If you’re reading this, you must be researching an outdoor kitchen project. That’s great!
There’s a lot to know in this space. There’s many options for an outdoor kitchen.
You want to know which is best for your outdoor living space… and to make research a bit easier we created this guide.
Today we’ll be discussing the pros and cons of prefab outdoor kitchen options.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Pros and Cons of Prefab Outdoor Kitchens
As with anything, there are both advantages and disadvantages to the prefab option. We’ll start with some pros and cons, then dig a little deeper.
PRO: Low Up-Front Investment
When considering an outdoor kitchen project, cost is almost certainly a factor.
If you have a tight budget, a prefab grill island may be the right choice for you. In terms of outdoor kitchen cost, this option has the lowest barrier to entry.
Pro: Accessible and Convenient
Prefab outdoor kitchens are highly accessible around the country. You’ll find them both in big box stores and online.
Now that online retail reigns supreme… Being able to order your prefab outdoor kitchen grill island online is a huge bonus.
However you order, the kitchen will arrive at your home in one assembled piece with all the components. Then all you have to do is drop it into your backyard space. Talk about a quick DIY solution.
Pro: The Short-Term Solution
Prefab outdoor kitchen islands are great if you’re not concerned about longevity.
Most prefab and modular outdoor kitchen kits aren’t made to last. This is especially true if you live in an area with a lot of inclement weather.
So if you’re only planning on staying in your house for another 3-5 years, this may be a good option for you.
Con: Lower Quality Materials
What makes cost an advantage makes quality a disadvantage. What you gain in savings you end up sacrificing in quality.
It’s an unfortunate reality. Nothing is perfect, as they say.
If budget allows, you may want to consider a more premium outdoor kitchen solution. While there will be a higher up-front cost, you still may end up saving in the long-run. You’ll be less likely to need to repair, maintain, or replace your outdoor kitchen… All of which can become expensive quickly.
Con: Lack of Customization
If you’re looking for a highly customized option that fits your exact requirements and desired functionality… This isn’t the option for you.
Prefab barbeque island follow a template that’s easy to mass-produce. Therefore, you won’t be able to personalize or change the layout. U-shaped or l-shaped layouts may not be possible.
If you don’t want to compromise on your design, you may want to consider a custom outdoor kitchen solution.
Con: Not the Single Source
In general, a prefab outdoor kitchen won’t include all the appliances, countertops, and/or the finish.
This adds a lot of work to the project. Now you have to source appliances, countertops, and someone to finish the surround.
All these extra tasks you have to juggle not only add layers to the project… They increase the chance for an error to be made. Errors = frustration.
And of course, the process of building an outdoor kitchen island should be fun! Not frustrating.
Con: Heavy Machinery Requirement
As mentioned earlier, prefab grill islands arrive in one piece. While not having to assemble yourself is convenient… This option brings its own set of challenges.
First, you have to ensure you have great access to your backyard and deck/patio. The heavy machinery will need to be able to maneuver properly and place the prefabricated outdoor kitchen. Any slopes or surface irregularities make this extremely difficult.
Second, you have to have access to heavy machinery! Most often, this requires hiring someone which is an added cost.
Needless to say, placing a prefab outdoor grill island can be a logistical nightmare. If your backyard is cramped or uneven, you may want to consider another solution.
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Materials Used in Prefabricated Outdoor Grill Islands
The following are all the outdoor kitchen materials commonly used in prefab bbq islands. As with anything, some are more preferable than others.
While tile countertops sound great… They aren’t always the best option in practice.
First, tile isn’t very hygienic. Bacteria and microorganisms easily absorb into the grout, which is a porous material. Plus, it stains easily and is hard to clean.
Tile isn’t the best choice for freeze/thaw climates either. During the warmer months, moisture will seep into the tiles. Once winter comes around, the freeze can cause the grout to pop and tiles to come loose.
Sometimes, tiles are glued on with a construction adhesive. Over time, this can weaken and also cause tiles to come loose.
Metal or Aluminum Studs
An obvious consideration is that metal will rust over time. Especially in high-humidity areas. Left unchecked, rusting will cause the integrity of your prefabricated outdoor kitchen frame to fail over time.
Also, aluminum studs are not considered to be structural. You wouldn’t build your house on a bad foundation, so why would you do that with an outdoor kitchen?
Unfortunately, cement board is not designed to be used outdoors. It doesn’t handle water or other moisture. For this reason, it’s always covered in stone, stucco, or another finish to protect it.
No matter the finish used… Eventually moisture will seep in and the cement board will begin to fail. Concrete in particular is good at absorbing moisture, which makes it a poor choice to pair with cement board.
There’s also a differential in expansion/contraction rates between the cement board and chosen finishing option. This will cause failure over time.
Wet Cast Veneer Concrete
The trouble here is similar to cement board. Cement board and stone will expand and contract at different rates. Over time, the veneer is worked off due to this variance.
The more dissimilar the material, the quicker this happens.
There’s a wide variety in outdoor kitchen appliances. There are many factors that will affect quality and longevity of the built-in grill or appliance.
