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Outdoor Kitchen Vent: Why They’re Essential & Shocking Safety Risks You Can’t Ignore

You’re in the process of planning your outdoor kitchen… And the topic of ventilation has been brought to your attention.

The importance of outdoor kitchen ventilation is often overlooked… But it’s essential to the safety of your island.

Then the question becomes… 

How do you know what your outdoor kitchen vent requirements are? Will you need a vent hood, too? 

Things aren’t as simple as they may appear.

In this blog, we seek to demystify the confusion surrounding outdoor kitchen vents and emphasize their importance. You’ll discover key concepts, safety considerations and concerns… And we’ll wrap up with covering the safest outdoor kitchen solution for your backyard.

We’ll start with the basics.

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outdoor kitchen vents

Understanding Outdoor Kitchen Vents

While there are only two primary modes of ventilation for an island… There’s a lot to know about each!

Let’s begin with island ventilation.

Outdoor Kitchen Island Vents

VENTED

vented rta outdoor kitchen

NO VENTS

no vents in outdoor kitchen

Island vents refer to the direct source of ventilation on your outdoor kitchen. These will often take the form of stainless steel vents placed on either side of your island. (This is what most appliance manufacturers recommend!)

Simple enough, right?

Well… There’s a little more to outdoor kitchen vents than haphazardly slapping them on each side of your island.

Location matters!

More specifically… Location matters depending on the fuel type of your grill.

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Propane Vent Location

propane vent locations

Propane is more dense than air, so it tends to sink.

Therefore, it’s essential to place ventilation at the bottom of your island if you want a propane grill.

If ventilation is only at the top of your island… Propane gas will pool and build up. Let this go too long, and the chances of your island exploding become a serious risk.

Literally.

Same goes for natural gas.

Natural Gas Vent Location

an image of an outdoor kitchen that caught fire due to poor ventilation

As you would likely guess… Unlike propane, natural gas is lighter than air.

So of course, it’s important for the ventilation to sit at the top of your island.

If you make the mistake of putting vents at the bottom of your island for a natural gas grill… The gas will be unable to escape from the top of your island.

And yet again… You’re rolling the dice on an outdoor kitchen explosion.

It’s also important to note that some grill island manufacturers will put vents 6 inches below the actual top of your island. This can be problematic, as gas will rise to the very top! So that means about 6 inches of gas vapor is accumulating before any is actually able to be ventilated out.

Thankfully, it’s easy to prevent. Pay attention to the fuel type of your built-in grill… And make sure your island manufacturer is placing the vents correctly!

Heat Buildup

heat buildup mobile

It’s also worth making a brief mention of heat buildup. 

While gas buildup is the primary concern… Heat buildup is another issue you’ll have to contend with. 

Why? 

Well, excessive heat can also cause a fire in your outdoor kitchen. 

Even if gas is properly being ventilated, heat is not escaping… Which means you’re still at risk for a fiery catastrophe.

So if you have a liquid propane grill with vents at the bottom of your island… You’ll still want ventilation at the top to allow for heat escape. 

The same goes for other types of grills, like charcoal or pellet. You won’t have a risk of fuel leakage… But they will still produce copious amounts of heat that needs to be ventilated out.

But what about hood ventilation?

Outdoor Kitchen Hood Ventilation

outdoor kitchen grill with hood

There’s also hood vents to contend with. These are large, overhead ventilation systems designed to pull hot air away from your island. They will sit directly above the grill.

Vent hoods also have baffle filters, which capture the grease coming off of your food. (This reduces the risk of a grease fire.)

Unlike island vents, hood vents are not required for every outdoor kitchen.

If your grill island is in a completely open area… There’s no need for a vent hood.

But if it’s underneath any sort of roof… An outdoor vent hood becomes a requirement.

When shopping for a vent hood, you’ll want to choose an option with a 1,000 CFM blower at minimum. This will ensure your hood is powerful enough to actually divert hot air away from your island. (Safety first!)

Speaking of safety…

Safety Considerations for Outdoor Kitchen Ventilation

As you well know… Outdoor kitchen ventilation isn’t for looks. It’s for the safety of your family.

And with safety being top of mind… Let’s review the top three considerations you need to know.

Ventilation for Islands Against a Wall

unsafe outdoor kitchen placed directly on wall

While this is a fairly well-known safety tip… It’s important to reiterate.

It’s not recommended to place your island directly against a wall.

Why?

There’s excessive heat coming off your grill that must be ventilated out of the area. 

And if your wall is made from a combustible material… Once again, you’ll find yourself playing with fire. 

So while the island ventilation itself doesn’t play into this… There are some things you can do to create a workaround.

First, give your island some breathing room. Don’t place it directly against the wall, and allow for some airflow around the back of your island.

It would also be wise to add a backsplash made from a non-combustible material. This will safeguard the exterior wall of your home. 

Most importantly… You should have hood ventilation in this scenario. It will efficiently pull hot air away from your island and the wall.

Got it?

Now, let’s divert our attention to islands under cover.

