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DIY Outdoor Kitchen: 3 Best Methods You Should Know

By Daniel Cdebaca

April 8, 2022

DIY Outdoor Kitchen on a Nice Patio with white fence

Considering a DIY outdoor kitchen project?

You’ve probably been seeing a lot more mention of outdoor kitchens in your personal life and online. It’s true, outdoor kitchens have become extremely popular in recent years!

And for good reason.

Outdoor kitchens offer huge benefits to those who choose to invest in one. First and foremost is a way to bring your loved ones together. There’s no better way to spend a summer weekend… Enjoying great food and great company, gathered all around your outdoor kitchen.

You also enjoy the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. When you own one… You want to cook more! It’s just that simple. Home cooked meals are great for your health and wallet alike.

DIY Outdoor Kitchen on a Nice Patio with white fence

The industry has developed massively over the years. Unfortunately, it can still be challenging to get a reliable, specialized outdoor kitchen contractor or builder.

Many times, contractors are difficult to get a hold of… Leading to extended timelines. Another complication is working with a contractor who does not specialize in outdoor kitchens. If you choose to go this route… You’re taking a gamble on the end result. Alternatively, you’ll end up paying a premium to work with an expert.

As a result… outdoor kitchen solutions for DIY’ers have become much more popular.

Now, a DIY outdoor kitchen is not necessarily a walk in the park! There’s a lot of thought required between design, construction, and materials used. You want to ensure your efforts result in an outdoor kitchen that is functional, aesthetically pleasing, and works for your space. You’ll also need to understand how to choose materials with longevity in mind.

This article is written to provide you deep insight on how to take on your own outdoor kitchen DIY project. We’ll discuss available options along with step-by-step guides for each.

Let’s start with your options.

Types of DIY Outdoor Kitchens

As the industry has grown… There have been many more options created for those looking to take on a outdoor kitchen project yourself.

Built From Scratchย 

RTF (Ready-to-Finish)

RTA (Ready-to-Assemble)

Built from Scratch

custom diy outdoor kitchen

DIY SKILL LEVEL

๐Ÿ”จ๐Ÿ”จ๐Ÿ”จ๐Ÿ”จ๐Ÿ”จ

HIGH

TIMELINE

๐Ÿ•’๐Ÿ•’๐Ÿ•’๐Ÿ•’๐Ÿ•’

1-4+ WEEKS

Let’s go for the most complex option first. Yes, it’s true you get the most flexibility with this method. But… That means you’re building from the ground up. This is not the option if you are hoping for an easy diy outdoor kitchen experience. This can be a formidable challenge if you’re not familiar with outdoor kitchen construction!

We’ll start from the beginning to share the process with you. Here, we will be assuming you already have a design in mind and a place to put your outdoor kitchen.

You can’t start your project without considering the utilities you’ll need. This will be a consideration no matter which DIY method you choose.

Utilities

electrical utility line coming through patio

Depending on the outdoor kitchen appliances you want… You may have to bring utility lines into the area. If you already have utility lines, that’s great! You’re a step ahead. Let’s break down the utilities needed for different appliances.

Electrical: Refrigerators, wine coolers, ice makers, warming drawers, certain grills (pellet, electric, etc.), lights, and more.

Propane or Natural Gas: Gas grills, side burners, power burners. (Keep in mind you can use a propane tank. A direct gas line is not always necessary).

Plumbing: Sinks, ice makers.

Generally speaking, you won’t install and run utility lines yourself. You’ll want to involve a licensed electrician or plumber for this piece.

electrical utility line coming through patio

Construction

Now that we’ve got utilities out of the way… We can discuss construction of a scratch-built outdoor kitchen. You can build this way using several different methods.

To begin, an outdoor kitchen is comprised of multiple layers. Most often, the base is a frame that provides the structure. You then attach a surface to attach the cladding material to. Think of it like the “canvas” for your outdoor kitchen finish. Then, you’ll finish with your outdoor kitchen material of choice. Think tile, stone, stucco, etc.

