Belgard, a maker of outdoor living products, says souped-up outdoor kitchens include professional-grade appliances (particularly refrigerators and dishwashers), numerous cooking surfaces, bar-style seating and brick ovens, while Trex Co., another maker of outdoor living products, adds cooking islands and built-in sinks to the mix.
“The whole concept of outdoor cooking has grown far beyond a backyard barbecue,” design expert Paul Lafrance, one of the stars of HGTV’s ‘Decked Out,” says in a Trex news release. “Homeowners are hungry for fully appointed kitchens with features like integrated trash bins, ice chests and cabinetry that add convenience and luxury.”
In a 2015 survey by the Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association, 35 percent of people who have outdoor kitchens said they planned to undertake upgrades within the next three years. Outdoor furniture purchases, deck/patio improvements and garden/landscaping improvements topped the list of planned upgrades.
“Outdoor kitchens make life easier for those who enjoy grilling their meals and entertaining outdoors, making your deck or patio an extension of your family’s living space. It also can enhance your home’s resale value,” the National Association of Home Builders says.
As you’d expect, the National Outdoor Kitchen & Fireplace Association is bullish about outdoor kitchens.
“The outdoor kitchen has become one of the most popular home improvements for consumers across America,” the association says, “and just about every consumer we speak to is either planning on having an outdoor kitchen built or it’s at the top of their wish list for a future backyard project.”
A 2013 survey for Casual Living and HGTV showed that 4 percent of U.S. consumers had outdoor kitchens, but it’s likely that number has grown in the meantime. The 2013 research found that outdoor kitchens most often are owned by wealthier, older Americans.
Ian Phi, publisher of the Patio Resource website, says the popularity of outdoor kitchens peaked a few years ago and now is waning. As a matter of fact, a December 2015 survey by the National Home Builders Association indicates that builders expect outdoor kitchens to be one of the least likely features incorporated into new single-family homes in 2016.
Phi says some homeowners have discovered that they don’t use their outdoor kitchens all that much, and that these kitchens are yet another area they must clean and maintain. If outdoor kitchens aren’t maintained well, he says, birds, insects and other pests might come calling.
“Most homeowners want to have some planned outdoor space,” Phi says. “It could be something simple, perhaps just a small area to put an outdoor table and a grill. Other people want to go all out and have a fire pit area, lots of custom-built seating, extensive landscaping and maybe even an outdoor kitchen.”
John Egan is editor in chief at LawnStarter, an Austin, Texas-based company that helps people find, schedule, pay for and manage lawn care services.