Ventilation for Islands Under Cover

couple at their rta outdoor kitchen underneath a gazebo structure

Planning on installing your island under a gazebo or a pavilion?

Hood ventilation becomes essential here.

Now, instead of just having to worry about gas and heat buildup in your island… You also have to be concerned about it getting trapped overhead.

This is especially true if you have a natural gas built-in grill.

Plus, there’s always the potential for a grease fire… Which becomes far more dangerous with a flammable structure above your BBQ island.

Outdoor range hoods will funnel hot air away from your grill… As well as capture grease coming off of your food.

This makes your island far safer to use underneath a gazebo or pavilion.

Of course, you can’t forget about island ventilation either! Ensure that there’s plenty of airflow around the perimeter of your outdoor kitchen.

Sound good?

Well, there’s one more thing to keep in mind with this.

If you install an outdoor kitchen under a roof… Your appliance warranty may be voided, regardless of a ventilation hood or not.

So before you go all-in on this idea… Check with your appliance manufacturer before proceeding!

Aside from grill hood ventilation… There’s also the island material to think about.

Island Materials & Ventilation Concerns

wood outdoor kitchen structure in the midst of construciton

While it may not seem obvious at first… Your outdoor kitchen materials have a lot to do with ventilation!

Especially if said ventilation is not properly installed or planned for.

If your outdoor kitchen is made from wood… That’s a disaster waiting to happen!

Even if you have insulated jackets on appliances to protect your island from excessive heat… You’re still at severe risk, particularly in the case of a grease fire.

It only takes one seemingly small accident for your entire island to go up in flames.

Point is… Use non-combustible materials for your outdoor kitchen!

By far, concrete is the best choice… But we’ll get into that a bit later.

And yes, non-combustible materials are more expensive than wood. But in our minds,  safety should always trump price.

Believe it or not… Even with these safety considerations in mind, most grill island vents still aren’t safe enough.

Safest Outdoor Kitchen Solution

Focus on building the outdoor kitchen of your dreams knowing it is vented properly. Try our free 3D design tool today.

Most Island Vents Aren’t Safe Enough

You’re probably a bit confused at this point. How is it possible that you can follow all the safety measures we’ve already outlined… And it’s still not enough?

Well, the burden really falls on where and who your outdoor kitchen comes from.

Allow us to explain.

Prefab Outdoor Kitchen Ventilation Concerns

prefabricated outdoor kitchen cabinet after one winter

If you’re on the hunt for a prefabricated BBQ grill island… Listen up!

While there are many suitable options out there… Unfortunately, the presence of proper ventilation is nearly non-existent.

Why is this?

You’ll recall we made a brief mention of what appliance manufacturers recommend for island ventilation.

On the whole… Most brands recommend 20 square inches of ventilation on opposite sides of your island. This usually manifests as 20 sq inches on both the left and right sides of your island. However, front to back ventilation is not unheard of either.

Still with us?

Well, there are a couple scenarios at play here. Depending on the prefab island manufacturer you choose… Some brands will provide ventilation, but some may not at all!

So of course, you’ll want to filter out the brands that don’t even include ventilation.

But what about the ones that do?

Well, it’s simply not enough. Oftentimes, the vents used are indeed 20 square inches in size.

So what’s the problem?

Due to the nature of stainless steel vents… About half of that space may be covered by the vent panel itself.

So all in all, you could only end up with about 10 square inches of actual airflow on each side of your island.

It just doesn’t add up!

This isn’t a hypothetical scenario, either. A prominent BBQ island manufacturer recently issued a safety recall  on 18,000 units due to the lack of ventilation in their islands manufactured from 2009 – 2020.

The moral of the story? Even if a prefab island manufacturer includes island ventilation… More often than not, it still doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for safety.

Sad to say… Many scratch-built options aren’t much better.

Scratch-Built Ventilation Concerns

Play Video about ventilation in outdoor kitchen

If you’re not considering a prefab outdoor kitchen… Typically, that means you’re pursuing a scratch-built option.

There are many benefits to a fully customized outdoor kitchen! You have a lot more control over the design… And a contractor or builder will be handling most of the project for you.

However, ventilation can become quite the Achilles’ heel here.

Believe it or not… A staggering amount of contractors are not even aware that outdoor kitchen vents are required!

Which means if you’re not aware and asking questions… You do so at significant risk to yourself and your loved ones.

At minimum, make sure your contractor is installing ventilation! But if they weren’t even aware of the need in the first place… They’re likely not someone you want to hire for your outdoor kitchen project anyway. (This reveals a significant lack of experience!)

Now, what if your contractor does understand the need for ventilation?

You still can’t let off the gas! You’ll want to stay on top of them and ensure they will be installing an adequate amount of ventilation.

Which, in the case of standard stainless steel vents… You’ll want them to at least double the amount being installed.

It’s also not a guarantee that your contractor will be using safe, non-combustible materials.

But in all honesty… Is this something you want to have to constantly hound your contractor about?

If you’d rather not leave safety up to chance… There’s a simpler solution out there.

