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How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen with Grill Island – 4 Ways

By James King

July 29, 2022

If you’re here, you’ve started your outdoor kitchen research in earnest. And you’re wondering…

How do I build an outdoor kitchen?

It’s a great question to ask yourself. With how difficult it is to hire help… It makes sense you’re considering taking on the project yourself.

Recently, the home renovation market has exploded. Surveys from the AIA consistently show that the outdoor kitchen is the most popular special function room. That means contractors are busier than they’ve ever been.

Outdoor kitchens are a popular project… And for good reason.

In our increasingly technology-entangled lives… There’s a growing number of homeowners who crave stepping away. Hosting a barbecue with family and a few friends is one of the best ways to truly connect. Nothing like eating delicious food with your loved ones.

Lucky for you… The increase in outdoor kitchen popularity has led to many developments in construction. You’ve got options!

A primary focus in the industry has been simplicity. With traditional outdoor kitchen methods being quite difficult to assemble… There was a huge incentive to make the process easier.

And easier it has become. What used to be a daunting process… Is now possible for the average homeowner.

Possible is an understatement. There are methods that make it super easy. You can design and assemble your own diy outdoor kitchen all from the comfort of your home. What method is that, exactly? We’ll get to that later!

Already started the process? Skip ahead:

  1. The Planning Process
  2. Outdoor Kitchen Construction Types
  3. How To Build a Wood Frame Grill Island
  4. How To Build a Metal Frame Grill Island
  5. How To Build a Concrete Block Grill Island
  6. Budget Considerations

For now, let’s define what a grill island is.

What is a Grill Island?

Simply put… A grill island is an outdoor kitchen island with a cooking component. Usually there’s counter space available for food prep and serving. You may also have other appliances for convenience, such as a fridge or pull-out trash.

Who is a grill island for?

A grill island is a great fit for anyone that doesn’t want an over-the-top outdoor kitchen layout. You may not want or need an outdoor bar island for seating guests. They are a functional way to extend your outdoor living space. Lots of convenience can be had with a smaller footprint!

At the end of the day… They can be as simple or complex as you like.

So, let’s get building!

The Planning Process for How to Build a Grill Island

Well… Hold on a second. We can’t really talk about how to build an outdoor kitchen without planning first.

Let’s dig into how to create a DIY outdoor kitchen plan before teaching you how to build an outdoor kitchen island.

Space & Location

Perimeter Outdoor Kitchen
Satellite Outdoor Kitchen

The first thing you’ll have to plan out is your outdoor living space. After all… The size of your grilling island is completely limited to the outdoor space you have!

Another question is a patio. Do you have an existing patio already or do you need to install one in your outdoor space? We won’t go into detail here… Just know that you’ll need a surface to put your outdoor kitchen on. We’ll circle back to patios a bit later.

Now for the location in your outdoor living space. Will you be installing your BBQ island near or far away from the house? Terms you’ll often hear around this concept are “perimeter” and “satellite”. A perimeter outdoor kitchen is situated near or against the back wall of your house. A satellite outdoor kitchen is the opposite. Placed further away from the house.

Location is important when it comes to considering utility lines. Speaking of…

how do you like to grill?

Use our 3D design tool for free to create and build your own outdoor kitchen with the components you want to cook with!

Utility Lines

utility lines coming out of patio for outdoor kitchen

Utilities will factor into virtually all outdoor kitchen projects. Especially on a BBQ island!

Gas grills are going to require fuel… Whether it be natural gas or propane. If you choose to fuel with a propane tank, you won’t have to run lines. However, you’ll want to make sure you’re okay with less convenience long-term.

Also know that most grills have an electrical component as well. Think knob lights, etc. So consider this when deciding to run electrical lines or not.

Finally, if you are including appliances that require plumbing such as an outdoor sink… Then you will also have to figure out getting water and drainage. This can be a big project.

