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San Diego Outdoor Kitchen: Cost, Best Builders, & Material Considerations for Your Area

By James King

January 3, 2023

So you’re in San Diego… And you’re thinking about installing an outdoor kitchen.

Smart idea!

Weather-wise, San Diego is one of the best locations in the country for outdoor kitchen ownership.

With average high temperatures ranging from 66-77°F year-round… The southern California climate couldn’t be better for outdoor cooking.

And with an average of only 42 days of rainfall a year… You can be grilling nearly every day!

Point is, an outdoor kitchen is a worthy investment in San Diego county.

Then the question becomes… What do you need to know about getting a San Diego outdoor kitchen?

Let’s discuss.

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welcome to san diego

Outdoor Kitchen Materials to Avoid in San Diego

First and foremost, you’ll need to consider BBQ island materials.

Although San Diego has a remarkably mild climate… Being so close to the coast, there are some options you’ll want to steer clear from.

To help you understand the ins and outs of outdoor kitchen materials… We enlisted the help of landscape designer and HGTV host, Mike Pyle.

Not only is he an outdoor living expert… He’s a resident of nearby Dana Point! Therefore, his expertise has unique relevance to the San Diego area.

Let’s kick off the list with wood!

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Wood Outdoor Kitchens

No matter where you live… We never recommend building a wood outdoor kitchen!

It’s no exception for homeowners in the San Diego area.

As Pyle says, “Wood is going to require more maintenance, whether it’s part of the structure or used aesthetically.”

This couldn’t be more true! Even in just a few months… A wood outdoor kitchen can begin to swell and warp. And those are just the visual problems!

“You also don’t want to use wood framing because of termites”, Pyle continues. With such a high prevalence of termites in the San Diego area… Using wood is a surefire way to lose your investment to these nasty critters.

Even if you’re lucky enough not to have a termite problem… Wood is prone to rot and is a combustible material.

And when you’re using a hot grill… The last thing you want right next to it is something flammable like wood!

Unfortunately, wood is simply a no-go for a San Diego outdoor kitchen.

Metal Frames

a metal frame outdoor kitchen falling apart after a few winters

Being impervious to rot, swelling, warping, and termites… Metal is certainly a step up from wood.

At the same time, metal frames are still not an ideal material in San Diego.

Primarily, this has to do with San Diego being a coastal area.

As you already know… Salt causes metal to corrode.

And if the metal frames in your outdoor kitchen are exposed to the salty, ocean air… The same will happen over time!

You can mitigate this by choosing corrosion resistant metals like marine grade stainless steel or aluminum.

Even still… It’s only a matter of time before issues occur when left unchecked.

For peace of mind, it’s best to avoid metal frames whenever possible.

Stone Veneer & Tile Finishes

While they may look lovely… Stone veneer and tile finishes are not optimal choices in San Diego.

And while slightly different, both materials have the same core issue.

Whether you have a stone or tile outdoor kitchen… Both finishes are prone to pop off of your island!

This is problematic for a few reasons.

Of course, there’s the aesthetic issue. It’s unsightly to have a piece of your grill island finish missing.

This also necessitates ongoing maintenance. Whenever a piece falls off… You’re going to have to take the time to repair it.

The final issue is more insidious. Remember that point about metal frames corroding?

Well, most islands finished with stone veneer or tile use metal frames.

So if a stone or tile pops off… That leaves the interior of your island open to moisture getting inside.

Over time, this creates the perfect storm for corrosion of your metal frames. The longer this goes on… The more the structure of your island is compromised.

If left unresolved… You’re going to have to replace your entire outdoor kitchen!

To us, it’s simply not worth the risk.

Stucco Finishes

a worn and cracking stucco finish on an outdoor kitchen with tile accent

Being in the southwestern US, you’ll know that stucco finishes are a popular aesthetic!

For most of the region, stucco finishes can actually be okay… But it’s not exactly the case in San Diego.

Again, this has to do with that lovely coastline of yours!

Although the humidity doesn’t match the subtropical climate of Tampa… There is a decent amount of humidity in the San Diego area!

And once again, that humidity spells trouble for your San Diego outdoor kitchen.

While it looks beautiful at first… Stucco is prone to cracking and flaking off.

The moment this happens, the interior of your island is exposed to salty ocean air. (Foiled again!)

And we all know how this story plays out. It’s the same problem as stone veneer and tile finishes!

In our opinion, it’s best to strike stucco off the list.

