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Stone Outdoor Kitchen: Your Best Option & How to Build

By James King

April 8, 2022

stacked stone outdoor kitchen with wood fired pizza oven and fridge (1)

When researching for an outdoor kitchen… One of the first things you may consider is the aesthetics.

Understandably so.

Of course, you want your outdoor living space to match your taste!

A highly prized aesthetic many homeowners prefer is a stone outdoor kitchen island.

Excellent choice.

Stone grill islands are a perfect way to complement the natural landscape.

With so much of modern design being a direct contrast to the natural world… It’s quite literally a breath of fresh air to behold a outdoor kitchen with stone.

stacked stone outdoor kitchen with wood fired pizza oven and fridge (1)
an rta stone outdoor kitchen in front of a sunset on a stone patio
a stacked stone outdoor kitchen installed on a patio ready to grill

If you have your heart set on a stone aesthetic… You’re probably wondering what options are available.

It’s a good question to ask. It’s also a complicated one to answer.

It may seem straightforward… But there are way more options than you’d expect!

Today, we’ll be covering the most common options.

From stone finish options… To build methods… To skill level required…

We’re going to cover all related elements.

Consider this your expert guide on all things stone outdoor kitchens.

There’s a ton to go over… So let’s get started!

Quick Links:

Types of Outdoor Kitchen Stone

We’ll begin with sharing the type of stone you may encounter.

It’s important to note availability of supplies here. Your location influences how accessible a type of stone is for you.

Take granite, for example. It’s incredibly common in the New England area… But not so much for the rest of the country.

Same goes for limestone. This type of stone is most often found in the central and eastern US.

Alright, let’s get to the most common options.

Field Stone

a wall built of field stone

Field stone can be mined nearly anywhere in the country. It’s especially prominent in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland.

If field stone is not available in your area… You can find manmade options with the same look.

Although it’s a bother for farmers trying to expand their fields… Field stone is a great construction material!

Due to their natural and irregular nature… BBQ islands made with field stone will have a cobblestone type look.

It’s an old-world masonry style and feel.

Next in the list is a bit different!

River Rock

In many ways… River rock is similar to field stone.

It’s just mined from a river rather than a field.

Nearly all of us have plunged our hands into a body of water… Picked up some smooth stones… And skipped them across the water. (Or tried to.)

For most of us, it’s a fond childhood memory!

Point is… We’re all familiar with river stone.

Although, the river stone used in a grill island is far larger than the pebbles we throw!

In contrast to field stone… River stone will create a more polished look. You will be able to see the mortar lines in between the stones as well.

Many homeowners opt for a manmade version of river stone for their project. It’s easier to work with and less expensive than its natural counterpart.

Limestone

a large amount of limestone at a quarry

This white or light gray rock is often used for landscaping purposes.

For outdoor kitchen use… It’s typically shaped into blocks. Limestone is also a common material used for outdoor kitchen stone countertops.

As you can see, limestone is quite versatile!

Same goes for the next option.

Flagstone

Flagstone is a natural sedimentary rock split into layers. These form wide, flat surfaces.

This stone is most frequently found in the Southwest US.

You’ll most often see flagstone used in a patio or walkway. Their thin, but wide surface area lends itself well for this purpose.

Of course, you’ll also find flagstone used in an outdoor kitchen! It’s a bit less popular than the other stones mentioned.

For use in a grill island… You’ll notice it has a more regular pattern as well.

Speaking of patterns… There’s various ways you can manipulate stone to create a unique look.

easy stone outdoor kitchen design

Use our 3D design tool for free and bring your outdoor kitchen idea to life.

Stone Pattern Options

Just as there are multiple varieties of stone to work with… You can create just about any pattern you want.

Let’s discuss.

Ledge Stone

an outdoor kitchen wall made out of ledge stone

When it comes to ledge stone… What we’re really talking about is the shape.

Ledge stone is rectangular in shape. They are set in courses and stacked.

This means the ledge stone is laid one layer at a time around the perimeter of your outdoor bbq island. Compared to other options… Ledge stone is relatively easy to work with.

You’ll be able to see the mortar lines between stones as well.

Overall, pretty simple!

The ledge stone look is extremely popular in the outdoor kitchen space.

Stack Stone

Stacked Stone Outdoor Kitchen on Patio Near Lake with Smoker (6)

Also known as stacked stone… This option is similar in many ways to ledge stone.

The difference is you won’t see the mortar lines between stones. Unlike ledge stone, they are directly stacked on top of one another.

