When considering an outdoor kitchen project… One of the first things you think about is the aesthetic.
How do you want your kitchen to be finished?
It’s an important question!
If you don’t like how your outdoor kitchen looks… You’re going to be presented with an eyesore every time you glance out the window. (No one wants that!)
However, it may not be just aesthetics that’s drawn you to outdoor kitchen tile.
Perhaps cost or ease of application are a factor for you.
No matter what has drawn you to using tile for an outdoor kitchen… We’re going to discuss it all!
Between material options, countertop application, cabinet application, pros, and cons… We have a lot to cover.
Now let’s find out why (or why not!) tile is a good option for your project.
Types of outdoor kitchen Tile Materials
When discussing tile, most of us only have one particular image in mind.
While there are plenty of colors and designs out there… The ceramic and porcelain tile commonly used for kitchen counters and bathrooms is what we think of.
This couldn’t be more untrue! Just as there is a ton of variety in outdoor kitchen materials… There’s just as much diversity with tile.
Let’s discuss outdoor kitchen island tile options.
We’re all familiar with ceramic tile. Whether it’s used for a kitchen, bathroom, or otherwise… We know what to expect.
Ceramic tile is easily accessible and relatively straightforward to work with. Plus, it’s inexpensive and may help you save money on your outdoor kitchen project. (In the short term, at least!)
And if there’s a certain color or design you want to create… You can certainly find it with ceramic tile!
While these qualities may make it appealing for outdoor kitchen use… There are some significant disadvantages to ceramic tile. (We’ll get to those later!)
Porcelain tile is in much the same vein as ceramic tile… However, there are some key differences.
These tiles are processed at a much higher temperature than ceramic tile.
What does this mean for you?
It means that porcelain tiling is harder, denser, and more resistant to moisture. This is important when considering use outdoors.
Also note that unlike ceramic tile… Porcelain tile’s color runs all the way through. So when chipping happens, it’s less visible.
Compared to ceramic… A porcelain tile outdoor kitchen would be a preferable option.
Marble is a well-renowned luxury natural stone material. In some settings, it is used in tile form as flooring or countertops.
You may not know that marble is simply limestone put under intense pressure! It’s amazing what your regular, everyday stones can turn into.
In fact… Regular old limestone has been a fairly popular choice for stone outdoor kitchens.
But we’re talking about marble tile here!
Marble provides a stunning, natural look that will fit in with nearly any aesthetic.
Like marble, travertine tile is derived from limestone. However… There are a few distinguishing factors.
The color profile is slightly different. Rather than the popular whitish-gray hues of marble… Travertine tends to fall more on the cream to beige color scale.
Travertine is also about half the price of marble… So it’s budget friendly in comparison!
Further, travertine tile tends to perform better outdoors than marble.
Slate tile is sometimes seen used for flooring or walls.
With dark hues ranging from gray, to brown, to nearly black… This natural stone is an appealing option for those after a modern outdoor kitchen aesthetic.
Good quality slate will be extremely dense and resistant to stains. Pretty beneficial for outdoor use!
Finally, you may see granite tile used outdoors.
Granite tile is well-known for being extremely dense, stain resistant, and durable. You could say, it’s hard as a rock!
And of course… Granite is simply beautiful, no matter what style you’re after.
Alright. Now that we’ve reviewed the possible outdoor tile kitchen options…
You may be ready to get started!
Before you start Googling outdoor kitchen tile ideas… Let’s learn about how it’s done first.
Have your own Outdoor Kitchen Idea?
How to Tile an Outdoor Kitchen Countertop
Here’s the thing.
We don’t recommend using tile for your outdoor kitchen at all. We’ll discuss the reasons why later… But for now, here’s how it’s done.
Before you create your tile outdoor kitchen countertop… You’re going to need a surface to apply your tile to!
Some DIYers will use plywood with cement board attached. We strongly recommend against this. This combination is far too susceptible to damage from poor weather. (Of the two, cement board is a better choice.)
What’s the alternative?
For DIY projects, a better option may be a concrete countertop. Most DIYers will create their own countertop. (We won’t dive into that here!)
Once you have your outdoor kitchen countertop surface in place… Apply a thin layer of mortar to the surface. This is what will adhere your outdoor tile to the concrete.
From there, carefully place your tiles. Make sure to leave an even amount of space between them for grouting.
For the edges, some tiles will have to be cut to fit. Ensure you have the proper equipment to cut your tiles to size.
