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 outdoors with friends and family.
As I am sure you are 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.
In fact, we are still significantly affected by the events of the last year and a half. If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen project, it’s important to be aware of these hindrances.
That said, no need to worry! Below we’ll provide a useful guide to help you with planning an outdoor kitchen and navigate these challenges.
- Step 1: Assess Your Current Backyard Space
- Step 2: Plan How You Will Use Your Outdoor Kitchen
- Step 3: Consider Utility Lines
- Step 4: Planning Your Budget
- Step 5: Select Outdoor Kitchen Appliances
- Step 6: Determine The Layout Of Your Outdoor Kitchen
- Step 7: Research Materials
- Step 8: Installation Considerations
- Start Planning – Next Steps
How the Pandemic has Driven Demand
Even taking current events aside… The outdoor living industry has been on the rise for several years. Outdoor living spaces have become an extremely popular addition to one’s backyard. At this point, it’s almost a must-have!
Especially considering the events of the last year and a half. There was a period of time when most of us had restrictions in terms of travel and entertainment. While stuck at home… We started thinking about our outdoor spaces even more. This brought a huge surge of demand for outdoor kitchens not seen before.
At this point, most people are back to traveling, concerts, and other events. However, the way people spend money has permanently changed. Much of this vacation money is still being funneled into a backyard improvement project.
When you’re stuck at home and constantly looking at your empty backyard… Who wouldn’t think about how to make improvements? Backyard renovations are a great way to escape the indoors and enjoy the extra time at home.
Prior to last year, Americans were locked into a fast-paced lifestyle. Travel, business events, etc. There was not much opportunity for time at home. Now, many of us are working from home and not traveling as much… So it makes sense to optimize your home for entertainment value.
With the demand at an all time high… This has caused changes in the supply chain, lead times, contractor availability, and more. This can severely affect the homeowner wanting to complete their project. In fact, some contractors are already booked into 2022!
You’re probably wondering…
Will the demand slow down? How does this affect my project?
The reality is, we don’t expect the demand to slow down as we head into 2022.
Recent events have completely changed the way we prioritize our time. We now highly value family connection and spending time in nature. With these activities being a core part of our human experience… We don’t see this trend changing anytime soon.
Further, many people are looking for ways to promote a healthier lifestyle. What better way to achieve this than home grilled/cooked food with family?
optimize your outdoor space
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.
The time spent on research will vary from person to person but the reality is, it takes time! This is a big decision and you want to make sure you have thoroughly investigated your options. Due to some of the supply chain issues, delays and other factors we highly recommend starting your research sooner than later to get yourself ahead of the curve.
Now that you understand how the environment has changed and you have started your research to get ahead of the game, 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 on the space, size, and layouts that would work best.
New Construction vs. Retrofit
Different types of projects require a different planning process.
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 if you plan while planning or constructing the house. You can even have the outdoor kitchen built while waiting for the house to be 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!
As with anything, a retrofit project has advantages and drawbacks.
You’ll be designing and building your outdoor kitchen into an existing 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 time!
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. This could involve ripping up the deck or 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 an outdoor kitchen on an existing patio. If this is you… You have to assess if your deck or 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 usually is 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 support in.
If you don’t have a patio already… This step is a bit more extensive. You’ll have to plan patio sizes, layout, and construction method. It’s best to reach out to a contractor as soon as you can. They are becoming 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?
One of the most important steps in planning your outdoor kitchen is understanding your cooking style and how you intend to use it. This will lay the groundwork for what design will work best for you.
Do you love entertaining? Or do you just want a place to cook and prep food? Understanding how you intend to use the outdoor kitchen is a key part of the planning process. This will determine how you utilize the space.
Cooking style is also important. This will reveal which appliances are best suited for your design. 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 planned 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, 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 appliances you’ll be able to install. If you’re unable to run a water and drain line… It won’t be possible to install a sink into your outdoor kitchen.
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…
Let’s dive in!
take a break and start a design
Step Four: Planning Your Budget
No doubt, budget is an important part of planning any home improvement project.
It’s essential to know your budget before diving too deep into 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 average costs for other 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:
Now let's get to the elephant in the room…
How has everything affected outdoor kitchen costs?
If we remember back to Economics 101, the answer reveals itself quite clearly! With low supply and high demand… Prices increase.
Moving into 2022, this increase is expected to be quite significant. Unfortunately, this will drive up the cost of your project as well.
But don’t worry! There are ways to get ahead and beat these 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 project could be more expensive and take longer than you wanted.
However, there’s no need to fret! You can work around this.
Get ahead of the curve. At least start planning your outdoor kitchen this year. It doesn’t mean you have to install or execute on the project right away. Just secure your spot in line to lock in this year’s prices for materials and appliances. We’ll talk about this a bit more in depth below.
Step Five: Select Outdoor Kitchen Appliances
Time for appliances! Most people focus on 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 to entertain will be a big factor in determining the appliances that will be best for your design.
With all of 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.
Want to learn more about appliances and how to select them? Read through our outdoor kitchen appliances: top 8 important considerations when selecting blog.
Supply Chain Issues/Shortages
We can’t talk about appliances without discussing current supply chain issues. I’m sure you are aware of supply chain issues in various sectors. In our case, increased demand has put a huge strain on the supply chain.
Already, this demand has driven cost of labor and materials up.
Most raw materials and parts for outdoor kitchens are sourced from China. With all of the importing challenges… This has caused serious delays in getting products to consumers. Early last year, some manufacturing plants were completely closed and halted operation. We are still feeling the effects of this today.
There’s a perfect storm of factors that has certainly put a strain on the industry. Manufacturing catch-up, slowed production, increased demand, and now labor shortages. Even if a manufacturer is able to obtain everything needed… Labor shortages continue to prevent these companies to produce at full capacity.
How does all this affect your project?
Some appliances manufacturers have products on backorder until early-mid next year. 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 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
At this point, you understand your space, 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 bar seating.
If you just want a place to cook, a linear 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? 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 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 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 guide you through 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 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 as you head into 2022… A design expert will give you the path towards a successful project.
Work with one of our design experts
Step Seven: Research Materials
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… 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.
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. These kitchens are either delivered in one piece or delivered in modules. The modules arrive ready to apply a veneer to finish it off. These solutions can be challenging if you have limited access in your space… As you may have to hire a crane to get into the backyard.
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, changes in the industry, and how to ensure a successful project in 2022.
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…
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 initially. To help yourself get a head start, we recommend starting your research as soon as you can
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 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.
Many of you are in the beginning stages of research.
Our goal is to become the leading source for outdoor kitchen information and resources. As we continue to further this goal… We didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share value with you. Below we’ve put a list of resources that will help you throughout your outdoor kitchen journey:
Planning an Outdoor Kitchen - Next Steps
If you’re planning an outdoor kitchen project for 2022, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started!
We hope the above information gives you a jumpstart in the outdoor kitchen planning process. Our aim is to prevent fear of missing out, price increases, and long lead times on your end.
Next year, you want to spend the summer enjoying your new outdoor kitchen… Not stressing.
If you’re ready to engage with an expert, why not schedule a call with one of our design experts?