Grill & Other Outdoor Appliances

Now, this article isn’t about finding a gas grill… But it’s important to understand how to choose the best for your needs.

If you’re looking for more detail… You can review built-in grills and detail here.

You also have to think about additional appliances in your outdoor kitchen plan. Do you want to incorporate appliances beyond the grill? There are many options that could be convenient add-ons to your island. Take for example a fridge, pull-out trash, storage space, a wood fired pizza oven, or an outdoor sink.

Don’t forget, you may want to put as many appliances as possible into your island, but you don’t want to neglect countertop prep space either. You still want to have room to prep food on your countertop.

Here are some of the other main points to consider when it comes to outdoor appliances:

Determine your Cooking Style

How do you like to cook?

Depending on your answer… You may prefer a charcoal, pellet, or gas grill.

Each have their own perks and drawbacks. A gas grill will be the most convenient…. Whereas charcoal grills will have less convenience but that authentic barbecue flavor when cooking. Pellet grills are a happy medium of convenience and flavor.

Decide on the Size
Coyote 28-Inch Grill
479 sq. in Grill Area

Recommended for 3-6 People

Coyote 36-Inch Grill
640 sq. in Grill Area

Recommended for 6-9 People

Coyote 42-Inch Grill
990 sq. in Grill Area

Recommended for 12+ People

Say you’ve decided on the type of grill you want. What size should it be?

It really just depends on how many people you’ll regularly be cooking for. The more people, the larger the grill you’ll need.

Also note that you’re shopping for a built-in grill. As a result, you’ll likely want to spring for one that’s a bit larger for cooking during gatherings.

Size isn’t exclusive to just grills, either!

You’ll also want to consider the size of other appliances. Do you need a large refrigerator? Or can you get by with a smaller one?

Perhaps you don’t need that many drawers after all… In that case, you’ll want to remove some.

You get the idea!

Determine your Appliance Budget

The ultimate deciding factor is what you are willing to spend for a budget. You know what appliances you want… Does it fit into your budget?

There are also multiple grill classes available. How much you are willing to spend will dictate what’s possible for your project.

Only the best materials for your grill island

RTA Outdoor Kitchens are engineered for the outdoors. We use only non-combustible materials and exceed venting requirements for natural gas and liquid propane grills. Use our design tool to create and build the grill island of your dreams.

What Material is Used for an Outdoor Kitchen?

Outdoor kitchen materials can vary widely. Mainly, this depends on the outdoor kitchen island solution you choose. Different assembly methods utilize different materials.

The materials used are quite literally the foundation of your own outdoor kitchen island. If you want your investment to last a long time… You’ll want to educate yourself on what materials are best.

As for the moment, let’s briefly explain the main materials you will encounter.

Most commonly, you’ll find an outdoor kitchen framed with metal. They’re lightweight, versatile, and relatively affordable.

The trouble comes in if you live in a climate with inclement weather. Particularly so in areas with freeze/thaw cycles. Moisture will eventually seep inside to the metal frame. While most metal frames used are corrosion resistant… It’s only a matter of time before it breaks down.

If you’re concerned about your climate and weather… You’ll want to consider concrete. Here at RTA, we use concrete for the base of every outdoor kitchen island. When exposed to moisture, it won’t corrode or rust.

Another material you may see used for an outdoor kitchen is wood. Unfortunately… We don’t recommend using wood at all. The main reason? Wood is highly susceptible to rot and insect damage.

Again, we’ll put in a good word for using concrete!

Now that we’ve gone over materials… Let’s take a peek at grilling island construction types.

How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen with different Construction Types

As you know… There are many ways to construct a DIY outdoor kitchen island.

Each method will have their advantages and disadvantages. To understand what will be best for you, we’ll break down each outdoor kitchen build method here.

The vast majority of outdoor kitchens will be constructed using the frame method. As you’ll remember from the materials section… The most common materials used are wood, metal, and concrete.

Here’s how to build a BBQ island with wood.