First of all, the price point. Just like your outdoor kitchen overall, price factors into the quality of appliance you receive. A lower cost generally means you are sacrificing on quality in some way.
Materials used in appliances are crucial as well. For example, 304 vs 430 stainless steel. 430 stainless steel does not contain nickel, which makes it more likely to corrode, crack, and fail over time.
Therefore, if budget allows, you’ll want to opt for 304 stainless steel grills and appliances over 430. Make sure the interior components are also made from 304 stainless steel. Also check with the company if they offer a lifetime warranty.
A poor quality appliance that needs to be replaced causes problems down the road. You may no longer be able to buy parts to repair… And you may not be able to fit a new propane or natural gas grill in the cutout for the previous grill. This means extra expense to modify the cutout size on your prefab kitchen cabinet.
Galvanized material will cause issues as well. Rusting will occur at points where the material has been screwed. So you’ll want to steer clear if possible.
Materials doesn’t just apply to bbq grills… Take refrigerators, for example. Some people will use indoor rated refrigerators for their prefab outdoor kitchens. Unfortunately, these refrigerators burn out quickly. They are simply not meant for use in your outdoor space.
Pros and Cons of RTA Outdoor Kitchen Kits
Alright. You’re now well-versed in the advantages and disadvantages of prefab outdoor kitchens.
What about ready-to-assemble? I know, this guide is about prefab outdoor islands. But, RTA has lots of the pros of a prefab kitchen while removing most of the cons. So we figured discussing fits right in!
While we feel RTA is the best outdoor kitchen kit solution out there… We’ll let you read and decide for yourself!
Pro: Nearly Instant Gratification
The RTA process is quick on two levels.
First, let’s talk about how fast your outdoor kitchen will arrive. Once your design is locked in, it will arrive on your doorstep in as little as two weeks.
Keep in mind that during peak season, the delivery may be a bit longer. At the same time, you’ll still get your outdoor kitchen cabinets faster than scratch-built!
Second, assembly is even quicker than the shipping process.
If you’re handy, you can assemble yourself with a friend and a power drill. It will only take a few hours!
That means in the same day your kitchen arrives… You’ll be grilling a well-deserved meal for your efforts!
How’s that for (nearly) instant gratification?
Pro: Customize to your Heart's Content
We pride ourselves on the ability to cater to your design needs.
It’s important to note we have two different design options: Pre-designed and Custom.
Over time, we’ve learned that some designs are always popular and useful. Think of our predesigned selections as the “Best Hits” in outdoor kitchen layouts.
If you’re not interested in a specific design, predesigned may be the way to go. Rest assured you’re getting a tried-and-true design without expending any extra effort.
For those with a particular vision in mind, we do offer custom. You can start your custom layout using our free online design tool. In about 5 minutes, you’ll have a beautiful layout ready to be reviewed by our design experts.
Our design experts will work one-on-one with you to ensure everything is to your specifications. From layout, to appliances, to finish, etc. We will go the extra mile to make sure you receive the outdoor kitchen you desire.
How is this possible? Other prefab outdoor kitchens don’t offer that type of flexibility.
It’s in the nature of our product. RTA’s unique process makes our outdoor kitchens highly customizable without compromise on quality and durability.
Pro: You are in Control of your Project
With RTA, you are firmly in control of your premade outdoor kitchen.
You can buy a prefab outdoor kitchen or hire a contractor to build from scratch… But you won’t have as much of a say in the project as you would with RTA.
With a prefab outdoor kitchen island… You have virtually no control over design. They only produce certain layouts, you get what you get.
With a contractor to build from scratch… Your level of control depends on the knowledge of yourself and your contractor. If you don’t have much knowledge of the materials and process, you won’t know if the project is actually being done properly. It’s an inherent lack of control as you have to put full trust into your contractor.
RTA is different. You’re in control of both design and assembly. You can oversee every step of the process, and feel confident in your decision.
Pro: The Non-Invasive Solution
Unlike traditional offerings, RTA is the non-invasive solution for your yard.
When building from scratch, your backyard will be disturbed for weeks or months. Materials and tools will take temporary residence in your yard. It’s messy!
The prefab outdoor kitchen island is not immune to this, either. While prefab island choices may not disturb your yard for weeks… They often require heavy equipment to install which is extremely invasive.
RTA runs into neither of these problems.
Your RTA outdoor kitchen will arrive to your door in pallets. The panels are relatively lightweight and can be hand-carried by two people. From there, assembly only takes a few hours.
No heavy equipment required. No backyard disturbance.
Pro: Convenient and Frustration-Free
A traditional project for your outdoor kitchen space can easily be overwhelming.
With a prefab bbq island, you may have to source your own appliances… Finish the frames… And you need heavy equipment to install.
With contractor-built, it’s not much different. You have to source appliances… Your backyard is intruded for weeks or months… And the design process can be confusing.
Take RTA on the other hand. If there’s a predesigned option you want, you can order your outdoor kitchen online right away. It will get shipped to your door in a couple weeks.