Stack stone can be derived from either natural or cultured stone. (Cultured stone is another name for manmade stone.)

Natural stack stone will be individual pieces that you have to piece together yourself.

Cultured stone can also come as individual pieces. There’s also cultured stone that is made in a panel style.

This means you have a premade panel or section that can be directly adhered to your stacked stone outdoor kitchen.

Ashlar

Ashlar stone is worked by a mason to create squared edges.

While similar to ledge or stacked stone… Ashlar stone is far more consistent in the shape and size. They are specifically crafted to have squared edges and a regular size.

This means you’ll end up with a consistent pattern for the finish.

This is great if you’re looking for a bit more refined look… But want to retain the natural aesthetic of stone.

You could stack identical stones… Or arrange ones that vary slightly in dimensions. Either one will create a nice finish!

Ashlar stone can be a great alternative to brick.

Tired yet?

We’re just getting started!

Let’s move onto stone built in BBQ island build methods.

How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen with Stone

At this point… You’re wondering how to build a stone outdoor kitchen for your outdoor living space. There are quite a few build methods out there!

Five, to be exact.

Let’s take a look.

Hand Laid Stone

hand laid stone used for an outdoor kitchen structure

Hand laid stone is the oldest method out there when it comes to building from stone.

It’s exactly how it sounds, too. You lay each stone piece by piece.

There are two ways to accomplish this.

For one… Your mason could apply stones using a mortar. This “wet laid” method will hold the stones in place.

The hand laid stone can also be done via the “dry” method. There’s no material adhering the stones to one another. It’s all down to skill and gravity.

While that works well for a stone wall… Limitations are discovered quickly with a grill island.

If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of work… You’d be right!

Today, hand laid stone for grill islands are quite uncommon.

You’ll see why below!

Stone Mortared to a CMU Substrate

stones being mortarted to a cmu structure for an outdoor kitchen

Looking for a more practical alternative to hand laid stone? Stone mortared to a CMU substrate could be a better option. (CMU stands for concrete masonry unit).

These outdoor kitchens utilize stones mortared to the CMU substrate.

In this scenario… Your substrate will be made with concrete block.

From there, your mason will adhere the stone to the substrate. This is done using mortar.

Due to the cost and skill required… This method of building a built in BBQ island has fallen out of favor in recent years.

Natural Outdoor Kitchen Stone Veneer

2 contractors finishing an outdoor kitchen with natural stone veneer

Natural stone veneer is yet another option for outdoor kitchens.

Let’s see how to build an outdoor kitchen with stone veneer.

This solution begins with a frame system. The outdoor kitchen frame can be made from wood, concrete, or metal. Most commonly, metal will be used.

Cement board is adhered to the frame. That’s where natural stone veneer comes into play.

Individual stones will be applied in courses. You have to figure out how they fit together, which adds to the complexity.

You could adhere the stones in one of two ways: using a masonry adhesive or mortar.

Masonry adhesive will certainly be easier. It’s basically glue!

But if you live in a freeze/thaw climate… Those stones are going to pop right off at the first sign of moisture.

Mortar is going to be more secure… But more complicated. You’ll have to apply a scratch coat and be more mindful about how you place the stones.

Cultured stone is quite similar… But with a slight twist.

Cultured Stone Veneer

Cultured stone veneer is nearly identical to its natural counterpart.

The primary difference is that cultured stone is manmade.

Stone is applied in the same manner as natural stone veneer. However, faux stone outdoor kitchen veneer offers yet another option!

Some companies produce stone veneer panels. These are multiple pieces of stone pre-adhered to a panel.

Therefore… You can apply a single or multiple panels directly to the cement board.

This is far simpler than applying each stone by hand!

If you can believe it… There’s an even easier method out there.

Engineered Stone Panels

Play Video about a thumbnail for a video showing our rta's engineered stone panels are manufactured

Engineered stone panels were pioneered right here at RTA. You won’t find these anywhere else!

Rather than taking whole natural stone, or pieces of cultured stone… Our stone finish is fully incorporated into a concrete panel.

This is also known as a monolithic panel. You’re not messing with a frame, cement board, or painstakingly applying stones by hand.

This requires zero finishing work on your part.

Engineered stone panels look just like natural stone… Without any of the extra steps.

Point is…

We saw the problems with traditional stone grill island methods. And removed them entirely.

Now that you have the bird’s eye view on these build methods…

What’s the story with difficulty?

Stone Outdoor Kitchen In a few Hours

Design your outdoor kitchen in a few minutes and install it in a few hours.

