How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen on a Budget? [and save 3k+]

Reading this will take about: 14 minutes

It is possible to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget. Not only that! It can be fun and rewarding. What is crucial for the process is setting the budget first, planning, and cutting costs where it is possible and wanted.

To build an outdoor kitchen on the budget it is necessary to follow 4 steps:

  1. Choose next to the house location.
  2. Avoid adding utility lines, if possible.
  3. Build in the off-season.
  4. Cutting costs accordingly to the other 14 tips listed below.

An amount of money dedicated to the project is usually not the main issue. At the end of this post, I’ll share outdoor kitchen options for $1,000, $3,000, $5,000, and $10,000. But let’s start with 17 tips for reducing outdoor kitchen costs.

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? 17 Best Practices that reduce the budget

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? Best Practices

Building an outdoor kitchen on a budget can be a difficult task. An outdoor kitchen is a luxurious addition; therefore, its budget is usually pretty hefty. As Homeadvisor.com states, an average nationwide budget for an outdoor kitchen is $13,117. The typical range is $4,925 – $21 320. The truth is an outdoor kitchen can be built at any price, from a couple of hundred to $100,000.

The price depends on multiple factors, like size, location, finishes, covering, and appliances. The list below presents the best tips & tricks that allow cutting costs of an outdoor kitchen:

  1. Choose next to the house location.
  2. Avoid adding utility lines, if possible.
  3. Choose a type of structure that suits your budget best.
  4. Choose appliances that multitask.
  5. Choose a propane grill.
  6. Consider a permit free option.
  7. Look for a pre-loved outdoor kitchen.
  8. Save on sink installation.
  9. Omit sink and refrigerator in your design.
  10. Consider adding a cart on wheels instead of extending a countertop.
  11. Stucco and brick are affordable options for finishes.
  12. Outdoor rated ceramic tile is an affordable option for outdoor kitchen countertop.
  13. Consider an umbrella/ sail shade for covering.
  14. Hire a team from a less expensive area.
  15. Start building after/before grilling season.
  16. Consider DIY for the whole or part of the project.
  17. Use light fixtures that multitask.

Lets dive a bit deeper into each tip, starting from location.

Choose next to the house location

outdoor kitchen on a budget - next to house location
outdoor kitchen on a budget: location

Building an outdoor kitchen close to the house is significantly cheaper than the more distant one. The close to the house outdoor kitchen location also adds a tone of convenience. But let’s get back to money.

What can you save on? First of all, on covering. Next to the house, covering is already in place, and it can result in saving from $300 – $20,000, depending on what your covering choice would be. You can read more about the covered outdoor kitchen costs here.

Flooring is the second thing. Next to the house, it is usually already done. Elsewhere it can add significantly to the budget. For example, adding a 20×14 deck costs on average $4,200 – $9,800. Covering the same ground (240 sq ft) with concrete or brick pavers will cost $1,400 – $4,200. As you can see – if it is possible to build where the job is already done, it is totally worth it.

And these are not even all savings that can come with location. Utilities are usually already in place, so no extra job needs to be done by professionals. This means additional savings between $350 – $2,000.

That’s a lot of savings. And still not all! As an indoor kitchen is located pretty close, omitting a refrigerator and sink in an outdoor kitchen is optional. And that’s an additional $2,000 – $3,000.

Yep, location is crucial.

Avoid adding utility lines, if possible

Outdoor kitchen on a budget: utility lines

That is such important advice! Each time the design requires an additional job that a professional needs to do, it is a red light for your wallet. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the numbers.

Adding lines is going to take a substantial amount of money from your budget:

  • Plumbing costs on average $350 – $1,700
  • 20′ of new gas line costs on average $400
  • Electrical jobs usually take $450 – $750 from the budget

All of these can be really frustrating, as they can cost up to a couple of thousand dollars and are not visible, or increase the ROI of the project.

Choose a type of structure that suits your budget best

how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? select structure according to budget
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: structure

An outdoor kitchen can be built in so many ways! To make an informed choice, it is worth getting to know a bit more about available options.

TypePrice range
Movable$300 – $3,000
Prefab$2,000 – $30,000
Custom$3,000 – $50,000

As you can see, a structure affects the budget a lot, so the choice should be made with the budget in mind.

First of all, there is a prefab – so a structure made for you and delivered to your house ready to use. They look customs alike but are usually having typical shapes like an island, L-shaped, or a galley. Prefabs can be finished with different materials, including stone. This option requires permits like custom outdoor kitchens, as they usually are not movable.

