How to and Where to Drain an Outdoor Kitchen Sink [4 Ideas]

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where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink
Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? A bucket, dry well, lift-station, or sewer system

Figuring where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink comes up usually at the beginning of an outdoor kitchen design process. The sink is simply a feature everybody expects to get in this area and it cannot work without some sort of plumbing.

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? There are four basic ways plumbing can be created for an outdoor kitchen sink:

  • an under-sink bucket ,
  • a french drain (dry well),
  • a self-contained lift station,
  • connection to the sanitary system via the drain line.

Choosing a type of solution depends vastly on local code, a budget, and owners’ needs. A table with a comparison is listed below.

“Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink?” problem is common and choosing the best fix depends on multiple factors. Which way is going to work best for you? How much does it cost? How does it work in your area?

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink depending on difficulty, time spent, price and more

Outdoor sink drain options: a bucket (1), a french drain/ dry well (2), lift station (3), drain hooked into a sewer (4).

Figuring out a way of adding plumbing to an outdoor kitchen sink can be difficult. I created a table of contents that should help others in making an informed choice.

There are basically 4 types of plumbing for an outdoor kitchen sink: an under-counter bucket, dry well (very often called a french drain), self-contained lift station, and by drain hooked into a sewer/ septic system.

Type of plumbing Bucket French drain (dry well) Self-contained lift station Drain hooked into a sewer/ septic
What can be used in the sink?AnythingNo chemicals, no food chunks (rinsing only)AnythingAnything
Can be used in cold areas?YesYesYesrequires winterizing
Building codeMost often doesn’t applyAppliesMost often
doesn’t apply
Price 10$ 30$ 400$+ 750$+

To avoid throwing money down the drain it’s necessary to pick an option at the very beginning and stick to it. Changing from temporary option to drain connection is going to be much pricier later on than at the very beginning. So it’s worth to figure how much time and money should be spent on invisible to eye construction in relation to comfort.

The first thing to consider is your area building code. If you leave in desert or water-poor areas it can work to your advantage. Each time it is going to cut some choices and mage a decision easier.

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? A building code

Each time you wonder where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink it’s worth checking your area building codes. Building up to code may not seem too important while building, but it is going to be crucial when selling the house in the future. House is not going to pass an inspection if permits were required but not pulled. In other words, what now saves you some cash, may occur a big pain and money pit in the future.

Area codes are specific in each location. If your state is water-poor, or desert, your local law may actually encourage greywater recycling for irrigation. This means french drain can be a legal option for you. It’s especially worth checking in Arizona or Southern California.

Most often building codes require outdoor kitchen sinks to be hooked into a sewer or septic system. Unless you put a bucket or lift station under the sink and empty it to the sewer or septic system.

Even though getting a permit may elongate the outdoor kitchen construction process it shouldn’t be omitted. There are other things you can do to make construction last less.

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Option 1: A bucket

Outdoor kitchen drain option 1: A bucket
Outdoor sink drain options: A bucket

This is the simplest, quickest of four, and least expensive way to go for. It is not fancy but can work well for plenty of locations. What is pretty important – a bucket can be hidden in the cabinet, so you’ll be the only one who knows.

What is great about this solution is that it gives you a lot of freedom. With a bucket, you can use dish soap, rinse food, clean dishes, and so on. Sure you have to be careful not to overload the bucket, but if you take a big enough one it should be able to store a lot of greywaters.

It is also pretty cheap, as you do not have to perform any sort of plumbing. When your outdoor kitchen is satellite, so afar from the house, plumbing can be both: difficult and expensive. No plumbing means also no winterizing, which is important in colder states.

When it is not going to work well? If you have more appliances using water, like an ice maker or dishwasher a bucket may not do the trick. Also if you’re looking for a luxury experience a bucket is not going to bring one.

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Option 2: A french drain (dry well)

Outdoor sink drain french drain dry well
Outdoor sink drain options: A french drain (dry well)

If you do not fill like emptying the bucket and your local building code agrees to recycle greywater a dry well may be a solution for you. It’s often called a french drain, but a french drain is actually a different solution. French or trench drain is a corrugated tube that runs towards a low point, or the street curbs, guiding water away from a foundation. It is used for gutter downspouts.

A dry well has a different construction from a french drain. It’s basically a bucket with rocks buried under the ground. It filters the water from an outdoor kitchen sink. Construction is pretty easy.