Once covered… Allow the mortar to cure for 24 hours or so.
The last step is to apply the grout. Take your time, as this can be a tedious process!
Once finished… Allow your grout to cure for 24-72 hours.
Note: It’s essential to use the correct grout for your project. Once it’s cured, don’t forget to seal your tile!
That’s the Cliff’s notes on outdoor kitchen countertop tile. You’d be right in thinking that’s a lot of steps!
Let’s see how finishing the structure of your outdoor kitchen in tile compares.
How to Tile an Outdoor Kitchen Cabinet
Aside from the countertop… Some of you may want your entire outdoor kitchen finished with tile.
While we don’t recommend it… (Again, we’ll discuss later!) An outdoor kitchen with tile can definitely be done.
The process for applying tile to the structure is quite similar to the countertop process.
However, in this case… You’ll likely be applying your tiles to cement board. (Most DIY outdoor kitchens involve a frame system.)
The process is identical.
Apply the mortar, cut your tiles to size, cure, apply the grout, cure again, and seal.
Now that you’ve seen the process for putting tile on an outdoor kitchen… How would we rate the difficulty level?
Tile Outdoor Kitchen Difficulty Level
In order to properly assess the difficulty of a tile outdoor kitchen… We must consider the overall construction process.
As mentioned earlier… Tile finishes require an outdoor kitchen frame system.
Unless you are working with a kit that already has the frame and cement board constructed… You’re doing this on your own.
This skyrockets the difficulty of your project!
If you’re starting from scratch… The difficulty is no doubt going to be pegged at a hard or expert level.
Unless you’re an avid DIYer, this will probably be too much to handle!
And if you start with an outdoor kitchen kit?
The difficulty will still land in the medium to hard range.
Even though it sounds easy… It actually requires a good amount of skill to apply tile yourself.
For most homeowners, it’s not something we recommend doing yourself. Hiring a contractor will be your best bet if you’re set on using tile!
At this point, we’ve gone on and on about outdoor kitchen tile. But what are the pros and cons?
Advantages of Outdoor kitchen Tile
There are broad benefits of tile… But there are also specific advantages based off of the material you use.
We’ll discuss from all angles below.
General Advantages of Tile
Depending on your material choice… Tile is relatively inexpensive to use.
Tile is also more amenable to the avid DIYer. Compared to other finishes, tile is one of the less complicated options.
Ceramic Tile Advantages
It’s no secret that ceramic tiles are the most affordable option.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly material… You’ll likely jump straight to ceramic tile.
This tile also has the benefit of variety. If you want a unique and custom outdoor kitchen finish… There is no shortage of colors, patterns, and designs you can create with ceramic tile.
Porcelain Tile Advantages
The benefits of porcelain and ceramic tile are quite similar. This tile is also quite affordable and comes in a variety of colors and designs.
In terms of outdoor use… Porcelain is more durable than ceramic. It is more resistant to moisture, which is key when dealing with outdoor humidity.
And while always unfortunate… When porcelain chips, the color will remain consistent all the way through. So this damage will be less noticeable than ceramic.
Marble Tile Advantages
We’ve already established that marble is a beautiful material.
Marble is great if you’re after a high-class aesthetic for your project.
It’s also more durable than ceramic and porcelain. So you will get a bit more longevity in comparison.
Travertine Tile Advantages
Compared to marble, travertine is a more affordable natural stone option.
It’s just as beautiful! And interestingly… For outdoor use, travertine is slightly more durable than marble.
Slate Tile Advantages
When you can source good quality slate… It is extremely durable!
This dense, hard material is beneficial for outdoor use.
Plus… The dark hues are an excellent complement to a contemporary aesthetic.
Granite Tile Advantages
As already mentioned… Granite is one of the hardest and non porous stones you can work with!
This makes it an excellent choice when building an outdoor kitchen.
Granite tile is extremely durable. Therefore, this surface will not scratch or stain easily. (Always a plus!)
Alright… What about the disadvantages?
high quality finishes with a lifetime warranty
Disadvantages of outdoor kitchen Tile
As you’ve already read… We don’t recommend outdoor kitchen tile for your project.
Here’s where you’ll start to see why!
General Disadvantages of Tile
You’ll see in the following sections that we’re going to hammer down this point…
But it is so important!
The primary issue with tile is they easily pop off your outdoor kitchen.
Constant fluctuations in temperature and humidity provide the perfect conditions for this. Know that this will be a constant maintenance struggle for you!