DIY Outdoor Kitchen Stone Difficulty

You may be wondering if you can build these grill islands yourself.

When it comes to stone for your DIY bbq island… The method determines the skill level required.

In most cases, we do not recommend this as a DIY project. We’ll get into why later.

Hand Laid Stone

Not only is hand laid stone a lot of work… It takes the most skill!

We actually don’t recommend attempting this method yourself.

Why?

Let’s just hit a few of the reasons.

You’ll need a level footer… A pile of stone dropped in your yard… Pick through it all… Set your course… Chisel the stones to fit…

We won’t go any further.

If you want this project done properly… You’re going to have to hire a stonemason.

Even then, it will take months to create the base!

Stone Mortared to CMU Substrate

an image of a stone finish on an outdoor kitchen wall

Since this method isn’t made from pure stone… It’s slightly less complicated.

Due to being mortared to a concrete substrate… You can get away with using a thinner stone.

Even still, this method is light years away from being considered DIY.

You’ll need a footing for the CMU base… Pick through the stones… Set your course… Etc.

All said and done, you’ll be working on it for over a week.

While a bit more accessible…

This is another method you’re better off leaving to the masons.

Natural Stone Veneer

how to build an outdoor kitchen with metal frame

Natural stone veneer is where we begin to enter DIY territory.

Metal or wood frame outdoor kitchens require a bit less skill… But we still consider them to be around a medium level.

You’ll need some construction know-how. You’ll have to cut the frame and cement board to the proper sizes… And install them.

And after that, you need to apply the stone!

There’s less work than previous options, yes. But you’re still going to be putting in some elbow grease!

With natural stone… You’re going to pick through individual stones and apply them one by one.

If you’re adhering using mortar… That will also add to the difficulty level. You’ll need to understand how to apply a scratch coat.

Masonry adhesive will be easier. However, keep in mind climate concerns.

While you can install the natural veneer yourself… We would still recommend someone with masonry experience do so.

Why?

Well, to be blunt… It’s easy to mess up if you don’t know what you’re doing!

Cultured Stone Veneer

As established earlier… Cultured stone veneer is quite similar to natural.

By and large, the build method is the same.

If you choose to purchase individual stones… You still have quite a bit of work ahead of you!

If you opt for a panel… It’s going to be a bit easier.

Regardless, the skill level still stands at medium.

If you don’t know your way around this process… You could be in for some serious frustration!

Thankfully, not all hope is lost.

Engineered Stone Panels (RTA)

At RTA, we manufacture engineered stone panels.

You get the look of stone… Without any of the headache.

For the average DIYer, we’d consider our assembly process easy. You could call them stone outdoor kitchen kits.

It’s no more difficult than assembling a piece of furniture.

Considering nearly all of us have done this at some point… You’ll have zero issues assembling an RTA grill island kit!

Sounds great, right?

It is.

In just a couple hours… You’ll be cooking on your brand new grill island.

Before we pat ourselves on the back too much… We have to address the advantages and disadvantages of each system. (Including ours!)

Weighing the Pros and Cons

There’s a lot to love about every stone outdoor kitchen.

There’s also a lot that’s… Well… Not so great.

Let’s review the highs and lows of each build method.

Hand Laid Stone

hand laid stone outdoor kitchen by pool ready to use-
Pros

There’s no doubt that a hand laid stone outdoor kitchen would look great in your outdoor living space.

If you’re looking for that old-world feel… There’s nothing better.

Unfortunately, there are some strong disadvantages to this method!

Cons

If you have your heart set on this aesthetic… You’ll have to pay a small fortune for it!

Hand laid stone outdoor kitchens are by far the most expensive to produce.

We’re talking 100k or more budget. Yikes.

When you think about it, it makes sense.

Between sourcing all natural stone and hiring a professional to build it… The cost is not for the faint of heart.

Sadly, the disadvantages don’t end there.

The nature of this construction means you’ll have limited cavity space.

This means you’ll be restricted on the amount of storage you can install. Further, access to utilities will prove to be a formidable challenge.

A hand laid stone outdoor kitchen will also settle over time. This may lead to some structural concerns in the future.

To make matters worse… Hand laid stone is extremely heavy. So you won’t be able to install this type of grill island on a deck. You’ll have to install on a patio.

Stone Mortared to CMU Substrate

custom diy outdoor kitchen
Pros

If you have your heart set on the aesthetic of hand laid stone… Stone mortared to a CMU substrate could be a good alternative.