How to you drain an outdoor kitchen sink? The most common way is to build a dry well (very often called a french drain). There are five steps to drain an outdoor kitchen sink with dry well:

  1. Dig a hole about 4 feet deep.
  2. Put a big bucket with holes drilled in the bottom.
  3. Fill the bucket with small rocks.
  4. Run the drain into the top of the bucket.
  5. Fill the bucket with dirt and put the grass back.

It is an excellent solution for satellite kitchens: easy to create, inexpensive, functional. It can serve even half a gallon of water a day, which means ice maker can be connected to it. Unfortunately not allowed in a lot of locations.

There are other disadvantages to it too. To be recycled with dry well water needs to be pretty pure. So no dishwasher, no food parts, just dirt from vegetables and hands. Otherwise, you are going to pollute your ground and get a smell from the food parts (as they’re going to rot in well).

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Option 3: A lift station

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Option 3: A lift station
Outdoor sink drain options: A lift station

This is an amazing solution that can be entirely hidden in the cabinet. There are also prefabs with this option. A lift station under an outdoor sink is an all-in-one solution. Under-sink you can find two canisters – one with the freshwater (very often 5 gallons) and one for greywater (6 gallons). Both of them can be refilled/ emptied as often as necessary. Lift station needs electricity to work, but it can also heat the water.

It is amazing really how they work. There is a pump that pumps up freshwater to the faucet and a heater which can heat it up prior to use. Wastewater runs into a greywater tank. Fresh and grey water tanks have a different connecting mechanism so cannot be mixed. Also, for more convenience, more than one tank of each can be delivered with the station. This way changing it up is even easier and faster.

This is not a complete solution for the drainage problem, but also any sort of plumbing. It is considered temporary, so can be used anywhere. The disadvantage here is filling up the freshwater and emptying the grey water tank. But there are plenty of advantages, like a water source, water heating(!), and the possibility to perform most of the actions as at an indoor kitchen. No limiting yourself with dishwashing here!

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Option 4: Drain hooked into a sewer/ septic

Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Option 4: Drain hooked into a sewer/ septic
Outdoor sink drain options: Drain hooked into a sewer/ septic

Regular plumbing even though it required most work, preparation, and budget, is most comfortable. It allows you to use an outdoor kitchen sink the same way as you use the indoor kitchen sink. This is an only option with garbage disposal option. If you’re going for luxurious experience this can be the best option for you.

Unfortunately, running plumbing in the backyard can be very often a challenge. If an outdoor kitchen sink is afar from the house it may be necessary to create a gravity system that uses a small pump station. All in all, it seems like a job for a professional plumber, ergo hefty budget. On the other hand, plumber can feed cold and hot water from the house, so it’s a pricier solution, but the most convenient one.

What has to be done prior to any job with utilities is getting proper permits. Not following rules may result in a demolition order. We’re talking about an installation made by a professional. Nobody would like a project like this get destroyed.

Connecting to the sewage/ sanitary system is very convenient. It has some disadvantages too. Especially for those who live in colder areas. In other words – it has to be winterized unless it is installed under freezing zone. Anyhow it wise to prepare outdoor kitchen area plumbing for winter with a proper solution. There are devices that allow you to shut off the water, like this one (a link to Superstop website).

There is one very important thing not to do regarding plumbing. There are plenty of opinions on the internet saying to drain to downspouts. Plenty of reasons not to do it. These are the basic two. Number 1: it is wrong for our planet. There is a reason it’s separated from the sewage system. Number 2: wait for your neighbors to tell on you and experience the consequences.

Where top drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Get creative with bee fountain

Where top drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Get creative with bee fountain
Where to drain an outdoor kitchen sink? Bee fountain

An outdoor sink is where the water is outside and it can be used for a better cause. As you know there is no life without bees, and there is less and less of them. If you want to do something green with your greywater a bee fountain might be a solution for you.

If you wonder what a bee fountain it is a place for bees to drink water. It is not difficult to create and doesn’t require a lot of work. They get hot in summer and very often have difficulty in finding water sources to drink from. Bee fountain is a huge upgrade from a saucer with water and is also safe for bees, as they’re not going to drown in it.

What is massively important in such a solution is using a sink only for rinsing. Any source of chemicals can kill them, so the water needs to be pretty pure.

If you wonder how you can share your water with bees and at the same time recycle it, check out this video.

You got to know all for drainage solutions for an outdoor kitchen sink (+ one extra). Which one is best for you? Please let me know in the comment section.

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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