11 Tips to Consider When Building an Outdoor Kitchen

Posted by on Jan 13, 2022

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Building an outdoor kitchen usually isn’t a task for the casual hobbyist or weekend putterer. The scope of the project can range from a grill on the back porch to a professional grade cooking area with multiple barbecues, sinks, refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens. 

After you watch videos about building an al fresco cooking and entertainment space, you may see the scope of the build and want to hire professionals. If you’re not comfortable with a miter saw, an oscillating saw and quite a few other tools, you may not want this the first furniture project you try. Whether you DIY or hire out the job of building an outdoor kitchen, the more you know about the required work and materials, the smarter you can be what you want to do, where it may be possible to cut corners, and what you want to splurge on.

Research the Options and Skills Needed 

You not only need to figure out which appliances and seating you want in an outdoor kitchen, but also the finishes and layout. By taking the time to plan everything out, you can avoid costly mistakes and ensure that your outdoor kitchen is the way you want it. Appliance and decor sites can help with planning an outdoor kitchen, whether it'll be built from scratch, RTF (Ready-To-Finish), or RTA (Ready-To-Assemble). You can learn about timelines, utility requirements, construction tools, countertops, bar stations and more. 

If you’re planning to DIY, you may also want to research the necessary skills and required tools. In addition to professional grade power saws, you may want a bulldozer to move wood and nail guns to join beams. Never done stonework or roofing before? Practice before you make your own kitchen. 

Consider Your Space
Think about the size and shape of your backyard or garden when you plan your outdoor kitchen. Maximize the area you have available and pick a design that fits well into the surroundings. 

What you will use your kitchen for: Will it be used frequently for gatherings and parties, or only when the weather is nice? The weather can be a big factor to consider when planning your outdoor kitchen. If you live in an area with extreme weather conditions, you'll need to take that into account when selecting appliances and materials. For example, if it's windy, you'll want to choose a location for your outdoor kitchen that is sheltered and secure. You may even be able to make use of an existing covered outdoor patio with a simple outdoor kitchen installation.

Have an Expert Draw up Plans

Modeling software can help you design a space. Depending on the size of the project, you may need to get building permits. If necessary, find an expert to ensure the plans are architecturally sound. 

Figure Out Where You’re Getting Water, Electricity and Gas
Some of the biggest effort in building an outdoor kitchen goes toward connecting or piping in water, electricity and gas. These can be huge expenses and demand professional work. Those decisions may also impact where you place the outdoor kitchen and the elements in it, such as the stove, sink, pizza oven and even outdoor fireplace. 

Consider innovative solutions. In the above video, April uses water from rainwater collection for her sink. One of the other DIY designers changed his stove from propane to gas to take advantage of an outdoor gas line that was installed on the outside of his house. 

Think about Lighting and Seating
Whether it's installing lights overhead or adding accenting lanterns, be sure they match the theme of your backyard oasis. It's wise to think hard about what purpose the area will serve: Is it just going to be an extra seating area during summer cookouts? Will there be dining tables and chairs needed so everyone can sit down together? 

Have patience 
Even the simpler outdoor kitchens that are a couple of cabinets take time to build. The videos down below show outdoor kitchens made in a few days.

Consider Hiring Experts as Consultants 
Can’t afford to hire masonry, electrical or other experts? Hire them to consult. You may be able to figure out what materials you need to buy and how to install them at a fraction of the price of hiring a pro. You may make installation mistakes, so be prepared to practice. 

Break Down the Big Parts 
Most people will not make an outdoor kitchen in an afternoon. Figure out how much time you have to do parts of the project and build what you can in a reasonable amount of time .

Build for the Outdoors

You’re going to need special electrical equipment designed to survive rain, fog, snow and other things. You’ll also want plan ahead for how the wiring can snake through the structure without interfering with the design. 

Expect Delays
With any large construction project, it’s rare that all of the materials arrive on time. Numerous businesses are facing shipping delays these days. Plan accordingly, and don’t be shocked when every item doesn’t arrive on time. You may need to be flexible with the order you build things in order to keep the project moving. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Scale Back
Before you get started think seriously about what is a nice to have and what is have to have for your outdoor kitchen. Maybe you don’t need a pizza oven or fire pit? A grill or flat top cooking surface may be enough. Perhaps you can create the plans with the expectation that the functionality and space will expand in the future.

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