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Outdoor Kitchen Countertops Options – 7 Considerations

By James King

July 20, 2022

Image of a backyard with a pool and massive waterslide and rock feature from over the countertop of an RTA bar island

You’re in the middle of planning your outdoor kitchen project and you’re wondering… What outdoor kitchen countertops should I use for my project?

It’s a big question.

After all… It’s the surface you’ll be using to serve and prepare food!

There are many things to look for in an outdoor kitchen countertop. A hygienic surface, durability, and aesthetics are just a few.

To complicate matters further… As with everything online, the information about outdoor countertops is highly conflicting. Everyone has their own perspective on what “the perfect solution” is. It gets overwhelming quick.

How do you know who to listen to?

Image of a backyard with a pool and massive waterslide and rock feature from over the countertop of an RTA bar island

Well, a red flag is anyone claiming to have the perfect solution! The reality is, there are pros and cons to everything. The best outdoor countertops for you will be different for someone else. Everyone’s outdoor space is unique.

Today, we’re going to cut through the noise on outdoor kitchen countertops. By shedding light on the topic… You’ll be able to determine which countertop material is best for your project.

Here are the main considerations we’ll be discussing today:

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

How do you Plan to use your Outdoor Countertops?

When planning an outdoor kitchen… How you will use X, Y, and Z are the some of the most important questions you will ask yourself.

How will I use appliances? How will I host? How will my outdoor kitchen countertop be used?

Understanding how your outdoor kitchen countertops will be used influences the material you ultimately choose.

You may be thinking… “It’s just an outdoor kitchen countertop, how many different ways can you really use it?”

You’d be surprised!

For one, are you going to be placing a lot of hot pots on your outdoor countertops? What about cleanliness? When you cook, do you tend to be… Not so concerned about spills and messes? Also consider sharp / heavy objects that may damage the surface of your outdoor kitchen countertop.

Think about the layout of your outdoor kitchen as well. A more intricate layout will be easier to accomplish with certain countertop materials.

Outdoor Kitchen countertops for any occasion

Use our 3D design tool to build a kitchen equipped with a outdoor kitchen countertop for any use. Choose between Granite or Concrete and the appearance that matches your outdoor space.

Cleaning & Maintenance of Outdoor Kitchen Countertops

concrete countertop sealer

Some people love to clean. Other people… Not so much. *sheepishly raises hand*

No matter what, your outdoor kitchen countertops will have to be cleaned. The question is… How easy is it to clean and how often do you have to maintain it?

As far as cleaning goes, a granite or quartz outdoor kitchen countertop option is generally easiest to deal with. Tile is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The grout is highly susceptible to staining and absorbing filth. Yuck!

You also have to think about ongoing maintenance. Some outdoor kitchen countertop materials are a bit more involved than others. Concrete and other porous materials need resealing every 1-2 years. For nonporous materials such as soapstone, resealing is not necessary.

If you’re someone who couldn’t be bothered with deep cleaning and constant upkeep… Then choose an outdoor kitchen countertop material that suits your needs. Even if it means spending a bit more money upfront! In the long run, it will be more than worth it. Shell out a little extra now, stress out way less later.

Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Budget Considerations

Budget factors into every decision you make when planning your outdoor kitchen. It’s important to know how the countertop you want stacks up in terms of price.

Budget considerations for your outdoor kitchen countertops come down to two things:

  • Aesthetic
  • Maintenance & convenience

Generally speaking, a more aesthetically pleasing material is going to cost more. Beauty comes at a price, right? For some homeowners, how their outdoor kitchen looks is of utmost importance. If this is you, the extra outdoor kitchen cost won’t phase you at all.

We already touched upon maintenance, but it’s worth repeating. The less you have to maintain your countertop, the more convenient it is. An outdoor kitchen countertop material that is easy to maintain also tends to cost more. Take granite, for example. Oftentimes, the additional cost is well worth the better convenience with upkeep.

Always think long term. When you are going through the hassle of deep cleaning and maintaining your countertops… Is that $250, $500, $1,000+ you saved up front really going to be worth it?

Let’s take a look at the average cost of some countertop materials:

Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Material Price Range

Tile

:

$10-40 per sq ft

Limestone

:

$25-70 per sq ft

Bluestone

:

$25-70 per sq ft

Soapstone

:

$35-100 per sq ft

Concrete

:

$50-75 per sq ft

Granite

:

$50-100 per sq ft

Quartz

:

$55-155 per sq ft

Stainless Steel

:

$70-100 per sq ft

Countertop Aesthetic Preference

As we mentioned earlier… Aesthetics play a huge role in the outdoor kitchen countertops you choose for your project.

Most homeowners have a specific vision in mind for what their outdoor kitchen will look like. Some love the concept of a rustic charm. Others prefer a streamlined and modern appearance.

