The outdoor entertainment and dining space has evolved well past the point of a simple grill and patio set. And as consumers continue to seek their ideal al fresco dining environment, they’re actively seeking the help of design professionals, according to new data from the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

In their 2019 Outdoor Kitchen Consumer Profile report, NKBA found that 64 percent of consumers consulted with a design professional on their project, and 84 percent either used or are planning to use professional installers for at least a part of their outdoor project. NKBA surveyed more than 300 homeowners who have either completed an outdoor kitchen project in the past three years or who are planning to complete one within the next 12 months.

What’s clear from the survey is just how complex the outdoor living space has become in recent years. Consumers are more frequently looking to create spaces that resemble their indoor cooking and dining areas, including things like built-in refrigerators, grills, sinks, storage and cabinetry, plumbing and drainage, fully functioning bar taps, overhead structures, and lighting and atmosphere control.

And in seeking that sort of outdoor eating and entertainment space, consumers have shown a willingness to spend. The NKBA report found that the average outdoor project cost consumers $13,000. Further, 22 percent of homeowners surveyed would up building high-end outdoor kitchens that cost in excess of $30,000, while another 14 percent wound up spending between $20,000 and $30,000 on their outdoor project. And, in a bit of excellent news for the installers, 61 percent of those surveyed by NKBA said they were paying for a majority of their outdoor kitchen project with cash.

“Homeowners increasingly regard their outdoor spaces as extensions of their homes, and therefore are building them more elaborately, taking design elements and creature comforts into greater consideration,” Bill Darcy, CEO of NKBA, said in a statement. “Although more than one-third of outdoor kitchens are in warm-weather states like Florida, Texas, and California, homeowners in states like New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are also making more use of their outdoor spaces for two or even three seasons, with amenities like fireplaces, fire pits and patio heaters where needed. Outdoor kitchen design and construction business opportunities are growing, revealing a healthy market into which our members can expand and diversify their offerings.”

As for regrets around outdoor living space projects, the NKBA report uncovered some of the things homeowners wish they had done differently when designing their outdoor space. Leading the way was building better structures to provide shade and protection from inclement weather (12 percent), followed by creating a bigger space (10 percent), more counter area (9 percent), adding atmosphere/lighting/temperature control (7 percent), and adding cabinets and storage (5 percent).