Are there movable outdoor kitchens then? Yes, there are! These, perhaps, are not the most luxurious solution ever but can look decently and have plenty of advantages. Number 1 is no permits. These structures are movable, so they cannot be called permanent.

Second of all, they can be outside only when needed, so you do not permanently lose some area of your deck/patio. They can be winterized in the garage, so they are great for colder areas.

Custom outdoor kitchens can be whatever you want them to be. If the space you’re working with is untypical, custom may be the only way to go. A custom outdoor kitchen can have a unique look, shape, appliances, storage. The sky is the limit with this option. A great advantage is working with professionals who can address issues you’re not even aware of today.

Choose appliances that multitask

how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? choose appliances that multitask
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Appliances that multitask

Do you want to save some cash? Reducing the number of appliances is a way to go.
There are plenty of designs with 2 grill types, a pizza oven, two types of burners, a refrigerator, a kegerator, a wine refrigerator, warming drawers, marinating drawers, ice machines, and more. Yes, they add a lot to the area’s luxurious taste, but are they a must, or a nice-to-have rather?

A design with a lot of appliances results in a bigger construction and cost. You have to pay not only for the appliances but also for each linear foot of your outdoor kitchen construction and finishes. Making an outdoor kitchen 1 foot shorter is $300 – $600 in savings.

If you dream about Friday Pizza nights omitting a pizza oven might be a big pain for you. It is worth considering buying an add-on to a grill or a portable pizza oven in such a situation. It does not add to the outdoor kitchen theater so much but reduces costs a lot. This move can save you $1,000+.

A kegerator is a must for you? Buy one, put it in a smaller keg, and use it as a refrigerator too. This way, you can save up to $2,000.

Choose a propane grill

how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? choose a propane grill
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Propane grill

If a grill of your choice is gas, consider buying a propane-fueled one. Sure, it takes a little bit of convenience, as tanks have to be changed, resulting in savings during installation. Running gas lines requires both: a permit and a budget for a professional. It can add up to about $1,000 for a 20′ line. For a more distant outdoor kitchen, this cost is going to grow proportionally.

Consider a permit free option

how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? consider permit free option
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Permit-free option

Yep, there is one! If your outdoor kitchen is not permanent, for example, placed on wheels, it most likely does not require a permit. If you want to be 100% sure, you can ask your local HOA. As mentioned above, movable outdoor kitchens are, in general, a less expensive solution, but saving on permits is going to give you about $500 additional cash.

If you do need permits, though, do not save on them. Such a step can result even in the demolition order.

Look for pre-loved outdoor kitchen

how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? pre-used sets
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Look for pre-loved outdoor kitchen

Is it possible? Yes, it is! There are full units you can buy, but also specific appliances. This way, you can save more than 50% on new outdoor kitchen costs. This is the way to go with all the structure types. You can buy used movable and prefab outdoor kitchens as well as essentials for your custom build.

There are plenty of deals for barbecue islands on craigslist.org. An 8,3′ outdoor kitchen island with burner and Pro 3 brand grill can be as low as $1,000, and originally this set was $5,000! This obviously is not the only deal available there. It’s worth typing in phrases like “BBQ island” or “barbecue island” to get some numbers.

What is awesome about this option is the return on the investment. Adding an outdoor kitchen to your backyard increase the price of your property. When you reduce the costs of the project, you gain twice. First of all, you can invest less, and that is a big advantage. Second of all, the money you invested gives you, on average, 2 times higher return.

Save on sink installation

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? save on sink installation
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Save on sink installation

An outdoor kitchen sink makes cooking convenient, so having one in the structure is reasonable. It can be pretty expensive, though, because of the installation costs. Plenty of these can be reduced.

The most functional option is an outdoor kitchen sink connected to hot/cold water and sewage line. This option is really convenient but comes with a price for the installation. A sink itself costs on average about $300. Plumbing can add to this element up to $1,700. Sometimes cutting off the hot water line and adding under countertop heater may reduce 20% of the cost and give instant hot water outside the house.

This is not the only way to save on the sink. Other options are a self-contained lift station ($400), a dry well ($30), and a simple bucket under the sink ($10). I wrote more about the outdoor kitchen sinks option and construction here.

Omit sink and refrigerator in your design

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? Omit sink and fridge
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Omit sink and refrigerator

If you decide your outdoor kitchen will be placed close to the house, you can omit a refrigerator and sink in your outdoor kitchen. This is the way to not save on appliances $2,000 + and install up to $1,000.

Sure an outdoor kitchen with a refrigerator and sink is more functional, but what is essential in this area is a grill with countertop space.

