Building an outdoor kitchen is an exciting time.
Already… You’re probably envisioning all the gatherings and great food you’ll eat.
And for good reason.
You’re in for years of enjoyment and unforgettable memories.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
You need to build your grill island first!
And in such a project… There is a lot you need to know before you do so.
We’ve condensed this into 10 main points for your consideration.
By the end of this article… You should have a solid foundation of what an outdoor kitchen build involves.
From there… You’re free to start planning the outdoor kitchen of your dreams.
Let’s get started.
Before you invest in anything… You must know the price tag.
When it comes to your own outdoor kitchen project… This isn’t a straightforward task.
There are tons of variable factors to consider.
Your location, materials, appliances, build method, labor cost, and more.
It’s a lot!
We won’t go into the details of how to create a budget here… But we do have an outdoor kitchen budget article if you’re looking for more.
For the purposes of this article… We’ll just give you the gist.
What you plan to spend can vary widely depending on your desires. Pricing for a modest project will obviously be far less than a luxury option!
A modest budget can start as low as $5,000. Luxury outdoor kitchens, on the other hand… Begin at $30,000 and go up from there.
A mid range budget will land you somewhere in the middle. Being that the average outdoor kitchen costs in the neighborhood of $12,000-$13,000… This can be a good starting point for most homeowners.
The point is…
Know Your Budget Before You Build
Or at least have a strong idea.
There are a couple things that can happen here.
If you’re not keeping track of prices… Your ultimate cost can get way out of hand.
When working with a builder… You may think you can’t afford the project at all. (Often not true).
You likely just need to make some adjustments to bring the cost down. If you find yourself in this position… Here is 5 ways to save money on your outdoor kitchen.
Or if you’re going DIY… You may run out of money before the project is completed. That’s a disaster!
Don’t let either one be you.
Identifying a cost that works for you is essential to a successful project.
Design the perfect kitchen for your budget
2: Knowing your “Why”
While this seems like some sort of lead-in to a self-help seminar…
We assure you this isn’t the case!
Knowing your “why” is highly relevant to your project.
Considering you’re embarking on this journey… There’s a reason why you did so in the first place.
In the process of building… Homeowners can often forget this why.
What is the driving factor behind starting your project in the first place?
Perhaps you are an outdoor cooking enthusiast.
You want to grill or make barbecue for a few friends so they will rave about it to anyone who will listen.
When culinary excellence is your why… Optimizing this goal is essential. You’ll want to focus on a fully functional kitchen with high quality appliances and cooking convenience in mind.
Perhaps you’re more interested in hosting friends and family.
In this case… Decking out your outdoor kitchen with the best grill is less crucial.
Is Hosting Your Why?
To bring in the first point…
You have to balance your budget and your why.
If your budget is too restrictive… You may end up sacrificing your why just to have an outdoor kitchen at all.
This defeats the whole purpose!
Thankfully… Such a conundrum is avoidable.
The solution comes in with point #3.
3: Design Principles
A large portion of your project will be devoted to design.
After all… Design directly plays into how you’ll be using your grill island! It’s a unique reflection of your why.
While the outdoor kitchen design process is often fairly straightforward… You may run into some trouble.
Take budget, for example.
Perhaps you can’t afford the design you want.
What can be done? Review your “must haves” vs “nice to haves”.
There are likely some concessions you can make that don’t interfere with your why.
Another consideration is future expansion.
If you can’t shell out the money for your ideal outdoor kitchen right now…
Make your design flexible for future expansion.
You can enjoy your outdoor kitchen right away… and when you have the funds.
For many homeowners, this is a great way to avoid compromise.
Mistakes in Design
Don't Leave These Out!
To take it even further… There are a couple design mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
For one, plan for storage space!
It’s not glamorous… But many homeowners forget about accounting for storage cabinets. You’ll be kicking yourself when you don’t have storage for your cooking utensils!
Same goes for countertop prep space.
A major purpose of an outdoor kitchen is convenience. You want to be able to do food prep and cook comfortably.
If you don’t have any countertop space to do this… Your convenience is out the window!
One more quick consideration is grill size.
Many homeowners get tripped up on the grill size they need. While we’ve seen plenty of people be disappointed by a grill that’s too small… We’ve never seen someone get upset about sizing their grill up!