Appliances and countertops are the final touches of your installation.

Before outlining the steps… Let’s look at the tools you’ll need to complete this project.

we make building an outoor kitchen easy

Worried about the construction of your outdoor kitchen project? RTA Outdoor Living makes it as simple as a couple hours with a few tools.

Tools

impact drill for construction project

Impact Drill

circular saw for outdoor project

Circular Saw

saw horse for construction

Saw Horses

angle grinder for construction project

Angle Grinder

cement mixer for masonry work

Mortar Mixer

notched trowel for masonry

Notched Trowel

masonry trowel for construction project

Masonry Trowel

exterior screws for outdoor kitchen assembly

Exterior Screws

speed square for checking level

Speed Square

tape measure for construction

Tape Measure

gloves for outdoor kitchen installation

Gloves

hammer for diy project

Hammer

pencil to mark cuts

Pencil

tube of adhesive for caulking

Adhesive

4 foot level tool

4-6′ Level

wrench and socket kit

Wrench & Socket Kit

caulking gun for construction project

Caulking & Caulking Gun

hand showing thumbs up

Can-Do Attitude ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pretty extensive list! So, what are the steps?

Step one: Construct the Frame

man cutting lumber for outdoor kitchen frame

There are three main materials you could choose to build your DIY outdoor kitchen frame out of. Metal, wood, or concrete block.

wood
2x4 wood planks for outdoor kitchen frame

We consider wood the most DIY friendly as most people are familiar with wood construction. Metal frame construction is very similar to wood… So we will explain the process of wood here with additional notes for the metal frame method.

Here are the main points to consider with wood DIY outdoor kitchen frames:

  • Always start out with a layout or blueprint of your design before you begin building.
  • Understand the specifications of your appliances and where they will sit in your outdoor kitchen. That way you can properly create appliance openings while framing your walls.
  • You’ll start by cutting your vertical studs, footer, and header pieces. These pieces will create the frame of your outdoor kitchen. You’ll need a circular saw or chop saw and pressure treated 2′ x 4’s to complete this step.
  • Keep in mind that your frames should be lower than the final desired height. This will allow you to account for countertop thickness. For example: If you want the final height of your outdoor kitchen to be 36″ and your countertop is 1.25″ thick… Then you must build the frame to be 34.75″.
  • You’ll use a drill and exterior screws to attach the wood studs.
  • Cut cross supports that will act as spacers. They will also provide support from the front to the back. These should be cut to the depth of your island.
Metal

As mentioned earlier, metal frame construction is very similar to wood… With a few exceptions.

For metal frame construction, you’ll need a chop saw with a metal blade to cut the steel tubing. You’ll also want a welding machine to weld the studs together. There are metal frame methods that allow you to bolt the studs together… However, we prefer welding as it is more structural.

Concrete Block
cinderblock frame wall of outdoor kitchen -

The concrete block method requires more trade skill. It’s usually best to leave this to the experts… But this can be a DIY route for someone with masonry skills. Also know that concrete is a heavier construction method. If you plan to put a DIY outdoor kitchen on a deck… You’ll need to consider if you need structural footings before setting the block.

Here are other things to know about concrete block construction:

  • Like wood and metal, you’ll need to start with layout. Concrete blocks are not as easy to manipulate as wood or metal. So providing openings for the appliances can present their own challenges.
  • You will start with putting down your first row of block on a mortar bed.
  • After the first layer, continue to build up. Use concrete mortar to adhere each block together.
  • Concrete block is a non-combustible construction method. You won’t need insulated jackets and can use non-combustible construction for the appliance cutouts.
  • Cutting the cinder block will require a concrete saw or angle grinder with a masonry blade.
  • Openings may require more support pieces to hold up concrete blocks on the overhangs. This is only while the mortar sets.