How to Build a Wood Frame Outdoor Kitchen Island

wood outdoor kitchen structure in the midst of construciton

DIY SKILL LEVEL

🔨🔨🔨🔨🔨

HIGH

TIMELINE

🕒🕒🕒🕒🕒

1-2+ WEEKS

As a reminder… We don’t recommend building an outdoor kitchen with wood. Yes, it’s inexpensive. Yes, it’s easy. No, its not weather resistant. So when your island rots in a couple years… You won’t be happy!

Regardless, a wood frame DIY outdoor kitchen is a popular method. We won’t get into the nitty-gritty of construction. However, we’ll hit all the high points you need to know before making a decision. If you want more information, check out all about DIY outdoor kitchens.

Let’s discuss.

Tools

Impact Drill

circular saw for outdoor project

Circular Saw

Saw Horses

Angle Grinder

Mortar Mixer

Notched Trowel

masonry trowel for construction project

Masonry Trowel

Exterior Screws

Speed Square

Tape Measure

Gloves

hammer for diy project

Hammer

Pretty extensive list, right? Once you’ve gathered your tools… Here’s what you have to do next.

Construction Steps

Pencil

tube of adhesive for caulking

Adhesive

4-6′ Level

Wrench & Socket Kit

Caulking & Caulking Gun

Can-Do Attitude 😉

Alright, hold your horses! Before you start building… You’ll need the dimensions of your island at the ready. Take your time and make sure it’s the exact layout you want!

Also be prepared to box out the section of the frame that your grill will sit in.

Once you’ve got your complete plan… You can begin to construct the frame.

To chop the wood, you’ll need your circular saw or chop saw. Prepare the wood pieces to the proper sizes needed.

Now, construct the BBQ island frame. Use your drill and exterior screws to attach the wood studs.

And voila! The bones of your outdoor kitchen island are in place.

Pro Tip: Wood frames require insulated jackets for cooking appliances. Make sure to follow the combustible cutout specifications! (take picture of Coyote’s install guide for reference). Metal and concrete frames are non-combustible… So an insulated jacket is not required for those materials.

So you’ve got your frame. Now you have to cover it!

To do this, you’ll need some cement board. Most commonly, you’ll see builders using HardieBacker board.

Cut the cement board to fit the side faces of your BBQ island. Then, you’ll fasten all these pieces in place. Make sure you also allow for appliance cutouts. Fridge cutouts, trash, etc.

Pro Tip: Also remember ventilation! Cut areas for ventilation according to the requirements from your appliance manufacturer.

Next step is to prep your grilling island surface for finishing. To do this, you need to apply a scratch coat. The scratch coat provides a rough surface for the finishing material to adhere to.

Prepare a masonry mortar mix. Apply this to every side face of your outdoor kitchen.

Keep the lines and notches as straight as possible. After you’re done… It’s time to wait a little bit. Allow your scratch coat to cure for 24 hours.

This is where the outline of your outdoor kitchen really starts to come together.

Thankfully, installing countertops is a straightforward step! You’ll definitely need a helping hand, though.

Carefully lift and set your countertop in place.

There are many materials you could choose for your finish. Stucco, tiles, manufactured stone or brick veneer, etc.

Stucco is easy. You just mix and spread!

Tile and stone require a bit more finesse. You’ll have to arrange them to fit nicely! Take your time… Apply one at a time… And you’ll be just fine.

Just a couple finishing touches, and you will have a fully functional kitchen is ready to use.

Start with installing your appliances. With your helper, carefully drop the grill into place. Also have them help you install other appliances. Fridges, trash, drawers, etc.

All that’s left to do is connect your appliances to the utility lines.

And that’s it. That’s the process! If you aren’t DIY-savvy… It may seem a little daunting. Later on, we’ll share an outdoor kitchen build option you may prefer. Stay tuned!

We make it easy, from design to installation

Want an outdoor kitchen that is custom designed for you? Want an outdoor kitchen that assembles with ease? That's what we do!

