Need a Backyard Transformation? Watch RTA Work its Magic in the Great Outdoor Kitchen Makeover Watch Now

Custom Outdoor Kitchens: 4 Key Considerations, Captivating Ideas, and A Convenient Choice For Your Custom Build

By James King

December 22, 2023

A summer kitchen is the superior choice for spending more time outdoors.

But, what type of outdoor kitchen is right for you?

In recent years, pre designed outdoor kitchen islands have skyrocketed in popularity.

And while these certainly make it easier than ever to take on an outdoor kitchen project… For some, these prefabricated packages simply don’t appeal.

So, if you want more flexibility with your outdoor grill station design…

Why not get creative with a custom outdoor kitchen?

Today, we’ll go over everything you need to know about custom outdoor kitchens…

And clue you in on just how convenient getting a custom kitchen can be.

Let’s begin.

Quick Links:

Who is a Custom Outdoor Kitchen For?

Before you go whole-hog on a custom outdoor kitchen… First, you’ll have to determine if it’s the right choice for you.

So first, we must answer…

Who is a custom outdoor kitchen for?

Because the reality is, they’re not for everyone. Let’s see what bucket you fit into.

You Have a Specific Vision in Mind

If you have a specific vision in mind, and a cookie cutter design simply won’t do… Then a custom grill island is going to be a must-have.

Because when it comes to premanufactured options… Variety is their Achilles heel.


Well, let’s quickly explain ourselves.

Prefab outdoor kitchens are completely manufactured ahead of time. So that means, you’re ordering a fully constructed island that gets delivered to your door.

In order to keep business viable… Prefab island manufacturers are only able to offer a small amount of design variations to their customers.

Modular islands are slightly better, but the issue still stands.

You’ll get to pick which island modules you want and smush them together… But you’ll only have a handful of units to choose from anyway. So do they really offer that much customization?

Nope, they don’t.

So if you’ve got your heart set on two tier countertops, fringe appliances like a kegerator, or a unique finish… Only a custom island will fit the bill.

Want to bring your idea to life?

Use our free 3D design tool to bring the outdoor kitchen of your dreams to reality in just a few minutes.

Your Space has Unique Challenges

Sometimes, it’s not about what you want for your outdoor kitchen… It’s about what your backyard space can handle.

Here’s the thing.

You might have found the perfect outdoor kitchen at a local showroom… But when you figure out all the dimensions, you realize it won’t work in your space.

That’s frustrating. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Well, not quite nothing. You can spring for a custom outdoor kitchen instead.

Got a small patio?

Is your deck uniquely shaped?

Do you have a lot of existing features to work around?

With the help of a competent designer… A custom island can be designed to work around the unique needs of your backyard space.

And while it might not match your initial dream… Oftentimes, these projects come out better than you ever could have imagined.

That’s because these custom islands are designed to work with your space… Rather than just plopping a manufactured island in there without a thought on the context.

Which brings us to our next point.

You Want Full Creative Control

person hand drawing blueprint for an outdoor iktchen in their backyard

If you want full command over the results of your project… Nothing less than a custom outdoor kitchen will do.

Some of us are particular. You want your BBQ island to be just so.

And with how expensive it can be to build an outdoor kitchen… It’s only fair that you want the look to be just right.

That’s why pursuing a custom outdoor kitchen is the only way forward.

It’s the only solution that allows you to enact full creative control over your project… Landing you with the true outdoor kitchen of your dreams.

You’ll be fully involved in every stage of the process… Which gives you a sense of ownership over the final product. (And a stunning island, to boot!)

A Personal Touch is of the Utmost Importance

mike pyle with his family at their custom outdoor kitchen with a modern concrete finish

Lastly, how important is a personal touch to you?

Some homeowners aren’t bothered by off-the-shelf, standard designs.

Their needs are simple… And a basic prefabricated or modular island is more than sufficient.

But some of us want more.

When your neighbor is raving about your beautiful new outdoor kitchen… How nice would it be to be able to say, “I designed the entire project myself”?

Compliments aside… There’s nothing like being able to put your thumbprint on a significant home improvement project.

With a custom outdoor kitchen… Your island is uniquely yours.

Find yourself nodding your head at every point so far?

Well… Next thing you’ll have to determine is if the price is right.

Custom Outdoor Kitchen Cost

How much do custom outdoor kitchens cost?

Well, like many things in life… It depends.

There are tons of factors that go into making that final price tag.

Though we can’t give you any exact numbers… We can give you a rough idea of what to expect.

If you work with a contractor or a custom outdoor kitchen builder… Pricing can escalate quickly.