Step Two: Cover the Frame

covering frame of outdoor kitchen

Next step is covering your frame. This is the surface you’ll be applying your cladding material to. Most cladding materials require a masonry surface for a proper bond. The frame covering also provides protection from outside moisture… Which can deteriorate the frame over time.

In the past… Frames were often covered with sheets of plywood. The plywood would have a moisture barrier over it for protection. Then you would attach a wire mesh so you can apply a scratch coat to it.

While you can cover your frame this way… Construction methods have evolved greatly over time! You’re better off using an updated method for your DIY outdoor kitchen plans.

Most commonly, you’ll see frames covered with cement board. You’ll cut the sheets to size and apply them directly to your frames. Cement board itself is a cementitious material… So you can apply your scratch coat directly to it. There’s no extra step of adding mesh there.

If you decide on concrete block… You can skip this step completely. It’s a masonry material, so you can directly apply the scratch coat onto it.

Here’s a quick play-by-play of how this step works:

  • Cut sheets of cement board according to the frame dimensions.
  • Attach the cement board to your metal or wood frames. Use exterior or metal screws.
  • Make sure you cut the cement board according to your appliance and cabinet openings
  • Apply a self-adhesive fiber mesh to all seams and corners.

Step Three: Apply a Scratch Coat

scoring concrete for diy outdoor kitchen

Your cladding material is going to require a rough surface for optimal bonding. To create this rough surface, you’re going to make a scratch coat.

Here’s the basic rundown:

  • Select the material you will use. For cinder block, you can use a masonry mortar mix. For cement board, use an exterior rated thin set.
  • Mix the concrete using a masonry hoe or an electric mortar mixer.
  • Apply the concrete mixture using a trowel.
  • Score the concrete to create a rough surface. This forms the texture of your scratch coat.
  • Use a 1/2″ notch trowel to score the surface horizontally. Tilt the trowel with a 45 degree trajectory.
  • Start from the top of the cabinet and work your way down.
  • Keep the lines as straight as possible for a guide when applying your cladding material.
  • Let the scratch coat cure for 24 hours.

Step Four: Install the Countertops

This doesn’t necessarily have to be the next step. You could choose to apply the cladding material first. It’s really down to personal preference and what works best for you. Some prefer to have the countertops installed to apply the cladding material right up to the bottom of the countertop.

The process for installing the countertop varies depending on the countertop you use. Make sure all your countertop cutouts for appliances are fabricated and match the openings of the island base.

Step Five: Install the Cladding Material

There’s a lot of variance in cladding materials. You could choose stone, tile, stucco, and more. In the scope of this article, we’ll be just discuss tile and stone.

Here are the main points to consider:

  • Work the cladding material from the bottom to the top.
  • Make the mortar mix and butter the back of the stones.
  • Scrape any excess mortar that oozes out and clean up as you go.
  • Cut stones to fit before applying them. Especially around corners and appliances. Use a masonry saw or angle grinder with a masonry blade to perform cuts.
  • Also be sure to account for flanges on appliances. You may want to dry fit appliances to use as a guide during installation.

Step Six: Install Appliances & Connect Utility Lines

At this stage your cladding material has been applied. We recommend a well-deserved pat on the back for all that work! You’re nearly finished.

Now you just have to install appliances and connect utility lines.

Start with the built-in grill and appliances that will sit on the countertops. From there, install access doors, refrigerators, etc.

Want to see a build in real time?ย  Watch this video to see a time-lapse of the hard work that goes into a project like this.

RTF (Ready-to-FINISH)

Ready to Finish Frame System done and in a yard

DIY SKILL LEVEL

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MEDIUM

TIMELINE

๐Ÿ•’๐Ÿ•’๐Ÿ•’

2-5+ DAYS

If a complete built from scratch project seems way too daunting… You may be more interested in an RTF solution. It’s a bit easier and eliminates some of the steps .

With RTF, you won’t have to construct the entire frame from scratch. The frame will be built for you with the cement board attached.

What tools will you need? Good question.