The Safest Outdoor Kitchen & Vent Solution

top vent visible in linear rta outdoor kitchen

There’s already so much you have to be concerned with when it comes to an outdoor kitchen project.

Surely, the safety of your island isn’t something you’ll want to be worried about, too.

It’s an area where compromise simply is not possible.

For you, that’s where RTA Outdoor Living comes in.

Our BBQ island solution was designed with safety in mind… From the ground up.

In fact, it’s quite literally built into the structure.

RTA’s flagship line of outdoor kitchens are made from high-performance engineered concrete composite panels. Not only is the concrete we use rated for 100 years… It’s a non-combustible material!

That means you’ll have no worries of your island going up in flames.

And when it comes to ventilation… We actually go beyond the minimum recommendations!

A Solution that Goes Above and Beyond

an rta outdoor kitchen showing the ventilation and non combustible concrete panels

You’ll recall that most islands have ventilation only on the left and right sides. (And only on the top, or only on the bottom.)

With RTA, there’s ventilation coming from at least seven different locations! You have ventilation on the left and right sides… Top and bottom… And coming from the front and back.

With RTA, there’s ventilation on the left and right of the island… As well as ventilation on the back!

To take it a step further… There’s ventilation on both the top and bottom of the island on all three sides.

So no matter what fuel type you choose… You’re covered. You can even switch between natural gas and propane, if desired!

RTA’s island ventilation is discreet, as well. There are simply small cutouts at the very top and very bottom of your island. These are not covered by vent panels, and will not take away from the aesthetic of your island.

Between the top and bottom vents… There’s 20 square inches of ventilation on both the left and right sides of the island. Additionally, you have another 44 square inches coming from the top and bottom of the back.

There’s also a small, ¼” – ½” gap under the front of the grill, to contribute additional airflow.

But of course… Your fuel type will only be able to vent out of either the top or bottom only. Even still, you end up with a total of 42 square inches of ventilation across the top or bottom. Therefore… Even with only half of the vents being utilized, we well-exceed minimum ventilation recommendations.

However, if you’re using liquid propane… The top vents are not useless to you! Remember that heat rises. So even though the propane gas is sinking… Heat will be funneling out the top of your island anyway.

It’s important to harp on this for a moment. You might recall that we mentioned most ventilation is placed 6” away from the top of the island. 

Not so for us. Our ventilation is located at the absolute top of the island… Therefore, there is no heat buildup whatsoever with our system.

Additionally, the interior of our islands are wide-open. This is an uncommon summer kitchen feature! Many islands are limited with interior space (like concrete block)… Which means it’s difficult to achieve good cross-ventilation. Due to the cavernous nature of our islands, air restriction is far less of a concern.

And due to our drill-only construction… The concrete panels of our islands are not sealed or caulked together, either. This means that there’s additional airflow leaking through these often imperceptible cracks.

We’re so confident about the safety of our outdoor kitchen islands… We guarantee it to you!

We Put Your Safety First

outdoor kitchen under pergola with string lights

To be absolutely certain your island is beyond safe to use… Every RTA outdoor kitchen is guaranteed to exceed proper material and ventilation standards.

This means that our islands are manufactured to be safe to use, from the jump.

To provide a bit more context…

All RTA islands come with outdoor grills and appliances from Coyote Outdoor Living. And as we mentioned a moment ago… Our ventilation exceeds the requirement for Coyote appliances.

That’s because we take your safety seriously.

But that’s not the only reason why our islands are designed for optimal safety.

That’s right, it comes down to our materials! We won’t repeat ourselves too much here… But our concrete island panels and countertops are completely non-combustible.

Talk about peace of mind!

However, there is something else to consider.

Even though our islands are manufactured to be safe… It’s still your responsibility to make sure the setup and location of your island is safe!

1. You have ventilation on the top and bottom of the left, right, and back sides

2. These are placed at the actual top and bottom of the island (not centered or 6” down)

3. No vent cover to restrict airflow

summary graphic 3

4. An open cabinet to allow proper cross-ventilation

summary graphic 3

5. There’s 7 vents, not just 2

summary graphic 4

6. You have side-to-side, side-to-back, and front-to-back ventilation

7. A small front gap under the grill to help flush potential gas leaks

And if your island is under cover, a stainless steel outdoor vent hood is a must.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Don’t worry! If you decide to work with RTA… You’ll be assigned a Design Expert to walk you through the entire process. (Including recommendations for safe placement!)

Since we’ve got the safety side of things covered… That leaves you more time to enjoy planning your outdoor kitchen design.

There’s all manner of built-in grills, griddles, kamados, pizza ovens, side burners, and other outdoor cooking appliances to consider!

Excited yet?

If so… Start planning your layout with our free outdoor kitchen design tool!

And from there… We’ll be in touch!

Need Help With Your Plans?

Talk to one of our expert designers and they will guide you from planning to installation. Schedule a call today.

FAQ

Yes, you must ventilate your outdoor kitchen! Gasses from your appliances will build up in your island and put your family at serious risk. Left unchecked, your island can actually explode. It is critical that you properly ventilate your island to allow these gasses to flush out.

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