Just something to think about.
In addition to design… You’ll also need to consider how it fits into your space.
4: Have a Plan for Your Entire Outdoor Space
Planning your design is all well and good… But it doesn’t help you if you don’t have your backyard space planned!
There are a couple factors to think about here.
For one… What are you hoping to accomplish with your outdoor living space?
Many homeowners are looking to create an outdoor entertainment area.
Often, this includes projects in addition to an outdoor kitchen. Perhaps there is a pool, fire feature, or other project involved.
If you’re in the midst of multiple outdoor living projects… You’ll have to plan your outdoor kitchen in conjunction with them.
Making sure you have adequate room for everything in your space is key! You don’t want to feel cramped.
It’s important to highlight this point. Many homeowners believe they have more space than they do. Our eyes are bigger than our imaginations, if you will.
Your Space and Your Outdoor Kitchen
As far as building an outdoor kitchen goes… Make sure to plan for adequate walking room around the islands. You don’t want guests bumping into each other… Or you when you’re grilling!
Also be sure to account for seating space or a dining area if you want one.
Even if you’re only building an outdoor kitchen… These are important points to keep in mind.
You want to ensure your project makes sense in your space.
Place your outdoor kitchen where it feels most natural.
Since you won’t be able to move it around willy-nilly… This is important!
Speaking of space… Our next consideration is location.
5: Location, Location, Location
We often hear this word repeated ad nauseum when it comes to real estate.
The same applies to your backyard space!
Where you place your outdoor kitchen is important.
If you don’t have an existing patio to build on… You can be more flexible with the location.
As stated earlier… Place your outdoor kitchen where it feels most natural.
If you’re not happy with where you put your outdoor kitchen… It’s going to be a constant annoyance.
Satellite vs. Perimeter
There are a couple terms we use to describe outdoor kitchen location. “Satellite” and “perimeter”.
A satellite outdoor kitchen is situated far away from the house.
And of course… A perimeter outdoor kitchen is either near or adjacent to the house.
The location you choose ultimately comes down to personal preference.
If you’re looking to save money… You may want to lean toward a perimeter placement. We’ll touch upon why in the next section.
Let’s say you know the perfect place to build your outdoor kitchen.
It’s time for site prep and utilities.
Design around your space
6: Utilities & Site Preparation
For site prep… You’ll have to make a pitch assessment.
Pitch has to do with the slope of your surface.
If your surface has significant pitch, or “slope”… You’ll have some additional work in the building process.
If left as-is… Your outdoor kitchen won’t sit flush to the ground. This means you’ll have to utilize a lot of shimming… Which is often aesthetically unpleasing.
Otherwise, you’re better off correcting the pitch.
If the pitch is minor… A bit of shimming won’t do you any harm.
What if you don’t have a surface yet?
That’s okay! Oftentimes… This is actually preferable. You can plan your surface in anticipation of your outdoor kitchen.
You can also keep a quick eye on how your surface is being built. By keeping a close eye on the progress… Pitch issues can be completely prevented.
Planning Out Your Utilities
(per linear ft)
Now… Another factor of location is planning out utilities.
If you want appliances that run on gas, electricity, or water… You must plan for utilities.
This is going to involve additional preparation before building your outdoor kitchen.
Generally speaking… You’ll have to hire someone to install gas, water, and electric lines for you.
Location becomes important here.
The farther away your outdoor kitchen is from the house… The more it will cost to run utility lines.
If you’re looking to save some cash… It’s for this reason you may prefer a perimeter outdoor kitchen.
It’s important to note that if you don’t have a patio yet… It’s best to plan for utility lines first.
This will prevent you from having to redo sections of your patio to account for utilities.
If you’re installing your outdoor kitchen on a deck… Have the utility lines punched up through the floor of the deck.
Knowing the location of your outdoor kitchen beforehand will make utility line installation far easier.
Don't Want to Deal with Utility Lines?
What if you don’t want to deal with utility lines?
Not a problem.
You may just have to make concessions on your design.
Rather than running a gas line… You can run your gas grill using a propane tank.
For water, you’ll have to skip the sink.