You’ll get a similar look without many of the downsides.

These outdoor kitchens are extremely stable. You won’t have to be concerned about settling with this method.

Since they are crafted from a cement block frame… These outdoor kitchens aren’t going anywhere! It’s hardy to every climate.

Cons

While it costs slightly less than hand laid stone… The budget for this method is often prohibitive to most homeowners.

You’ll also have issues with cavity space. Your ability to install storage will be restricted. The same goes with access to the inside of your grill island.

This makes maintenance and repairs nearly impossible… And you’ll have to hire a mason to do the job for you.

Stone mortared to a CMU substrate also runs into the same weight issue as hand laid stone. Again, you’ll have to install this option on a patio.

Natural Stone Veneer

a stone outdoor kitchen with a natural veneer
Pros

Natural stone veneer retains the aesthetic of natural stone… But with some of the improvements of modern engineering.

A great advantage is the lower skill cap. Although we suggest having a masonry background… It’s not 100% necessary for this method.

You’ll gain the benefit of a natural stone aesthetic with a bit less labor.

Cons

Unfortunately, natural stone veneer is still quite costly for an outdoor kitchen!

Although the needed budget is less than the previous two options… You’re still shelling out a ton of cash for natural stone.

A secondary issue is the structure itself. The frame system is fine if you live in a dry, arid climate…

But if you’re in snowy, icy, Minnesota?

Grill island frames are not the best choice. They are highly vulnerable to damage from the frequent freeze and thaw cycles.

Same goes if you’re applying stone using a masonry adhesive. Do not use masonry adhesive if you live in a cold climate!

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

Cultured Stone Veneer

Ready to Finish Frame System done and in a yard
Pros

Cultured stone veneer is an inexpensive alternative to natural stone veneer.

Manmade stone costs less to produce… So you’ll save some cash with a cultured stone grill island.

You also don’t need quite as much skill to install a cultured stone veneer outdoor kitchen. Especially if you opt for panels over individual stones.

A nice benefit of cultured stone is the sheer amount of options available. There are many companies producing manufactured stone for a wide variety of uses.

So if you’re looking for a specific look… You’re sure to find it!

Stacked stone for an outdoor kitchen is one of the more popular options.

Some of the most popular brands out there are CulturedStone, Coronado, Plygem, and Provia.

Cons

Unfortunately… Cultured stone veneer will run into the same problems as natural stone veneer.

Again, this is due to the frame system used.

You’ll want to consider a system with more staying power if you live in a harsh climate.

Some homeowners may not want to mess with installing the frame and applying the stone.

Even though this method is simplified compared to the above options…

It still requires a good amount of effort!

In that case… You may be more open to an option like RTA.

Engineered Stone Panels (RTA)

Coyote c-series 34" grill built into a stacked stone rta outdoor island on a patio
Pros

RTA engineered outdoor stone kitchen kits are by far the easiest to assemble.

As already mentioned… It’s no more challenging than assembling a piece of furniture.

With help from a friend or two and a couple hours of your time… You’ll be grilling on your brand new bbq island.

The simplicity we’ve achieved is no small feat!

Durability is no issue here, either.

Our high performance concrete is designed to resist everything mother nature throws at it. Snow, ice, ocean air… None are a match for these engineered stone panels.

Even better?

RTA’s engineered stone panels are offered at a fair price point. Circumventing real stone completely severely cuts down on your needed budget. (Without sacrificing quality!)

What about the look?

Engineered stone panels look fantastic! Without prior knowledge… You wouldn’t even know it’s concrete.

Sure beats picking up stones and chiseling them by hand!

Cons

When it comes to a stone outdoor kitchen… There are a couple things that may throw you off.

First of all, it’s not real stone! If you only want real stone for your grill island… RTA won’t be the fit for you.

We also don’t have a wide variety of stone options. Our outdoor kitchen stacked stone finish is currently your only choice.

The stack stone outdoor kitchen finish is available in three colors.

If you’re not a fan of this aesthetic… RTA may not be your preference here, either.

At this stage… You’ve heard all the pros and cons.

The question becomes…

How do I choose the right stone outdoor kitchen?

Let’s find out.

Choosing Stone for Your Grill Island

a graphic showing multiple styles of stone finish for an outdoor kitchen
a graphic showing multiple styles of stone finish for an outdoor kitchen for mobile

Choosing the right stone outdoor kitchen can prove to be a challenging undertaking!

Fear not.

Ultimately… The decision comes down to whatever option is best for your outdoor living space.

