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Custom Outdoor Kitchens – 7 Essential Facts Before You Buy

By James King

November 1, 2022

l shape outdoor kitchen idea with fire pit

When looking into an outdoor kitchen project, undoubtedly you are thinking…

What type of kitchen is right for me?

And for good reason. There’s a lot of information to sift through.

In recent years, the selection process has become easier with the advent of modular and prefabricated outdoor kitchen solutions. At the very least, it is much easier to gather ideas!

For some, a modular outdoor kitchen just doesn’t make the cut. They’re looking for more flexibility in design, style, and layout for their outdoor living area.

If this sounds like you… You may be toying with the idea of a custom outdoor kitchen project. Naturally, the questions start pouring in.

l shape outdoor kitchen idea with fire pit

Where do I start?

How much work is it?

What does it cost?

All are important topics to consider. In this article, we’ll dig into what a custom outdoor kitchen project entails. That way you have a better understanding of what to expect.

A custom outdoor kitchen can seem like a daunting task. But with the right resources and help… It’s much easier than you may expect.

Let’s get started.

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The What and Why of Custom Outdoor Kitchens

The outdoor living industry has exploded over the last decade. This rise in popularity equates to more outdoor area designs available to consumers. It also means there are a wide variety of ‘modular‘ or ‘predesigned’ options created to make the process easier for you.

To create these, a company will compile the most popular and functional in custom outdoor kitchen design ideas. They then roll them into existing packages so you can skip the design process altogether… It’s been done for you! We also offer our own full line of pre-designed packages.

RTA G-Series Refrigeration Grill Island
MOKS L-Shape Modular Outdoor Kitchen

Although these designs are excellent… They don’t fit the bill for everyone.

Perhaps you have an outdoor living area that requires custom dimensions. Maybe you found a nice pre-packaged island, but it doesn’t include the appliances you wanted. Or, maybe the outdoor kitchen design just doesn’t have as much counterspace for food prep as you’re looking for.

These are just a few of the many reasons you may want to go the custom route. At the core, it’s as simple as modifying the dimensions and layout to accommodate your outdoor living space and desires.

However, this can make the project more challenging to take on… If you don’t have the correct help and resources.

There is one complication. Many prefab outdoor kitchen companies you find at big box stores or online retailers don’t offer the ability to customize islands. Even if they can make some adjustments… It’s limited and likely will not meet the needs of your dream outdoor kitchen design.

keep it simple. we'll handle the details.

avoid complicated projects. RTA Outdoor Living makes the process simple from design to install.

That’s why most look to hire a local contractor or custom builder. They’ll construct your island on site with fully customizable materials and design. Generally, the contractor will have to assess your outdoor space and create a design concept dependent on the needs and wants of your outdoor cooking space. From there, they’ll put together a design and proposal to present to you.

Working with a contractor brings its own set of challenges. Depending on who you work with, your contractor’s design resources may be limited. Further, proposals can take weeks or months to receive.

Keep in mind that not many contractors specialize in outdoor kitchen construction… It’s not their bread and butter. Therefore, it’s rare for a contractor to invest in design resources and systems. This can make it difficult for you to get the best look and understanding of what your entire design will look like in your new outdoor living space.

At RTA, we offer quick-ship outdoor kitchen options that fit the bill for many and allow you to skip the design process all together… But we are also one of the few that gives you the ability to customize and create your own setup.

l shape outdoor kitchen with pizza oven

Outdoor kitchens are our specialty. As a result, we invest heavily in state of the art designing and planning resources. (We’ll talk more about that later). For you, that means the best possible depiction and understanding of your new outdoor kitchen project.

We will admit there are some limitations in our custom outdoor kitchen design. This is simply due to the fact that our product is shipped rather than created on site. Two tiered bars, circular countertops, and other extremely custom features are currently out of reach for our company. In this case, your best bet is to hire a local custom outdoor kitchen builder to help with the construction process.

What Will A Custom Built Outdoor Kitchen Cost?

While considering custom, the potential cost may be giving you pause. Does it cost an arm and a leg?

Well, not always. Like many things in life, it depends.

There are many factors that must be assessed in determining your outdoor kitchen cost. Overall design, finishes, material selections, and the company you hire are just a few of the main ones.

Let’s walk through what you’re likely to expect across the industry.

Working with a contractor or custom outdoor kitchen builder is where the price can jump significantly. Depending on where you live… You can expect to pay upwards of 40-50% more for a custom outdoor kitchen design over a pre-designed offering. Generally speaking though, you can expect to see an average 15-20% upcharge for a custom outdoor kitchen design.

We’ll crunch some numbers to give you a better idea.

Most high quality pre-designed outdoor kitchen kits cost around $1,000 per linear foot. So for a 6′ linear option, it will cost around $6,000 – $7,000. The cost for a custom grill island builder or contractor will be in the $9,000 – $14,000 range.