Tools

impact drill for construction project

Impact Drill

Angle Grinder

Generic Tape Measure

Tape Measure

Pencil

90 degree level for outdoor project

90 Degree Square

level to check patio pitch

4-6′ Level

wrench and socket kit

Wrench & Socket Kit

caulking gun for construction project

Caulking & Caulking Gun

Let’s take a peek at the installation process for RTF.

Step One: Unpack & Connect Pieces

This step will vary slightly depending on the brand you choose. Some will arrive completely set up and ready to put in place. Most require pieces to be assembled and bolted together.

These are the basic steps:

  • Bolt panel studs together on four corners to the front wall. This will allow you to stand up the unit.
  • Connect the four panel connecting struts to the back panel.
  • Install leveling feet to the bottom of the connecting studs.
  • Place caulking on the bottom of the connecting struts. Place the floor board on top and screw down the metal struts to secure.

Check out this video on a visual for how it works.

Step Two: Place the Modules

Now that you’ve put together the pieces… It’s time to place the modules.

Arrange them how you desire on your patio or other surface. Depending on the design, you may be putting multiple modules together.

If you need to level the modules or units to account for patio pitch… You’ll want to address that at this stage.

Step Three: Cutout Appliances

Next step is to prepare your appliance cutouts. Refer to your layout to determine where the appliances are supposed to go.

RTF systems do not include appliance cutouts, so you will have to complete this step manually.

Some key points to keep in mind:

  • Refer to appliance specification cutout sheets for dimensions and layout.
  • Ensure you are using non-combustible construction specifications. (This depends on your countertop material).
  • Use a grinder with a masonry block to cut through the cement board.

Step Four: Install Grill Arms or Supports

Now you’ve made your cutouts. Nice work!

You’ll be provided with grill arms or supports. These will reinforce the openings for the appliances.

Simply install the supports using the screws that are provided.

Step Five: Install Side Panels

This is another straightforward step!

Apply caulking to the side rails. Then place the side panels on top and secure the cement board with screws.

Step Six: Cutout Vents

It’s pretty simple… Cut out your ventilation!

Step Seven: Finishing

applying finish on rtf outdoor kitchen kit

RTF outdoor kitchens do not come finished. So you will still have to complete this step on your own.

The process is the same as described with scratch built. So refer to that section for a refresher!

Looking for an RTF System?ย  Check out Grillnetics.

RTA (Ready-to-Assemble)

L shaped rta outdoor kitchen with pizza oven

DIY SKILL LEVEL

๐Ÿ”จ

LOW

TIMELINE

๐Ÿ•’

2-6+ HOURS

You may be thinking to yourself… “RTF sounds great and all… But I still don’t want to be bothered with that many steps.”

Well, perhaps RTA is the solution for you!

Ready-to-assemble outdoor kitchens make it even easier for the average DIYer. Why? The island arrives to your house 95% complete. All you have to do is assemble it like a piece of furniture.

Our DIY outdoor kitchen kits come with all the components you need. Countertops, panels, appliances, the hardware and all. You can’t ask for more in a DIY outdoor kitchen option!

There’s no need to apply a finish, either. The finish is incorporated into the panels themselves. Even the appliance cutouts are already done for you.

You simply bolt the panels together, put the countertops on, and slide the appliances in. That’s it!

Let’s look at the tools you’ll need to assemble an RTA outdoor kitchen.

Tools

drill for outdoor kitchen installation

Impact Drill

prybar for outdoor kitchen uncrating

Pry Bar

tape measure for diy project

Tape Measure

Pencil for Construction Project

Pencil

gloves for outdoor kitchen installation

Gloves

utility knife to open outdoor kitchen packaging

Utility Knife

speed square for outdoor kitchen

Speed Square

level for patio surface

2′ or 4′ Level

dolly for carrying outdoor kitchen panels

Dolly or Cart

5-32 masonry bit for outdoor kitchen assembly

5/32″ Masonry Bit

T20 Star Bit for construction

T20 Star Bit

5-16 hex head drill bit

5/16″ Hex Head Bit

phillips head bit for installation of outdoor kitchen

Phillips Head Bit

caulk gun for diy construction

Caulking Gun

Now let’s review the assembly process with RTA.