You may opt to use our free online design tool for custom. Your design will be completed in about 5 minutes. After a few exchanges with our design experts, your outdoor kitchen will be on its way to you.
You know what you don’t have to deal with in this process?
No sourcing appliances. No finishing your own panels. No heavy equipment required. No intrusion of your backyard. No confusing back and forth with multiple vendors.
RTA is the one source for all your outdoor kitchen needs, handled with expertise.
Pro: Structural Lifetime Warranty
To further sweeten the deal, RTA offers a lifetime warranty on the structure.
We’re so confident in the durability of our product we are willing to back it with a lifetime warranty.
Con: Occasional Limitations
While we pride ourselves on design flexibility, some layouts are out of reach.
Currently we are unable to accommodate curved countertops and other specific modifications.
If you’re unsure what we can offer, set up a time to speak with one of our design experts.
Con: Assembly Required
While this may not be an issue for our more handy customers, some of us don’t want to have to worry about assembly!
We understand. You have a busy life! And assembling an outdoor kitchen is just one more thing to tack onto the to-do list.
Your hopes aren’t dashed, however.
We can help you find someone to assist with assembly!
Con: May not Fit your Budget
If you’re operating under a tight budget, RTA may not be the solution for you.
The added convenience and durability of an RTA outdoor kitchen means there is an added cost. Typically, RTA costs 20-30% more than other prefab outdoor kitchen options.
That said, RTA can be cheaper than some built-from-scratch options. It’s worth getting some estimates before moving forward on a solution.
Con: Appliance Limitations
As with design, there are appliance limitations with RTA.
We work directly with Coyote Outdoor Living for all of our appliances. They provide us with their top-grade, 304 stainless steel appliances. They’re amazing!
However, we realize that not everyone will want a Coyote outdoor grill and appliances in their outdoor kitchen. For the most part, we are currently unable to accommodate other brands, so you are a bit limited in your selection.
What Sets RTA Apart from other Prefab Outdoor Kitchen Options?
There’s a lot to love about RTA. Let’s talk about what sets us apart from other prefab outdoor kitchens.
Unlike the typical prefab bbq island, RTA’s panels are monolithic.
What does that mean, exactly?
Well, traditional prefab panels require finishing. It’s a two-step process. They start as a frame which has to be veneered with cultured stone, stucco, real stone, tile, etc.
Because prefab panels are inherently in two pieces, they are susceptible to breaking down over time. They may separate or delaminate after a few seasons. Expect maintenance to be required down the road!
RTA’s panels, on the other hand, are monolithic. One piece. This eliminates the chance for moisture to get in between the substrate and the finish. There is no weakness in the panel.
The Aesthetically Pleasing Option
There’s something to be said for aesthetics! When you’re making such a large purchase, you want to make sure it looks good in your yard!
We may be biased… But we truly feel RTA is an aesthetically pleasing alternative to traditional prefab outdoor kitchens.
Much of this has to do with how the outdoor kitchen is assembled. Traditional prefab systems feature seams and large joints that are less desirable visually. They jut out and create an incohesive look.
Prefab outdoor cabinet systems also tend to be made with plastic and fake stone. This can create a chintzy look that you’re probably not going for.
Now take RTA. RTA’s assembly system is completely joint free and seamless. This creates a streamlined, modern look to our outdoor kitchens.
And while our panels are not made from stone, they look just like it. Our panels are cast off of real stone, so you get the exact same look and feel. Plus, our concrete is even more durable than stone itself.
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Why Prefab BBQ Islands and RTA are a Popular Choice
Alright. Now you’re virtually an expert in the difference between prefab outdoor kitchens and RTA. You might be surprised that both are popular choices over contractor built outdoor kitchens.
Let’s discuss why that is.
In our high-tech world, convenience reigns supreme. We’ve grown accustomed to instant downloads and 2-day shipping. When we want something, we want it yesterday.
The outdoor living industry is no exception. With both prefab and RTA, you can achieve that sense of nearly “instant gratification”.
In the case of a prefab outdoor kitchen, you can get one at a big box store and walk away with it same-day.
In the case of RTA, you can order online and have it shipped to your door in as little as two weeks. You don’t even need to leave the house!
The rise of the internet has also brought with it a desire for more control over our transactions. The online marketplace offers us virtually limitless options, which makes us less willing to compromise on a purchase.
While prefab bbq islands offer convenience, this is where RTA really shines. With RTA, you have control over the entire project.
You get to order, design, and assemble yourself. You can get the exact outdoor cooking space you desire, without compromise.
How to get Started with RTA
After reviewing your options, you may decide that RTA is the solution for you. That’s great!
You’re probably wondering how to get started.
First, we would suggest reviewing our predesigned options here.
If none of our predesigned options speak to you, you may want to explore our custom solutions. We offer a free online outdoor kitchen design tool so you can explore the variety we can offer you.
If you want to go straight to designing, click here!
And of course, if you have any questions, we are happy to assist you. You can email or call us to set up a time to speak with one of our design experts.
We look forward to working with you!