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Winterize Outdoor Kitchen: How To & 4 Easy Considerations

By Daniel Cdebaca

August 4, 2022

When you picture grilling outside… You’re probably also imagining sunshine and warm weather.

After all, summer cookouts are a classic way to enjoy time with friends and family… And the food is unbeatable!

But an outdoor kitchen isn’t like a freestanding outdoor grill that you can just store inside the garage when winter comes… It’s going to have to survive the cold weather!

While a good outdoor kitchen will be built to handle the elements… There are still some necessary steps to winterize outdoor kitchen plumbing and your island!

You probably have quite a few questions…

an rta outdoor kitchen in the snow with coyote fridge

How should you take care of your outdoor kitchen when the temperature drops below freezing?

What will happen to your outdoor living space if you don’t?

And when should you start preparing your island?

These are all great questions… And we’re here to help!

First things first… Let’s start with the “when.”

Quick Links:

When Do You Need To Winterize Your Outdoor Kitchen?

l shaped summer outdoor kitchen with a chandelier

The main goal of winterizing an outdoor kitchen is to protect it from the elements…

So you’ll want to winterize your kitchen anytime it’s going to get below freezing!

If you live up north where you have to deal with biting winters and snow… Then you’ll want to take care of this before it freezes for the season.

If you live down south, temperatures can fluctuate a lot more.

This means that you’ll likely have several freezes that won’t last very long… Rather than a whole season of consistently below-freezing weather.

You need to winterize your outdoor kitchen if it’s going to get below freezing…

So it’s your choice whether you want to close up shop for the whole winter before the first freeze hits…

Or if you’d like to keep using your outdoor kitchen throughout the colder months and just take the time to winterize it again before each freeze.

Starting off with the basics… How do you prepare a summer kitchen for the winter months?

Design a kitchen to last the winter

Use our free 3D design tool to bring the outdoor kitchen of your dreams to reality in just a few minutes.

How to Winterize an Outdoor Kitchen

How you prepare an outdoor kitchen for the winter depends on which outdoor kitchen appliances you have!

Cold weather will affect each part of your outdoor kitchen differently.

First of all, let’s cover the universal basics… The island itself!

Preparing Your Island for Winter

rta outdoor kitchen with full kitchen cover

Whether your outdoor space has stainless steel cabinets, wooden cabinets, powder coat finish metal cabinets, or any other type of outdoor kitchen materials

It’s always good idea to cover them when you aren’t using them all year round… Even during the warmer seasons.

However, it’s especially critical during the winter.

You’ll want to use a cover made out of a breathable material. If you use a heavy vinyl that can’t breathe… It may just trap moisture underneath it. This is true everywhere, but especially in humid climates like Florida.

You don’t ever want your outdoor kitchen cabinets to just sit in water… But it’s even more disastrous during the winter.

Water can get in the cracks and crevices of your island and outdoor kitchen countertop… And then when the water freezes from the cold weather, it will expand.

This can cause your island and countertop to crack, chip, and break… And your veneer to pop right off!

Some outdoor kitchen frames, such as those made from metal, can even corrode or break during freeze-thaw cycles.

A good cover will also shield your entire island or cabinets from rust, corrosion, mold, and mildew caused by moisture… And critters seeking shelter from the cold!

Fortunately, if you have a concrete island, it won’t be affected by the weather in the same ways that other cabinets are (it won’t crack, there’s no stone veneer to pop off, and it won’t rust, corrode, or mold)… But covering your outdoor kitchen is important regardless.

Now that your island is safe and sound… It’s also important to take care of your outdoor cooking appliances… Like your grill!

Preparing Your Grill for Winter

moks outdoor kitchen in frozen climate

Don’t worry… You can still use your grill during the winter!

If you decide to cover your outdoor kitchen… You’ll just want to uncover it, and you’ll basically be ready to go.

However, if you have a natural gas grill, and you don’t intend to use it when temperatures drop… You can turn off the gas line.

There are a few extra things that can help keep your built-in grill in good shape when winter arrives.

First things first… Go ahead and clean your grill!

Your grill can be a safe, dry place for critters… So you want to remove grease and leftover food that might further entice them to make a home inside.

Secondly, to prevent water from freezing inside your grill… You should double check that it is fully dry after you have cleaned it.

Next, you want to protect it from further moisture!

Depending on what your grill is made out of… Snow, sleet, and rain can make your grill rust and corrode. You can coat the burners, cooking grates, and other metal cooking surfaces in a light layer of cooking oil to protect them.

Appliances like Coyote Outdoor Grills or KitchenAid grills that are made of 304 stainless steel will be less susceptible to these issues… But the better you take care of your grill, the longer it’ll last regardless.

That being said, if your grill isn’t made out of a durable stainless steel grade like 304… You’ll want to be extra careful to follow these steps!

