Amenities bring many of the comforts of the indoors into the beauty and spaciousness of the outdoors. Which ones you choose depend on how you want to use the space.
Outdoor cooking areas get the heat out of the kitchen and allow the cook to enjoy more time with the guests. An outdoor kitchen with a propane grill and cabinetry will be nearly as easy to use as the one indoors. With a working sink outdoors, you can cook entire meals without dashing in and out of the house.
Outdoor lighting adds decorative beauty as well as extra hours to the enjoyment of a deck. Easily installed low-voltage systems can provide just the right mood. A fireplace warms up an interior room and becomes a cozy focal point for family gatherings and guests. Firelight outside has the same effect, and you can install a fireplace, chiminea, or fire pit easily—especially if you plan the installation from the start. fust off the deck, a small pool with a fountain adds charm. So will a container fountain, which you can pick up at your local home center or from an Internet outlet. Research a water feature first, however, to find plants and fish suitable to your climate—species that require a minimum of maintenance.
If your plans include any of these amenities but your budget doesn’t, plan for them now and add them later. At a minimum, you’ll probably want outdoor electrical receptacles and running water.
Planning for Amenities
Many outdoor amenities require plumbing, electrical, or natural gas lines. You should include all of them in your plans before you start building your outdoor living space.
For example, a spa requires running water and a drainpipe. Spas, ponds, fountains, and waterfall pumps require electrical outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Lighting systems require electrical lines. A permanent natural gas line for a gas grill might be preferable to a propane tank. An exterior phone jack is useful for households that don’t want to go portable. If outdoor activities include watching TV, you’ll need an electrical outlet and perhaps an exterior cable connection.
Utilities are best run underground to the site—both for safety and to avoid visual clutter. Plot the utility run so that it does not interfere with anything else in the area. Rough in the systems after excavation but before you lay any of the foundation.
Everyone knows how much better food tastes when it’s cooked and served outdoors. Incorporating an outdoor kitchen in your deck plans requires only a little creativity and perhaps some minor modifications to make the space easy to use, efficient, and pleasurable. You can equip the space with facilities ranging from a plain charcoal grill to a fancy gas range, and complete the kitchen with a sink.
Because a movable grill—gas or charcoal— will fit just about anywhere, you might think it doesn’t make much difference where you put it. But any grill will be most utilized if you plan its location wisely. Find the safest spot. Convenience is important, but safety is more important. Locate a portable grill so flammable surfaces aren’t at risk. Construct a built-in grill with fire-prevention methods that conform to your local building codes.
Whether portable or built-in, locate grills out of access routes and views. Take care that they don’t pose other safety issues; you don’t want anyone to get smoked out. Consider installing a small overhead shelter—with a vent—above the cooking area, or locate the grill under overhanging eaves. This way you can continue grilling if it starts to rain. And if your unit is portable and you don’t have room to store it separately, you’ll need a waterproof cover when it’s not in use.
Your outdoor kitchen should include enough room for preparing and serving food as well as a place for utensils. If you’re adding a portable grill to your plans but lack space for full-blown serving areas, you can keep cooking items handy but out of sight by tucking them inside a potting bench or other cabinet or behind a screen. Large potted plants do a good job of hiding a grill, too. Set them on platforms with casters so you can easily roll them out of the way.
Permanent fixtures, such as outdoor cooktops, ovens, and refrigerators, offer a host of options that will turn your deck into a summer kitchen. You’ll find compact cooktop-only units as well as combination units with a built-in rotisserie, grill, or griddle that fit into a relatively small space.
Look for outdoor-grade equipment that’s made to meet building codes and withstand all weather conditions.
Choose from cooktops fueled by wood or charcoal, electricity, or natural gas. Have electrical or gas lines installed before setting up the unit.
Even weather-resistant outdoor appliances need shelter, and waterproof countertops such as those made of marble, metal, or tile will prove to be an investment that gives you plenty of elbow room for preparing meals. Ask your contractor to help you calculate the expense of building the countertop large enough to form a 15- to 18-inch overhang opposite the cooking area—for a bar or buffet. Waterproof cabinets prove useful, too. So will storage made for a kitchen-size garbage can. Close cabinets with screen door hooks or a sliding bolt to keep critters out.