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Planning an Outdoor Kitchen in 2023 – 8 Essential Steps

By Daniel Cdebaca

January 17, 2023

Are you thinking about adding an outdoor kitchen to your backyard?

That’s great! An outdoor kitchen is one of the best ways to spend more time with friends and family.

As we’re sure you’re aware, an outdoor kitchen project can be a lot to take on. There’s plenty of planning involved! And in this ever-changing world, there may be additional hoops to jump through.

As we continue to battle rising prices and adjust to a new normal after the last few years… planning an outdoor kitchen may seem daunting. We get it.

But… We also know that this doesn’t have to be the case! While it’s important to be aware of any hindrances that may impact your outdoor kitchen project, it’s still well within the realm of possibility if you plan ahead.

STEADYING DEMAND VS. UNPREDICTABLE CHALLENGES

The outdoor living industry has been on the rise for several years. Outdoor living spaces have become an extremely popular addition to many homeowners’ backyards. At this point, it’s almost a must-have!

The surge in popularity and high demand for outdoor kitchens became especially prevalent during the pandemic and in the years following.

As we all adjusted to a new normal… We saw more people working from home, a change in money spending habits, and a stronger desire for connection with family and time spent outdoors.

As people spent more time at home and less money on vacations… backyard renovations and DIY projects became a great way to escape the indoors and enjoy extra time at home. Hence, the huge surge in demand for outdoor kitchens throughout 2022.

While we don’t expect these new lifestyle trends to change anytime soon… we do expect the initial craze and heightened demand for outdoor kitchens brought on by the pandemic to simmer down in 2023.

Does the downswing in demand mean that planning an outdoor kitchen will get easier?

We wish we could say yes… But the reality is that issues such as changes in the supply chain, contractor availability, shipping delays, and more still affect homeowners wanting to complete their project.

Plus… We can’t ignore inflation — an unpredictable component which continues to impact every aspect of our lives.

Today’s soaring inflation rate is a direct result of the pandemic… In which increased consumer demand and supply chain issues caused the cost of living to skyrocket.

Unfortunately… This aftereffect continues to trouble us as we head into 2023.

The current inflation rate has been hovering around 8%. This elevated rate is approximately 5% higher than the average 3.29%. Ouch!

While the current rate is expected to start leveling out in 2023… The ever-changing nature of the economy makes it difficult to predict exactly when inflation rates will return to normal.

And just because the inflation rate is expected to start dropping in 2023… Economists don’t expect a drastic decline to occur within the next few months. This means higher prices will most likely continue to plague homeowners well into the future.

If inflation doesn’t get under control in the coming months… It’s tough to gauge how elevated pricing will affect the cost of outdoor home improvement and diy outdoor kitchen projects in 2023.

The best way to counteract these uncertainties is to do your research and plan ahead. Understanding your project from top to bottom will get you prepared for challenges… and help guarantee success.

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RESEARCH TIMING IS KEY

This is where you are now! Every successful project begins with research and due diligence. It’s important to research so you know what is available and what is best for your needs.

No matter who you are… The reality is that research takes time!

Installing an outdoor kitchen is a big decision and you want to make sure you have thoroughly investigated your options.

Due to continued issues with the supply chain, shipping delays, and inflation… We highly recommend starting your research sooner rather than later to make sure you fully understand what you’re getting into.

Since you’re now aware of some of the challenges you may face going into your project… let’s get into the meat of why you are here… To start planning an outdoor kitchen project!

STEP ONE: ASSESS YOUR CURRENT BACKYARD SPACE

Always begin with assessing your space. This must be done in order to understand what is possible!

Some of you may not have a space yet. Believe it or not… This is the best time to plan! You’re not limited like someone who already has their space determined.

Knowing your space gives you a firm grasp of the area, size, and layouts that would work best. It’s important to plan your outdoor kitchen well… Because it’ll be the focal point of your backyard!

NEW CONSTRUCTION VS. RETROFIT

Different types of projects require different planning processes.

Let’s discuss!

NEW CONSTRUCTION

New construction is usually the ideal time to start planning an outdoor kitchen. This is for a few different reasons.

First, you have a blank slate. Also… You typically have more time to plan your project if you start while constructing the house. You can even have the outdoor kitchen built while the house is being completed! (You’ll never be stuck without a barbecue!)

New construction also makes it easier to run utility lines. You can work with your builder and have them run the lines ahead of time.

Design is not limited either. You’re not working within the confines of an existing space. The possibilities are virtually endless!

RETROFIT

As with anything… A retrofit project has advantages and drawbacks.

You’ll be designing and building an outdoor kitchen into an existing outdoor space. Generally speaking… These projects are more time sensitive. You’re planning into a space you’re living in… So you don’t want your yard to be disturbed for a long period of time!

