Creating the Outdoor Grill Island of Your Dreams on a Serious Budget

Do you remember when dining alfresco meant firing up the hibachi? Well, the backyard barbecue has gotten a lot less basic over the years.

In fact, in the rush to duplicate every indoor room out in the backyard, kitchens seem to form the cutting edge. Forget for a moment the rising popularity of outdoor living rooms, sleeping pavilions, and gazebos. Those add little to one’s gastronomic fulfillment.

But a well-planned outdoor grill island? That is something else entirely. Such an investment can transform a garden into a kind of island paradise. Here great friends gather to enjoy great flavors under a glorious canopy of sunshine or stars.

In the rush to duplicate every indoor room out in the backyard, kitchens seem to form the cutting edge.
In the rush to duplicate every indoor room out in the backyard, kitchens seem to form the cutting edge.

Planning Your Outdoor Grill Island

Budget-conscious homeowners might wince at the cost of bringing magazine-cover worthy grill galleys to their backyards. But a little clever planning can go a long way into cutting that cost down to a manageable size.

Here’s how you can take a standard off-the-shelf grill and adapt it to island life.

Create a smart budget.

First things first. Finding out if you can afford a new outdoor kitchen starts with creating a budget. Your calculations should determine how much you can afford to spend and all the expected costs of the project.

Tally the costs of all things you’d want to include in your outdoor grill kitchen. If your wish-list goes beyond what you can afford, go back and exclude some things you don’t really need, or can always add later.

Finding out if you can afford a new outdoor grill kitchen starts with creating a budget.
Finding out if you can afford a new outdoor grill kitchen starts with creating a budget.

Choose the right grill.

Of course, you’ll need a grill. Gas grills will cost the most, ranging upwards of $4,000 for a high-end model. Charcoal and propane grills are cheaper and just as reliable. If you get a charcoal grill you will spend around $3.50 every time that you use it. A propane grill will cost you much less at about 60 cents a pop.

Gas grills will cost the most, ranging upwards of $4,000 for a high-end model.
Gas grills will cost the most, ranging upwards of $4,000 for a high-end model.

Avoid the costliest expenses of all.

Certain aspects of your project are more likely to cost you more than others. This is where wise planning can save you a good deal of money. For instance, anything that requires a contractor or professional – such as plumbing or electrical work – is going to be expensive. You can avoid costly expenditures by simply designing your island grill so that it is close to your home and a water hose.

Anything that requires a contractor or professional - such as plumbing or electrical work - is going to be expensive.
Anything that requires a contractor or professional – such as plumbing or electrical work – is going to be expensive.

Use recycled materials if possible.

You can create pillars, cabinets, a walkway, or a back-splash using salvaged and recycled materials. In fact, you can build your entire grill island out of reclaimed pallets or other recycled materials. You can buy these cheap – sometimes even get them for free. Saving money on materials is an excellent way to create a unique style without breaking the bank.

You can create pillars, cabinets, a walkway, or a back-splash using salvaged and recycled materials.
(Photo source: 1001pallets.com)

Consider portable kitchen components.

If your budget is tight, portable appliances might offer the perfect solution. They are usually cheaper than built-in appliances, and you can move them with you wherever you go in the future. Starting your kitchen with portable appliances also allows you the option to upgrade as your budget allows.

If your budget is tight, portable appliances might offer the perfect solution.
If your budget is tight, portable appliances might offer the perfect solution.
(Photo source: preparedpage.com)

Why not go prefab?

Prefabricated outdoor grill islands are another money-saving option. They are made off-site and delivered to your backyard complete with the grill, appliances, storage, and counters. Prefab grill islands can save you 50 percent or more off the cost of a custom-built island, according to Cabin Life.

If the prefab islands on the market aren’t to your taste, you can always augment the kits with assemblies that reflect your style. For instance, you can add a wood or brick structure around the pre-made grill island to improve both functionality and aesthetics.

Prefabricated outdoor grill islands are another money-saving option.
Prefabricated outdoor grill islands are another money-saving option.
(Photo source: landscapingnetwork.com)

Dress your budget kitchen with high-end décor.

If you want to create the mood of an upscale outdoor grill island, a few tiki torches aren’t going to cut it. But you can dress up an outdoor grill island on a budget with just the right accessories and pieces. The trick lies in designing a layout that highlights the décor. Potted plants, window boxes, decorative statues, and waterfall elements can create a uniquely high-end look without draining your bank account.

You can decorate your outdoor grill island kitchen on a budget with just the right accessories and pieces.
You can decorate your outdoor grill island kitchen on a budget with just the right accessories and pieces.
(Photo: Khan Klatt/Flickr)

Setting Your Priorities

There are many ways to build a great outdoor grill island on a budget. As you consider your design options, remember the priorities. A place to cook first, then seating for everyone, followed by peripherals like extra appliances or even a fireplace.

Keep in mind that even though you may start small now, you’ll always be able to upgrade your outdoor grill island later.

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