Outdoor Kitchen Costs to Consider

Learn to make a budget so your outdoor kitchen won't be a wallet buster.

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You can spend just about anything on an outdoor kitchen, from a few hundred dollars to many thousand. But should you? Before you visit a single showroom, where it's easy to be seduced by the gleam of stainless steel, or talk to even one contractor, you need to have your budget in place.

The first step to a smart budget is to decide how much you have to spend. Evaluate your resources and how much you can and should spend. Consider using cash. With savings accounts earning so little these days it's not a bad time to invest those funds in your home, but don't expect to get that money back at resale. Outdoor kitchens aren't at the top of buyer priorities in these economic times, so consider it an investment in your own enjoyment.

Other options are home equity loans, home equity lines of credit, or a cash-out refinance, in which you refinance your mortgage, increasing it by the amount of the project.

Price out all the elements of the kitchen, remembering to include small details like hardware and light fixtures, which can add up in a hurry. Have this list in hand when you talk to potential contractors. It will give your contractor a sense of what you want to include in the kitchen, show that you've done your homework, and let the contractor adjust his bid to include actual products.

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The Ultimate Grill

Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet Outdoor Dishwasher

A Functional Outdoor Sink

Where to Save, Where to Splurge?

Unless you have an unlimited budget, you'll need to make some compromises. The grill is one place you don't need to compromise. "You want to buy the best grill you can afford," says landscape architect Richard Gibney, of Gibney Design Group. "That doesn't mean the biggest, or the ones with the most features, but the one that will perform well and last."

The professionals we poled also agreed that a sink is a worthwhile splurge, and a refrigerator is handy, especially for entertaining. "But if it's between a sink and a refrigerator, I'd go with the sink," says landscape architect Steve Chepurny, of Beechwood Landscape Architecture and Construction. "You can always fill it with ice and use it as a cooler for a party."

Things you can safely cross off you list? An outdoor dishwasher, oven, and rotisserie. They're conveniences, but you can wash dishes inside, keep foods warm on the top rack of your grill, and use indirect grilling techniques to cook whole birds and large pieces of meat.

A custom-built pizza oven is a dramatic focal point, sure, but it's a lot of work to use and clean and you're probably better off with a countertop model for a fraction of the price. Stone counters and floors look great, but tile is much less expensive (and a particularly budget-savvy choice if you live in a warm climate).

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