Outdoor kitchen design can be more limited in these scenarios. You’re working around existing patio dimensions, walls, and other obstructions.

Utilities can be a bit more challenging… Especially if the patio already exists and was never intended for an outdoor kitchen.

Running utilities could involve ripping up the patio and strategically running the lines to look less noticeable. You won’t always have the luxury of running them under the patio.

PATIO/DECK CONSTRUCTION

This is another step that varies depending on your situation.

Some of you may be installing your bbq island on an existing patio or deck. If this is you… You have to assess if your deck/patio has adequate supports to withstand the weight of an outdoor kitchen.

To achieve this… you could consult with an engineer or do your own research. Once you know what your deck or patio can handle in terms of weight… You’ll be prepared to have conversations with a design expert on layouts.

A nice feature of the RTA system is that it is extremely lightweight. Therefore… There is usually no need for additional supports to install on a deck or patio.

That way you can avoid all the extra work of hiring an engineer and putting additional supports in.

If you don’t have a deck or patio already… This step is a bit more extensive. You’ll have to plan sizes, layout, and construction methods. It’s best to reach out to a contractor as soon as you can. They are hard to come by! The faster you get the ball rolling… The faster you’ll have a place to set your outdoor kitchen.

STEP TWO: PLAN HOW YOU WILL USE YOUR OUTDOOR KITCHEN/ WHAT IS YOUR COOKING STYLE?

tamara day cooking breakfast for her daughter on coyote flat top grill in moks outdoor kitchen

One of the most important steps in planning your outdoor kitchen is defining how you intend to use it and understanding your cooking style. These components will lay the groundwork for what design will work best for you. 

Do you love entertaining? Or do you just want a cooking area for food prep? Understanding how you intend to use the outdoor kitchen is a key part of the planning process.

Cooking style is also important. This will reveal which appliances are best suited for your design, how much counter space you want, as well as any add-ons you may include (think pizza oven, outdoor refrigerator, side burner etc). Think about your preferred cooking style and how you’d translate that to your outdoor kitchen.

If you engage with an expert outdoor kitchen designer… They will likely ask you similar questions. It’s helpful to gather your thoughts now in preparation for these conversations. Set yourself up for success!

STEP THREE: CONSIDER UTILITY LINES

Nearly all outdoor kitchens require utility lines, So there is no way we could leave this step out! Naturally, the tasks vary depending on your situation. 

If you plan ahead and already have utilities in place… this step will be much easier! 

If you don’t have utilities… You’ll have to start planning and understanding the process. What do you need to install water, gas lines, and/or electrical lines into your space? 

Start by looking at your existing utility lines. Sometimes there’s a way to tap into those and run them to your outdoor kitchen area. This would be the best case scenario if possible! 

The ability to run utility lines directly determines the functionality of your outdoor kitchen. If you’re unable to run a gas line… You may have to consider using a propane tank for your outdoor cooking. And if you can’t run an electrical line… You won’t be able to plug in your outdoor refrigerator.

Therefore, it’s essential to know what your options are. If needed, you can consult with a local plumber or electrician to see what the possibilities are. You’ll also get an idea of how much running utility lines would cost. 

Speaking of cost, the next step would be determining your budget…

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STEP FOUR: PLANNING YOUR BUDGET

Budget is an important part of planning any home improvement project. 

It’s essential to know your budget before diving too deep in the process of planning an outdoor kitchen. Budget will determine what is realistic when determining layout, selecting appliances, and more. 

While dipping your toes into the idea of an outdoor kitchen project… We thought it may be helpful to show you the average costs for outdoor living projects. 

We work with many people who are planning their outdoor kitchen in conjunction with a larger project. Therefore, this information will help you compile the potential cost. 

Here are a few of the most common outdoor living projects:

Outdoor Kitchen: $13,000 + (RTA Stat)

Pools: $42,000 – $80,000 (Home Advisor)

Patios: $2,000 – $6,000 (Home Advisor)

Decks: $4,000 – $12,000 (Home Advisor)

Patio Cover: $8,000 – $26,000 (Home Advisor)

Landscaping: $50 – $150 per hour (Home Advisor)

NOW LET’S GET TO THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM...

budgeting to save money on outdoor kitchen

INFLATION. 

Heightened prices continue into 2023, driving up the cost of outdoor home improvement projects… and nearly everything else!

It’s hard to determine exactly how much inflation will affect the prices above, but it’s important to be aware of the risk it poses (elevating your costs!)