If a rustic look is more your speed… Options such as concrete, Bluestone or limestone may be a great fit for you.

Looking for a modern aesthetic? Stay away from natural stones. A polished quartz or granite countertop would be really nice for your project.

At the end of the day, aesthetics are individualized. What looks great to you may not look tasteful to someone else. Determine the look you’re going for and figure out how that ties into your dream outdoor living space.

Climate Considerations for Outdoor Kitchen Countertops

Depending on where you live, climate plays a significant role in the materials you choose. After all, your outdoor kitchen is… Well, outdoors! It will have to be resilient to the environment you live in.

If you live in an area like southern California with ideal weather… You won’t have to worry about the materials as much.

People who live in a frigid climate like Minnesota, on the other hand, will want to pay close attention. Some outdoor kitchen materials are highly susceptible to humidity and freeze/thaw cycles.

Another consideration for countertops is sunlight. Constant exposure to brilliant sunlight may cause discoloration. Keep this in mind if you live in an area with intense sunlight. (We’re looking at you, Arizona!)

We’ll explain how countertop materials stack up below. Stay tuned!

Outdoor Kitchen Placement

outdoor kitchen exposed to direct sunlight
Outdoor kitchen exposed to direct sunlight
Outdoor kitchen under permanent shade structure

Where are you going to put your outdoor kitchen? What we’re really getting at here is if it will be exposed to direct sunlight or not.

Why does this matter?

Some countertop materials are highly efficient at absorbing heat. So when it’s sunny outside, don’t bother turning your grill on. Your countertop surface could nearly be hot enough to cook a burger!

Point is, a hot countertop is unpleasant to use. If your outdoor kitchen will be covered with a pergola or other shaded structure… This won’t matter so much.

So, what surfaces soak up the sun?

Granite and stainless steel are the primary offenders. These materials will get searing hot when exposed to direct sunlight. However, you can choose a lighter color of granite to reduce this effect.

Other Outdoor Countertop Considerations

Alright, we’ve covered the main factors to consider for your outdoor kitchen countertop. Even still, there are more considerations.

These points will help you understand the nature of countertop materials.

Is it Hygienic?

Anything related to food prep will require you to consider hygiene. Even though you’ll probably be using cutting boards… At some point food will come in direct contact with your countertop. Intentional or unintentional, it happens.

Porous surfaces need special care to remain hygienic. Porous surfaces readily absorb bacteria from food and seep into the countertop. Once that happens… That bacteria can transfer to foods and things you prepare in the future. That’s no good!

Sometimes a good cleaning agent will kill the bacteria… But that’s not always the case. It’s for this reason you have to use a sealer for porous countertops. The sealer creates a barrier to prevent filth and bacteria from penetrating the countertop surface. Also make sure that any sealer you use is food-safe.

Flexural Strength vs. Compressive Strength
concrete countertop being manufactured

It may seem a bit “inside baseball”… But understanding this concept is really important for the countertop you choose. Plus, it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

Why does this matter?

Well, most companies will advertise the values of compressive strength. From our perspective… This is actually far less important than flexural strength for countertops.

Let’s define flexural strength and compressive strength.

Flexural Strength: Refers to the material’s bend strength or ability to resist bending stress without cracking or failing.

Compressive Strength: Refers to the material’s ability to withstand loads or compression being crushed or failing or the resistance of a material breaking under compression.

Can you start to see why we stress the importance of flexural strength? That’s where most of the stress on your countertops will be.

Poor flexural strength is the primary reason your countertop may split or crack. This can also be due to temperature fluctuations or ground shift… Especially in frigid climates.

Moral of the story? Look for a countertop material with good flexural strength.

So, we’ve talked a lot about the things you should look out for… But haven’t gone into much detail about the materials themselves. Let’s start comparing outdoor countertop materials.

countertops built to last

We only manufacture and supply the best materials for our countertops. Design an RTA Outdoor Kitchen for free in a few minutes.

Outdoor Kitchen Stainless Steel Countertops

Stainless steel countertops will be one of your most expensive options… Ringing up at $70-$100 per square foot.

Pros

In terms of aesthetics, outdoor kitchen stainless steel countertops are about as modern as you can get. This is a definite pro if that’s what you’re looking for!

Being nonporous, stainless steel is also a highly hygienic surface. Most commercial kitchens utilize stainless steel for this reason, so it makes sense. It’s easy to clean and doesn’t need much in the way of maintenance. A simple wipe with household cleaner is all you’ll need to keep this countertop clean.

Cons

Of course, there are cons to stainless steel countertops as well. If your outdoor kitchen won’t be under cover… These countertops will get searing hot in the sun. When in direct sunlight, stainless steel countertops are virtually unusable. We would strongly consider another option if your outdoor kitchen won’t be shaded.