For L-Shaped options, pre-designed will run around $12,000 – $17,000. Custom build contractors generally start at $20,000 and can go as high as $30,000.

Finally, U-Shaped. Pre-designed offerings hover around $20,000 – $25,000. Custom build contractors, on the other hand, is as high as $40,000 – $50,000. The cost can increase even more when using upgraded materials and premium appliances. That’s a lot of dough!

Remember to keep in mind these are broad ranges. The numbers fluctuate due to outdoor kitchen materials, unique features you choose, area you live in, and the contractor you hire. You may encounter a contractor building a custom new outdoor kitchen for the same price as a prefabricated setup. We would advise proceeding with caution here. This usually means the builder cut corners on material of the structures and/or appliances… And neither bodes well for the end result and your investment.

At RTA, we have a unique way to offer custom outdoor kitchens with a minimal upcharge from our pre-designed options. How? It’s simple. We specialize in prefabricated custom outdoor kitchen solutions. So we invest in technology that makes it easier to create these solutions for you… And with less of a price tag. Our custom outdoor kitchens are only a 5-10% upcharge from our pre-designed.

Here are a couple examples to give you a better sense of cost. Our linear options range from $5,000 – $10,000. L-Shapes start at $12,000 with $17,000 being on the high side. Finally, U-Shapes start at $18,000 and range to the upper $20,000’s.

As you can see, cost varies widely depending on the solution you choose. The above should help inform you when compiling a budget for your custom build project.

What about design?

Design Resources for a Custom Built Outdoor Kitchen

Now that we have talked through some budget considerations… Let’s discuss resources that will help you complete your project.

When working on your custom outdoor kitchen build, it is extremely important to be able to visualize the entire design. Naturally, you want to see your project before someone starts building it. So when working with a company, make sure they can present you with a design. Otherwise, there’s only a guess as to what the final kitchen will look like… And that’s where these projects can go south.

Some contractors have design programs they use to provide you with a vision. Other outdoor kitchen manufacturers have online tools that can give you ideas of what the new outdoor kitchen will look like. If the company is unable to provide you with a visual… It’s likely due to their lack of attention to outdoor kitchens as an integral focus for their business. You can certainly still work with them! But in our experience it’s best to avoid this.

We at RTA offer an online design tool. This tool empowers you to take control of your design and choose from thousands of different configurations. You can quite literally create a completed design in the span of a few minutes… And in the comfort of your own home.

Once your design is submitted, you have exclusive access to our expert design team. They’ll help you understand the design, evaluate your outdoor living space, and assist you every step of the way with your vision.

Wanting something more custom than what our design tool allows you to create?

No problem! We have a full service team of design professionals that can incorporate custom designs not available in the design tool. See some examples below of the possibilities:

When it comes to design resources… We make a conscious effort to empower you with the confidence to conveniently create the design of your project.

design the kitchen of your dreams...
from your couch.

With our 3d design tool and one-on-one expert guidance, building the outdoor kitchen of your dreams can happen well... from your couch.

Appliances and Custom Outdoor Kitchens

We just want to touch on grills and appliances briefly here. They’re an important part of the design… And are often the reason why people go towards a custom style in the first place.

Custom options allow you to actually choose the outdoor kitchen appliances according to the way you host guests and cook. A pre-designed may include everything you want… Except for that one thing. Maybe it’s side burners, a sink, or a built in refrigerator. With custom, you get the ability to create your outdoor kitchen YOUR WAY and with the appliances and accessories YOU WANT.

Working with a design professional can become even more important in the area of appliances. You may have a good idea of what you want… But are unsure how to lay them out in in a functional way. You want everything to flow perfectly when you are cooking and entertaining for friends and family. For this reason, you may have many ideas of different appliances to include. Custom allows you the luxury of having options.

Specs & Schematics of Custom Outdoor Grill Island Designs

Alright. Perhaps you’ve settled on your design. You’ll want to verify the design works well in your new space though.

If you are working with a local contractor, they’ll usually be able to take care of this area of the project for you. They can measure the area and build things accordingly. When working with a company over the internet… This becomes even more crucial.

It would be such a shame to put all this time into planning and designing your project… Only to not have it fit in your outdoor living space. You can imagine how frustrating that would be!

A blueprint example from an RTA Outdoor Living's custom outdoor kitchen.

Having a complete picture of your project specs is important for multiple reasons. Ensuring the layout fits in your outdoor space is the most essential information you’re after. Another advantage to custom blueprints is you can share these with other contractors you may be working with on the project. If you’re running utility lines, having access to blueprints and specs can be very helpful. It will help your electrician and/or plumber with connections and placement.

At RTA, we have an engineering team who utilizes our custom blueprint software to create the plans for your project. This is a step in the custom process that allows you to review and approve your final layout. That way you can verify everything is perfect before you lock in your order!