As well as heightened inflation rates… The price of building materials is still up 5% to 10%. These elevated costs are a lingering consequence of the increased demand for outdoor home improvement projects in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

In 2022, manufacturers jacked up the price of materials to compete with the huge surge in demand. If the increased demand undergoes its expected downswing in 2023… It’s likely that the cost of raw materials will stabilize throughout the year.

In fact… Many are already noticing a lower dollar sign for building materials. That’s great!

Though inflation rates may make you shy away from outdoor kitchen planning, don’t worry! There are ways to get ahead and beat potential price increases. We’ll get back to that soon. 

Normally, most wait until the spring for planning an outdoor kitchen. Of course, this made a lot of sense in the past! The year winds down, the weather gets worse… So there’s not much motivation to plan something for your outdoor living space. 

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. If you wait until springtime next year… You could be paying dearly between price increases and extended timelines. Your outdoor kitchen project could be more expensive and take longer than you wanted. 

However, there’s no need to fret! You can work around this. 

How?

Start planning your outdoor kitchen this year. It doesn’t mean you have to install or execute the project right away. Just secure your spot in line and start your research on materials and appliances to get a head start!

STEP FIVE: SELECT OUTDOOR KITCHEN APPLIANCES

Time for your built-in grill and outdoor appliances! Most people focus on cooking appliances more than any other area of an outdoor kitchen. After all… That’s what you’ll be cooking with and using more than anything.

How you cook and plan your outdoor entertaining will be a big factor in determining appliances that will be best for your design. 

With all the variety out there… It’s a lot to consider. To simplify, we recommend creating a list of “nice to haves” and “must haves.” This will allow you to start narrowing down your choices. 

SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES/SHORTAGES

an rta outdoor kitchen with multiple appliances and pizza oven underpergola with price tags on it

We can’t talk about appliances without discussing continued supply chain issues. I’m sure you’re aware of supply issues in various sectors. In our case, increased demand in 2022 put a huge strain on the supply chain which we’re still feeling the aftereffects of today.  

While we do expect the demand to take a downswing in 2023… Supply chain issues are expected to persist due to continued labor shortages and slowed production. 

Most appliances are sourced from China. With all of the importing challenges… This has caused serious delays in getting products to consumers.

In the past two years, Some manufacturing plants were completely closed and halted operation. We are still feeling the effects of this heading into 2023. 

There’s a perfect storm of factors that has certainly put a strain on the industry. Manufacturing catch-up, slowed production, increased demand, and continued labor shortages. Even if a manufacturer is able to obtain everything needed… Labor shortages continue to prevent these companies from producing at full capacity. 

How does all this affect your outdoor kitchen project? 

Some appliances manufacturers have products on backorder.  Even on the short end… You’re looking at a 6-8 week timeline just for appliances. 

We know what you may be thinking… “All of these challenges are overwhelming, maybe I should put my project on the back burner.” 

This couldn’t be further from the truth! 

This all goes back to timing. As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to at least start your research now. This is especially true for appliances. 

Do some research to see who has appliances in stock and what current lead times are. This will give you a sense of a timeline and how to plan ahead. 

Here at RTA, we did our best to position well for the increased demand. 

We put a heavy focus on adequate inventory to ensure our customers don’t wait as long. In fact, we’re one of the few companies with appliances in stock and ready to ship. 

Make sure the company you work with has appliances available for your timeframe. We’ve heard horror stories of people with an outdoor kitchen island… With no appliances to use. We would hate for that to be you!

STEP SIX: DETERMINE THE LAYOUT OF YOUR OUTDOOR KITCHEN

linear grill island onbeach in
Linear
u shaped outdoor kitchen under pergola with pizza oven and pellet grill
U- Shaped
L-Shaped

At this point, you understand your space, have considered utility lines, and set a budget. Now you can consider design layouts that work for your space and needs. 

If you are looking to entertain… You may prefer an L-shaped or U-shaped layout with incorporated outdoor bar seating.

If you just want a place to cook, a linear grill island layout may be best for you. 

To help you decide, think about your indoor kitchen. What is the flow like? What do you like about your indoor kitchen? Are there a lot of seating areas? These questions will guide you when determining your outdoor kitchen layout.

We also encourage you to be creative! Create multiple design layouts, not just one. This will help you visualize your options and what is possible in your outdoor space. 

ENGAGE WITH AN EXPERT

During the layout stage of planning an outdoor kitchen, it is incredibly helpful to engage with an expert. 

An expert will be able to take your outdoor kitchen ideas and turn them into a tangible design. They’ll consider your thoughts and analyze your space to create a design tailored to you. A design expert will also provide you with a proposal so you can obtain a rough cost. 

If your space is undetermined… It’s still a good idea to speak with an expert. You can learn about the company and what they offer in the way of design possibilities. So when your space is ready, you’re ahead of the curve.

