Outdoor Kitchen Inspiration: Ideas for the Colder Climates

There is something so delightful about eating your food outside.  Why stop there?  Have you ever given much thought to bringing the whole kitchen experience outdoors?  You may remember we talked about how you can create a dynamic outdoor space, but an outdoor kitchen may be just what you need to live a more relaxed life outdoors.

If you live in a colder part of the country, you may have thought a grill was as close as you were ever going to get to an outdoor kitchen, but not so!  While outdoor kitchens are certainly more common in some parts of the country like Arizona, New Mexico, and California, you can certainly have your own right here in Colorado!  Yes, Durango has plenty of freezes and snow, but we also enjoy very desirable weather from April through October. We don’t know about you, but the 60-80-degree weather is just about perfect weather for preparing a meal outside.  Much more suitable than 100+ degree weather!

Simple or Complete Outdoor Kitchen?

To start, you must first decide whether a simple or complete kitchen is right for you.  Your needs, desires, available space, and budget are some things to be considered when making this decision.  If there are space or budget limitations, a simple kitchen may be for you. A simple grill and counter top may be enough for you to prepare and enjoy a meal outside.  If you want to maximize your time outdoors, consider a complete outdoor kitchen.  This means a space for meal prep, cooking, and eating.  This will allow you to interact with your guests outside while you prepare food!

Some unique ideas for your kitchen might include:

Flower/Wine Sink

The bonus compartment in the sink can serve as a vase for flowers or can double as an ice bucket to keep adult beverages cold!

Wood-fired Oven

Wood-fired ovens aren’t just for pizza.  You can cook practically anything in one!  The high heat allows food to cook more quickly and if you live in Durango, you know this is a requirement of high-altitude cooking anyway.  The open flame is also a great addition to the atmosphere of your outdoor kitchen and serves as a great source of heat on those cooler nights.

Outdoor Bar

An outdoor bar complements an outdoor kitchen perfectly.  The countertop and bar stools are a great way to add seating.  Add in some open shelves and some cocktails and you are ready to play bartender!  If you’re really ambitious, you can repurpose your bar into an ice bar once the snow starts flying!

Fire Pit

This is not essential for an outdoor kitchen, but makes a great addition to an outdoor Kitchen – especially one in Colorado!  A fire pit allows you to spend more time outdoors in the Winter and provides a great centerpiece for your kitchen!  Plus, who doesn’t love sitting around a campfire after dinner?

Choose a Location

Now that you have an idea of what you’d like your outdoor kitchen to look like, think about best locations to put it!  With colder climates, you may choose an area that has more sun exposure in the Winter so it stays warmer and snow is less likely to pile up.  Think about your roof and where snow falls off.  Consider whether you must combat prevailing winds, overhead powerlines, and trees.  Do you have enough privacy?  Is the soil stable?  Are there low-hanging trees that pose a higher risk for fire?  Also, consider how smoke from your new grill may affect your neighbor.

Other considerations: If your outdoor kitchen does not include a fridge or sink, you may want to place it near your indoor kitchen to provide easy access to the refrigerator and sink while cooking.

Coverings

Though coverings are not necessary for your outdoor kitchen, they may extend your kitchen’s use and allow you to cook outdoors year-round!  If you don’t already have an extended roof line or a semi-enclosed space dedicated to your kitchen, here’s some inspiration for you.

Louvered Roofs

It is amazing the technology that is available to us these days.  Picture a roof with the ability to keep out rain and snow, but also the ability to open like shutters on sunny days.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Pergolas

We know what you’re thinking – how can a pergola be a good choice for an area that gets snow?  When built tough, pergolas can withstand a heavy snow load.  Pergolas are not only beautiful, but they are great for providing shade in the Summer and allowing in light during Winter.  If you plan on using your outdoor kitchen during snow season, a canvas or tarp can be a good seasonal solution to keep out rain or snow.  A corrugated fiberglass top is also an option when you’re looking for a solution that still lets the light in.

Best Materials for an Outdoor Kitchen

You may already have the perfect spot in mind for your outdoor kitchen, but materials for the kitchen itself are usually last on everyone’s list.  Here are some suggestions to help you decide.