Finally, if you aren’t planning on covering your entire outdoor kitchen (which you should)… Then invest in a high-quality grill cover.

Next up are your fridge and ice maker!

Preparing Your Refrigerator and Ice Maker for Winter

outdoor rated refrigerator door open to show insulation of coyote fridge

The first thing you should do is unplug your refrigerator and ice maker so they don’t run all winter.

While it may sound counterintuitive… It’s actually very difficult for these outdoor kitchen appliances to keep working when the weather is below about 40ºF outside! This can damage the compressor and ruin your outdoor appliances.

You’ll need to take all of the food and drinks from your outdoor fridge into your indoor kitchen once it has been unplugged… Also, remove any ice that is in the ice maker.

While they’re empty… It’s always best to give outdoor kitchen refrigerators and ice makers a thorough cleaning with mild soap to get them ready for next spring!

Make sure that they’re very dry after you’ve finished cleaning so that moisture doesn’t get trapped inside.

While it’s perfectly fine to leave these outdoor kitchen appliances in your backyard… Some people prefer to bring theirs inside to the garage or storage shed during the winter for additional protection.

Either way is a great way to take care of your refrigerator and ice maker!

Next up is winterizing your plumbing.

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How to Winterize outdoor kitchen sinks

If your island has an outdoor kitchen sink… You’ll want to make sure you’re taking extra good care of it.

Covering it with the rest of your island just won’t cut it.

It’s actually very important to correctly winterize your sink… So we brought in an expert!

Roger Wakefield is a master plumber… And the co-owner of Rescue Air Heating & Cooling and Texas Green Plumbing. He’s been in the plumbing industry for over 40 years!

He also has a YouTube channel where he teaches homeowners and plumbers tips and tricks of the trade… So that they can do it safely and correctly!

He knows his stuff… So we wanted to share some advice from him on how to take care of your sink when winter comes… And the dangers of not taking care of your outdoor plumbing!

It’s always best to winterize when it’s going to dip below freezing…

But what happens if you don’t?

What Happens If You Don't Winterize Your Outdoor Plumbing?

burst outdoor kitchen pipe

If you don’t prepare your outdoor sink for the winter… You could be in for an unexpected repair bill!

“If it gets below freezing, it can be a problem. The reason is that the pipes can break,” Wakefield said.

If this does happen, there’s no way to know just how much damage this will cause… But it can cause massive problems and be very expensive!

“If you’ve got a live water line that freezes and thaws out, that’s when it can break,” Wakefield said. “If it thaws out and breaks, water will just start spewing.”

Yikes.

Besides the cost of replacing the plumbing… The water coming out can also damage your outdoor grill station, or even your house!

So let’s get into how to prevent this from happening. You’ll want to start by getting all of the water out of your water supply lines!

How to Remove Water from Your Pipes

Wakefield has shared that your main goal when winterizing an outdoor sink is to keep water from freezing in the water lines.

To protect them from this… You need to get all of the water out of them before the first freeze.

“If you do that, there’s nothing in it to freeze,” Wakefield said.

Turning off the water

The first step to getting the water out of your pipes is to turn your water off! Seems simple enough. Well, you’re in luck, because it actually is!

Basically, you’re just going to find the main water shut-off valve.

For example, if you’re on city water… All you have to do is find your meter and unlock it… Then turn off the water.

One way to make this process easy is to build your system with a valve box.

This is a box that’s buried in the ground… But you’ll be able to see its lid.

Inside, it has shut-off water valves.

It’s typically between your property’s main water lines and the district’s water lines… So if you turn them off, you’re shutting off the water to your property.

The process to use one is simple.

You’ll just open the box and turn the knob.

But that doesn’t take care of all the water…

Draining The Water From Your Pipes

outdoor kitchen sink with frozen water coming out of spout

Even after you’ve turned off the water, there will still be some in the pipes! You want to make sure that this is removed so they don’t freeze.

To do this, you can open the drain valve.

Finally, open the outdoor faucet so that any excess water will drip out.

According to Wakefield, you shouldn’t need a plumber to do this. Anyone can do it themselves!

At this stage, you’re almost done… But water can still hang back in your drain.

Want to bring your idea to life?

Use our free 3D design tool to bring the outdoor kitchen of your dreams to reality in just a few minutes.

Extra Protection for Your Drain

Even after turning off the water and letting the water come out… Water can still get trapped in your drain and P-trap.

You’ll have to take care of that before it freezes and causes trouble!

Here are three ways to protect your drain.

You Can Remove the P-Trap

p trap under outdoor kitchen sink

After you’ve removed the water from your lines… You can also remove the P-trap from your sink. That way, it won’t fill up with water from any rain or melted snow that may trickle down your sink.

You’ll be able to find your P-trap under your sink. It’s shaped like a “P” and holds water in it. This creates an airtight seal and stops sewer gases from backing up in your outdoor kitchen cabinets.