To make matters worse… All this damage to your finish allows moisture to access the interior of your island. Over time, this will lead to significant structural damage. (We’re talking rust and corrosion, folks!)
Cleanliness is yet another issue. For countertops… The grout is nearly impossible to keep clean. Food particles, germs, and other contaminants are easily absorbed by grout.
If you’re looking for a food safe surface… Tile simply isn’t it.
Ceramic Tile Disadvantages
We’ve already mentioned it… But it’s worth bringing up again.
Ceramic tile options chip and crack easily.
Something as simple as setting down a heavy pot too quickly… Can cause an unfortunate crack in your ceramic tile countertop.
And when outdoors?
There’s another entire issue you have to deal with.
Yep, it’s tile popping off of your outdoor kitchen.
Yes, it’s inexpensive. Yes, ceramic tile looks nice… At first. But in the long run, you’ll wish you used something else!
By avoiding ceramic tile… You’ll be saving yourself from a serious outdoor kitchen planning mistake.
Porcelain Tile Disadvantages
The cons of porcelain tile are much the same as ceramic tile… It’s just slightly less problematic.
You still have the issue of chipping and cracking. It’s just a bit less likely to happen with porcelain tile, and less noticeable.
However… The tiles popping off?
That’s just as much of a problem. Porcelain tile or not!
With all of the potential for structural damage… And constant maintenance… It’s simply not worth the risk.
Sadly, porcelain tile gets the boot in our book!
Marble Tile Disadvantages
Being a natural stone… You don’t have to worry about chipping or cracking so much.
But in the world of natural stone, marble is a bit more delicate!
What do we mean by this?
Well, these natural stone tiles are porous. This makes it quite susceptible to staining and scratching.
And unless sealed every year or two… The porosity of marble makes it difficult to keep clean.
Also remember that this is marble tile. As with the previous materials… You run the risk of tiles popping off your outdoor kitchen.
Another drawback of marble is that it can be quite pricy to obtain. You’ll have to adjust for this in your outdoor kitchen budget.
Travertine Tile Disadvantages
The disadvantages of travertine are much in the same vein as marble.
Although less expensive… These are also natural stone tiles. Travertine is porous and comes with the same difficulties. It will also have to be sealed every year or two.
And of course… You’ll have to worry about tiles coming off. (This is true of all tile used outdoors).
Slate Tile Disadvantages
You may have noticed that we specifically said “good quality” slate could be an acceptable option.
That’s because when it comes to slate tiles… What you get is truly a mixed bag.
When it’s good quality, it’s great!
Unfortunately, the quality is highly inconsistent.
So if you’re dead set on using slate… And you’re okay with the issue of tiles falling off… Make sure you meticulously select each slate tile by hand!
Otherwise, you’ll be frustrated when pieces chip and crack. (Just like ceramic tile.)
Like other natural stone tiles… Slate is a porous material. So you will need to seal the tiles as part of your maintenance.
And to make matters worse… Slate gets excruciatingly hot in the sun! Keep this in mind for comfort when using your outdoor kitchen.
Granite Tile Disadvantages
If there’s no talking you out of using tiles for your outdoor kitchen… Granite tile would be the safest option for building your grill island.
Of course, it’s not immune to the same issues every other tile has.
We know we sound like a broken record… But even these stone tiles will pop off with poor weather conditions!
Anything that allows moisture into a frame system is a serious issue.
If you’re going to use tile for your outdoor kitchen… Whether it be ceramic tile, porcelain tile, or granite… Proceed with caution.
Now that you’ve realized there’s no such thing as a perfect tile… You’re probably wondering if there are suitable alternatives.
Why, we’re glad you asked!
Better Countertop Alternatives
While there are a wide variety of outdoor kitchen countertop materials… We’re only going to discuss the two best options for your outdoor grill island.
What are they?
Concrete and granite slabs.
Let’s begin with concrete.
It’s true… Plain concrete (with reinforcements) makes an excellent countertop material for your outdoor kitchen!
As far as outdoor surfaces go… Well, concrete is fairly easy to maintain. It only requires re-sealing every couple years.
Even more important… These outdoor kitchen countertops are extremely durable.
A concrete countertop will remain spotless even in the harshest of conditions. Whether it’s snow, rain, ice, or ocean air… Pieces falling off and chipping are of no concern.
Plus, they look great in multiple styles! Depending on your desired aesthetic… You can adjust the thickness and edge details.
