outdoor living spaces in the Golden State.

It’s no surprise why!

Most Californians enjoy some of the best weather in the country.

And with an average of 238-292 days of sunshine every year… A great barbecue is hardly ever out of reach.

Point is…

If you’re a California resident, an outdoor kitchen is a fantastic investment for your backyard oasis.

There’s just one problem.

You need to know…

friends gathered around their modular outdoor kitchen system

How much is this project going to cost? Should draw attention to this in the design

There are many factors that affect the price of a California outdoor kitchen.

So let’s get started.

Quick Links:

Nationwide Averages

graphic showing the national average price for an outdoor kitchen

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of grill island cost in California… It’s important to understand the nationwide averages.

This will show you why pricing in California is so different.

Across the country… The average BBQ island cost is around $12,000-$13,000.

This equates to about $1,200-$2,000 per linear foot.

Now, you may be thinking you can apply this average to your cost.

Not true if you live in California!

Why?

Time to find out.

YOU DESIGN AND THEN IT ARRIVES

Design the outdoor kitchen of your dreams and have it shipped directly to you, in California.

Aspects that Affect california outdoor kitchen Cost

As with any BBQ island project… There are many factors that affect cost.

Some are specific to California, others not.

Let’s discuss.

Materials

BBQ island material costs vary widely no matter where you live.

Quality and availability easily drive prices up or down. Especially with increased fuel costs and shipping challenges… Material prices are trending upward.

So let’s break down lower cost vs higher cost materials.

Most often, you’ll encounter islands built from frames. The frames themselves are made with either wood or metal. Both are relatively inexpensive… But wood will be cheaper.

However, know that wood is not recommended for use in a grill island. Aside from being a fire hazard… It’s susceptible to warping, rotting, and termite damage.

The middle material used in a frame system is cement board. This is easy to come by and inexpensive.

The real costs come into play with the finish. Tile and stucco finishes tend to be the cheapest. Brick and stone veneer will be the most expensive.

But to get the most bang for your buck… We recommend concrete for your project.

Concrete Outdoor Kitchens

modern outdoor kitchen by pool in backyard

Concrete is your best bet for a durable grill island material. It will cost a bit more upfront… But the longevity you gain is more than worth it.

In fact, the concrete mixture we use at RTA is rated for 100 years! That’s a long time.

There’s also no concern of rotting, rusting, or corrosion.

Concrete isn’t just for the structure, either. It makes an excellent grill island countertop material as well.

Unlike metal or wood framed outdoor kitchens… Shelling out a bit of extra cash for concrete will actually provide you the value you’re looking for.

Let’s move onto appliances.

Grills & Appliances

mike pyle cooking meat on his coyote grill at his rta outdoor kitchen

Grills and appliances are a can of worms, to say the least.

There are a myriad of factors that will affect the price. As with the outdoor kitchens themselves… Quality of materials will play a huge role here.

In the case of grills, there are three classes you can choose from. While we do have an article that takes a deep dive on built in grill classes

Let’s explain briefly.

The three grill classes are economy, premium, and luxury.

Economy grills are the most affordable and readily available. However, they tend to be made with lower quality materials. So longevity is a concern.

Premium grills sit at the middle of the market. They provide better materials, warranty, and performance. 304 stainless steel construction and lifetime warranties are things to look for.

Luxury grills are by far the most expensive. There’s no upgrade on quality… But there are plenty of bells and whistles!

To get the best bang for your buck… Look for 304 stainless steel premium grills rather than luxury. Premium models will cost anywhere from $1,500-$3,500 depending on features and size.

Other Appliances

tamara days outdoor kitchen idea brought to life (7)

The more appliances you add to your California outdoor kitchen… The more your costs will increase.

Outdoor flat top grills, side burners, outdoor pizza ovens, refrigerators, sinks, and storage options have to be considered. They add both cooking and entertainment value to your space.

A premium flat top grill or outdoor pizza oven will set you back an additional $1,300-$3,500+ each. (Again, depends on size and features.)

And while you can technically put in a regular mini fridge… You’re going to want to spring for an outdoor rated fridge.

Temperature fluctuations will have a mini fridge short out faster than you can pop the tab on a cold soda. Not fun.

Anyway… A premium outdoor rated fridge will cost around $1,300-$1,700.

Most other miscellaneous appliances will cost a few hundred dollars or so each.

Can you see how quickly this is all adding up?

We haven’t even gotten to site prep yet!

Site Prep

empty patio surface ready for an outdoor kitchen

Most homeowners are installing an outdoor kitchen on a new lot.

Therefore, a lot of legwork has to be done to prepare the backyard area.

In most cases, this means installing a deck or patio.

Once again, materials play a role! A concrete patio will be far less expensive than bluestone, for example.

And when installing an outdoor kitchen on a deck… You’ll have to consider the weight of your islands.