Depending on where you live, you can expect to pay upwards of 40-50% more for a custom outdoor kitchen design as opposed to a prefab or modular island.

But generally speaking, expect about a 15-20% upcharge for a custom-built 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.

The cost for a custom grill island will then fall around the $14,000 range.

For L-shaped options… Pre-designed will run around $13,000 to $17,000.

On the other hand, custom L-shapes generally start at $20,000… And can go as high as $30,000 or more!

Then there’s U-shaped. Pre-designed offerings hover around the $20,000 – $25,000 mark… While custom builds can get as high as $50,000!

The cost can increase even more when using upgraded materials and premium appliances. Point is, it can get to be a lot of dough!

So remember to keep in mind that these are broad ranges.

The numbers will fluctuate depending on outdoor kitchen materials, the unique features you choose, the area you live in, and the contractor you hire.

Alright, the costs are looking good. How do you get one in your outdoor living space?

How to Get a Custom Outdoor Kitchen: 2 Options

So you’re sold on the idea of a custom BBQ island. Now how do you get one into your backyard?

You might be surprised that there are actually two different options at your disposal.

Let’s take a closer look.

Outdoor Kitchen Contractor

two contractors finishing an outdoor kitchen with natural stone veneer

Far and away, working with an outdoor kitchen contractor is the most common option.

Everyone has a local contractor… And most of them will be happy to build a custom island for you.

We can certainly see the appeal.

You’re supporting your local economy… You don’t have to do any of the work yourself… And the customization options are only limited by your contractor’s skill level.

Sounds just about perfect, right?

Well, price is a huge mixed bag depending on your labor market.

If labor’s expensive in your area… The cost of a fully customized island can quickly become exorbitant.

But even if labor’s cheap… There are significant risks when it comes to working with a contractor for this project. (We’ll discuss this in detail momentarily.)

For now, just know that an outdoor kitchen contractor is still the most popular method for obtaining a handmade outdoor kitchen… But it’s not always the no-brainer solution.

Ready to Assemble

And for your second option? It’s a ready to assemble (RTA) outdoor kitchen.

These islands are the newest custom solution on the market… Providing a streamlined and simplified way to obtain a custom outdoor kitchen.

So, what is it, exactly?

These islands are made from high performance concrete panels… With the finish fully incorporated into each panel.

These panels are hand-carried into your backyard, bolted into place, and the provided concrete or granite countertop will be placed on top.

Every RTA island also comes with premium Coyote appliances of your choice. So you’ll just slide them into place, hook up the appliances… And you’re good to go.

Unlike a contractor, this method does require some hands-on effort.

So… Where does the “custom” aspect fit in all this?

Well, it’s all in the front end of the process.

We have a free online design tool that most of our customers use to get started. It’s a guided tool that will lead you through creating a custom design in minutes.

From there, you’ll be connected with one of our seasoned Design Experts. They’ll take a tailored approach to your project… Taking the time to truly understand your vision and the intricacies of your space.

The key benefit here is that your exact vision can be executed… But you’ll also get experience-backed guidance and tweaks from a bona fide Design Expert.

But just like the humble contractor… Even RTA has some pitfalls.

So let’s investigate that, shall we?

Are All Custom Outdoor Kitchens Created Equal?

Here’s the thing.

While both solutions are perfectly viable methods to getting a custom outdoor kitchen… Neither one is perfect.

So in the spirit of fairness… We’re going to detail the disadvantages to each method we just discussed.

And after seeing both sides of the coin… You can determine which solution is best for your needs.

Disadvantages of Working with a Contractor

While the local contractor can be a great choice in certain scenarios… You have to know the risks before signing the dotted line.

Craftsmanship & Experience Can be Questionable

a diy outdoor kitchen project that needs electrical utilities ran

First and foremost, proper experience is a concern.

Because the reality is… 99% of the time, your contractor isn’t a dedicated outdoor kitchen builder. He’s not a specialist when it comes to outdoor kitchen construction.

Would you have your primary care physician fill a cavity? We’d certainly hope not! They’re not dentists.

And the same concept applies to contractors. They’re generalists that are proficient at a lot of things… But generally don’t have the specialization needed to build a BBQ island.

Now, that’s not to say that all contractors are unqualified to build an outdoor kitchen. You just need to get crystal clear on their actual experience.

How many outdoor kitchens have they installed in the past year? Do they have photo examples of past projects? Do they have a good online reputation?

These are key questions to get answered before you move forward.

