By Jayme Muller

June 9, 2021

If you’re seriously considering an outdoor kitchen, you’re likely deep into the research phase for your project. One of the main questions you have to answer is:

“Who will I choose to build my project?”

It’s an important question to ponder. You want to ensure the person you choose to build is qualified to perform the task at hand.

It’s likely you’re considering hiring a local outdoor kitchen contractor to complete your project. While this can be a great option… There are many things you’ll have to consider when looking to hire a contractor for your outdoor kitchen.

Consider this your personal guide to vetting a contractor for your outdoor kitchen project.

You may be wondering… Why are we qualified to speak on the topic?

Our team at RTA has over 64 years of combined experience working with contractors all over the country. In fact, some of our team members are former contractors who personally installed outdoor kitchens.

We wanted to condense this collective experience into a helpful guide for you when researching your project. We hope the following information will assist you in the decision making process so your outdoor kitchen will be a success.

Let’s discuss.

Business Information & Experience

Let’s start with the basics.

You want to ensure your contractor is reputable.

How do you accomplish this?

Frustrated Contractor

First, you’ll want to make sure their company is licensed and insured. Ask if the name on the license is the same as the company name. If not, find out why.

A licensed and insured outdoor kitchen contractor gives credence to their work. They have gone through the proper channels to prove work ethic and quality of results.

Another question you’ll want to ask is how many years the contractor has been in business.

Why?

43% of contractors fail within the first three years of starting their business. Of course, this can be for multiple reasons. However, most often it’s due to lack of experience and/or poor quality work.

When you’re making such a large investment… You want to be confident your contractor can handle the job.

Outdoor Kitchen Experience

On the topic of experience… A background in actually building an outdoor kitchen is important as well. Not all contractors have knowledge in this area.

Most often, contractors will build outdoor kitchens… But they do not specialize in it. It’s a skill they have, but are far from experts.

You want to ensure you’re hiring a specialist, not a generalist. If you’ve hired a contractor to work on your patio or other areas… We know it may seem convenient to have them build your outdoor kitchen as well. Still, we would caution against doing this.

RTA Outdoor Kitchen Mid Assembly
RTA Employee Jon Bell installing a custom outdoor kitchen for HGTV Host Tamara Day.

Although it may not seem like a big deal, experience makes all the difference. Oftentimes, minor details in your outdoor kitchen are missed. These minor details become major problems in the long run. Not only is that a headache… It costs you more money, too. You won’t have to worry about this when working with a specialist.

To gauge their experience, ask your contractor these questions:

  1. How many outdoor kitchens have they installed since being in business?
  2. How many outdoor kitchens did they install last year?
  3. Do they have pictures of the finished kitchens they built?

The answers to these questions will help you understand if your contractor is a specialist or a generalist. Understanding what your contractor is capable of will save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run.

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Reviews

Reviews are the lifeblood of a successful business. It may seem obvious, but check the reviews for your contractor before signing onto a project.

It’s important to know the experience other customers have had. You don’t want to work with a contractor who is flaky or has poor work ethic.

As stated earlier, you also want to work with someone who has experience building outdoor kitchens. When searching reviews, look for reviews on outdoor kitchen projects.

It’s not enough to have good reviews for a patio or landscaping project. While it shows you they may be a good patio or landscaping contractor… It doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good outdoor kitchen contractor too.

After all, they’ll possibly be building your outdoor kitchen! If they have little to no reviews on outdoor kitchen projects, use caution if you hire them. You have no idea what you’ll be getting.

Read some of RTA Outdoor Living’s reviews.

Construction methods

It’s important to know what materials your contractor plans to use. It’s these materials that will determine the lifespan and safety of your outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor kitchens are a long-term investment, so materials should be at the forefront of your mind. Maker sure you understand why your contractor has selected certain materials for the project.

There are many materials that are not ideal for outdoor kitchen construction. It’s critical to understand which materials are ideal and not ideal for outdoor kitchens… Otherwise the design and quality of your finished product is compromised. Once you understand the materials proposed, ask your contractor why that is their preferred method for construction.

Ask your contractor what materials they will use for the following components:

  • Island Structure
  • Countertops

If your contractor is using high quality materials, you can feel more comfortable moving forward.

Ventilation / safety

When planning an outdoor kitchen project, safety must be factored in. Naturally, you want an outdoor kitchen that you and your family can safely enjoy!

So how do you know if your contractor will build a safe outdoor kitchen?

First, we’ll circle back to materials. It’s not just the quality of materials that is important. You’ll want to know if the materials are combustible or not. If your contractor is using combustible materials, there are additional safety considerations to address.

You’ll also want to know about ventilation. Most grill manufacturers have a minimum amount of ventilation required to properly vent the island in case of a gas leak.

Proper Outdoor Kitchen Venting

Don’t skip this point! We’ve heard many horror stories about improper venting. Islands have caught fire and even exploded. Fortunately, no one got seriously injured… But why take the chance?

Ask your contractor the following to make sure your project will be safe:

  1. Are they using combustible materials to construct your island? If yes… What precautions are being taken to ensure these materials won’t catch fire?
  2. What is their plan to properly vent the island?