Plumbing

Plumbing, probably the least exciting thing you can talk about when designing your outdoor kitchen, but it can be one of the most problematic!  If you want your outdoor kitchen to survive more than a year in Durango, be sure to use stainless steel, plastic, or solid copper.  If it does not fall into one of these categories, be sure it is approved for outdoor use.

Countertops

You may not have given much thought to countertops and their ability to hold up in weather, but it’s so important!  Living in the mountains, we experience huge temperature fluctuations.  We must prioritize function over fashion.  That means ensuring the proper thickness and using a material that will withstand freezes and thaws.  And temperature changes are not even the half of it!  Given the sheer expense of countertops, consider using a material the holds up to UV rays, doesn’t absorb stains and odors (bears!), and cleans up well.  Some suggestions would be granite, stainless steel, glazed-ceramic tile and stain-resistant stone.

Cabinets

Don’t let your cabinet material be an after-thought.  Most are a large investment and if not chosen carefully and super susceptible to the elements.  Best cabinets for an outdoor kitchen would be stainless steel, reclaimed lumber, bamboo, and even waterproof polymer.

If not built properly, an outdoor kitchen can deteriorate quickly!  Outdoor kitchens are an investment so don’t let it go up in smoke!  Talk to us – we would be happy to build you one that will last!

 

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Get to know Nick Lister at Buena Vista Builders!

Nick Lister is our new Assistant Project Manager and we couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce you to him! With a constant smile on his face and a positive attitude, Nick has been with Buena Vista Builders through thick and thin.

Nick overseeing contractors and construction – not thrilled with having his photo taken, though! 😉

He has been working for Bob since the summer of 2013. He started solely working for Buena Vista Builders in Spring of 2014. What Nick enjoys the most about his job is that the people really care about what they do and that the environment at Buena Vista Builders means he feels taken care of, too. The resident puppies at BVB (Pepper and Loki) adore him completely and make sure he gives them treats all the time.

Welcome to Buena Vista Builders, Todd!

We are so excited to announce Todd Sharp as our Project Manager!

Todd keepin’ busy hammer things.

Todd is a Durango native, but he currently resides in Oxford. He attended Fort Lewis College where he studied Anthropology. Before working for Bob and Mike, Todd was a “ski bum” and working seasonal jobs. He worked for Bob and Mike when they owned Brightwood Builders; then he framed for Mike for 20 years. What Todd enjoys the most about his job are the different trades and the great group of people he gets to work with and be around on a day-to-day basis.

What others are saying about Todd:

Ed Heinemann, Integrated Wallworks:  “You guys did a fantastic job in hiring Ole Todd, fantastic human being very personal and knows how to work with subs. I have known Todd for a quite a while. EXCELLENT CHOICE. Thank you.”

Tom & Mindy, Crimson Cliff Townhome Owner: “A brief note to say thank you for bringing prompt attention to our door issue.  Also, want to commend the addition of Todd to your team.  He is a real problem solver and very considerate in his undertakings.  Kudos!!”

We are so pleased to have him as lead “go to guy” for all of our ongoing custom home construction and custom commercial projects we have!

Off-Grid Essentials: What You Need to Unplug for your Custom Home

Durango is a charming town made up of a colorful and caring group people. Though there are a lot of things that make living within Durango a wonderful choice, many people may prefer the idea of moving beyond the buzz of our town and unplugging from the infrastructure of today. Building an off-grid home, or remodeling your current home to begin an off-grid life, is a rewarding process that will bring you the satisfaction and peace of mind that comes with knowing that your home is self-sufficient.

It can seem intimidating at first to begin planning all that is necessary to go off-grid. In truth, building a more conventional home requires the same considerations of building an off- grid home; the real difference lies in the solution to these considerations. Power, water, sewage, these are all things that must be addressed no matter what type of home you’re building. Where the approach to these questions in a conventional build is often to hook up to existing infrastructure, an off-grid home must find solutions in other ways. These options may even save you a bit of stress in the planning process if your location were to require an easement for access to power, water, or waste disposal.