Because the last thing you want is to hire someone inexperienced… And you end up with an island that doesn’t match your vision at all. (Or even starts falling apart in a couple months.)

All in one outdoor kitchen solution

Getting started with an outdoor kitchen project has never been easier! Use our free 3D design tool to get started.

Timelines Tend to Get Extended

Naturally, you’re going to be excited about getting your custom island project underway.

Once you get things in motion, you want results fast.

But you’re not working on your own timeline. You’re working on your contractor’s timeline.

And there’s one thing we all know about contractors. They’re busy.

Which means they’re rotating between several different projects at any given time… And there’s no option for priority treatment.

All said and done… Your backyard could be disturbed for several weeks (or even months) with a messy, half-finished project.

They say patience is a virtue… But not all of us are content with the relaxed pace many contractors will have.

Material Choices are a Mixed Bag

wood frame rotting out on an outdoor kitchen after a few years
a metal frame outdoor kitchen falling apart after a few winters

Just like with the issue of experience… Contractors may skimp on your outdoor kitchen components.

Now, this isn’t out of malice! It’s just that many contractors aren’t aware of how quickly certain materials get beat up in the outdoor environment.

For the most part, contractors will use wood or metal frames to construct your island.

Wood outdoor kitchens will show their age quickly… As they’re not able to be properly protected by a simple cement board and cladded-on finish.

Humidity and moisture will cause rapid warping, swelling, and rotting… And if you live in an area with termites, your island will soon be consumed from the inside out.

And that’s just wood.

Metal is a little better, but not much better.

You won’t have to contend with rotting or pesky termites… But you will have to deal with rust and corrosion. Particularly if you live in a coastal or northern, wintery climate.

It’s not just the frames you have to worry about, either. These solutions often have issues with cracked stucco and stones or tiles popping off the side.

Your best bet is to locate a contractor who works with masonry materials like concrete block, brick, or stone… But that’ll run up your bill quickly. (And probably blow through your budget.)

While you might feel like you’re willing to take your chances right now… We haven’t talked about safety yet.

Safety is Often Overlooked

an image of an outdoor kitchen that caught fire due to poor ventilation

Going back to the concept that contractors are generalists… This lack of experience also means that safety is often overlooked.

And again, it’s not out of ill-intent. Most contractors simply don’t know that there are safety considerations when building an outdoor kitchen.

But when you think about it… It makes sense.

You’ve got a built-in grill that can reach temperatures in excess of 1,000°F completely enclosed by a structure… So there’s some fire safety basics you need to keep in mind here.

And it’s for this reason alone that wood is an absolute no-go for your BBQ island construction.

It’s a fire hazard waiting to happen… And there’s no good reason to take that risk just to save a few bucks.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the use of wood that you’ll have to dodge.

The vast majority of contractors are unaware of the need for proper island ventilation.

Your grill is generating a ton of heat and gas fumes… And all of that exhaust needs somewhere to go.

We all know what happens when heat and pressure builds. Heat will cause combustible materials (like wood) to catch fire… And that pressure buildup could cause your custom BBQ island to explode.

Point is, your outdoor kitchen needs ventilation. And lots of it.

We’ve gone over how much ventilation is needed in detail elsewhere… So if you’re working with a contractor, make sure they’re crystal clear on these safety measures.

You’re on the Hook for More than You Think

Not to add insult to injury… But working with a contractor isn’t exactly as hands-off as it may seem.

This is for a couple reasons.

For one, many contractors don’t sell outdoor appliances. And since these won’t be provided for you… That means it’s on you to do all the shopping and research.

And since this is likely your first custom built outdoor kitchen… You’re not going to have much knowledge on different appliance brands.

What’s good?

What’s not?

Who knows?

For some of you, this might not be a big deal. But if you were expecting your contractor to handle 100% of the logistics… This might prove to be some unwelcome news.

Further, you’ll be lucky to get offered a warranty on your custom outdoor grill station.

And since you’re already dishing out a ton of cash for this project… Isn’t it reasonable to expect some long-term coverage?

We’d like to think so.

Unfortunately, most contractors are a bit gun-shy when it comes to guaranteeing their workmanship.

Which means you’re on the hook if anything goes awry with your new island.

So if you encounter a contractor who won’t budge on offering a warranty… This is most definitely cause for concern.

This project is a huge undertaking… And you deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ll be covered if anything goes wrong.

With all that said about contractors… RTA isn’t without their problems either.

Problems with an RTA Outdoor Kitchen

While we firmly believe that RTA is an excellent choice for most custom projects… We’ll also be the first to admit we’re not for everyone.

Here’s why.