Electricity is easy as well. Rather than having a refrigerator… Consider a drop in cooler. Food and beverages can be kept cool in full analog!
Just know that with electricity… There may be some aspects of your grill that don’t function. Hood lights or knob lights often require electricity.
If this doesn’t bother you… There’s no cause for concern. Your grill will still work beautifully!
So… How is your outdoor kitchen going to be built?
7: Hire a Contractor or DIY?
When it comes to building an outdoor kitchen… The primary categories you have to choose from are hiring a contractor or DIY.
Both options are excellent! It simply depends on your needs and expectations.
Let’s start with hiring a contractor.
On its face… This seems like the easier option.
In some ways, this is true. You don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty.
However… It can be complicated in other ways.
Is a Contractor Worth it?
First of all… Contractors are extremely difficult to pin down these days. Their schedules are always bursting at the seams.
So what may seem like a simple phone call… Can quickly turn into a wild goose chase.
This can be quite frustrating for you. Not only do you have to constantly chase someone down…
Your project timeline is at the mercy of your contractor.
What are we getting at here?
If you decide to work with a contractor… Don’t have a deadline in place. More than likely, your outdoor kitchen won’t be ready in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Also be prepared for backyard disruption. Extended timelines mean your backyard is going to be disturbed for weeks. Sometimes even months!
Is Your Contractor Experienced?
Yet another complicating factor is experience.
Is your contractor a specialist or a generalist?
Most contractors don’t have specialized experience in building outdoor kitchens.
It may not seem like a big deal… But this is risky!
An improperly constructed outdoor kitchen simply won’t last… And you won’t know it until the problems set in.
You’re on the line for any repairs or replacements that have to be completed in the future.
Point is… It’s not worth rolling the dice on an inexperienced contractor.
If you can find one who specializes in outdoor kitchens… And is easy to reach… You’ll be in good hands.
They’re also about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.
It’s not impossible!
Just know you’ll have a challenge on your hands.
So… What’s the deal with DIY?
Building a DIY Outdoor Kitchen
For many homeowners… The concept of a DIY outdoor kitchen can be intimidating.
You’re probably imagining building your outdoor kitchen completely from scratch. Nail by nail… Stone by stone… You get the idea.
The reality is… Most DIYers aren’t building their grill islands completely from scratch.
There are many methods that reduce the work involved. Some more so than others.
We’ll explain your DIY options in the next section… But for now, you need to know why going DIY is a great option.
Why Go DIY?
For one… You’re in complete control of your project.
You’re not beholden to a contractor’s timeline. You complete your outdoor kitchen on your terms.
Whether you finish it in a single weekend or in a couple weeks… It doesn’t matter! You build at your own pace.
You also have full control over your design. Many companies will help you in the design process… So don’t feel like you have to go at it 100% alone.
Point is… You won’t be locked into a layout you don’t want. No two backyards are the same. Your outdoor kitchen should be as unique as you are!
So… What are the DIY options out there?
Let’s take a look.
8: Build, Install, or Assemble?
Here’s the thing.
If you want to go DIY… There are three routes you can go down.
You can build your own outdoor kitchen from scratch… Install a partially completed outdoor kitchen… Or assemble an outdoor kitchen that’s 95% completed.
We’ll just give you a general overview of each. If you’re looking for a deep dive on these methods… Check out all about DIY outdoor kitchens.
Of course… Building from scratch is going to be the most challenging.
You’re responsible for planning every aspect of the construction process.
Every nail… Every screw… Every strike of the hammer or whirr of the drill is powered by you.
It’s a lot of work!
Unless you have significant construction experience… You’re going to want to leave scratch-built options to the experts.
Installing an outdoor kitchen will remove some of the elbow grease.
The vast majority of DIY installations will involve RTF systems.
If you’re not familiar… RTF stands for ready to finish.
RTF companies make pre-assembled outdoor kitchen cabinets. These follow a frame system with cement board attached.
Once you attach all the cabinets to create your desired layout… You finish the exterior and install the appliances/countertops.
As you’ve surely noticed… RTF requires far fewer steps than scratch-built.
The design aspect is much simpler. You combine modules to create the layout you desire.
Finishing is the only complex piece with installation.