How to Build a Metal Frame Outdoor Grill Island

metal frame outdoor grill island being built
Metal Frame Using RTF Systems

DIY SKILL LEVEL

🔨🔨🔨🔨

HIGH

TIMELINE

🕒🕒

1-5+ Days

Metal Frame Construction from Scratch

DIY SKILL LEVEL

🔨🔨🔨🔨

HIGH

TIMELINE

🕒🕒🕒🕒🕒

1-2+ WEEKS

You’ve undoubtedly noticed there are two methods when it comes to building an outdoor kitchen with metal frames. Same skill cap, but one is faster than the other. We’ll briefly touch on both here.

First, is the RTF system. This is a metal frame system that has partially been done for you. The metal is cut to size and ready to put together. Some will also include pre-cut cement board. You just have to finish it yourself and install appliances/utility lines.

The second option is building it from scratch. You’ll be responsible for sourcing all the materials yourself. Additionally, cutting the metal studs and all other prep work. Keep in mind the RTF system is designed to make this process much easier.

Overall, metal frames are constructed very similarly to wood frames. However, there are a few nuances and different tools you’ll need to handle the job.

Let’s review how to build an outdoor kitchen island with metal frame.

Tools

The tool list is quite similar to building an outdoor kitchen wood frame option. However, you will want to fit your chop saw with a metal blade to cut through the metal tubing.

You may also need a welding machine. This is only if you prefer to weld your studs together over bolting them.

Construction Steps

Getting a bit of déjà vu here? It’s not just you!

The reality is… Metal frame construction is virtually the same as wood frame. You’re just using metal instead of wood!

Create your frame dimensions in the same way you would a wood frame.

Now, there are some slight differences. You can use a drill and self tapping exterior screws to fasten to frame together. Alternatively, you could weld them together. If you choose to do so… Welding provides a more structural frame.

Also remember that when working with metal… It’s not required to have an insulated jacket for cooking appliances.

Note: An RTF system often comes already constructed. If so, you can skip this step for RTF systems.

Meet the old boss, same as the new boss. Yes, this step is the same as wood as well!

Many RTF systems will have the cement board applied already. If so, you can once again skip this step.

If you’re doing this DIY… Remember to cut ventilation according to the appliance manufacturer’s requirements.

Next step is to prep your grilling island surface for finishing. To do this, you need to apply a scratch coat. The scratch coat provides a rough surface for the finishing material to adhere to.

Prepare a masonry mortar mix. Apply this to every side face of your outdoor kitchen.

Keep the lines and notches as straight as possible. After you’re done… It’s time to wait a little bit. Allow your scratch coat to cure for 24 hours.

This is where the outline of your outdoor kitchen really starts to come together.

Thankfully, installing countertops is a straightforward step! You’ll definitely need a helping hand, though.

Carefully lift and set your countertop in place.

There are many materials you could choose for your finish. Stucco, tiles, manufactured stone veneer, etc.

Stucco is easy. You just mix and spread!

Tile and stone require a bit more finesse. You’ll have to arrange them to fit nicely! Take your time… Apply one at a time… And you’ll be just fine.

Just a couple finishing touches, and you will have a fully functional kitchen is ready to use.

Start with installing your appliances. With your helper, carefully drop the grill into place. Also have them help you install other appliances. Fridges, trash, drawers, etc.

All that’s left to do is connect your appliances to the utility lines.

And that’s it. That’s the process! If you aren’t DIY-savvy… It may seem a little daunting. Later on, we’ll share an option you may prefer. Stay tuned!

Once completed… You have a beautiful outdoor kitchen on your hands.

How to build a Concrete Block Outdoor Grill Island

DIY SKILL LEVEL

🔨🔨🔨🔨🔨

EXPERT

TIMELINE

🕒🕒🕒🕒🕒

1-2+ WEEKS

Concrete block construction requires the most skill of all. Only attempt this method if you know what you’re doing!

