Gone are the days of the lowly hot dog atop a charcoal grill as the only source for outdoor culinary experiences. The introduction of the outdoor kitchen has revolutionized the way food is experienced in our backyards. Setups are often unique but many include a combination of a gas grill, sink and refrigerator.

Gavin Mandt a local contractor who builds outdoor kitchens among other things, said the additional outdoor living space is popular in Grayson County right now.

“People love them,” Mandt said. It’s the ability to enjoy backyard living. It’s beautiful weather right now. Definitely s time is the popular time through later on towards summer and then things die off in the fall before winter comes.”

A new trend sweeping the area is the addition of an outdoor fireplace to the setup. Mandt explained the addition of a fireplace allows homeowners to enjoy the space year round.

“I would say the main thing that people love right now are outdoor fireplaces with a chimney and everything,” Mandt said. “You get to winter time and now they like to hang outside around the fireplace.”

Broker for Sandalwood Properties Lynne Garrett said her clients enjoy the additional living space in all seasons.

“They use them a lot for family get-togethers and enjoying the wind-down after working,” Garrett said. “In Texas, we can use them year round for entertaining and relaxing.”

Mandt said the custom outdoor features range anywhere from $25,000 to $75,000 depending on the scope of the project.

“The designs generally include a covered area like a pergola or gazebo,” Mandt said. “People include fireplaces, fire-pits, mini bars, TVs; the sky’s the limit. We encourage clients to send us what they like on Pinterest and then we have it drawn up and presented to them.”

The high price tag leaves Peggy Jackson with Century 21 Dean Gilbert Realtors skeptical of the return on investment.

“I’m not like everybody else, I don’t want to clean up two kitchens,” Jackson said. “My personal feeling is that the covered patio and pool is close enough to the kitchen that you don’t need to spend the extra $20,000.”

Jackson explained outdoor kitchens are custom items that are usually constructed after a client purchases the home. She said this is because it is a large amount of money for a homebuilder to spend without being sure a client will want it.

Garrett disagreed saying customers enjoy being able to cook outside without adding heat and smells to their home.

“You are almost expanding the square footage of the home,” Garret said. “Most outdoor kitchens have some kind of tile and granite because it is easy to clean.”

Jackson said it all depends on the entertaining habits of the homeowner.

“I think people are so particular and that’s why they’d rather do it after they move in,” Jackson said. “Some of them have their own personal fireplace around a pool with an outdoor TV. It’s pretty much a replica of their kitchen and den area but outside.”

Mandt said the project usually takes two to three weeks to complete but there are many variables to the timeline.

“It’s important for people to take into account code variances with the city,” Mandt said. “In some places, you can’t put a structure too close to other properties. There are rules and regulations we have to follow.”