We Can’t Design Everything

dolores catanias outdoor kitchen in new jersey by rta outdoor living

Although we strive to offer the most customizable outdoor kitchen solution out there… The truth is, we can’t design absolutely everything for you.

There are some limitations to the RTA system.

At the time of writing… We’re unable to design two-tier countertops, curved structures, and accommodations for certain types of appliances.

That said, we’re always working on new options to add to our repertoire. So if we can’t do it right now… The future’s not off the table.

Appliance Selections are Limited

This one’s a bit tricky.

We offer a full suite of appliances with tons of options… But they’re all from a single brand.

Coyote Outdoor Living.

Now, Coyote’s appliances are made with premium, 304 stainless steel construction, come with a lifetime warranty… And offer the best price for the value in the market.

So we wouldn’t trade our partnership with Coyote for the world… And we heartily recommend their product to anyone who will listen.

But we also understand that you might have a different appliance brand in mind.

Maybe Alfresco, Blaze, or Twin Eagles are speaking to your heart.

And unfortunately… We don’t have standard accommodations to fit these appliances.

Installer Network is Still Growing

While we have no doubts about being able to design and create your dream kitchen… We recognize that you might be apprehensive about the idea of installing it yourself.

Not everyone is a DIY fanatic… And we completely understand if you just don’t have the drive to assemble your own outdoor kitchen.

Which is exactly why we have invested heavily into a Pro Installer Network.

This is a network of highly-vetted contractors, specifically trained to properly assemble our islands. (And it only takes them a couple hours!)

So where’s the disadvantage?

While we have some rock-solid installers in key areas… There are still large areas of the country where we don’t have coverage. So it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be able to take advantage of this program.

And there you have it. The downsides of contractors and RTA.

Do you have a better idea of what solution you want to go with?

We’ll leave you with one more closing thought…

Your Custom Backyard Kitchen with an Entire Team Behind You

modern stone outdoor kitchen

While we could go back and forth all day about materials, warranties, safety, and customization options… There’s one thing RTA offers that you will not get anywhere else.

Something that truly takes the experience of building a custom outdoor BBQ to the next level.

You won’t have a single contractor juggling all aspects of your project (and other commitments).

But you will have an entire team of experts with you… Every step of the way.

Members of our design team will work one-on-one with you to ensure your exact vision is brought to life.

Our blueprint team meticulously puts the specs together, free of errors.

Our manufacturing team in Cambridge City, Indiana crafts every panel with exacting care.

And our Customer Success team will hold your hand through the assembly and beyond.

They’ll link you up with a Pro Installer (if requested)… Or walk you through how to assemble your RTA outdoor custom kitchen on the date of your install.

But we don’t cut ties even after that.

Your assigned Project Manager from the Customer Success team will continue to reach out to you periodically… Offering helpful tips about island maintenance, care, and just to hear about how you like your new outdoor kitchen.

Oh, and did we mention that we offer a lifetime structural warranty on your custom made outdoor kitchen?

So on the off-chance that something does go wrong… We’ll be on the hook for it, not you.

Well, what do you say?

Are you ready to create your dream outdoor entertaining space?

Get started by submitting your ideal layout with our free online design tool… And we’ll be in touch from there.

Happy designing!

Need Help With Your Plans?

Talk to one of our expert designers and they will guide you from planning to installation. Schedule a call today.


With a custom outdoor kitchen… There’s really no limit on the features you can include!

Of course, you’ll likely want a grill as the centerpiece of your BBQ island…

But you could also bring some more functionality with other outdoor cooking appliances (like a side burner, a pizza oven, or a flat top grill).

You could also add an outdoor kitchen bar, to give your guests a spot to sit…

Or, add features like an outdoor refrigerator, storage, roll out trash bins, a sink, and plenty of counter space to make food prep and cleanup a breeze!

Whatever you need, it can most likely be accommodated in a custom outdoor kitchen design.

Free 1-on-1 Design Consult

($500 Value + bonuses & monthly promotional offer)

Enter your contact information below and one of our expert outdoor kitchen designers will reach out to you soon to schedule a call at your earliest convenience.

By submitting your number, you consent to receiving calls and texts from RTA Outdoor Living. Calls may be recorded for training or quality purposes. You can reply STOP or unsubscribe to cancel at any time.

Looking For Your Dream Outdoor Kitchen?

Book a Free 1-On-1 Design Call

Why You Should Book A Call Now:

By submitting your number, you consent to receiving calls and texts from RTA Outdoor living. You can reply STOP or unsubscribe to cancel at any time.