Stainless steel countertops can also rust over time. This is especially true in areas with high humidity and moisture. Be aware and keep a close eye on your countertops if you choose stainless.

While they look sleek and perfect at first… Stainless steel countertops are vulnerable to scratches. If you aren’t bothered by this, you have nothing to worry about! Others may not be able to get past the slight imperfections in their countertop that can’t be avoided.

Soapstone Outdoor Countertops

Soapstone outdoor countertops can vary widely in cost… Ranging from $35-$100 per square foot.

Pros

Like stainless, soapstone is a nonporous material. They are easy to keep clean and maintain. With soapstone outdoor countertops, no resealing is necessary! Also being resistant to staining… You don’t have to stress about keeping these countertops looking like new.

Soapstone is a great option for those seeking the modern aesthetic. Whether you choose a light or dark soapstone… It’s sleek with a tasteful amount of marbling.

Cons

Unfortunately, soapstone is a soft material. It’s prone to getting scratched, dinged, or even chipped. As with stainless, some won’t be bothered by this risk. Others just won’t want to chance it.

Granite Outdoor Kitchen Countertops

Granite outdoor kitchen countertops can be a great mid-range option. The cost hovers around $50-100+ per square foot.

Pros

Granite outdoor kitchen countertops are a crowd pleaser. This look can appeal to a wide variety of design aesthetics. The variance in colors available provides flexibility for your design as well.

Granite itself is an extremely dense and hard material. No need to worry about scratches or dings here. And with the right sealer, granite is highly resistant to staining.

Cons

Granite absorbs heat well and can get very hot when under direct sunlight. To avoid this, either consider putting your outdoor kitchen under a structure… Or simply choose a lighter color!

Outdoor Tile Countertops

outdoor kitchen tile countertop falling apart

Outdoor Tile countertops will be your least expensive option ranging from $10-$40 per square foot.

Pros

As already mentioned, tile is cheap! This will appeal greatly to those needing to adhere to a strict budget.

Outdoor tile countertops can easily match any look you’re going for, too. Tile exists in any color or pattern you could possibly want! No matter what tile you choose, it will make your outdoor kitchen unique.

Cons

Sadly, we find the drawbacks of tile to be worse than the potential upside. It’s true, tile is inexpensive! But with many things… You get what you pay for.

One main issue is cleaning. The grout between tiles are highly porous. They’ll readily absorb bacteria, filth, and stain. This makes tile not only difficult to clean… But also a challenge to keep your countertop hygienic.

Tile is also brittle. It’s highly susceptible to cracking and falling apart over time. This is especially true if you live in a climate with freeze / thaw cycles. For us, the potential for a constant headache is not worth the upfront savings.

Bluestone or Limestone Countertops

Being similar materials, we’re going to lump them together here. Coincidentally, their price range is identical from $25-$70 per square foot.

Pros

Both natural stone outdoor kitchen countertops have a timeless and natural look. Bluestone is often seen both polished and unpolished… So this will appeal to the modern and rustic aesthetics alike.

Limestone and bluestone are durable surfaces. They’ll withstand any climate with no issues.

Cons

Like other natural outdoor stone countertops, limestone and bluestone are quite heavy. They are also susceptible to staining, particularly limestone.

Also know that natural stone in general cannot be reinforced. There’s always a chance they can crack or split.

Outdoor Quartz Countertops

Outdoor quartz countertops may be your most expensive option. The price ranges from $55-$155 per square foot.

Pros

Quartz is a beautiful material and appeals to most people. It can fit in with many different styles.

Quartz is a dense and durable material, resistant to both staining and scratching. This is a great plus when it comes to cleaning and maintenance! There’s not much upkeep with outdoor quartz countertops.

Cons

On the flip side, quartz doesn’t tolerate sunlight well. Over time, it can yellow from constant sun exposure.

Concrete Countertops for an Outdoor Kitchen

Concrete outdoor kitchen countertops are another mid-range option. The cost hovers around $50-$75 per square foot.

Pros

Despite being a manmade material… Concrete outdoor kitchen countertops have a distinctly natural look.

Concrete also has a distinct advantage over stone. Natural stone cannot be reinforced, but concrete can. It’s not always done… So make sure your concrete countertop is reinforced before sealing the deal.

Cons

At the same time, concrete is a softer and more porous material. It does require regular maintenance as it is susceptible to staining and scratching.

As a natural part of the curing process, concrete is prone to cracking. That’s why it is so important to make sure your concrete is reinforced. This will prevent issues in the event it cracks.

The Best Outdoor Kitchen Countertops?

You’re probably expecting us to say “it depends”. Well, you’re right! It does depend.