A thick, chiseled edge will match a rustic style. Alternatively, a thin, clean edge will match the modern aesthetic nicely.
The only downside of concrete is that it’s a porous material. Therefore, it’s a bit more susceptible to scratches and stains than other options. (Still plenty durable, though!)
Alright… Let’s move onto granite!
Granite Slab Countertops
Remember that in this section we are discussing full granite slab countertops… Not outdoor kitchen tile!
Granite slabs have long been prized for their beauty.
It’s a popular choice for good reason! They’re an elegant option.
But when it comes to natural granite countertops… Our love for them is more than skin-deep.
The benefits of a granite countertop are the same as tile. But with a full slab, you don’t have to worry about tiles falling off! (Or applying grout! It’s a win-win.)
To refresh your memory… This natural stone is hard, dense, and non porous.
For countertop use, these features make it highly stain resistant. (And scratch resistant!) Plus… A granite countertop can handle whatever Mother Nature throws at it.
The only downside?
Being a natural stone… Granite countertops tend to be a bit more expensive. But if your budget allows for it, don’t hesitate! It’s an excellent choice for your outdoor space.
Whether you opt for concrete or granite outdoor kitchen countertops… These options are far superior to a tile countertop!
And on the same note… Is there a better finish alternative to tile for the structure?
Let’s find out.
Better Finish Alternatives
You’ll recall that tile outdoor kitchens are constructed using a frame system.
For most of the country… We actually don’t recommend using this construction method at all.
Who can it work for?
The frame system can work well for those living in a dry, arid climate. Think areas like Nevada or Arizona.
The lack of moisture in these areas will allow a frame system to perform well for a longer period of time.
For homeowners in these regions… Stucco is a hugely popular finish option! And to us, this would be a better alternative to tile.
So… Why is the frame system a problem with the rest of the country?
The Issue with a Frame System
It all comes down to the layers.
The more layers there are to your outdoor kitchen project… The more opportunity there is for something to go wrong.
This is compounded when dealing with a harsh climate. Think snow, ice, frequent rain, ocean air, and high humidity.
Worst of all are regions with frequent freeze and thaw cycles!
These cycles cause the materials to expand and contract at extreme rates. This leads to issues such as cracks, chips, and of course… Tiles falling off.
All this maintenance and repairing is a huge hidden outdoor kitchen cost you weren’t expecting to deal with.
Wondering about the solution to all this?
Remove the layers.
Your Complete Solution
When it comes to your outdoor kitchen project… You want it to be as stress-free as possible.
And that means not having to worry about structural issues!
We can provide you with exactly that… And more.
RTA outdoor kitchens don’t utilize a frame system. In fact, our solution is completely frame-less.
How is this possible?
By utilizing a panelized construction method.
Rather than building a frame… Wrapping it with cement board… Applying your cladding material… And installing your finish…
RTA outdoor kitchen panels are quite literally all-in-one.
We utilize high performance concrete panels to create the structure of your outdoor kitchen. They also have the finish fully incorporated into the panel.
It’s uncomplicated, easy to install, and built to last.
The RTA Advantage
Concerns about the structure failing don’t even have to occupy your mind. RTA outdoor kitchens are backed by a lifetime structural warranty!
And as if it couldn’t get any better… We have a suite of Design Experts ready to guide you through every detail of your project.
Why not give them a call? They can even help you create a custom design!
Whether you’re ready to jump headfirst into an RTA outdoor kitchen or not… Take some time to explore our Learning Hub.
If there’s a question you have about outdoor kitchens… We’ve probably answered it!
Alright, no need to keep you any longer. Time for you to hit the books!
Have questions? Get Answers!
While you can use tile for an outdoor kitchen… It’s not recommended.
Ceramic and porcelain tile especially are prone to cracks and chipping. You also run the constant risk of tiles popping off the structure.
For a DIY project, you’ll begin with a concrete countertop. From there, prepare a mortar and begin applying your tile!
For edges and corners, you may have to cut pieces of tile to fit properly. So ensure you have the correct equipment.
To tile an outdoor kitchen… You’ll generally begin with an outdoor kitchen frame.
Apply a mortar mix to your cement board. From there, apply your tile!
For edges and corners, you may have to cut pieces of tile to fit properly. So ensure you have the correct equipment.
You can… But it’s not the best option. Tile countertops are especially prone to cracking, chipping, and tiles completely popping off.
For most homeowners, it’s simply not worth the stress and maintenance!