Heavy islands will require you to install structural footings for your deck.

If you’re starting from square one on a patio or deck… This will add a few grand to your project.

Often, outdoor kitchens also require utilities.

Utilities

WATER

$500-$2000

ELECTRICAL

$300-$1000

GAS

$15-25

(per linear ft)

 

The utilities required for your project depend on your appliances.

If you choose a grill that runs on natural gas… You’ll have to run gas lines.

Outdoor sinks will require water, and refrigerators require electricity.

We’re oversimplifying a bit here… But these are the main three appliances that homeowners desire for their kitchen.

Nationwide, these projects cost around $500-$2,000 each. (More in CA due to the labor market, but we’ll get to that.)

To reduce your costs, you can consider avoiding BBQ island utilities. You may just have to swap out or remove certain appliances.

And in the case of gas… You can simply use the trusty old propane tank rather than connect lines to your house.

Now we’ll see how location comes into play for outdoor kitchens.

Local Ordinances

a inspector filling out a report for local california ordinances

No matter where you live… There’s going to be some level of local ordinances in play.

Very rarely can you build a structure without a permit of some sort!

The question is… How extensive is the process?

We can’t tell you exactly.

However… We can say that in general, California has some of the most extensive local ordinances for new builds.

That includes outdoor kitchens, of course.

Depending on your locale… An outdoor kitchen permit (no follow link) can cost you anywhere from $400-$2,250.

If you live in a highly populated area, this may even cost more!

You may be able to get around this if your outdoor kitchen is not considered a permanent structure. Avoiding utility lines will be essential to be categorized this way.

There’s also labor you have to contend with.

Labor

2 contractors finishing an outdoor kitchen with natural stone veneer

It’s no surprise to you that just about everything is more expensive in California.

That includes the labor market.

This has especially been exacerbated over the past few years… As nationwide, we are experiencing a shortage in skilled labor.

Therefore, it’s going to cost you even more to hire outdoor kitchen builders than usual.

In some areas of the country… The labor market is so cheap you can get a custom outdoor kitchen for several thousand dollars.

Not so in the Golden State.

With all of the above factors and taxes combined… The final price tag may leave you gasping for air.

Speaking of taxes on custom outdoor kitchens…

Taxes

a list of all the different outdoor kitchen costs with taxes circled in red

No one likes them… But we’re all subject to them.

That’s right, taxes.

And as a California resident… You’re subject to some of the highest tax rates in the country.

Just take sales tax, for example.

California has the highest sales tax rate in America, sitting at 7.25%.

Additionally… Some local jurisdictions levy their own sales taxes on top of this. These additional rates are anywhere from 0.10%-1.00%.

Let’s think about this for a moment.

In addition to everything being more expensive in general… You have to pay a sizeable tax on top of this.

Whether you purchase an outdoor kitchen kit from a retailer or hire a contractor to build… You’re going to be paying at least 7.25% just in sales tax for the materials and appliances.

Remember that the average outdoor kitchen cost in America is around $12,000. (Yours will likely cost more.)

Even if it does cost $12,000, that means you’re paying an additional $870 just in sales tax.

After reading all this… You may be wanting to scrap the entire idea.

Wait!

There’s a great alternative out there for you.

Have your own Outdoor Kitchen Idea?

Use our 3D design tool for free and bring your outdoor kitchen idea to life.

The Most Cost-Effective Solution in California

rta outdoor kitchen in california with stacked stone graphite finish with coyote appliances and kamado joe smoker

Believe it or not… The #1 state we sell to is California.

Yes, that’s you!

Why?

There are a lot of reasons… But one of the most compelling is that our prices are highly competitive.

Don’t just take it from us, though.

We employed the help of a happy RTA customer in California to explain it all to you!

Here are some of the topics we discussed.

Other Retail Options

a prefabricated outdoor kitchen kit inside a retail store with appliances equipped

Before settling on RTA… This South Orange County resident was visiting multiple California outdoor kitchen showrooms.

While a large selection of prefab BBQ islands were offered… Nothing caught this homeowner’s eye.

Recalling this experience, he notes, “Nothing was aesthetically pleasing. All very plain, it was stucco. If there was some kind of faux material, it was very cheap looking.”

Additionally, the cost just didn’t make sense once he stumbled upon RTA Outdoor Living.

When discussing the pricing he was seeing at local retailers… This homeowner states that the cost “was anywhere between 1o% to 30% more at the retail stores. And that did not include the high end appliances.”

So not only was he unhappy with the aesthetic of local prefab grill islands… They were far more expensive!

And that doesn’t even include appliances!

Before beginning his project… This California homeowner also explored hiring a contractor.

Hiring a Contractor

contractor in florida building an outdoor kitchen

When you can’t find what you’re looking for in a retail store… Many homeowners think hiring a contractor is the next best step.

