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Outdoor Kitchen Utilities: Your Guide to Plumbing & Electric

By James King

June 22, 2022

If you’re reading this… You are serious about getting an outdoor kitchen for your backyard.

You’re also probably thinking about ways you can save money and may be seriously considering running utilities yourself!

Considering the average DIYer doesn’t have experience with this… You’re certainly setting your sights high!

Of course, it’s understandable why you may be interested in installing your own utilities.

You don’t have to deal with a contractor and you can save some cash.

However… This isn’t always a great idea!

 

a woman grabbing a drink of out her electric fridge built into an outdoor ktichen

Why?

Well, you’ll just have to read on to find out.

Let’s begin with a bird’s eye view of outdoor kitchen plumbing and other utilities.

Quick Links:

Outdoor Kitchen Utilities Overview

When it comes to your outdoor kitchen… There are three types of utilities you may want to install.

Now is the perfect opportunity to learn about them!

Natural Gas/Liquid Propane for a Grill

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

We all know that a built in grill needs fuel.

For most homeowners… This means making a choice between natural gas and liquid propane.

Liquid propane will be kept in tanks underneath your grill.

But if you want natural gas… You’re going to have to run an outdoor grill gas line.

Yes, this will be more work for you upfront. However… The convenience you gain long-term is nothing to shake a stick at!

With a natural gas line, you won’t have to worry about replacing and swapping tanks. You just turn the knob and start grilling!

Just know that we recommend hiring a professional for this task. If you don’t want to hire a plumber… Stick to a propane tank!

Need help planning your utilities?

Our outdoor kitchen design experts are here to help you come up with a plan for your project.

outdoor kitchen plumbing for water

Do you want an outdoor sink?

Well, you’re going to need outdoor plumbing for water lines!

It’s not exactly a straightforward process, either.

Running a Water Line

a plumber installing a water line in the ground for an outdoor kitchen

Plumbing for an outdoor sink will be connected to your home’s water supply line.

This supply line needs to be run from your house… And all the way out to your outdoor kitchen sink.

There’s a lot involved in properly routing and installing a supply pipe. If not done correctly… You could end up with leaks, frozen pipes, and even burst pipes. Yikes.

This is even more complicated if you’re installing your BBQ island on a deck.

Therefore, this task is best left to the experts.

Of course, you need a supply line for water… But you also need a drain line.

Depending on where you live, you may or may not be able to do outdoor kitchen plumbing yourself. (Check your local ordinances!)

While we don’t recommend installing your own water supply line… There are a few DIY options for a drain line. (If allowed in your area.)

Under-Sink Bucket

An under-sink bucket is the easiest, quickest, and least expensive way to drain your outdoor kitchen sink.

With this drainage system, there is no plumbing involved! You simply allow your waste water to drain into the bucket.

It’s not fancy by any means… But it will get the job done.

French Drain/Dry Well

french drain for outdoor kitchen sink plumbing

Both a French drain and dry well are often spoken about interchangeably… But the way they drain is slightly different.

A French drain simply guides water away from the source. A dry well for drainage is essentially a bucket with rocks buried underground.

How is it done?

You dig a hole about 4 feet deep. Put in a bucket with holes drilled into the bottom. Add coarse gravel to the bucket until filled. Run the drain into the bucket… And cover it all up!

The only caveat with a dry well?

Unfortunately, a dry well is not allowed in many locations. So check local ordinances first!

Self-Contained Lift Station

This solution can be a great workaround to traditional plumbing for a drain.

With a lift station, there will be two tanks underneath your outdoor kitchen sink. One you fill with fresh water… While waste water fills the other tank. (You will fill and empty both at your convenience.)

Seems perfect, right?

Well… The lift station does require electricity to function. So if you’re hoping to completely avoid utilities, this won’t be a perfect solution.

But if you are willing to install electric… You get the added bonus of hot water! These lift stations generally come with the ability to heat your water supply. (Having hot and cold water is highly convenient!)

Connection to the Sanitary System

utility water line in the ground to supply outdoor kitchen

Finally, there’s traditional outdoor kitchen sink plumbing.

While it will increase your outdoor kitchen budget… There’s no doubt this solution is most convenient in the long run.

The only downside is for folks living in a frigid climate. You will have to winterize your pipes every winter to prevent damage.

Due to the fact that this style of plumbing is more complicated… You’re better off leaving it to the experts.

And since you’ll need plumbing for your water supply anyway… You might as well just get the drain line done too!

Alright, enough about outdoor kitchen plumbing. Let’s talk electric.

