Do I Really Need a Sink in My Outdoor Kitchen?
During the planning stage for your outdoor kitchen, you’ve probably given some thought to whether your not your really need or want an outdoor kitchen sink in your set up. We all go through that calculation at some point with every appliance in our kitchen designs. We would love to have it all – but is an outdoor kitchen sink worth the time, effort and money?
The whole purpose of building an outdoor kitchen is to not just add convenience, but to get the whole cooking and entertaining process out of the house and your friends and guests outside. Technically, a kitchen is not complete without a sink, indoors or out. If your goal is to both prep and entertain outside, then an outdoor kitchen sink is worth it.
But, cooking and entertaining styles vary by individual cook or grill master. There are other considerations to take into account when you are contemplating including an outdoor sink in your kitchen design.
How much cooking are you doing outside?
If you are the type that throws a few steaks or burgers on the grill but do the rest of the meal prep indoors where you will be enjoying your feast with your family or guests, then an outdoor sink is probably not worth it for your style of entertaining.
You are not alone, this includes a lot of the outdoor grilling public. They just don’t use their outdoor spaces enough to justify a significant investment in outdoor plumbing for the minimal time spent in their outdoor cooking space. In some parts of the country, there just aren’t enough good weather days to entertain outside comfortably, covered patio with heaters or not.
However, the recent pandemic has made people cautious about inviting guests into their homes for hours of entertaining. When and if the weather permits, open air cooking, outdoor dining, and entertaining is probably a safer choice for cautious hosts and guests. We will probably see more and more people opting for outdoor kitchens to keep social contact outdoors.
Entertaining and preparing meals outside is difficult without a sink nearby. If your intention is to do more outdoor entertaining in the future, no matter what the reason, you will find a sink indispensable.
Is an outdoor sink worth it for convenience?
The location of the outdoor kitchen and its sink determines how convenient the sink will be for outdoor entertaining on a patio, a deck, or in the yard.
If the only use for the outdoor sink is for washing vegetables and hand washing, and the outdoor kitchen is located very near to the indoor kitchen, then installing an outdoor sink may not be worth the expense.
The farther away the outdoor kitchen is from the door to the indoor kitchen, the more convenient an outdoor sink is. Imagine how time consuming and irritating it might be to walk halfway around the house every time you needed to fill a pot with water or to wash a grill spatula that accidentally fell on the ground. If that’s where your closest access to your indoor kitchen is, that is the situation you face.
Even further away, as in the case with an outdoor kitchen that is located beyond your backyard pool or in a remote corner of your backyard, you will quickly tire of the trip back and forth to your indoor kitchen.
Avid gardeners with a potting station or potting bench may prefer to wash up outdoors in which case the proximity of the outdoor sink to the indoor kitchen is not relevant. Washing dirty hands and flower pots and the accompanying messy cleanup is best done outdoors and an outdoor kitchen sink is definitely preferable, even if it is just cold water, to bringing that kind of mud and grime indoors.
Outdoor Kitchen Sinks – Are they worth the cost?
Fully plumbing an outdoor kitchen sink is not an inconsequential expense. Although there are several ways to get a water supply and a drain system for an outdoor sink less expensively than a fully plumbed one (see the linked article for particulars), you must plan for a sink early in your design process. This means cutting into your existing patio slab, if you have one, or trenching from the house supply water lines and sewer lines to the location of your future outdoor kitchen.
You will need a building permit in most locales to tap into these home systems which is an added cost. The cost of plumbing supplies, building materials and labor should be added into the cost of the sink and faucet. And don’t forget about an on-demand hot water heater which is necessary if you aren’t tapping into the hot water supply lines in your house. Hot water is necessary to safely clean pots, trays and dishes.
When thinking about the cost of an outdoor sink, think also about how many times the door to the house will be opened going in and out for a drink of water or to fill a measuring cup. That lost air conditioning every time the door opens will end up costing you in higher energy bills.
All that aside, when we polled a group of die-hard backyard barbecuers, each of whom had a good amount of money invested in their outdoor kitchen set ups, the number one regret they had was that they didn’t include a sink in their outdoor kitchen plans.
How often do you need to use an outdoor sink to make it worthwhile?
Some outdoor chefs use their sink several times a day just to wash their hands. Touch the raw meat, wash hands. Touch a face, wash hands. Touch logs, wash hands. Drop a tool, wash hands and tongs. You can see how the number of times you would use an outdoor kitchen sink might add up during the course of preparing just one meal.
If you have a grill and a pizza oven, you can imagine how often you need to wash your hands, let alone equipment. Tending a fire and working with pizza dough are messy and incompatible. Who wants fire soot or grease ruining pizza dough? Even if you don’t use your outdoor kitchen weekly, the type of cooking you do may lead you to want, and need, an outdoor sink.
Another consideration is that most outdoor chefs just don’t want to take the dirty stuff indoors to clean. There will be less clean up indoors if soiled tools and cookware are washed outside. An outdoor sink also helps keep the house tidier. No one wants to clean two kitchens after every cooking session.
Is an outdoor sink worth it in terms of maintenance?
All outdoor appliances, including sinks, require maintenance regardless of what they are made of. Even stainless steel sinks, as popular as they are currently, will require cleaning after a cooking session and an occasional polishing to keep them looking their best.
The extra time it takes to keep your outdoor kitchen sink clean and sanitary will not add much time or effort to your overall outdoor kitchen maintenance timetable. It just needs to be done to maintain a sanitary and attractive environment for cooking activities.
Should You Plan for an Outdoor Sink?
At the very least, if you think you will need an outdoor sink in the future, prepare a waste line during construction which ties into your drainage system just in case. This is one of the hardest things to do after an outdoor kitchen has already been built.
Space is always an issue in kitchen design. A sink may take up too much counter space that you don’t have. In that case, it’s a tradeoff.
It’s never too soon to think about resale. If an outdoor sink in your outdoor kitchen or a bar sink is customary in your neighborhood, then you might want to install one just for resale value. Outdoor kitchens are a home improvement with a good return on investment if they are done well.