Understandably so!

A properly vetted contractor can create a custom outdoor kitchen for your space.

But again…

You have to pay for it!

That’s exactly what this RTA customer ran into when he received his quote.

And to quote this homeowner exactly… He said “Nope, that’s out” when he saw the final price tag from the contractor.

At this point, there was only one option that made sense.

For this Southern California homeowner, the answer was RTA Outdoor Living.

The RTA Experience

After a long and fruitless search… Finding RTA was a breath of fresh air for this customer.

“We loved the look of it, loved the flexibility in terms of size, loved the accessories, loved the affordability, loved the polished look of the equipment and the barbecue itself.”

That’s a lot of love. (Nearly enough to make us blush!)

Point is… Until RTA, there wasn’t a truly great outdoor kitchen solution in California.

We’re the all-inclusive package.

“The bottom line is, we got a custom look without the custom price. They were wonderful to work with, answered all our questions, zero pressure to sell, and delivery to California was a non-issue.”

A glowing testimony, indeed.

After reading all this… You’re probably dying to see how this customer’s kitchen came out!

Lucky for you, we have a great picture of it. (Peek that lovely view in the background, too!)

Looks great, right?

We have one more testimony from a California resident to share with you. You may even have heard of him!

Mike Pyle's RTA Outdoor Kitchen

mike pyle in front of his modern outdoor kitchen with pizza oven

Does the name sound familiar?

Mike Pyle is an Orange County resident… But also the host of HGTV’s Inside Out.

Primarily known for his landscape design… Mike is highly familiar with outdoor construction as well!

Earlier this year, he entrusted us with installing his own outdoor kitchen.

Recalling this choice, Mike says, “The reason I chose RTA for my outdoor kitchen was the timeline. Because of the market we are in most contractors are months out. I ordered my unit from RTA and 6 weeks later it was delivered to my own home and installed that day. Also, the quality is there!”

Now, Mike has begun to recommend RTA outdoor kitchens for his own design clients.

On the topic of RTA vs hiring a contractor, Mike adds, “The main difference between working with a contractor and working with RTA is the simplicity of the process as well as the execution. The RTA team implements my design in 2D and 3D in order to present to my client with ease. Most contractors design on site with no renderings. Seeing the product built prior to installation is key!”

We love to see it! Literally.

Like our other RTA customer, cost factored into Mike’s final decision. “There is definitely a cost saving if you go with RTA opposed to a contractor. Another advantage is you can break down and move to a future property if desired.”

This all may be sounding great to you so far… But it’s important to know that our product is a DIY grill island solution.

So, what if you don’t want to assemble yourself?

Don't Want to DIY This?

outdoor kitchen frames kit being installedoutdoor kitchen frames kit being installed

Don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging. 

Although RTA is quite DIY-friendly… We also understand that you may not feel comfortable assembling your own island.

Lucky for you, we have a full network of trained contractors at your disposal.

These contractors have been highly vetted and we’ve gotten to know them on a personal level.

Point is… They’ll take care of you.

If you’re curious about exploring this option, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Now that you’ve seen what’s possible for your outdoor living space…

What’s next?

Next Steps

Couple using RTA outdoor livings free online design tool

At this stage, you might want to investigate RTA more deeply.

We encourage you to do so!

Our Learning Hub in particular is a rich source of outdoor kitchen knowledge… Both about RTA and the industry in general!

You can also begin playing around with designs that meet your outdoor lifestyle.

For this, try our free online design tool. With just a few clicks… You’ll have a complete design rendered right in front of you. (Just like Mike Pyle said!)

Looking for more support?

Perhaps you’d like to speak with one of our outdoor kitchen Design Experts. They’ll work with you individually to create the design of your dreams!

No matter where you are in the planning process…

We’d be honored to help you host the moments that matter with friends and family!

you have questions, we have answers

We can provide you the guidance you need to enjoy your dream outdoor kitchen in that California sun!

FAQ

There are a wide variety of factors that affect cost of outdoor kitchens. Currently, the nationwide average for this project is around $12,000-$13,000.

The ROI you receive on your outdoor kitchen depends on quality and size.

Overall, you can expect to get anywhere from a 60%-200% return on your investment.

Yes! Although, this project is a huge undertaking if done from scratch. Investigate ready to assemble outdoor kitchens for a DIY friendly option.

There aren’t many negatives. However, if the project doesn’t go smoothly… There could be some disruption of your backyard for a period of time.

Outdoor kitchens also tend to be an expensive backyard project.

Absolutely! There are no special considerations for installing uncovered BBQ islands.

It depends on where you live. Some locales do require a permit for BBQ islands.

You may be able to get around this if your outdoor kitchen is not considered a permanent structure. (At the least, this means no utilities.)

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