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Outdoor kitchens offer more than just a place to grill

outdoor kitchenDining alfresco is more fun when the cook is not running back and forth between the kitchen and patio. So keep the cook at the party with the addition of an outdoor kitchen.

Expanding indoor living outside continues to be one of the hottest trends in home improvement, according to the National Association of Home Builders – and there are many options for creating an open air cooking space. But before you get cooking you have to start thinking – answering some very important questions such as: What’s your budget? Do you want a simple frame for a standard grill or an elaborate installation complete with an outdoor oven, multiple burners and a wine cooler?

While hiring a professional to help with the design and installation is a good starting point, it’s also imporant to consider the following.

Begin at the bottom

Outdoor kitchen floors must be conducive to all types of weather conditions and able to withstand the weight of the appliances to be installed. Slippery materials such as tile and marble may not be the best choice for an outdoor space. Likewise, selecting a material that can bear spills and grease stains will make maintenance easier.

Aesthetically, the flooring should complement the home’s exterior and provide durability and value to the end product.

Create the perfect place

Finding the right location is very important.

Keeping your outdoor kitchen near the kitchen will make carrying objects inside and out more efficient. Having the kitchen close to the home may also make it easier to connect to existing electrical, plumbing and gas lines. Traffic flow is also an important safety consideration.

Outdoor kitchens should allow penty of room for guests to enjoy – inside or out, the kitchen is the place were people congregate – but avoid contact with a hot grill. Also, be conscious of the view from the inside of the house. You don’t want the new outdoor space to obscure your view.

Select the right equipment

When selecting appliances consider how they will integrate and whether there is sufficient work space around them.

Varying heights of counters can allow for different functions. Stainless steel or ceramic are good all-weather materials that provide durability and low maintenance. Keep in mind that appliances will need sources of power and water, which may require a professional installation as well as permits.

Sufficient counter space for setting and storing food, dishes and tools is another consideration.

Set the mood

Shedding proper light on outdoor dining and entertaining areas often means mixting and matching light sources. That’s because lighting affects everything from food preparation to relaxation.

Halogen lamps withstand high temperatures and work well over the grill. A lighted ceiling fan will help deter mosquitoes and can be dimmed if desired. Lights under the cabinets and counters make finding supplies easier.

A word of caution, however – all lighting should be tolerant of humid and damp conditions.

To improve safety around the walkways and perimeter, consider solar-powered LED landscape lighting.

Experience all the comforts of home

Your outdoor room should reflect your lifestyle in the same way as the inside of your home – and with today’s weather safe fabrics, accessories and construction materals it’s easy to choose outdoor decorations and furnishings that are stylish, comfortable and durable.

Weather-resistant chairs with colorful cushions can do double duty providing comfort and convenience. A tall roof, pergola or patio umbrella will provide shade for chefs and guests alike.

Many homeowners also add heat lamps and fire pits to extend the outdoor dining season.

Once you have a list of must-haves, maybes and questions based on wants and needs, it’s time to call the pros.

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