Electric for Appliances

satellite located rta outdoor kitchen

There are a wide variety of appliances that require electric to function.

Therefore… Running electric to your outdoor kitchen will provide you with a ton of versatility.

This is especially true if you plan to have a satellite kitchen. (This refers to Building a BBQ island far away from the house.)

The more appliances you are able to accommodate in your setup… The more convenient your outdoor kitchen will be!

While there is an upfront expense to installing electric lines… Once completed, it’s completely hassle-free.

As with water lines, we don’t recommend this as part of a DIY grill island project. (We’ll get into why later!)

Now, let’s dive into appliances and the utilities they require.

Utilities & Appliances

In order to decide which utilities you’d like to install… It’s important to know the appliance options you have for each!

This will help you determine whether or not installing gas, electric, or water lines are worth the effort.

Let’s begin with gas.

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Natural Gas for Outdoor Grill

breakfast cooking on a coyote flat top grill built into MOKS outdoor kitchen

For most grills… You’re going to be offered a choice between natural gas and propane.

However, there are other appliances that utilize gas as a fuel source.

The most popular are outdoor flat top grills, power burners, and side burners. Certain outdoor pizza ovens can also be fueled using a gas line.

If you plan on having multiple cooking appliances in your outdoor kitchen… Seriously consider running a gas line!

It’s going to make your experience of cooking outdoors stress-free and convenient. (Who doesn’t want that?)

Moving on to water!

Water for Outdoor Kitchen Sink

woman washing her hands in a coyote refreshment center in rta outdoor kitchen-

When it comes to water… There’s only one appliance you would consider installing it for.

That’s right, a sink!

Well, you could also require water for an ice maker. However, this is far less popular.

Really… Whether or not you want to install water lines depends on how badly you want a sink.

And we must say… There are some great benefits to owning one!

Outdoor kitchen sinks make your island more autonomous. Meaning, you don’t have to rely on your indoor kitchen sink for certain functions.

An outdoor sink will make it easier to rinse food, prep, cleanup, and wash your hands. It’s not until you don’t have a sink that you realize how much you use running water for!

If you’re installing a perimeter outdoor kitchen close to the home… You may be able to get away with not having a sink. (You’ll also save money on your BBQ island!)

But if your outdoor kitchen is far away from the house?

Seriously consider installing a sink! You’ll be glad you did.

To wrap up… Let’s review electric.

Electric for Outdoor Appliances

Mina Starsiak Hawks outdoor kitchen with bar and pizza oven island (1)

As mentioned previously, there are a ton of outdoor kitchen appliances that use electric.

Refrigerators, ice makers, kegerators, wine coolers, speakers, are a few popular examples.

However… There are other items you may not expect you need electric for.

For one, there’s the self-contained lift station we mentioned earlier. If you want this system for your sink, electric is required.

Another example would be grills. Yep, grills! Certain models have illuminated knobs or other lighted features. In some cases, they require electric to function. (The Coyote Grills S-Series is an example.)

If you’re not bothered by having analog knobs… Then electric isn’t a necessity here.

Speaking of avoiding electric…

What if you want to avoid all utilities in your outdoor kitchen?

Time to strategize.

How to Avoid Utilities in your Outdoor Kitchen

Through your research… You may come to find that you don’t want to install utilities at all.

It can be done!

We work with many homeowners with the same desire.

Below are the tips we’ve employed to help them with this goal.

Avoiding Natural Gas Lines

woman showing her propane tank in her outdoor kitchen

To avoid natural gas lines, there are two things you can do.

The easiest swap is to simply use propane tanks. You can keep all the benefits of using a stainless steel gas grill… You just have to switch tanks every so often.

Also keep in mind how many gas appliances you will have. Each one will require their own propane tank, which is a lot to manage!

But of course…

Gas is not your only option for grilling in your yard!

There are other fuel types out there to explore.

For that classic, undeniable barbecue flavor… Perhaps consider a charcoal grill. It takes longer to start and requires more maintenance than gas… But the flavor more than makes up for it!

Bridging the gap between convenience and flavor… A stainless steel pellet grill may be a more palatable option for you.

Pellet grills operate more like a gas grill, while also imparting a smoky flavor to your food. There is one downside, however.

The vast majority of pellet grills utilize digital controls. They also utilize electric for the ignition system. So yes, you will need electric lines.

If you still plan to have appliances that run on electric… This choice could still be worth it for your grill island!

Avoiding Water Lines

Close Up of a Coyote Sink in an RTA Weathered Wood Outdoor Kitchen

Unfortunately… There’s not much you can do to circumvent plumbing for an outdoor kitchen sink.

Drain lines?

