Let’s Eat Out

Why Outdoor Kitchens Are the Latest Home Improvement Craze

Article by Kelsey Huber

Photography by Thomas Hall/Eagle Aerial Solutions

Originally published in Topeka City Lifestyle

Outdoor kitchens are one of the hottest home additions and it’s no wonder. Not only do they expand your living space, they add value to your home. They create the perfect place to entertain family and friends and can be used three out of the four seasons here in the Midwest. Hands down, homeowners are choosing outdoor kitchens as their next big home investment. 

Chris Cazier, owner of Modern Masonry, a Topeka stone and masonry residential construction company, knows a thing or two about outdoor kitchens. He has been building outdoor spaces for two decades and estimates that he’s built a couple hundred outdoor kitchens in recent years in and around the Topeka area. 

Cazier says the pandemic was largely responsible for the recent surge in popularity. “Outdoor kitchens have been popular since the 90s,” he said. “But COVID really increased the demand. I think people were stuck at home and they got tired of being inside all the time. It really made them reassess their homes and what they wanted to get out of them. Outdoor kitchens were the perfect solution to expand their living area, create additional entertainment space, and get outdoors more.”

Another nice thing about outdoor kitchens is that you can design them to fit your budget. “We’ve built outdoor kitchens from $7,000 - $50,000,” Cazier said. “It all depends on what features you want and what you want to spend.” The most popular features include grills/smokers, pizza ovens, sinks, bars, built-in seating, cabinets, and refrigerators. You can also add covers, lounging areas, dining tables, and outdoor lighting to create a space that is both functional and beautiful both day and night, rain or shine.

Homeowners can choose from a wide range of materials and styles, including natural stone, concrete, stainless steel, and more. Cazier recommends using real stone because it will last the longest. “We do man-made stone, but real stone lasts the longest. It’s already outlasted us a million times over,” he laughed. He also recommends using Native Stone Co. because it has acclimated to Kansas weather with the hot summers and harsh winters and will stand up to the environmental stresses.

There’s a lot that goes into designing an outdoor kitchen. Cazier said many of the same rules that apply to indoor kitchen design apply to outdoor kitchens. “You have to take into account prep space, traffic flow, electrical outlet placement, even where the sun will be during the day.” Cazier said after designing so many outdoor spaces, he has learned how to make the most of customers’ backyards. “It’s important to understand what they want to achieve with their space and how they plan to use it,” he said. “Design can make all the difference.”

Many factors will determine the cost of an outdoor kitchen, including the size, the complexity and scale of the design, products and materials used, permit costs, utility costs to hook up natural gas, water, and electricity and whether the area will be covered or not. The good news is that all of those factors are negotiable, so knowing your budget is the first step. “It comes down to budget and features,” Cazier said. “If they have an idea of what they want, how they want to use their space, and what kind of budget they’re working with, we can come up with a plan and show them their options.” 

Outdoor kitchens not only enhance the beauty of your home, but they offer great return-on-investment as well. ROI estimates vary widely, but range from 50% to 200%. While ROI is definitely a bonus, the amount of enjoyment the homeowners get from their outdoor space may be the more important measuring stick to use. “I know how much I enjoy being outdoors in the fresh air spending time with family and friends,” Cazier shared. “It has made a huge difference in my life. My favorite things to build are outdoor kitchens and pool houses because I know firsthand how much fun families have when they use them.” 

For more information, visit modernmasonryllc.com or call Chris Cazier at (785) 845-6068.

Visit CityLifestyle.com/Topeka to view additional photos from this article.

“I look at outdoor spaces as an investment not only in your home, but your family as well. We’ve spent countless hours outside eating, entertaining, and enjoying our friends and family.”

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