The main benefit of speaking with an expert is their guidance. They’ll show you the best way to plan your project. An expert knows how to get the best bang for your buck depending on your timeline. You’ll also get a walkthrough on what to expect when you build as well as project length.

Here at RTA, we have a full team of design experts that are always available to assist you with your project.

This step is crucial in planning your outdoor kitchen… A design expert will give you the path towards a successful project.

STEP SEVEN: RESEARCH MATERIALS

2x4 wood planks for outdoor kitchen frame
concrete being poured from truck
sheets of stainless steel used to build an outdoor kitchen

Time to talk about materials. No, it’s not as glamorous as researching appliances… But it is equally important! After all, your kitchen will be outdoors and constantly exposed to the elements. 

The materials you choose are the foundation of your outdoor kitchen. So this is not a decision to take lightly. You don’t want to invest all this time and money into something that isn’t going to last for decades.

There are a variety of outdoor kitchen materials you can use in construction. So it is important to understand what may be best for your needs. If you live in a cool weather climate with freeze thaw cycles, you want to be especially careful! Not all outdoor kitchens are built to withstand these environments.

You’ll also want to note if the materials are combustible or not. If you are going to use combustible materials like wood… You need to consider added safety precautions such as insulated jackets for cooking appliances. 

Here at RTA, our construction method is unique. Our outdoor kitchens are engineered to withstand any climate… Sun, sleet, snow, you name it. You can learn more about our construction and materials here.

When researching materials, it’s important to consider potential increased pricing and longer delivery times. 

Conducting thorough research will make you aware of any price increases, delays in timeline, and ultimately will help you make the best decisions as you plan your construction project.

STEP EIGHT: INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS

Once you’ve decided on the outdoor kitchen solution that works best for you… It will come time to install your outdoor kitchen!

Installation can look different depending on the solution you choose. A contractor can build from scratch, which is excellent for unique builds. However, the timelines can run quite long. Installation can also be invasive and disruptive to your property.

You may also decide on an RTF (ready-to-finish) or modular outdoor kitchen

An RTF outdoor kitchen is a great option for DIYers who want to apply their own veneer to finish off pre-built frames. Just know it can be a challenge to ensure this is done properly!

And modular outdoor kitchens come as individual metal cabinets that are then assembled to shape your outdoor kitchen island.

Lastly, you could go with a ready to assemble solution like RTA. With RTA, you can assemble yourself but it comes to you 95% complete. It’s no sweat to install. It can fit into tight access areas with non-invasive assembly.

HOW BEST TO PREPARE

At this point we’ve talked a lot about planning an outdoor kitchen project, potential challenges to overcome, and how to ensure a successful project. 

Let’s recap the steps you can take so you can be the talk of the neighborhood with your new outdoor kitchen space! Below are the simple steps you can take to get ahead…

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1. START YOUR RESEARCH NOW

Research is obviously the first step to planning an outdoor kitchen and likely where you are now. You can’t take any of the next steps until you have conducted research. To help yourself get a head start, we recommend starting your research as soon as you can.

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2. ENGAGE WITH AN EXPERT

We talked extensively about the benefits of working with an expert above. To recap… They will assist you in creating a game plan and secure best pricing on your project.

lock it in icon

3. LOCK IN YOUR ORDER

This might sound a little premature, and for some people it may be. Let’s be clear on what securing your order entails and how it can help you. 

This step allows you to hold your place in line and beat the price increases. You can also avoid delayed timeframes. The best thing about it? Most companies will allow you to do this with little to no commitment. You can change your mind down the road without any strings attached.

PLANNING AN OUTDOOR KITCHEN - NEXT STEPS

If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen project for 2023, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started!

Next year, you want to spend the summer enjoying your new outdoor kitchen… 

And with RTA… Planning an outdoor kitchen project has never been easier. 

Get a jumpstart on your project now by using our free, easy-to-use online design tool

We’ll help you start planning an outdoor kitchen perfectly tailored to your wants and needs… With custom options for layout, size, finish, and countertops. 

Not to mention… Your choice of quality appliances from our partners at Coyote Outdoor Living. 

Coyote has a range of charcoal, pellet, and gas grills as well as top of the line outdoor kitchen accessories and appliances to make cooking al fresco as convenient as can be. 

Once you’ve settled on your ideal design and appliances… Your kitchen will be shipped directly to you for easy assembly. 

And did we mention that all of our products come with a lifetime warranty? 

With no hidden or unexpected costs, a responsive team of Design Experts, and guaranteed inventory… We’d never stand in the way of you and your outdoor kitchen. 

Our aim is to prevent fear of missing out, price increases, and long lead times on your end.

If you’re ready to engage with an expert, we’re here to help you get started. 

Happy planning!

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