We can say that the vast majority of homeowners will not thrive with a hand laid stone or stone mortared to CMU substrate grill island.

This is mainly due to the prohibitive cost.

If you have a bottomless budget, however… These methods can still be within reach!

Most homeowners will be deciding between natural stone veneer, cultured stone veneer, and RTA.

For simplicity’s sake… We’ll lump together the natural stone veneer and cultured stone veneer.

Aside from the added cost of natural stone… The considerations are the same between the two.

Natural or cultured stone veneer can be a great option for homeowners who live in an area with perfect weather. (We’re looking at you, Santa Monica!)

But for most of the country?

The weather is going to spell trouble for a frame made of metal or wood material.

You may not notice it right away… But the seasons will peel back the layers and cause damage. The repairs are going to be a painful expense!

When it comes to harsh climates… RTA is your friend.

You’ll get the look of stone with all the durability you need.

Ease of assembly is another factor to consider.

If you’re an adept DIYer… You’ll be able to handle building a natural or cultured stone outdoor kitchen. Applying the stone by hand shouldn’t cause you too much trouble.

What if DIY is not exactly your forte?

Again, you’ll want to opt for RTA here!

If you can assemble a piece of furniture… You can assemble an RTA outdoor kitchen!

Simple as that.

Still not sure which build method best meets your needs?

Perhaps you’d like a recommendation!

The Best Stone for Your Outdoor Kitchen

rta outdoor kitchen with chiseled edge countertop and stacked stone finish

You likely already know what option we recommend for your outdoor living space.

Yes… We’re biased.

At the same time, RTA truly is the best option for most homeowners!

Why?

Well… We’ve already discussed many throughout this article.

Let’s give you a quick recap.

Consider Durability

rta outdoor kitchen near swimming pool

RTA offers the best of durability and affordability when it comes to a stone finish.

A hand laid stone grill island is extremely durable… But extremely expensive.

Natural or cultured stone outdoor kitchens are more affordable… But far less durable.

Our reasonably priced, durable outdoor kitchens are the best of both worlds.

How Difficult will the Custom Outdoor Kitchen Project Be?

You’ll also recall how easy our outdoor kitchens are to assemble.

You don’t need to be a DIY aficionado to put an RTA kitchen together.

What you haven’t heard about yet is the design process and customer experience.

The experience you’ll have with a company is just as important as the product itself.

You want to know you’ll be taken care of every step of the way.

That’s exactly what RTA provides you.

You’ll be under the wing of our expert design team right from the jump.

Your personal Design Expert will work one-on-one with you to ensure your custom outdoor kitchen design is perfect.

You won’t be left hanging when it comes to assembly, either.

If you run into any snags whatsoever… Our dedicated Customer Success team is there to address every concern.

Point is… We’ve got your back.

Of course, we understand your needs vary. You may not feel like RTA is the right fit for you.

That’s okay!

But if you’re at all curious about how we can help you with your project…

Why not schedule a call with one of our design experts?

There’s no commitment… And you’ll discover if RTA is truly the best fit for your project.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what company you choose to work with.

We love outdoor kitchens and want to help as many homeowners as possible get theirs.

That’s all there is to it!

Start moving on your outdoor kitchen project

Talk to one of our Expert Outdoor Kitchen Designers and start your project today.

FAQ

The best stone for outdoor kitchens hinge on many factors.

Aesthetic, cost, availability, and build method of your outdoor kitchen all affect the answer.

The most popular stones used in outdoor kitchens are field stone, river stone, and limestone.

This all depends on the build method you choose. There are three ways to build an outdoor kitchen using natural stone.

Hand laid stone, stone mortared to a CMU substrate, or natural stone veneer.

Each are constructed in a different manner.

The cost of outdoor kitchens can vary widely. If you already have the enclosure in place… The only additional cost of a covered outdoor kitchen will be a hood for ventilation.

The average cost of an outdoor kitchen runs somewhere around $12,000-$13,000.

Now, this is only a starting point. Your outdoor kitchen could cost less (or way more!). But keeping the average in mind is a good rule of thumb.

While we may be biased… The answer is a resounding yes!

When considering if an outdoor kitchen is a good investment… You have to think about the benefits you’ll receive.

Yes, there is often a financial reward when it comes to selling your house.

Even more importantly… Consider the great memories you’ll gain.

Outdoor kitchens allow you to host gatherings with friends and family. Yes, we know that seems obvious! However, it means you will be seeing your loved ones far more often than before.

And to us… You can’t put a price on time with loved ones.

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