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Outdoor kitchens
The essentials for building a backyard entertainment area


Designing and furnishing an outdoor room is the second most likely home-remodeling project to do, according to the Propane Education & Research Council. Indeed, over the next year, approximately 1.2 million U.S. households will install a fully functional outdoor kitchen, according to a study by industry research company nQuery; 28 percent of those who plan to add an outdoor kitchen don't know how to go about purchasing their kitchen.

If you're a year-round griller or if you live for backyard get-togethers when the weather allows, perhaps you're considering adding an outdoor kitchen, too. A well-designed outdoor kitchen will provide added living area for your family and could also boost the resale value of your home. Whether you build your kitchen from scratch or on an existing patio or deck, there's no limit to how elaborate your space can be; some homeowners include a cooking area, sink with hot and cold water, refrigerator, and storage.

Our grill Ratings and recommendations (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers) will help you find the grill that best suits your needs. Our reports on patio heaters, outdoor furniture, and mosquito repellents
(available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers) will give you tips on keeping your outdoor area--and you and your guests--comfortable. Here are some more tips to get you started.

Determine how you'll use your space. Do you envision all-season gatherings with family and friends, or a convenient area for occasional barbecues? Costs of outdoor kitchens can range from $200 and $500 for a gas grill that can handle most of your cooking needs to $50,000 for a space that rivals an indoor version. Before you budget for building materials and appliances, match the money you spend with the enjoyment you'll get in the long run.

Consider location. The center of any outdoor kitchen is the grill. (See our grill Ratings and recommendations, available to
ConsumerReports.org subscribers
). Keep smoke from your house and your guests by positioning the grill away from the nearest door of the house and down from prevailing winds. Enclosed patio kitchens may require that the grill has a range hood for ventilation. Further, if you don't have a fridge or other storage space outdoors, keep a clear path to your house to simplify supply runs.

Be sure to weatherproof. Just as grills are built to withstand weather, so should every part of your outdoor kitchen. Use only appliances and electrical and plumbing fixtures built for outdoor use. A roof or canopy may provide shelter from rain, but some moisture still gets through. Consider building your foundation and counters at a slope to help drainage. Use weather-resistant building materials as well, such as treated hardwood for the structure, and solid surface, tile, stone, or concrete for countertops.

Incorporate lighting and heat. Task lighting is important for all work surfaces. But if you're entertaining outside, consider illuminating your yard as well. Our outdoor lighting report (available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers) offers Ratings and ideas for lighting plans. Further, you can keep your outdoor-living area warm during cold spells with a patio heater. (See our patio heater report, available to ConsumerReports.org .)

Consider safety. All outdoor outlets must be of the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) type. For plumbing and gas lines, it's important that the shutoffs are easily accessible and that you can operate them.

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