Everyone has unique needs for their outdoor kitchen project. Everyone also has different tastes in terms of aesthetic. This article should start to give you an inkling of what surfaces you want to consider.

The best material for outdoor kitchen countertops is case-dependent. Ultimately, only you know what countertop material will be best for your project! At the same time, there are a couple we specifically recommend.

Concrete and granite.

Why?

Let’s discuss.

What do We Recommend?

At RTA, we use both concrete and granite for our outdoor kitchen countertops.

We believe in long-term solutions. This belief is the driving force behind many of the decisions we make. Our materials are chosen carefully. This ensures the most durable, long-lasting outdoor kitchens possible.

We also wanted to offer options that appeal to those desiring a natural or modern aesthetic. Our concrete countertops are perfect for those wanting a natural look. Granite, on the other hand, has a sleek and contemporary aesthetic.

Going back to durability… Both concrete and granite are incredibly durable material for outdoor use. You won’t have to worry about living in a harsh climate. These materials will remain structurally sound throughout the lifetime of ownership.

You’ll recall from above that concrete and granite require different levels of maintenance. RTA concrete countertops require an annual reseal to prevent staining and scratches. Our granite countertops come already sealed. You can expect it to last several years before needing a reseal.

Compared to concrete, granite is inherently more resistant to scratches and stains. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance countertop material… You will probably prefer granite.

More About Our Concrete Countertops
rta outdoor kitchen kit with concrete countertop

It may not stay as clean or pretty as granite… But concrete countertops offer distinct advantages. Some simply prefer the look of concrete. It also doesn’t absorb heat as well as granite… So no need to worry about scorching hot countertops in the sun.

It is true that concrete countertops can crack over time. There’s no need to panic, however! These cracks are generally not structural. They will not harm the integrity of your countertop. It’s simply part of the natural curing process for concrete.

This is why it is essential for your concrete countertop to be reinforced. As with anything, some reinforcing materials are better than others. It’s best to reinforce a concrete countertop with non-corrosive materials. Microfibers and composite rebar are examples of this.

Why?

Metal rebar or other metal reinforcements can rust and corrode over time. When it corrodes, it expands. This is what causes ghosting or spalling in your concrete countertop. In order to protect the internal reinforcement… The concrete has to be a certain thickness. Most countertops are not thick enough to provide the coverage needed.

More About Our Granite Countertops

Back to granite. RTA granite countertops come standard with a leathered finish. It’s different than the polished finish you’re used to seeing in indoor countertops. Polished granite has a shiny, glossy finish to it. Whereas, the leathered finish provides more of a matte look.

Are there advantages to a leathered finish over polished?

For outdoor use, yes. A leathered finish won’t reflect light. So you won’t end up getting blinded by a reflection from the sun. That’s always a plus! The leathered granite finish will also have a more natural look. From our perspective, this lends itself better for the outdoor aesthetic.

Leathered finishes are still stain resistant like polished granite. Another plus is blemishes or smudges won’t be as visible with the leathered look.

Looking for More?

Looking for more information? That’s what we’re here for!

There is a wealth of information in our blog about all aspects of the outdoor kitchen experience. Be sure to browse our website and see what else piques your interest.

If you’re looking for more direct guidance… Set up a call with one of our design experts! They’ll be able to gain a true grasp of your dream outdoor living space and guide you in the right direction. Whether you decide to work with us or not, you’ll feel more confident about the next steps.

We look forward to helping you out!

FAQ

Well… Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Remember, an outdoor kitchen is a totally different animal from indoor kitchens. Sure, laminate countertops work just fine for indoor use. Indoor use.

Here’s why laminate countertops are a no-go for the outdoors. As soon as moisture reaches the particle board, it will swell and ruin your countertop.

If you’re a DIYer, you want to handle all aspects of your project. It’s an admirable goal!

Unfortunately, DIY outdoor kitchen countertops severely limit your choices for materials. Any sort of natural stone is simply out of the equation.

That leaves you with wood and concrete. Wood outdoor kitchen countertops have many pitfalls… So we don’t recommend wood countertops as an option either. Wood is susceptible to rot and insect damage. Unfortunately for outdoor kitchen use… Wood countertops aren’t likely to last long.

So now that leaves you with concrete. You can certainly pour your own countertops! Just remember what we said earlier about reinforcements. Plan for adequate reinforcements to ensure your countertop will be structurally sound.

More specifically, it helps to use specialty or high performing concrete materials. Unfortunately… These materials aren’t accessible to the average consumer.

Overall, we recommend leaving the countertops to the experts!

Coming in at $10-$40 per square foot… Tile will certainly provide the most bang for your buck in terms of a countertop material. However, it doesn’t come without its issues!

Make sure you read the section on tile above if you haven’t already. We discuss the pitfalls of tile countertops outdoor kitchen there.

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