Utilities in an Outdoor Kitchen

It pays to learn about electricity, plumbing and gas during the outdoor kitchen planning process.

Outdoor Great Room Kitchen Grill Closed

So you've found the perfect site and designed an efficient layout with plenty of storage, now you need to lay the groundwork to make the outdoor kitchen work. It's time to address your utilities, power, water and gas. This is where it really pays to bring in the professionals, and you'll probably have to in order to get the inspections necessary for your building permits.

Electricity

Electricity is essential in any outdoor kitchen. If you're planning to install a grill, you'll need to wire for task lighting or for an outlet to plug in a light fixture. You may wish to plug in appliances like an ice maker or outdoor dishwasher.

An experienced electrician will not only know the codes inside and out they'll know about the requirements of GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupted) outlets. It's a good idea to put the outdoor kitchen on its own GFCI circuit board inside your house because it's far simpler to reset the system from indoors than trying to crawl behind an undercounter appliance to hit the reset button on a buried outlet.

Plumbing

Most outdoor kitchen designers suggest including a sink in your plans. "Even if you only run cold water to it, a sink helps a lot when it comes to resale," says landscape architect Richard Gibney of Gibney Design Groups. "If you do run hot water, you'll have to insulate the entire run of pipe."

Depending on the length of the pipe run and which type of winterization and drainage systems you include, incorporating plumbing in your plans will probably add about $1,800 to the project, estimates landscape architect Steve Chepurny of Beechwood Landscape Architecture.

When you're talking to plumbers or finalizing details with your contractor, remember that in cold climates winterization is key. There are two main options: using an ejector pump to flush the water from the lines at the end of the season or installing a gravity-based system with the pipes running to an insulated, below-grade space, so you can open the valve and empty the pipe. Which works best for you depends on your particular site.


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Gas

Unless you're planning to grill exclusively with charcoal, you'll need to fuel your barbecue with gas. If you live in an area where natural gas is available, you may want to run a gas line to the grill. Imagine never again running out of gas midway through dinner prep.

Expect to pay $500 or $600, plus the monthly cost of natural gas, for this convenience, estimates Mark Allen, president of Outdoor Kitchens by Design.

If natural gas isn't an option, Mark encourages investing in a second propane tank, so one is always full and ready when the other runs low. "You could go with a buried propane tank but it's a big expense," says Mark. "You'll pay at least $1,500 to $2,000 for the tank, plus the price of propane." Many gas companies want you to lease the tank and then buy your propane from that company, even if theirs isn't the best price.

Stick with individual propane tanks and spend your money elsewhere. If you go the buried-tank route, be sure to have it checked every several years, because tanks can leak and the lines can corrode.

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