Every time you use your sink… You’re re-filling it.

Of course, during the winter, the water that is stored there could freeze… So it’s best to just remove it.

This only takes a few moments to unscrew and remove.

“I prefer to take the P-trap off,” Wakefield said. “That way, there’s nothing there to catch water. If you do get some water in the bottom of your outdoor cabinets, you can put a 5-gallon bucket to catch it.”

Or Use Antifreeze to protect your drain

Another option to protect the water in your P-trap from freezing is to take half a cup of antifreeze and pour it down the drain.

This will keep you from having to remove it… But this isn’t always the best option.

“I’d prefer not to do that, just in case any critters get down there and chew on it and drink it. It’s not good for them,” Wakefield said.

The last suggestion should be done in addition to either removing the P-trap or using antifreeze!

And Always Cover Your Sink

Close up of a coyote outdoor sink placed in an RTA countertop

If you’re going to cover your outdoor grill island… Then your outdoor kitchen sink will also be covered!

However, if for whatever reason you don’t plan on covering your kitchen… You can still find a cover for your sink.

This will stop rainwater and melted snow from traveling down your pipes after you’ve already cleared it.

…Not to mention the fact that it will protect the sink basin from getting dirty or scratched by debris during winter storms.

So now you know how to properly winterize your outdoor kitchen! But what about when winter ends?

How do you get your outdoor kitchen ready to be used again?

How to De-Winterize Your Plumbing

woman washing her hands in a coyote refreshment center in rta outdoor kitchen

De-winterizing your kitchen is just as easy as winterizing it!

“If you build it right, you can de-winterize a kitchen in about ten minutes. Maybe not even that long!” Wakefield said.

All you have to do is put your P-trap back in and turn the water on by closing the drain valve and opening the supply valve!

“When it comes time to use it again, it doesn’t take but just a minute to put a P-trap back on, and to turn a valve on to get the water back in your system,” Wakefield said. “That’s something anyone can do.”

Congratulations… You’re now an expert on preparing your outdoor kitchen for the winter!

But what’s the best outdoor kitchen for winter weather? We’d like to suggest a contender.

The Best Outdoor Kitchen For the Winter Weather

You’re already planning ahead for the winter… But first, you need an outdoor kitchen that can handle the weather!

That’s why RTA Outdoor Living has partnered with Cover Pros to help provide you with durable, custom-made outdoor kitchen covers to protect your BBQ island…

And created an outdoor kitchen that is engineered for all climates!

They can handle brutal freeze-thaw cycles and extreme cold… As well as blazing hot summers!

They’re a jack of all trades when it comes to durability.

How Do RTA Outdoor Kitchens Handle the Cold?

rta outdoor kitchen panels made from concrete material

Well, our outdoor kitchen kits aren’t made with a frame or a bunch of layers like most others… Just ultra-durable structural panels.

Some frames, especially ones made out of metal, can break down in cold climates…

And cement board is a common layer for outdoor kitchens…. But it soaks up water, which can freeze inside it when winter comes.

Lastly, the outer layer of most outdoor kitchens is the veneer… And water can get in the cracks and pop the veneer right off when it freezes!

Instead, RTA’s outdoor kitchen panels are made of high-performance concrete that can last a lifetime!

Because they’re so strong, they don’t need a frame that can rust or corrode in the winter… Concrete board that can freeze… Or a veneer that could pop off during the first freeze-thaw! Instead, it’s an all in one, solid panel.

Just like our panels, many of our countertops are also made of high-performance concrete… Plus, they’re structurally reinforced with composite rebar.

If you prefer a more natural look… Our other countertop option is granite!

Because granite is a natural stone, it is extremely sturdy on its own. You won’t have to deal with stains, fading, chipping, or cracking… And it can easily withstand rain and snow!

Because of the materials we use… Our countertops can handle extreme temperature changes and ground shifts! Winter won’t be a problem for these islands… No matter where you live.

If you’re looking for a way to protect your outdoor kitchen during the winter… Making sure that your island is built for the winter season is the first place to start.

Our outdoor kitchen design professionals happy to help you… So give us a call! We look forward to hearing from you.

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.

Q&A

To winterize an outdoor kitchen… You’ll want to make sure that it’s all covered and protected from the elements. If you have an outdoor sink… You shut off the water, open the drain valves, and open the faucet to winterize it.

To drain your outdoor sink for winter… You’ll want to shut off the water, open the drain valves, and open the faucet. You can also remove the P-trap to ensure that no water will be trapped.

One way to protect your outdoor kitchen is to prepare for weather and seasonal changes! Winterizing your outdoor kitchen is an important step if you want it to still look good and work well when spring returns!

Yes, you need to winterize an outdoor fridge! Although you might expect a fridge to do even better than normal in cold weather… A fridge should actually be unplugged and cleaned out when the temperature outside goes below freezing.

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