Yes, that can be done.

But water lines… Not so much.

You either have them, or you don’t.

So the decision to run water lines solely comes down to how much you prioritize owning an outdoor sink.

Is the whole project a deal-breaker without an outdoor sink?

If so… You’re going to have to install plumbing.

But if you can live without having a sink… Then you can ditch the idea entirely.

Avoiding Electric Lines

Here’s where you can get a bit creative with your BBQ island ideas.

Most commonly, homeowners want electric to run a stainless steel refrigerator.

It’s a great idea… Having a fridge outside is quite convenient!

At the same time, you don’t need a refrigerator to have refreshing beverages at hand.

All you need is a trusty cooler. For outdoor kitchen use, these are known as drop-in coolers.

As long as you’ve got ice… Cold beverages are never far away.

Cleanup is simple as well. Most drop-in coolers come with drain plugs. Just open it up, and let the water drain out.

What about other appliances?

Remember that some grills require electric to function. Pellet grills require it for digital controls and ignition… And some upgraded gas grills require electric for their illuminated knobs.

In this case, you’ll want to seek an alternative option discussed above.

Ice makers, kegerators, wine coolers, and the like don’t have an easy swap. Unfortunately… These are things that you’ll simply have to consider doing without.

Speakers can be replaced, though! It may not be perfectly high-def… But you could consider using wireless Bluetooth speakers for your yard instead. (Plus, it won’t muddy up your outdoor kitchen design.)

Overall, these swaps may not be perfect… But they make all the difference if you don’t want to install utility lines.

What matters most is that you are happy with your outdoor kitchen. Whether you install utility lines or not!

Speaking of which… How much is that project going to cost?

Average Installation Cost

Understanding utility installation cost is an essential part of the final grill island cost.

Unfortunately… The answer isn’t so clear-cut.

Put simply?

It depends.

While we can’t give you an exact answer of what it will cost to install utilities…

We can give you an estimate.

Just keep something in mind, however.

Your ultimate cost can vary widely. Location, the labor market, material cost, and time of year will all affect the final price.

Without further ado… Let’s discuss.

Natural Gas Installation Cost

As with the other utilities… The longer your lines are, the more you will pay.

So if your outdoor kitchen is far away from the house, you’re going to pay more in material and labor.

This is a hidden BBQ island cost many homeowners don’t consider!

The average cost to install natural gas lines currently is $15-$25 per linear foot. (Although it can cost more!)

GAS

$15-25

(per linear ft)

 

Water Line Installation Cost

Of course, the concept is similar with water lines.

Even if you choose to install your own drain lines… Expect to pay anywhere from $500-$2,000 for a plumber to run pipe to your sink and faucet.

Finally, we have electric lines.

WATER

$500-$2000

Electric Line Installation Cost

Here’s where we brought in an expert opinion.

We spoke to Paul Connell, CEO of Eco Electric. As a professional in the industry for 22 years… If there’s anyone who knows the ins and outs of installing electric, it’s him!

While there is no exact price estimate… Connell shared that the average electrician should be able to complete this project at your house in one day.

When combined with an average billing rate of $45-$60 an hour and material costs… Your “happy medium range is anywhere from $850-$1,250.”

Overall, this estimate is right in line with the other utilities we’ve discussed so far.

But now the question becomes…

How do I hire the right electrician or plumber for my project?

Again, we turn to Connell for his expert advice.

ELECTRICAL

$850-$1250

Properly Vetting an Electrician or Plumber

While Paul Connell can only speak to work as an electrician… Many of the following principles apply with a plumber as well. (This also applies to vetting a contractor!)

Let’s review a few tips to keep in mind when vetting an electrician for your project.

Minimum Requirements

an electrician working on wiring for a pool water pump

There are a couple minimum requirements to look for when hiring an electrician.

For one, ask them if they have a license and insurance. Connell also adds, “make sure there is historic insurance since opening dates.”

This bit of info tells you that this electrician has been in business for a while… And they’re reputable.

Additionally, they should have experience with outdoor electric work. They should “come from experience of doing exterior work, hot tubs, pool, outdoor kitchens, etc.”, Connell notes.

While a great start, there are some red flags to look out for.

Red Flags

an image of a electricians license and date of effectiveness

First, it goes back to insurance history. If your electrician’s “insurance is updated every three months, this jumping around is cause for skepticism”, Connell shares.

Why?

This indicates there may have been multiple insurance claims made against this electrician… Which points to low quality of work or work ethic.

Playing off of the previous section, the lack of a license is a huge red flag as well. It would be pretty risky for your summer kitchen project!