Quartz Countertops

Seeing quartz countertops on the list might surprise you!

They’re a durable, natural material that looks fantastic outdoors.

Unfortunately… The San Diego sunshine works against you here.

“You can’t do a quartz top because it will turn yellow”, Pyle shares.

It’s sad, but true.

And since you probably aren’t going for a yellow outdoor kitchen aesthetic… It’s best to keep the quartz indoors.

All that said… What are the outdoor kitchen materials that we do recommend?

The Best Outdoor Kitchen San Diego Materials

Since there are plenty of materials you should avoid… It follows that there are great materials to consider as well!

First and foremost is concrete.

Concrete Frames & Countertops

dual burner in grill island

While concrete outdoor kitchens are high-performers across the country… This is especially true in an area like San Diego.

Can you guess why?

Yes, it’s the coastal atmosphere!

Concrete is impervious to the issues you would encounter with wood or metal.

There’s no concern of rusting, corrosion, warping, swelling, rotting, or insect damage.

To top it off… Concrete is a non-combustible material!

As Mike Pyle put it, “It’s bulletproof, especially being by the coastline.”

Currently, there are two ways to construct a concrete outdoor kitchen.

You can use concrete masonry units (CMU) for a frame. From there, you will apply a finish to the concrete.

Alternatively, there are concrete outdoor kitchen panels. This is our preferred method… But we’ll circle back to that later!

If your builder offers concrete construction, it’s likely they are doing CMU.

Concrete isn’t just great for the island structure, either. It makes an excellent countertop material!

Outdoor concrete countertops have the same heavy-duty weather resistance… And creates a low maintenance preparation surface. (It’s also relatively simple to DIY.)

But it’s not the only countertop material to consider!

Granite Countertops

granite countertop with sink in grill island

Aside from concrete… Granite countertops are an excellent consideration for your San Diego outdoor kitchen.

Being a natural stone… They’re made for being outdoors!

Granite also happens to be one of the most dense stones out there.

So when it comes to your countertop… Granite is highly resistant to scratches and scuffing.

Granite is also a non-porous material, which keeps it safe from stains as well!

Now that we’ve got materials out of the way… What can you expect your outdoor kitchen to cost in San Diego?

Outdoor Kitchen Cost in San Diego

Currently, the nationwide average cost for an outdoor kitchen sits around $12,000-$13,000.

But due to a variety of factors… Outdoor kitchens tend to cost more in California. (But we won’t get into that here!)

The cost of your outdoor kitchen will also vary widely depending on the build method and labor costs.

For a CMU style island, “Installers spend on average $12,000-$20,000 depending on scope and scale of the project. Sometimes, the cost could go up to $30,000”, Pyle shares.

That’s a wide range!

But generally speaking… You can expect to pay around $12,000 as a minimum starting price.

There’s also the labor cost to contend with! According to Mike Pyle, most installers will charge anywhere from $800-$1,200 for a day of labor.

So if your project takes two to three weeks to build (very common!)… You’ll be paying a pretty penny in installation costs.

Now that you have an idea of pricing and you’re on board… How do you find a good builder for the job?

Finding an Outdoor Kitchen Contractor San Diego

two contractors finishing an outdoor kitchen with natural stone veneer

A simple Google search will reveal a plethora of outdoor kitchen contractors in San Diego.

But how do you know you’ve found a good one?

The unfortunate reality is… Many contractors are unreliable. Therefore, you can’t let a low quote cloud your judgment!

You have to be highly particular before you decide to move forward with a contractor.

Mike Pyle’s advice?

“For a builder in the market we’re in, you have to go on a referral basis. Don’t just go in blind.”

We’d have to agree!

Hiring a contractor based off of a trusted referral is the gold standard.

However… You might not have a personal referral to go off of.

In this case, you’ll have to carefully vet your contractor. Get a clear sense of how experienced they are, make sure everything is included in the quote, review images of past projects… And check the online reviews!

Beyond that, it’s up to your discretion.

With all that said… Let’s take a look at the most popular builders in San Diego.

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Top Outdoor Kitchen Contractors San Diego

Now that you have an idea of what to expect for your project… It’s time to see what builders in the San Diego area you can consider.

We’ll kick off the list with Pacific Dreamscapes.

Pacific Dreamscapes

Pacific Dreamscapes Logo

Pacific Dreamscapes is a full-service landscape design company founded back in 1998.

Pacific Dreamscapes casts a wide net, serving the areas of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, Del Mar, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, La Jolla, La Mesa, Poway, San Diego, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach, and Vista.

