An outdoor kitchen is a great feature to have at your house if you enjoy entertaining and spending time outdoors. Nothing quite beats a warm evening spent cooking outside and socializing as the kids run around the backyard. As summer turns to fall, however, you will need to ensure your outdoor kitchen is prepared for the colder weather. Failing to winterize your outdoor kitchen can result in expensive repairs the next year. By knowing how to protect your outdoor kitchen in winter and following these guidelines, you can ensure that your appliances and features will be in good shape and ready to go when the warm weather returns.
1. Take Care of Your Plumbing
Water that remains in the pipes and plumping system of your outdoor kitchen can cause a big problem if you don’t manage it properly. When it starts freezing outside, the water in these pipes can freeze too, causing your pipes to burst. This problem can turn into a huge nuisance, racking up hefty plumbing bills, leading to flooding, and making your outdoor kitchen unusable for a period of time. By making sure to evacuate water from all faucets and supply lines, you can avoid issues with freezing pipes.
To clear your pipes, you should first find and shut off all water supply lines leading to the kitchen from the indoor plumbing system. Make sure to perform the shut off using a valve inside your home so that water does not rest in outdoor pipes. Once the water is shut off, begin draining the lines. Make sure you do not neglect water supply lines connected to refrigerators, ice makers, and sinks. Unless you have a gravity-based kitchen winterization system in place, compressed carbon dioxide often works best for clearing water from lines. Finally, ensure that all drain valves are in the open position for the duration of the winter. By guaranteeing that no water remains in your pipes as winter sets in, you can save yourself from expensive repairs.
2. Prepare Your Grill
It’s a good idea to do some maintenance on your outdoor grill at the end of the summer. Even if you plan to use the grill occasionally during the colder months, a good cleaning will make sure it’s working well when barbecue season rolls around. To clean and prepare your grill, complete the following steps:
- Use a degreaser to rid your grill of built up grease that will be difficult to scrub off.
- Polish the grill with stainless steel polish.
- With a metal grill brush, scrub areas that remain dirty.
- Remove the grates and clean underneath.
- Season cooking surfaces by applying vegetable oil to grates and allowing the grill to heat at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
- Turn off the gas line if you will not be using your grill during the winter.
Depending on the material and quality of your grill, it may be able to resist the elements without a cover. If you do choose to use a cover, however, make sure to use one designed for your type of grill that will allow moisture to escape. Synthetic materials work best for withstanding weather and allowing moisture to move through.
3. Cover or Seal if Needed
Covering surfaces and appliances in your outdoor kitchen can prevent wear, cracks, and stains due to cold and wet weather. Use caution when covering surfaces, however, as allowing moisture to get trapped underneath a cover can be more damaging than exposure. Ice makers and refrigerators, for example, often do better when left uncovered because they can easily accumulate moisture. It is advised to contact the manufacturer of your appliances for instructions on how best to protect them from the elements.
You can also apply sealers and finishers to protect surfaces from wear. If you have stainless steel appliances or cabinets, it would be a good idea to apply a coat of stainless steel finish. Make sure everything has been removed from cabinets and that they are free of dirt and debris. Wood cabinets and surfaces should be oiled. Weather can wear down the finish on stone countertops over time; you can purchase sealers designed for stone to prevent this from happening. Applying one of these products will help guard expensive outdoor stone surfaces from stains and damage.
4. Winterize the Refrigerator and Ice Maker
Before the weather gets cold, your ice maker and refrigerator should be prepared to handle the weather change. First, turn the power off on both units. You should have already shut off the water supply and drained the water lines leading to the machines. After these steps are complete, either turn off the ice maker and refrigerator’s circuits in your home’s electrical panel or unplug the devices. Then, clean the units according the following steps:
- Empty the ice maker’s storage bin, clean it, and make sure the drain valve is closed.
- Completely empty the refrigerator, and gently clean it with soap and water.
- Take off the front grill of both machines and use a vacuum cleaner to clean the area behind it. Reattach the grill when done.
- Do not cover your ice maker or refrigerator. This can lead to an accumulation of moisture that can damage the unit.
5. Get Your Fire Pit Ready
If you have a fire pit outside your home, you will also need to take steps to ensure it is ready for the cold and will function readily come spring. First, remove debris, ash, and wood that may have accumulated in the fire pit throughout the summer. If your fire runs on gas, make sure to turn off the supply. Then, you may want to cover the fire pit with a weather resistant cover to keep out snow, leaves, and animals. You can purchase a fire pit cover that is custom designed for the dimensions of your unit.
If you have faced repair costs in the past or are preparing for your first winter with a new outdoor kitchen, you may have questions as to how to protect your outdoor appliances in the cold. Keeping your kitchen safe from damage caused by the elements comes down to being prepared. Advancement of technology has made the winterization process much easier, but you still cannot be passive. By taking the proper precautions and taking care of all features, you can rest assured your outdoor kitchen will be in great shape come summer.