Installation of your Custom Outdoor Kitchen

There are multiple installation options depending on the custom outdoor kitchen solution you decide on. Therefore, we will touch on each one briefly.

First, let’s talk about contractor installation services. If you’re working with a local contractor or builder, you won’t have much to worry about in terms of installation. Usually, they will come to your house and construct everything.

Depending on the type of construction and building methods you select, there are some things to consider. If construction requires heavy machinery, you won’t have to worry about installation… But you may have to worry about cleaning up your yard or landscaping once completed. Some installation methods can be quite invasive and cause property disruption.

What about a pre-manufactured custom option? Take ready-to-finish (RTF) for example. These options will tend to be less invasive to the property. However, you are responsible for the majority of the construction unless you opt to hire out. You’ll need someone to connect the modules, do the stone or veneer work, and install countertops and appliances. These products are great for DIYers who are handier than the average bear. However, you may not want to be bothered with the amount of work.

You could also go with one piece or multi-piece modular kit that can be lightly customized. Installation is more straightforward as they will be delivered to you mostly completed. The challenge arises when yard access is limited. If you don’t go into the project expecting these challenges… You could be surprised by the added crane expense to get the kitchen into your backyard.

Installation timeline

Another thing to note is the timeline of your project. A local contractor or builder is great for those who don’t want to do the installation work themselves. On the other hand, you are beholden to the contractor’s timeline. If they are jumping between multiple projects… Your dream outdoor kitchen project can easily spread out over a couple months. (We’ve heard horror stories where it has taken much longer!)

If your custom outdoor kitchen is the sole focus, a built-from-scratch project can be completed in a couple weeks. You just want to plan on potentially having limited access to your backyard. Many people are doing multiple projects simultaneously (pool, patio, etc.). So it may be overwhelming to have contractors working at your home for additional weeks / months after already having it disturbed for a period of time.

RTF or another premanufactured custom style option tends to run on a quicker timeline. Some of the work has already been done for you. If you choose to complete it yourself, it can be done as quickly as a couple days. Or perhaps spread out over a couple weeks when free time allows. With this option, you work on your own timeline.

Let’s contrast with RTA.

RTA is a ready-to-assemble solution that arrives to your door 95% completed. That 95% comes from the outstanding craftsmanship at our Indiana manufacturing facility. All you have to do is assemble, just like furniture. You start with creating the custom design style from the comfort of your own home. Once your design and blueprints are confirmed, all you have to do is wait! You have full access to your backyard while we make and ship your outdoor kitchen. Once it arrives, you can have your new outdoor kitchen fully assembled in the matter of hours. Not days… Not weeks… Hours! Pretty incredible, right? All you have to do is bolt the panels together, pop on the countertops, and slide the appliances in. Voila, a custom outdoor kitchen completed in mere hours!

Custom Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

Now that you’ve seen the ins and outs of custom outdoor kitchens…

It’s time to look at some ideas for inspiration.

Let’s see what’s possible!

All-In-One Grilling Station

If you want everything you need in a single straight island… Here’s the design for you!

We’ve got the massive stainless steel grill as the focal point. (And main grilling powerhouse!)

You’ll also find a side burner, outdoor sink, refrigerator, pull out trash, and plenty of storage for necessities.

And to top it all off… This custom design sits perfectly underneath the covered area. It looks like it was made to be there. (It actually was!)

Custom Grill Island with Pizza Oven

Are you all about having versatility with cooking appliances?

You’ll be interested in this custom design.

For cooking appliances… We have a pellet grill, outdoor flat top grill, and an outdoor pizza oven.

So whether you’re after burgers, bacon and eggs, or fresh pizza… You can do it all!

Additionally, this island features a pull out pantry, refrigerator, pull out trash, and storage.

There’s even plenty of counterspace leftover for prep work!

BBQ Island with Power Burner

This custom island with a slight L-shape is highly functional!

Of course, you’ll find the gas grill as the centerpiece. But there’s also a power burner right beside it.

Aside from using it to boil lobster or pasta… It can easily be transformed into a flat top grill! By sliding on the teppanyaki attachment… You’re ready for making breakfast al fresco.

You could also opt to use it with a wok! If so, Asian-inspired flavors will never be out of reach.

Other features include an outdoor refrigerator, pull out trash, and access doors for the grill.


Now that you’ve seen some custom island designs…

What's Next?

We hope the information discussed helps you gain a little more clarity on whether you want to go custom or a more standard style route on your dream outdoor kitchen project. The reality is there’s a lot to consider when deciding on custom!

Plus, the technology and resources available has never been greater. Feel free to browse our website to get ideas of what is possible for your new space!

As always, our team is available if you’d like to discuss your potential project ideas or have burning questions. Outdoor kitchens are our passion, we would be honored to help!

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