Water

Water is a huge consideration when building or upgrading a home to be off-grid. Running out of water is not a situation that anyone wants to deal with, so securing a dependable source is imperative for any home. Most houses do not have access to a natural body of water on their property, and, in some cases, even those that do may not have the right to use that water. You will likely end up either drilling a well or installing a cistern to be the main water source of your home, both of which are standard systems for conventional houses as well as off-grid homes.

In 2016, a bill was passed into law that allowed for the legal collection of rainwater. This was wonderful news for off-grid homeowners as any additional source of water, especially one was easy to set up as rainwater collection, is wholly welcome. Rainwater should only be relied upon as an auxiliary source. One of the many reasons we love the Durango area is the abundance of sunny days every year. While this is surely not something anyone would wish away, it does mean that rainwater cannot be relied upon as a main supply of water.

Waste Disposal

Much like the options for off-grid water systems, the sewage systems that you will likely consider for your off-grid home are similar to or the same as those used in most conventional rural homes. Installing a septic system with a leach field will likely be the best option to choose for your home. In reality, there is only one other option available for sewage in an off-grid situation due to practicalities and established regulations. Installing a gray water tank to handle the waste water from showers and sinks (which can be reused as flush water) and a composting toilet that drains into a black water tank is a viable option that is a bit more hands on for the homeowner as the tanks need more frequent upkeep.

Energy

One of the first and main things you’ll need to consider, whether you’re building a new home or remodeling your current one, is where you’ll be getting your power from once you’re off-grid. Of course, there is always the option to forgo power altogether and embrace an older lifestyle, but most individuals and families are going to want power in their homes. Energy isn’t just for lights, it can be the source heating (air and water), refrigeration and cooking capabilities. Add in more modern amenities like computers, televisions, microwaves, washers and dryers and you’ll be needing a reliable source of energy to keep you going.

These days, solar panels have become so efficient and affordable that they have become the go-to option for those pursuing an off-grid lifestyle as well as those who are just looking to cut down on their electricity bill. Luckily, Durango is a sunny place to live so, as long as you have unobstructed southern exposure, solar power is a readily accessible resource that you can typically rely on.

While solar power is available to most, hydropower is an energy source that is only available to a lucky few. Not only must one have a natural source of running water accessible from their land, but they must be sure that whichever water source they rely upon will produce year-round energy that won’t run out in the depths of a dry summer or a particularly frigid winter. That being said, if you have that perfect combination don’t hesitate to utilize that resource.

Maybe your new location doesn’t have reliable year-round water or consistent sun exposure but instead, has on oft-overlooked energy source gusting by. Wind energy typically brings to mind images of gigantic industrial wind turbines churning away hundreds of feet in the air, but domestic wind turbines can be a great source of home energy in a much more compact size.

Many homes benefit from using a combination of natural energy sources. In the midst of a string of overcast days in which solar energy is lacking, wind power may be abundant and ease the worries of running out of energy; being set up to use complimentary systems can be advantageous. If you do choose to stick to one source of day-to-day energy, it may be best to prepare for the worst and have a backup generator to rely upon in emergency situations.

All energy systems that rely on collecting power from a natural resource will depend on a bank of batteries to store that energy. These home batteries have developed to high levels of efficiency and storage capacity, and the technology just keeps advancing. Whichever energy system you choose to rely upon, you’ll have a wide array of battery options to choose from to best fit your needs.

It’s worth looking into alternative methods for running systems that will reduce your dependence on electric power. Natural gas can be your source of refrigeration, cooking, and heat. Additionally, a wood burning stove can help keep you super cozy during those cold stretches.

Despite the great leaps in efficiency and capacity there still exist practical limits to what any off-grid system can handle. When relying on such systems it’s prudent to embrace a lifestyle of reduced demand. Being conscientious about the amount of water or energy you use day to day is nearly as important as the physical systems that provide you with those resources. This is not to suggest that you’d be living uncomfortably in an off-grid home. Little changes can add up quickly, such things as installing efficient appliances, designing your home to take advantage of passive solar energy, and any number of smaller thoughtful actions such as turning off all the lights as you leave a room will contribute to a comfortable, care-free and happy life in your off-grid home.

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