Step One: Assess your Current Patio Space

RTA Team Member Check the Pitch in a Patio

Before beginning a project with RTA… You must assess your current space first.

Analyze the pitch to see if you need to make any alterations to your surface. Also ensure you have the necessary utility lines run to the area. If not already done, at least have a plan in place to run afterwards.

A beautiful part of the RTA system is that there are no frames required. This leaves the cabinets hollow, providing plenty of space to run utility lines.

Step Two: Unpack & Uncrate your Island

uncrating rta outdoor kitchen kit

Your RTA outdoor kitchen will arrive on pallets in crates. The appliances will be on pallets in boxes.

Here’s all you need to do to unpack:

  • Using a drill and pry bar, begin with uncrating the islands. Uncrate base pieces first.
  • Carry the panels into the final location using a cart, dolly, or by hand.

Step Three: Installing the Panels

installing outdoor kitchen panels

Now that you’ve uncrated all the components… It’s time to put them together!

Here’s what that process looks like:

  • Begin by placing the back panel and attaching the two side panels.
  • Grab an impact or regular drill fitted with a 5/16″ hex head bit. Use the angle brackets provided, line the inside corners up, and bolt the two panels together.
  • At this point, check the levels of the panels. Determine if you need to shim anything.
  • Once the two side panels are secured to the back… Attach the front panel using the L-brackets and screw the self tapping screws into the alignment channels. These channels are embedded into the back of the panel.

Step Four: Installing Countertops

countertop installation for rta outdoor kitchen kit

Alright. You’ve got your panels in place. Now it’s time to “top” everything off with the countertops.

Here’s how to do it:

  • If you haven’t already… Remove your countertop from the crate and bring it to your island structure.
  • Place your countertop on the island base. Line up any cutouts on the countertop with cutouts in the panels.
  • Once leveled and in the correct position… You can secure the countertop on the base with silicone or an adhesive.

Step Five: Install Appliances, Hook Up Utility Lines, & Get Grilling!

installing outdoor kitchen appliances

You’re almost done! At this stage, you’re moments away from enjoying your new outdoor kitchen.

This is how it’s done:

  • Begin with drop-in appliances that will fit into your countertops. Side burners, grills, sinks, etc. These appliances are simply dropped in! The flanges will rest on the countertops and there is no need to fasten them in any manner.
  • Next, install anything that has to be mounted to the panels. Storage, drawers, etc. Use the flanges on the inside of these appliances and screws that are provided. Some appliances will line up with the interior alignment channels. If so, just use the self tapping screws and fasten them into the alignment channels. If not, you can mount them to the side of the panels. Do this by drilling a pilot hole with a masonry bit and screwing it into the panel.
  • Refrigerators and ice makers are slightly different. They’ll just slide into the cabinet opening and sit tight there.
  • From there, you’re ready to hook up your utility lines. Plug in your appliances, get your utilities hooked up… And you’re done!

Want to watch a full RTA installation?ย  Check out this video to see it step-by-step.

Okay, that was a lot of information! Hopefully you’re feeling more clear on what a DIY outdoor kitchen project may entail.

Another thing you’re certainly wondering about is cost.

outdoor kitchen in a few hours

RTA Outdoor Living comes shipped to your driveway ready to assemble. Use our 3D design tool and bring your idea to life.

Budget Considerations

Many of you are likely wondering how to build your DIY outdoor kitchen on a budget.

The reality is… You can make your DIY outdoor kitchen cost as much or as little as you like.

When working with a tight budget, you must ask yourself… How long do I want my outdoor kitchen to last?

You can certainly build your own outdoor kitchen with the cheapest materials possible. Unfortunately, it will likely begin degrading in as little as one season.