In addition to outdoor kitchens… This company offers waterfall design, pond design, pavers, driveway pavers, concrete design, custom walls, steps, landscape design, fire pits, patios, artificial turf, decks, patio covers, pergolas, and fences.

Feeling out of breath? That’s a lot of services!

But we’re here to learn about San Diego outdoor kitchens.

Pacific Dreamscapes offers custom outdoor kitchen builds… Many of which are featured on their website!

As far as materials go… We cannot confirm what materials are used. However, there is one example in their gallery that appears to be concrete block.

They also offer on-site consultations for a $125.00 fee.

For reviews… Pacific Dreamscapes has a solid 5 star rating on Google with 31 reviews.

San Diego Pavers

San Diego Pavers primarily works with custom pavers… But they do also offer summer kitchens!

According to the BBB, they’ve been in the business for 17 years. Their service area includes Vista, Carlsbad, Escondido, Ramona, El Cajon, Chula Vista, and San Diego.

San Diego Pavers offers custom outdoor kitchen layouts… And can provide you with a free design consultation.

Again, we were unable to determine what materials are used in their islands… So you will have to check with them to confirm! Their gallery shows stucco, stacked stone, and flagstone finishes.

On Google, San Diego Pavers has a 5 star rating with 5 reviews.

Extreme Backyard Designs

Extreme Backyard Designs Logo

Extreme Backyard Designs was founded back in 2010 by James Deeley. And Deeley himself has worked in the outdoor living industry for over 30 years!

Their showroom in Ontario, California offers a wide variety of features for your outdoor living space.

They sell outdoor appliances, island storage, prefab outdoor kitchens, patio furniture, spas, aluminum patio covers, custom palapas, play sets, fire pits, and fire tables.

Extreme Backyard Designs services Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Colorado River, and San Diego Counties.

They also offer custom outdoor kitchen designs!

We were also able to get a sense of what materials are used in their islands.

Extreme Backyard Designs does utilize a frame system for their islands. Their islands are also pre-wired for electricity.

Other materials include bullnose tile (for smooth edges) and an Ameristone finish (acrylic-based finish that looks like fine, crushed stone). It appears that granite, marble, or porcelain tile is available as well.

Currently, Extreme Backyard Designs has a 4.1 star rating on Google with 60 reviews.

Tim George Landscape Construction

Tim George Landscape Construction

Tim George Landscape Construction has been providing landscape services in the San Diego area for over 20 years!

Their service area includes Alpine, Bonita, Cardiff, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, Del Mar, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, Fairbanks Ranch, La Jolla, La Mesa, Leucadia, Oceanside, Pacific Beach, Point Loma, Poway, Ramona, Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego, San Marcos, Santee, Solana Beach, Spring Valley, Valley Center, and Vista.

For services… You can get landscape designs, outdoor kitchens, hardscapes, masonry, fire features, pergolas, fences, decks, and water features.

Tim George Landscape Construction offers custom outdoor kitchen cabinetry.

And while we can’t confirm the materials used… The gallery reveals that finishes are available in stucco, stone, and wood.

There currently aren’t any reviews on Google… But Yelp shows two 5 star reviews, and Houzz shows seven 5 star reviews.

BBQ Island San Diego

BBQ Island San Diego (also known as Islands in the Sun BBQ) sells a variety of outdoor appliances and custom outdoor kitchens!

We were unable to determine how long they’ve been in business (or service area)… But we were able to find more details about the construction of their outdoor kitchen islands.

Islands in the Sun BBQ utilizes metal frames for their custom islands. However, they are thick, high grade galvanized stainless steel. These frames are also welded, which makes the structure stronger overall.

The gallery shows a mixture of stucco and stone veneer finish options.

Islands in the Sun BBQ also provides a lifetime warranty on the island and workmanship, which is a good sign!

This builder is currently rated at 5 stars on Google, with three reviews in total.

Install it Direct

Install It Direct Logo

Next up, we have Install it Direct. Based out of Encinitas, Install it Direct services all of San Diego county.

They’ve been in business for 13 years and pride themselves on working with only the best contractors in the area.

Services range from pavers, to artificial turf, to landscape design, to outdoor living projects. (Like outdoor kitchens!)

A wide variety of appliances can be included in their custom designs. Built-in grills, smokers, side burners, trash cans, pizza ovens, refrigerators, speakers, sinks, warming drawers, and lighting are all listed on their website.