And of course… “Reviews don’t lie.”

Reputation/Reviews

a graphic showing an example of people leaving reviews for utiltiy contractors
a graphic showing an example of people leaving reviews for utiltiy contractors-

When you’re looking for a product or service… What’s the first thing you do?

Odds are, you check the reviews.

It’s no different when hiring an electrician, plumber, or contractor to build your BBQ island.

Reviews are from real customers, with real experiences.

It’s your opportunity to get an insider look on what the experience is going to be like.

For one, you’ll learn if they are reliable. Connell reminds us, “if something goes wrong, you have to call them back.”

If reading the reviews makes you shudder at the thought of chasing them down… That electrician is not going to be the right fit for you. (Or plumber for cold water plumbing.)

So that brings us to another question… Who is the right fit?

Who to Hire

an eletrician wiring a switch into an outdoor kitchen structure

While installing utilities is just a single step in the outdoor kitchen timeline… Selecting the right people for the job is a monumental task.

After you’ve done your preliminary research and read the reviews… The rest comes down to your interactions with a particular electrician.

Do you have a good feeling about them?

“If someone says they’re going to show up Friday, and show up Tuesday, that’s how the interaction is going to go”, Connell shares.

You may be told everything you want to hear… But what are their actions?

That’s what you need to keep a close eye on.

To ignore this would be a serious grill island planning mistake!

Further, your electrician or plumber should not shy away from cost. Connell adds, “Your quote should have all the details of what you spoke about.”

Upfront, complete pricing is a good sign your electrician can be trusted.

When it comes to hiring an electrician… Overall, Connell says it’s “preferable to find someone local through word of mouth. Perhaps a neighbor has used them.”

If someone you trust has had a positive experience with a specific electrician… This is about as good of an endorsement as you can get!

Even still, you may be considering the DIY route. Can you (or should you) install utilities yourself?

Can You DIY This?

a diy outdoor kitchen project that needs electrical utilities ran

If the thought of hiring an electrician or plumber seems like too much to deal with… It makes sense you would consider doing the task yourself.

But should you?

Paul Connell breaks it down into three categories:

  1. First and foremost, Connell recommends hiring someone! This is just the most surefire way to ensure that the job is done properly… And safely.

  2. If you’re dead-set on doing it yourself… At least speak to a qualified electrician or plumber. Their guidance will help you ensure the project is safe and done properly. Connell also recommends “reading the code book to understand what the code is for the item you’re working on.”

  3. Finally, if you’re unwilling to speak to a qualified source… At the bare minimum, research the code! You’ll be able to understand the proper methods, materials, and tools necessary for the project.

Even if you do decide to embark on this task yourself… It’s not always a walk in the park.

Risks of DIY Installation

an image of an outdoor kitchen that caught fire due to poor ventilation

Here’s the thing.

Presumably, you’ve never installed utility lines before.

And when a technique is new to you… You’re bound to make mistakes.

That’s just the way it goes.

Do you really want to take that chance when installing your outdoor kitchen utility lines?

It’s not just using the proper method you have to consider… You also need the correct materials for the job. The same applies to BBQ island materials in general.

As Connell puts it, “If you’re not supplying the correct materials for the environment, you may save money at first. But in the long run, you will spend more money due to a short or even causing a fire.”

We’re not just talking about a repair headache down the road. The mistakes made can quite literally have dangerous consequences!

To us… It’s best to keep this job in the hands of professionals.

So, where do we go from here?

Your Convenient Solution

rta outdoor living l-shape outdoor kitchen equipped with appliances that need utilities

While this article has been dedicated to outdoor kitchen utility installation…

We wanted to draw your attention to outdoor kitchens for a moment.

As you’ve seen…

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to utilities and plumbing for outdoor kitchen.

Therefore, the rest of your custom grill island project should be as streamlined as possible.

You want a solution that erases frustrations.

You want an accessible design format… A process completed from the comfort of your own home… A truly DIY-friendly assembly… And top-notch service that melts away all worry.

That’s what we can provide you.

RTA has brought outdoor kitchen construction to the modern age.

And at the core… Isn’t that all we’re looking for? A simpler, faster, easier, better way to do things?

If you’re curious to learn how we can help you upgrade your backyard… There’s plenty of content to explore in our Learning Hub.

And if you’re ready to take the next step?

Explore our free online design tool… Or speak directly with one of our Design Experts.

Either way, you’re in for a treat!

No matter your outdoor kitchen needs… We’re honored to help you host the moments that matter.

Need help with your project?

Book a call with one of our expert outdoor kitchen designers for guidance every step of the way.
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