Your contractor’s answers will determine if your outdoor kitchen will be safe or not.

Appliances

Of course, appliances are a huge part of your outdoor kitchen project. What’s an outdoor kitchen without the grill? You’ll want to decide on the right appliances to fit your needs.

What does this have to do with the contractor you choose?

Good question.

Unfortunately, most contractors are not well-versed in the world of appliances. This usually means one of two things:

  1. Your contractor will tell you to source appliances separately. This means you have to do all the research yourself. It’s an additional time investment you may not be expecting or willing to do.
  2. Your contractor will recommend a lower-end appliance. This brings the cost of the project down overall and makes it look more appealing. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this… Most of us want to be assured our appliances are high-quality and will last for years with no issues.

Coyote Pull Out Trash/Recycle

Coyote 21" Outdoor Rated Refrigerator

Coyote 36" S-Series Grill

Coyote 31" Double Access Doors

Also note that most contractors don’t work directly with appliance manufacturers. This means that if there are any issues with your appliances, you’ll have to deal with it. It’s another hassle you may not want added to your plate.

But that’s not the only reason having a relationship with the appliance manufacturer is important. This will allow you to work directly with an expert on appliances. They can help educate you on the best appliance setup for your needs.

If a contractor is recommending certain appliances, ask them why and allow them to explain. If they don’t have a satisfactory answer, take caution with using that brand.

RTA Outdoor Living equips all of our outdoor kitchen’s with appliances from our partner Coyote Outdoor Living. 

design & project planning

How is your proposed contractor handling the design aspect of your project? Design is an essential element of your outdoor kitchen project… It cannot be glossed over. It’s a direct link to both the aesthetic and functionality of your outdoor kitchen.

Therefore, you want to be sure your contractor won’t drop the ball on design. The following are just a few questions you’ll want to ask your contractor about design:

Is your contractor providing visuals? If they can provide a 3D render of the project, even better. It’s important to have visuals so both yourself and your contractor are clear on the design. Get it right before construction starts. Otherwise, it may not be possible to make changes after the fact.

Screenshot of an RTA Design
A screenshot of an outdoor kitchen design from RTA Outdoor Living's 3D Design Tool

Is your contractor working with your appliance layout and design? Is everything in line with your needs? As mentioned earlier, it’s important that your contractor can educate you on appliances. We’ve heard so many stories of unhappy customers years later… Because design elements weren’t thought through or explained by their contractors.

Keep the lines of communication open with your contractor. You want to be clear on the design and functionality of your outdoor kitchen.

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Pricing & contract

Let’s talk pricing. An outdoor kitchen is a hefty investment, so you’ll want to know what you’re walking into.

When receiving the quote, make sure that all deliverables are listed in the contractor or formal quote. This way you have an idea of what exactly is included in the project. Also keep in mind that there are unforeseen circumstances that could justify change orders on the project.

That said, it’s recommended to ensure the quote given is the “final price”. We’ve heard many stories where things have gone wrong here. Contractors may present an initial quote that doesn’t include everything and the homeowner agrees to it. It’s not until later on the homeowner realizes not everything was included… Which created unexpected additional costs.

Know exactly what you’re receiving to prevent unwelcome expenses later on in the project. Again, keep the lines of communication open between you and your contractor.

For more in-depth coverage on what to expect when building an outdoor kitchen, check out our page regarding outdoor kitchen pricing here.

Warranty

Warranties are an important safety net as a consumer. You want to feel confident in your investment and know you’re protected if anything goes wrong. Make sure to ask your contractor if they offer a warranty on outdoor kitchen projects.

Unfortunately, contractors won’t warranty the materials often. This is because they are not manufacturing the materials themselves. This can be an advantage if you work directly with the manufacturer of an outdoor kitchen product. Manufacturers generally extend warranties to the consumer.

Ultimately, having an outdoor kitchen with no warranty can be a gamble. If anything goes wrong or needs to be repaired, who is held accountable? With so much money being invested, it’s best not to leave anything to chance.

Here at RTA, our outdoor kitchen’s have a lifetime limited structural warranty and a two – year surface finish warranty, subject to limitations and disclaimers.  You can read it here for more information.

Deciding on a Contractor

While it may seem difficult to find a good contractor, there are a great many out there.

We just want to stress how important it is to choose the right contractor for your outdoor kitchen project. Don’t choose one because it’s convenient. Yes, they may be already working on a project at your house. But are they skilled in outdoor kitchen construction?

Funny Contractor Selection

Choose a contractor that is qualified and specializes in outdoor kitchens. This is the best recipe for success if you decide to hire a contractor for your project.

We hope the above has been a helpful guide as you complete due diligence for your project. We’ve also put together a list of 10 questions to ask your contractor to properly vet them for your project. Click here to read more.

If you’re still unsure about hiring a contractor, you may want to consider a prefab or ready-to-assemble outdoor kitchen. You can learn more about those solutions here.

And if you ever need us for your outdoor kitchen project, you know where to find us.

Best of luck on your outdoor kitchen project!