Free design consultations are offered… But we were unable to find any information about construction methods or materials. You’ll have to reach out to Install it Direct to get the details.

Install it Direct has accrued 213 Google reviews with a 4.8 star rating.

Torrey Pines Landscape Company

Torrey Pines Landscape Logo

Torrey Pines Landscape Company was first licensed in 1983 by founder Harry Thompson.

Their landscape design services include driveways, entryways, outdoor patios, outdoor kitchens, patio covers, fire features, water features, walls, and planters.

While we don’t have detailed information about their service area… They are located right in the heart of San Diego itself.

Like the other builders featured, Torrey Pines offers custom backyard kitchens.

They also take a different approach with outdoor kitchen materials. Torrey Pines utilizes cast in place concrete reinforced with steel.

Finishes offered include natural stone, brick, or smooth stucco.

Currently, Torrey Pines Landscape Company has 14 Google reviews with a 4.3 star rating.

Western Outdoor Design & Build

Western Outdoor Design & Build Logo

Western Outdoor Design & Build has been offering landscape services in the Southern California area since 1990.

Their service areas include Orange, South Riverside, and San Diego county.

Western Outdoor Design & Build’s services include outdoor kitchens, pool and spa designs, fire features, pavers, koi ponds, water features, landscape design, landscape lighting, outdoor living, synthetic turf, decks, fences, gates, water elements, and patio covers.

And no surprise here… Western Outdoor Design & Build also offers custom built BBQ islands!

We cannot confirm what materials are used… But they do have both stone veneer and stucco finish options available.

On Google, they’ve earned a 4.5 star rating with 56 reviews.

At this point… We’ve sifted through a bunch of outdoor kitchen contractors in the San Diego area.

Even still, you may feel as though you haven’t explored all your options.

Allow us to present an alternative.

A New Barbecue Island Solution in San Diego

linear grill island onbeach in

It’s no surprise to anyone that installing an outdoor grill station is a huge investment!

Therefore, you want your builder to be top-notch… And use top-notch materials.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a sense of this on a contractor’s website… And oftentimes, the information simply isn’t available at all.

You need transparency.

At RTA Outdoor Living, that’s exactly what we can provide for you!

Let’s start with materials. Every RTA outdoor kitchen is constructed with high performance concrete panels.

These monolithic (single layer) panels come with the finish fully incorporated… And nothing to rot, rust, or corrode!

You also have a choice between granite or concrete countertops.

Additionally, our islands come complete with Coyote’s premium appliances. With full 304 stainless steel construction and a best-in-class lifetime warranty… Longevity isn’t a question!

That’s also coupled with RTA’s limited lifetime warranty on the island structure. Point is, we put our money where our mouth is!

We won’t hide pricing information, either. All Quick Ship kitchens have transparent pricing online… And we’ll be upfront with you about exact costs of a custom design.

The only downside is that RTA is a DIY outdoor kitchen solution. Most homeowners are happy to assemble themselves…

But we even have a solution if you don’t want to!

RTA’s Preferred Installer in San Diego

mike pyle in front of his modern outdoor kitchen with pizza oven

Remember Mike Pyle?

Well, he’s one of RTA’s preferred installers in the San Diego area!

Not only will you get the seamless RTA experience on the design and delivery… You’ll also get Mike Pyle’s expertise when it comes to assembly.

Could it get any easier?

For San Diego residents, it really couldn’t!

As Pyle put it, “Working with RTA is an easy, smooth process. It’s something you can order and have at your door in 3-4 weeks. If time is of the essence, RTA it’s a no-brainer. If not, it’s still a positive to not have people in your backyard daily, avoiding dust, cleanup, and saving money on the product itself.”

It’s true… RTA is faster and less expensive than working with a contractor!

Why?

It takes a single day to install your island. For a traditional, custom-built outside kitchen… This could take 2-3 weeks or more.

Just in labor alone, you’re saving thousands of dollars with RTA!

Moral of the story?

With RTA… You get custom design, top-notch service, durable materials, a lifetime warranty, premium appliances, and you can save money to boot.

Talk about a win-win-win!

If you’re thinking about creating a next-level outdoor cooking space…

You know where to find us!

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

There are many materials you could use as an outdoor kitchen countertop in San Diego. But to get the best durability and longevity… Concrete and granite would be the top recommendations.

A San Diego Outdoor Kitchen is, well… An outdoor kitchen built in San Diego! The San Diego are in particular is well suited to BBQ grill island projects.

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