With the amount of time and effort you are putting into this… The last thing you want is to have your outdoor kitchen fall apart in a year or two!

Now, we’re not saying you can’t build a DIY outdoor kitchen on a budget! You definitely can.

You may just want to reassess your needs and expectations when it comes to said budget. If you want your outdoor kitchen to last for a long time… You’ll want to allow more funds for higher quality materials.

You can learn more about what outdoor kitchen materials may be best for your project.

Alright, now that we’ve addressed cost… Let’s move on to the next topic you may be wondering about.

Layout is another huge consideration for your project. Now, let’s review some outdoor kitchen DIY plans you can accomplish. Time to get the creative juices flowing!

DIY Layouts

There are virtually endless possibilities when it comes to outdoor kitchen design. Here, we’ll share some DIY outdoor kitchen ideas you can build.

Let’s take a look at these outdoor kitchen photos.

The Grill Station

the grill station outdoor kitchen

If simple and concise is your speed… You’ll love this layout.

For those looking for ideas of a small outdoor kitchen… This Grill Station will work perfectly in your space. You have all the basics arranged into a small footprint.

You’ll even have counter space on both sides of your grill. This is not always a given with smaller layouts. Having countertop space is helpful for preparing and serving food.

Since this is a DIY outdoor kitchen for small spaces… With RTA it can come together in as little as two hours!

The Grill Master's Dream

grill masters dream outdoor kitchen by rta

We consider this DIY outdoor kitchen island the grill master’s dream!

You can cook just about anything on this outdoor kitchen. You have a grill, power burner, and asado smoker at your full disposal. If you’re an outdoor cooking enthusiast… You’ll love having all this versatility at your fingertips.

As mentioned, this is a DIY outdoor kitchen with smoker will give you that classic, charcoal flavor we all crave. Spending a Saturday smoking some ribs sounds like heaven on Earth to us!

With RTA, this system can be assembled in about 4-6 hours.

The Entertainer

Have you always wanted your home to be the place where everyone wants to gather?

Here’s your opportunity.

You get both a ton of cooking functionality and hosting potential with this layout.

For the entertainer in you, this DIY outdoor kitchen with bar is the standout feature. Imagine your loved ones seated at the bar chatting away with you while you’re preparing a meal. This can be the basis of your summer weekends year after year!

For assembly, expect a layout like this to assemble in 6-8 hours with RTA.

Bar Station

Perhaps you already have a grill that you’re in love with… But you want to step up your outdoor living space.

Rather than going for a full outdoor kitchen… You may prefer to simply add a bar station. This will allow you to grill while still having a place for guests to sit.

A layout like this one would take 2-4 hours to install with RTA.

Countertop & Storage Station

Maybe you already have the perfect grill… But you’re not looking for bar seating.

How nice would it be to have a prep area outside? We know how annoying it can be to constantly run in and out of the house for various items. It can feel like the Benny Hill theme is on a loop when you’re running in and out like that!

A countertop & storage station allows you to keep everything in one place. Cooking and hosting outdoors will be far more convenient. Not only do you have plenty of space to prep meals… You can serve all sorts of food items to act as a buffet for your guests.

A storage station like this will take about 2-4 hours with RTA.

Now What?

After reading through all this information, you’re probably wondering what the next step is.

Well, you have a lot to consider! We suggest a couple things. First, continue your research. Second, allow some time for the information you learned today to process.

An outdoor kitchen is a huge investment… DIY or not. So it’s important not to rush the decision-making process. You must feel confident that the decision you make is the right one for your needs.

If you’re looking to learn more… Our website is a wealth of information! We discuss all outdoor kitchen solutions on our blog, not just RTA.

Wanting more guided assistance? We’d be happy to chat with you! Speaking with one of our design experts may be exactly what you need to understand your project. Schedule a time that’s convenient for you and get the ball rolling!

It’s exciting to build an outdoor kitchen. We’d love to share in that excitement with you!

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