Most of us are fairly familiar with cutting wood and metal. Concrete, though? Masonry skills are a whole other animal.

If you attempt a block outdoor kitchen without masonry knowledge… You’re probably not going to have a fun time. It will be an uphill battle at the very least.

Also know that block construction is much heavier than wood or metal. Therefore, you may have to consider structural footings for your deck or patio.

Without further ado… Let’s see how to make your own outdoor kitchen in the concrete block style.

Tools
circular saw for outdoor project

Circular Saw With Masonry Blade

masonry trowel for construction project

Mason’s Trowel

Mason’s Hammer

string line to level outdoor kitchen grill island

String Line

Level

Mortar Mixer

Construction Steps

Yes, this is the third time you’re seeing this heading in this article! It’s just the truth. In order to build a concrete outdoor kitchen… We need to start with a frame.

Once again, you need to have your outdoor kitchen plan already done. From there, the frame can be constructed.

Start with prepping your blocks. Use the masonry blade to cut pieces as needed.

Essentially, you’re “gluing” concrete blocks together to create the shape you want. Use mortar mix between each block to adhere them together.

Boom. Your frame is done!

There are a couple extra perks here when it comes to concrete. Like metal, the frames don’t require insulated jackets.

You also get to skip an entire step! Since concrete is already a masonry surface… There’s no need to install cement board.

Pro Tip: Always remember ventilation! Account for ventilation cutouts or build them in while constructing the block frame.

Next step is to prep your grilling island surface for finishing. To do this, you need to apply a scratch coat. The scratch coat provides a rough surface for the finishing material to adhere to.

Prepare a masonry mortar mix. Apply this to every side face of your outdoor kitchen.

Keep the lines and notches as straight as possible. After you’re done… It’s time to wait a little bit. Allow your scratch coat to cure for 24 hours.

This is where the outline of your outdoor kitchen really starts to come together.

Thankfully, installing countertops is a straightforward step! You’ll definitely need a helping hand, though.

Carefully lift and set your countertop in place.

There are many materials you could choose for your finish. Stucco, tiles, manufactured stone veneer, etc.

Stucco is super easy. You just mix and spread!

Tile and stone require a bit more finesse. You’ll have to arrange them to fit nicely! Take your time… Apply one at a time… And you’ll be just fine.

Just a couple finishing touches, and you will have a fully functional kitchen is ready to use.

Start with installing your appliances. With your helper, carefully drop the grill into place. Also have them help you install other appliances. Fridges, trash, drawers, etc.

All that’s left to do is connect your appliances to the utility lines.

And that’s it. That’s the process! If you aren’t DIY-savvy… It may seem a little daunting. Later on, we’ll share an option you may prefer. Stay tuned!

While the latter steps may seem simple… Remember that constructing concrete block frames do require technical knowledge. It’s no walk in the park!

That said… Is there an easier system out there?

We’re glad you asked.

How to build an outdoor kitchen with RTA

DIY SKILL LEVEL

🔨

LOW

TIMELINE

🕒

2-8+ HOURS

You may be feeling a sweat coming on just from reading about these build methods. We understand! They require a ton of work and planning.

Thankfully… You don’t have to go through all this trouble! RTA is the easiest DIY outdoor kitchen method available to homeowners.

RTA outdoor kitchen kits arrive to your door 95% complete. Even better, it comes with everything you need to put it together. Talk about convenient! It’s as simple as when you assemble a piece of furniture! Only basic skills required.

Most DIY outdoor kitchens take days or even over a week to install. With RTA, you’ll be done in the span of a couple hours. Pretty impressive, right?

No need to apply finishes… Cut metal or wood studs… Or mortar cement blocks together. Our panels come with the finish incorporated. All appliance cutouts are done for you, too.

You simply have to bolt the panels together, pop the countertops on, and slide your appliances in. Done and done! It’s how to build a grill island made super easy.

So, what tools will you need to complete this project?

