Going All the Way
If you routinely entertain large groups, consider these elements when creating an elaborate outdoor kitchen now or adding components along the way: Storage cabinets. Many custom cabinet bases are made of masonry block and then finished with stucco or ceramic tile. Cabinets like these are rock-solid and weatherproof and fit in nicely with other landscape elements. The downside is cost. Modular lightweight-concrete cabinet systems are a lower-cost alternative. Patio Kitchens offers cabinet bases in dozens of sizes, and they can be built with cutouts for grills and other appliances - all for about 40 percent less then masonry construction. Sinks. Stainless-steel sinks are preferable here because they won't corrode. They start at about $100. Unless you plan on washing dishes outside, you'll only need a cold-water supply line. And in cold-weather areas, install a shutoff valve inside the house so you can drain the line for winter. Refrigerators. Undercounter units are popular for outdoor kitchens. They're out of sight, protected by the counter and handy for storage. U-Line makes models that include automatic ice makers and frost-free features. They range from $500 to $1,200. In colder areas, disconnect the refrigerator and store it inside during the winter. Cold-weather cooking. Even in frigid northern climates, you can extend the cooking season with a gas patio heater. Marketed by DCS and GE, these heaters look like 8-ft.-high light fixtures and produce a 20-ft. circle of heated air around the grill. Either portable or set in concrete, they include a number of settings. A 20-lb. liquid-propane tank, hidden in the heater base, can provide up to 10 hours of heat on the high setting. There are also models that can be hooked up to a natural-gas line. Both styles come in stainless steel, white, green or black, and start at $675. Power requirements. Electric, water and natural-gas lines usually are brought to the outdoor kitchen from the service in the house. Besides providing power for the kitchen lights and refrigerator, electric outlets should be included in plans for the cooking and dining areas. (Outdoor outlets require ground-fault circuit interrupters.) Check local codes for regulations on burying electric cable and gas lines. In many areas, the two must be buried in separate trenches, though some areas require only that the two be separated. Ask your building inspector to explain what's needed.
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