Consider adding a cart on wheels instead of extending a countertop

Outdoor kitchen on a budget: A cart on the wheels

Each foot of an outdoor kitchen costs $300 – $600. This means if you need 6′ more, the price is $1,800 – $3,600. The same space you can buy with an outdoor kitchen cart for $200. So buying the cart can result in $1,600 – $3,400 in savings.

Price is not the only advantage of this solution. The second is you can stop carrying the stuff around from your indoor kitchen and start rolling. The third is while not used cart can be stored in your garage and do not take precious space on your patio. In fact, you may fell in love with it so much you’ll use it indoors too.

Outdoor kitchen carts can be equipped with drawers, trays, buckets, bins, and shelves and double-duty as a bar station.

Stucco is an affordable finish

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? Stucco and brick are affordable options for finishes
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Stucco is an affordable finish

The best outdoor kitchen finishes correspond well with the house exterior. Stucco usually blends well and is also a very affordable option. It costs $3 – $6 per sq ft and is 10 times cheaper than stone!

What is amazing about stucco is the variety of colors and textures available. This is a thing to consider, for sure.

Outdoor rated ceramic tile is an affordable option for outdoor kitchen countertop

Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Outdoor rated ceramic tile

Yes, stone countertops look amazing. They add a lot to space and can be used for decades, especially granite and quartzite. There are multiple things to remember while picking stone countertops, as even the best materials have worse slabs. I collected a lot of advice here.

Stone is an amazing material, but it comes with a price—a big one. A granite is $45+ per sq ft. An outdoor-rated ceramic tile is $10+ per sq ft. Going with tile is going to save you 75% of outdoor kitchen countertop costs.

There are basically 3 sizes of outdoor kitchens: small, medium, and large.

SmallMediumLarge
Countertop frontage36″72″156″
Countertop depth30″30″30″
Tile price$75$150$325
Stone price$337,5$675$1462,5

As you can see, you can save $263 on a small outdoor kitchen, $525 on a medium, and $1,138 on a large one. In other words, the more space you have to cover, the more money you can save.

Consider an umbrella/ sail shade for covering

outdoor kitchen on a budget covering
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Covering

Covering an outdoor kitchen is usually an expensive subject. The three most common coverings are pergola, gazebo, and roof over the patio. A pergola costs about $300 – $15,000, a gazebo is $300 – $20,000, adding a roof is $7,000 – $11,000. How about the solution that is not permanent, looks good, provides shade, and is affordable?

If you do not feel like spending a fortune, going with an umbrella or sail shade can be perfect for you. These solutions will last for up to 5 years and will cost under $500, so 18 times less than an average permanent covering.

Hire a team from a less expensive area

Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Team from a less expensive area

Homeadvisor.com advises the quote for a general contractor is $1,500 – $6,000. As you can see, this is a significant part of the budget. Therefore reducing this part of a budget is worth a fuss.

The first step here is checking prices in your area and neighboring ones. Commonly, prices are higher in bigger cities and fancier neighborhoods. Savings can reach about 10% here, or even more if you’re a good researcher or lucky.

Start building after/before the grilling season

Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Building after/before the grilling season

Looking for a contractor in the grilling season is both: difficult and expensive. To negotiate and lower labor quote, start your project when contractors do not have too much to do. It is possible to reduce the price by 5% – 10%, which will save you at least a couple of hundreds of bucks.

Starting the project in Autumn or Winter is going to be also easier and faster. This is an underestimated but worth taking into consideration point.

Consider DIY for the whole or part of the project

Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Consider DIY

And while we’re at labor costs – how about DIY? This is actually a way to get an amazing result for a minimal budget. If you’re busy, maybe even a small part of the work can be done by yourself? How about looking for appliances on deals after the grilling season? You can probably do something even if you do not have the skill to build it all.

In my opinion, what helps most with DIY are tutorials on Youtube.com. Creators show you the process step-by-step and give exact quotes for materials they used and very often link to them.

Use light fixtures that multitask

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? Use light fixtures that multitask
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: Light fixtures that multitask

To lower outdoor kitchen lighting costs, it is necessary to limit the number of fixtures. There are three reasons for that. The first is obvious – the more fixtures you buy, the more you have to spend on them. Second more light fixtures may result in a need for another electrical cycle. The third thing is somebody must assemble fixtures, and somebody else has to pay for this work.