Let’s take a look.

Tools

Impact Drill

Pry Bar

Tape Measure

Pencil

Gloves

Utility Knife

Speed Square

level for patio

2′ or 4′ Level

Dolly or Cart

5/32″ Masonry Bit

T20 Star Bit

5/16″ Hex Head Bit

Phillips Head Bit

Caulking Gun

Construction Steps

First, take a look at your space. What is the pitch of your patio? Is it large enough to support the outdoor kitchen layout you want?

Making sure your patio is set up properly quite literally lays the groundwork of your project.

If you’re unsure on this step… Consult with one of our design experts. They’ll walk you through the process!

How great is it that you don’t have to construct the frame?

At this stage, your RTA outdoor kitchen has been delivered to your doorstep.

Next step is to uncrate your island. Using your pry bar, pry the crates open. Then, carefully remove the panels and hand carry them to where you’ll be assembling in your backyard.

Note: Never carry the countertop or panels in a tabletop manner. Always carry them vertically.

As we mentioned earlier… Installing the durable panels is a breeze.

All you need to do is bolt them together. It’s really that simple!

The cutouts for your grill and appliances will already be done for you, so you get to skip this step! Even better? The ventilation cutouts are done for you as well. It’s like we thought of everything!

For additional security… You can choose to secure your island to the patio using the included L-brackets. It’s not necessary, so it’s up to you!

This step may be the easiest of them all. In fact, it’s just like all of the other methods listed above.

Carefully lift up your countertop (with a friend!) and place on top of the frame. That’s it. That’s the step!

Now there’s just a couple more things to wrap up your project. Like the other methods… You have to install appliances and hook up your utility lines.

Gingerly place the grill and slide the rest of your appliances into place. Click in your utility lines… And you’re diy outdoor kitchen is done! Time to enjoy good food with friends and family.

So much easier, right?

Of course… There are things to consider beyond the assembly process.

For example… You may be wondering how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget.

Considerations for your Budget

When it comes to cost, you may be in two camps. You could either be looking to save money on your project… Or simply trying to figure out how to put your total cost together. For the latter, check out our article on determining an outdoor kitchen budget.

If you are trying to keep the cost down… You can create a DIY kitchen for as much or as little as you like. Ultimate cost will depend on the materials you use and the size of the island you create.

Just remember, if you’re working on a tight budget… Never compromise on the materials you use. Poor quality materials will lead your DIY outdoor kitchen to have a short lifespan. It’s as simple as that!

We can understand why it’s enticing to buy cheap materials. It keeps spending low… And you may even be able to do more than you initially planned. Unfortunately… You won’t be too happy when you have to pay for replacements and repairs down the line. It’s either pay more upfront for durable materials… Or never stop paying!

To avoid spending too much, we have a strategy we like to employ. Start with creating a list of “must haves” and “nice to haves”. So when that cost starts looking a bit high… You can begin to eliminate some of your “nice to haves”. This will ensure you retain all the elements you truly desire without breaking the bank.

For example, you may not need a refrigerator on your outdoor kitchen. This omission alone can shave the length of your island down from 12′ to 10′.

So… What’s next?

Wrapping Up

First, give yourself a pat on the back. We covered a lot of information!

Surely, there are many thoughts swirling in your head right now. Was there an outdoor kitchen method that stood out to you?

Perhaps you’re interested in exploring metal frames… Or concrete block… Or even RTA.

If you’re interested in learning more about us, you’re in luck! A great place to start is our website which is a wealth of information. Feel free to browse, scour the blog… And perhaps even schedule a call with one of our design experts.

Why schedule a call?

Aside from taking only a few minutes of your time and not costing a dime… Our design experts can answer the burning questions you have about your outdoor kitchen project.

Regardless of how you plan to build your outdoor kitchen… We’d be honored to help you along the way! Outdoor kitchen islands are our passion, after all.

Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s get to planning your project!

ready to start? Talk to our experts!

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