You can finish your RTF outdoor kitchen with a few different materials. Most homeowners opt for stucco, tile, or stone.
While anyone can learn… This step does require some construction know-how. It may be more work than you’re willing to invest.
You may be wondering…
Is there an outdoor kitchen solution that doesn’t require construction experience?
Why yes, there is!
If you’re looking for an easy DIY solution… Ready-to-assemble is a reliable answer..
With RTA… 95% of the work has been done for you.
You work with a design expert to create your personalized layout.
Our manufacturing facility makes your outdoor kitchen to order.
The panels, outdoor countertops, and appliances are shipped to your door…
And you assemble it with a friend. It can take as little as a couple hours from start to finish!
How is this possible?
Our system has revolutionized the outdoor kitchen market.
Rather than using a frame system… RTA outdoor kitchens are constructed using monolithic panels. The finish is fully incorporated into these high performance concrete panels.
This means no complex assembly… And no finishing required.
Sounds great, right?
Frustration is a thing of the past with RTA. Convenience is the new one on the block.
But let’s not get too sidetracked.
Point is… RTA is by far the most accessible outdoor kitchen solution on the market.
No matter what solution you choose… You’ll have to consider the durability of your investment.
easy design & simple installation
9: Durability & Performance
It doesn’t matter which way you cut it… Outdoor kitchens are a significant investment.
This project will require a large amount of both time and money.
Therefore, you want your investment to last.
After all… The last thing you want is to be making repairs and replacements after a single summer season. This sets you up for a lifetime of headaches.
To prevent this disaster… You’ll have to ask yourself a key question.
Will your outdoor kitchen perform in your climate?
Your answer is essential.
There’s a reason the outdoors has a reputation for being harsh. It simply is!
From snow, to ice, to whipping winds, to ocean air, to torrential downpours… Your outdoor kitchen needs to be able to handle whatever weather is thrown at it.
No matter where you live… Using durable materials will be important.
What is the Best Material Then?
Especially if you live in an area with a freeze thaw climate.
If you live in an area with frigid, harsh winters… (Hello, Michigan!) Then using heavy duty materials is a requirement.
What do we recommend?
In fact, concrete is an excellent material no matter where you live.
Say you live in a coastal area. Salt from the ocean air will not corrode your concrete outdoor kitchen… This is a problem with metal frame systems.
By choosing the best materials for your environment… You can feel confident your investment will be built to last a lifetime.
In the end… That’s all we can really ask for!
Prioritizing durability will ensure you are satisfied with your project.
Now… There’s one more topic we need to touch on before wrapping up our list.
10: Don't forget Safety
It’s not glamorous… But it is quite literally a matter of life and death.
It’s not our intention to get morbid here. Not in the least!
As long as you’re planning for safety before you build… There’s nothing you have to worry about.
If you’re working with an outdoor kitchen company… The safety aspect should already be handled for you.
The product should be designed with proper ventilation already. They should also be using non-combustible materials. If not… It should include insulated jackets to protect from potential combustion.
If you’re hiring a contractor or building from scratch… Make sure the builder is accounting for ventilation and other safety measures.
If you plan to install your outdoor kitchen under a covered area… You’ll have to ensure there’s adequate airflow in the area. You may want to install a hood to better diffuse heat.
Once you’ve got the safety measures squared away… All that’s left to do is enjoy!
You can feel confident that your outdoor kitchen is safe for your family and friends to use.
There’s nothing that matters more.
And there you have it. The 10 things you need to know before you build your outdoor kitchen.
Now… We’re still not quite through.
Let’s look at where to head next.
So, what’s next?
Hopefully… you have more direction.
Rather than being lost at sea in the ocean of outdoor kitchen information… Your sails are set to get your project underway.
Undoubtedly, you’re going to need more assistance along the way.
What’s the best place to look?
The rest of our blog!
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Our blog is a wealth of information about all things outdoor kitchens. By reading through our articles… You will certainly gain a solid understanding of what you want to accomplish.
And when you’re ready…
Why not speak with one of our expert designers?
They’ll be able to guide you through every aspect of your outdoor kitchen project. Your custom design and outdoor kitchen will be made to order… All from the comfort of your own home.
Kick back. Relax.
We’ve got you covered.