So if you want to limit an outdoor kitchen lighting budget, it is an excellent idea to buy fixtures that double-duty. What I find the most useful for an outdoor kitchen is the fan with a light fixture. It gives an ambient light, but at the same time keeps bugs away. Lovely combination, isn’t it? This way, you can save up to $500.

Usually, there are three types of light in an outdoor kitchen: ambient, task, and accent. There are plenty of fixtures that can do more than one type for you. I listed them here.

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? Things not to save on.

how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? what not to save on
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: What not to save on

At this moment, it is important, in my opinion, to say that there are things that cannot be saved on, as safety, permits, and building up to code.

Safety can actually be budget-consuming. If your outdoor kitchen is made out of combustible materials, it is important to add an insulation jacket where the grill will be located. If your grill is next to the house and under the roof, it may be necessary to add a vent hood there (as in the grill instruction). Anyone who had a fire in the backyard will recommend you have a class K fire extinguisher or fire blanket.

Why are permits and building up-to-code so important? There are plenty of reasons, to be honest. First of all, somebody can report you. Stranger, neighbor, a guest. Second of all, if you plan to sell your house at any point in life, this will be an issue that may result even in an outdoor kitchen demolition order. Basically, anything that will happen at this time is going to be more expensive than what you do now.

Saving on the quality of materials can be short-sighted too. For example, stainless steel that is going to work outside should be 304-grade. Cheaper ones may start to corrode even after 2 years.

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? Step-by-step instruction

how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget? choose a propane grill
Outdoor kitchen on a budget: an instruction

You know now where you can save some cash, but how about learning how to manage the whole process so you have control and budget for extra expenses?

It is good to follow these steps:

  1. Set the budget at the very beginning
  2. Take 10-20% of it for unexpected expenses
  3. Design the area for 80-90% of the original budget
  4. Make each decision with a budget in mind

If you want to treat an outdoor kitchen construction as an occasion to increase your property value, go to this post to learn more. If not, just think about how much you want to spend, take 10-20% of it, and work only with 80-90% or the original quote, so you can finish without increasing the budget.

It is crucial to keep the budget in mind all the time, even while exploring Pinterest for inspiration. It is a fantastic process, and I wouldn’t give it up (feel welcome to visit my Pinterest boards). While this research can be a crucial activity in designing a memorable space, it needs to be down-to-earth simultaneously. An example? There is no sense in researching teak countertops for a kitchen under $1000.

You still don’t know how much you want to, and have to spend? How about preparing must-haves and nice-to-haves lists?

A list of outdoor kitchen must-haves and nice-to-haves

A list of must-haves consists of everything crucial for you in an outdoor kitchen area. If you do not know yet what to put on it, check the essentials list. Some help here can be list home buyers are looking for in an outdoor kitchen:

  • grill,
  • refrigerator,
  • sink,
  • storage,
  • countertop space.

The second thing is preparing a list of nice-to-haves. This is a place for extras, but it’s good to keep to reality here as well. If you dream about Friday Pizza Nights, add a pizza oven. If you wish to prepare drinks, a bar station is an option. Want to organize sports evenings – add a TV and sound system. Below you’ll find the list of nice-to-haves, that can help you:

  • pizza oven,
  • side burner,
  • power burner,
  • griddle,
  • additional grill/ smoker,
  • hot/ cold water sink,
  • wine refrigerator,
  • kegerator,
  • vent hood,
  • warming drawers,
  • marinating drawers,
  • outdoor TV,
  • outdoor sound system,
  • outdoor kitchen bar,
  • dining area,
  • covering.

In your nice-to-haves, you can also add specific finishes, covering, outdoor furniture, specific light fixtures, a fan with mist, and so on. You have things you want to have today and some that may be installed later on on this list. They can be reduced if the budget is not suitable or the space is limited. It wouldn’t be a dream scenario, but you’re ok with it.

How to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget?Proper size of an outdoor kitchen

If you know your must-have list, you know the size of your outdoor kitchen! Just look below:

BasicMediumLarge
Length10′16′20’+
Appliancesgrill, burner, sink, storagegrill, burner, sink, storage, refrigeratorgrill, burner, sink, storage, refrigerator +
Price$1,000 – $6,000$4,000 – $15,000$15,000+

Now it is time to work with the table. Is what you want in your budget range? If not, are you willing to DIY? Can you cut costs with the tips above? I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

If there is a tip that helped you or one you want to share with others, please live it in the comments section. Let’s help other people save money!

Magdalena Dutkiewicz

I like looking for solutions that lead to specific plans. Of course, looking for inspiration for outdoor kitchens is something I really enjoy too. But translating it into an action plan is something that pushes me to act.

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