Outdoor kitchens offer entertaining options

Scott JacksonComment

Bob Roth had your basic Weber grill on a small patio in his Allendale backyard.

He wanted more.

Ted and Bonnie Ufferflige of Wyckoff "wanted a life outside in their new home so they installed a grill area with granite counter tops.

The Ufferfliges also installed a fire pit.

Now he's got a 10-foot-long barbecue island with a built-in grill and a built-in pizza oven, surrounded by granite counter tops and stone veneer on the sides of the island.

"We thought the pizza oven would be kind of a novelty item," said Roth, 67, a retired IT executive. "A lot of people who come over have pizza with us, and we make it together. We just wanted to expand the outdoor life and have some fun."

For homeowners like Roth looking to install outdoor kitchens, a diversity of appliances, including such items as woks, kegerators, sear burners and smokers, are making cooking outside more interesting, not only for entertaining but also for extending the grilling season year-round. And homeowners can go from basic to BIG and everywhere in between in designing a space that can be multi functional and an inviting extension of the home's interior.

The average cost for an outdoor kitchen, including appliances and landscape design, could range from $12,000 to $40,000, but could go up to $100,000, depending on how elaborate the design is, according to Tim Fox, a landscape designer with Horizon Landscape Co. in Wyckoff, which designs and builds outdoor spaces, fire pits and outdoor kitchens, like Roth's.

And an outdoor kitchen could add to your home's value: A study by the real estate website Zillow found that homes mentioning "outdoor kitchens" sold for 3.7 percent more and 19 days faster than expected.

Before the recession, outdoor kitchens were booming, said Debra Oberg, chief financial officer of the Oberg & Lindquist appliance store in Westwood.

"People were remodeling their kitchen and would have no hesitation about putting a kitchen outside," she said. She's seen a resurgence over the last year and a half.

"Everyone wants that ability to hang out in the backyard again," said Oberg.

"Outdoor kitchens are really becoming a way to create gathering spaces and really the central living area," Fox said.

"What we are seeing is [people] are incorporating [outdoor kitchens] more as a main focal point of the property where a pool might have been in the past," Fox said.

Planning is paramount

As in most home improvements and renovations, planning is key.

"You're going to be living with this thing for a long time, and you want to plan it in a way and site it so you have years and years of enjoying it," said Joseph Tuttle, senior landscape designer with Borst Landscape and Design in Allendale, which typically installs outdoor kitchens as part of a larger landscape project.

The sky's the limit when it comes to cost and what you want in your kitchen, Fox said. The company once designed a prospective outdoor kitchen for a professional chef in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, with "all the bells and whistles," Fox said. The proposal included a grill, a smoker and a specialty wood-fired grill typically found in Argentina.

The outdoor kitchen starts with the grill, and the range of options — and prices — keeps growing.

High-end, commercial-style grills are being made for residential use so they can be built into granite or concrete, Oberg said.

High-end manufacturer Wolf produces grills at just under $5,000 to over $8,000, while gourmet grill maker Kalamazoo offers a 51-inch-wide, four-burner hybrid fire grill for just under $20,000.

Another higher-end option, the American Muscle grill, priced at $5,500, has dual fuel sources and can cook with wood, charcoal as well as gas, said Jillian Evertz, owner of Eastern Outdoor Furnishings in Totowa, which has a retail location, BBQs and More, in Paramus.

One specialty grill that has its own set of admirers is the Big Green Egg, a ceramic charcoal grill and smoker, which offers a different way of cooking. The Egg uses charcoal, and is an extremely efficient way to cook, taking little energy to get to the proper temperature and maintaining it for hours, according to Tom Vielbig, owner of Backyard Living in Ridgewood.

The Egg comes in various sizes with a range of optional accessories. Most people buy the large size with accessories, which can costs about $1,100, Vielbig said.

Ted Ufferflige installed his outdoor kitchen and a fire pit after he moved into his newly constructed Wyckoff home.

Coming from New York City, "we wanted a life outside," said Ufferflige, 47, a client portfolio manager for J.P. Morgan Asset Management. "Outdoor barbecuing was something we certainly wanted to do."

The grill area has bar seating around it and granite countertops. Ufferflige also opted for a smoker with the grill. A fire pit sits next to the grill and has already been used to make s'mores. The family left space for a refrigerator, which he and his wife Bonnie hope to put in when they install a pool after their two young children get a little older.

"We just wanted the ability to sit outside and enjoy a nice evening," Ufferflige said. "And it certainly makes it easier to entertain."

Consider the extras

Once you decide on the size of the grill, then there are the components: additional burners to cook other foods on the side, or warming drawers.

Extras such as side burners can average several hundred dollars to over $1,000. Then there are sear burners if you want to, say, sear a steak over high heat, rotisseries or smokers.

To go along with the grill components, you can add a sink, refrigerator, ice chest, beverage center or a kegerator, to keep your keg cool and ready to tap.

"It's all over the map," Tuttle said.

"I've done simple outdoor kitchens with appliances that ran $15,000 to $17,000, on up to $60,000 for a really, really large kitchen with granite counter tops, wok, ice maker, sink, refrigerator, kegerator, utensil drawers, pull-out trash and a raised counter bar," he said of a project for an Upper Saddle River home.

Full outdoor kitchens including a Wolf grill, side burners, warming drawers and refrigerator can cost about $15,000 to $20,000 for the appliances alone, Oberg said, while a more modest budget of about $3,500 can accommodate a free-standing Weber grill with a warming drawer and small refrigerator. A built-in basic quality grill with warming drawer and refrigerator would average about $5,500.

Evertz said she's seen a growing interest this year in pizza ovens. "They are a great addition and give the customer the option to incorporate something different and versatile to their outdoor living space," she said.

Her company installs outdoor kitchens on its own, and also works with landscapers and contractors.

The work can include a grill on a cart ranging from $3,000, up to projects in the $50,000-plus range, including the appliances and landscaping design, Evertz said.

Adding curves to a kitchen design increases price, as does adding granite and stonework, she said.

"Smokers are huge," Evertz said. One top-of-the-line grill by maker Memphis looks like a typical stainless steel grill, but has a removable insert to allow for smoking or searing, and runs between $5,000 and $6,000.

Another fun item, she said is a teppanyaki — an additional grill component that features a flat grilling surface for stir fry, or breakfast items such as eggs.

Outdoor TVs are increasing options, and "we're just starting to get into outdoor speakers and sound systems," Fox said.

Homeowners are also adding roof structures so the kitchens can be used year-round, installing heaters or fans in the ceilings, he said.

Get permits

Homeowners should keep in mind that local town permits are required if they are doing electrical or plumbing work, or extending a gas line.

Experts recommend covering all the stainless steel, and winterizing sinks and ice makers so lines don't freeze.

For Roth, the winter maintenance for his outdoor kitchen is a cover for the entire island, which he uses year-round.

He and his wife, Barbara, "spend a lot more time outside and entertain outside more than we used to," Roth said.

Bottom line: An outdoor kitchen keeps it clean in the kitchen, Oberg said. "When it's summer, everyone wants to be outside."

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