Outdoor kitchens are the new “must have” home trend in Washington DC and Maryland area homes. They add living space to your home and give it a “wow” factor that is sure to impress. But do outdoor kitchens provide value in the winter months? Typically, most DC area households don’t venture much into outdoor living in winter beyond wheeling a grill out sporadically during milder weather. But let’s look at how outdoor kitchens are still a great investment and how this hot trend that can be an asset to your home in winter too!
Popularity of Outdoor Kitchens
According to the most recent industry report from the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 10% of grill owners in America now have outdoor kitchens. Of these, 35% intend to upgrade their grill or their outdoor kitchen within the next three years. And a survey conducted by HGTV and the program Casual Living found that 79% of respondents who had an outdoor room of some sort used it to grill and 72% owned an outdoor dining set.
While you might think this is a summer-only luxury, these outdoor kitchens can actually be winterized to a great degree. You won’t be grilling in a snowstorm with them, but they can still be perfectly usable on a dry and crisp day during the colder months.
Why Add An Outdoor Kitchen?
So why bother adding a kitchen outdoors? And why cook out when it’s cold out? There’s a variety of reasons.
- Homeowners with great views, particularly those with large decks that have space for a kitchen island, love the idea of both preparing and enjoying their full meal while taking in the natural splendor. Taking the whole process outside from start to finish adds some serious romance to the meal, especially for couples who like to cook together.
- It’s more convenient for those who like to entertain groups and throw parties in the backyard. It also makes the home seem more inviting to friends and family, and leaves a memorable impression on acquaintances. And the person doing the cooking doesn’t feel isolated from all the fun that’s happening outside.
- Simple desire for a fire pit, Benihana-style grill or a wood-fired pizza oven often spills over into adding an entire kitchen to complement it. After all, if you’re going to be grilling and roasting outside anyway, why not have a fridge and dishwasher out there too?
- It’s a nice way to salvage an abandoned extension project. If you’ve got a big empty pad of concrete that’s just sitting there anyway, turning it into a kitchen area is one of the more inexpensive ways of doing something useful that also adds significant value to the property.
- It overlaps with a related trend toward full-featured luxury and resort-style backyards.
What About The Winter (And Other Ravages Of Nature)?
While all of this sounds well and good, you might be wondering if exposure to the cold/wet winter weather and foraging animals makes this an impractical effort unless you have tons of money to build a full enclosure.
There are two basic answers to this issue that keep things relatively affordable and uncomplicated; modular appliances and winterization modes.
Many homeowners who build outdoor kitchens opt for mobile modular appliances, which not only can be brought inside when needed but are also much more affordable than fixtures that will have to be made from rock or brick in most cases. Not everything can be made modular, of course; there’s still no good way to get a pizza oven on wheels, for example, and portable fire pits are small. But most of the key elements of the kitchen can, including the sink, refrigerator and cabinets.
Some outdoor kitchen appliances also have built-in winterization modes that fully drain them of moisture so that they can be left outside during the frigid months. There are also a number of manual steps homeowners can take to winterize their outdoor appliances including linking the outdoor water supply to a valve that can be shut off from inside the house, and applying a stone sealer to countertops to prevent cracks and stains.
Regardless of whether the appliances are modular or fixed (or some combination of the two), at the very least an outdoor kitchen in this area does usually require some type of overhead covering. Precipitation and bird droppings are year-long issues, and the sun will also gradually cause damage to surfaces with continued exposure. The roof also helps to retain heat during the fall and winter months, though adding ventilation to it is important if a grill is going to be used.
Outdoor Kitchen Considerations
If you’re interested in creating your own outdoor kitchen, the first and most important thing to consider is when and how often you expect to use it, as this determines which types of appliances or modular units are going to be best. Will you be having regular family meals? How many large gatherings do you expect to have? And will you want to use it at all when the cold months roll in? And if you’re going with modular units as your primary answer to the weather dilemma, do you have enough space to store them indoors if necessary?
If your kitchen is going to occupy a patio or deck, is it strong enough to hold the weight of all the equipment you intend to place on it plus all the people you intend to have over? How about if snow and ice accumulate before you can clear them? Also, while there initially may seem to be plenty of space while the deck or patio is empty, you’ll need to take measurements of each piece of equipment you plan to add. Once all the equipment is present, will there still be enough room for all the guests? Will there be adequate clearance around the grill and other prep areas?
Even if you’re using charcoal or gas for all of your cooking, you’ll still need to consider electricity needs for lighting and a refrigerator at the very least. That means ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets for anything that is plugged in outside. For fall and winter cooking, you might also consider a large radiant patio heater, which will also require an adequate electrical connection.
In addition to home construction at Rasevic, we handle landscaping, garden maintenance and snow removal. Contact us to learn more, and keep an eye on our blog for more home design articles and tips!
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