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Wood Outdoor Kitchen: 5 Disadvantages & An Easy DIY Solution

By James King

September 6, 2022

If you’re reading this blog… You’ve probably been dreaming about building an outdoor kitchen and entertaining guests.

You’re wanting a nice place to cook outside… And who can blame you? Outdoor kitchens are useful, fun, and look great in any outdoor area.

If you’ve been looking for DIY outdoor kitchen ideas… You’ve probably seen that one of the most popular is the wood outdoor kitchen.

It’s pretty cost-effective and you have the opportunity for complete customization…

…But using wood also has some serious problems that can outweigh its benefits.

We’ll talk about five major downsides… And give you an alternative option that avoids some of these issues.

outdoor kitchen with tile countertop made of wood with built in grill

1. A Wood Outdoor Kitchen is Combustible

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

Imagine building your very own DIY outdoor kitchen… But all your hard work goes up in flames!

The first reason you might want to think twice about using wood is that your outdoor kitchen can catch on fire.

This material, especially pressure-treated pine, is a common option used by homeowners… But this is actually a serious problem.

Wood is a flammable outdoor kitchen material… And a grill runs at high temperatures and has open flames.

It may seem obvious when you think about it… But because of this… Your built-in grill can catch your entire outdoor kitchen bar on fire!

And as if that weren’t bad enough… Think about what could happen if there are plants nearby. Or even worse… If your kitchen is next to your house!

It goes without saying that this is extremely dangerous for your outdoor kitchen, your house, and your family.

Building an outdoor kitchen out of fire-resistant materials is always your best bet… This includes things like concrete block, stainless steel, or with a steel frame.

Of course, wood is as combustible as it gets, especially around a grill. So seek another solution!

The next issue comes from the opposite problem: what if your wood outdoor kitchen gets too wet?

2. Trapped Moisture Can Cause Structural Damage

wood outdoor kitchen structure in the midst of construciton

The second issue with wood outdoor kitchen cabinets has to do with moisture.

You’ve probably seen what happens to wood when it gets wet for a long time. It gets ruined!

That’s the last thing you want to happen to the frame that’s holding up your entire island.

You might be thinking… “Well, I have a wooden deck that’s just fine outdoors. Why is it a problem for an outdoor kitchen?

Well, that’s because your deck is fully exposed. In a deck or pergola… The air can’t get stuck, and any moisture will dry up in the sun.

Meanwhile… The inside of your outdoor kitchen island is typically closed off with cement board, potentially a scratch coat, and veneer.

Even though moist air can get in… It often has a hard time getting back out.

This means that if you live in a place with frequent bad weather or humid air… Your wooden frame will always be surrounded by damp air.

This can cause detrimental issues to the structure of your outdoor kitchen frame… Which, in turn, will ruin your entire island!

One specific example of an issue that can come from this is warping or swelling.

Swelling and Warping

wood outdoor kitchen frame warping due to moisture exposure

One of the first issues you can expect from wet wood is swelling or warping.

If your wood frame outdoor kitchen swells and warps… It won’t be structurally sound anymore.

Your island is just the right shape and size to hold your outdoor kitchen countertop and appliances (such as your grill, sink, cabinet doors, and more)… So this will lead to problems with the structure.

That’s not good.

Also, you don’t want the frame to ruin the veneer. If the wood frame bends… Anything attached to it will also move.

When a frame warps… Tile, brick, and stone veneer that are attached to it can just pop off.

Not only does this cause damage… But it’s also ugly!

This will be hard to fix. Even if you replace the tile, brick, or stone veneer… The structure of the wood frame will still be warped. You’ll more than likely have to start over from scratch.

All in all… You don’t want to have to deal with this.

However, the next issue might be even worse for your island.


wood frame rotting out on an outdoor kitchen after a few years

As you know… Wood that gets wet can rot. This can happen to an outdoor kitchen when it’s made of wood, too!

When wood rots… It is actually decaying from fungal growth. Yuck.

Not only is it gross… It also means that your island won’t be able to hold the same weight as before.

Without the support of your wood frame… Your outdoor kitchen appliances and countertops could start to slowly crumble down before you even realize it.

If your outdoor kitchen rots from the inside out… It will be a goner!

While you can always redo your veneer (although it won’t be a fun or easy process)… You can’t just replace the frame of an outdoor kitchen island.

At that point… You’re gutting and rebuilding the entire grill island.

This is why you need to make sure you’re using strong materials for your frames that won’t rot or decay in the elements or humidity… Such as concrete block.

Moving on… The last moisture-related problem with wood can even be bad for your health.


Wood outdoor kitchen frame with mold due to moisture

Mold is another problem that can come from damp wood.

It can grow on most materials you might build an outdoor kitchen with… But it grows the best on organic materials like wood.

Mold can eventually destroy wood frames by eating all of the nutrients out of it.

…And in the meantime, it is bad for your health(no follow).

Some people may get rashes, headaches, and allergy-like symptoms from it… While others may have even more severe reactions, such as fatigue and brain fog.

Mold is especially bad for people with respiratory conditions like asthma… Which affects almost 10% of all Americans.

Not only will it be bad for you and your family… But you never know how it will affect your guests, especially when you’re cooking and doing food prep on your wood outdoor kitchen countertops right next to it!

While you might be able to scrub the mold off your frame if you can see it on the interior or exterior of your island… You can’t stop it from growing there again and again if your wood is going to stay wet from weather and humidity.

This is a headache (literally) that you want to avoid at all costs.

The next issue with wooden outdoor kitchens is that they’re a termite’s favorite snack!

3. Termites Eat Wood

wood outdoor kitchen frame that has been eaten by termites

Termites are pests that eat organic matter like crops… And especially wood. They’re in the same family as cockroaches… But are much more destructive.

They can ruin entire houses… So just think about how quickly they could destroy your outdoor kitchen and its frame!

They’ll eat everything but a thin layer of wood that they’ll use for protection… So you might not even know that they’re there until it’s too late and the damage is done!

Termites are more common in warmer areas… But you can find them all over North America, even in parts of southern Canada!

There are a few ways to help stop them from eating your outdoor wood kitchen frame, like sprays and pressure-treated wood… But neither of these are perfect.

With wood… Durability just isn’t a guarantee.

Now, let’s say you still want wood for the frame of your outdoor grill station. There are a few ways to protect it from some of the issues we’ve talked about… But at what cost?

4. Safety is Expensive

If you still want to use wood… There are a few ways to keep it safe from fires… However, there is still risk involved if it isn’t installed properly.

First of all, if you are going to use wood as a framing material… You have to get an insulated grill jacket for any grills, side cookers, and kamado cookers you use.

This is a non-negotiable. Without them protecting the flammable wood from your hot appliances and grills… Your kitchen is a safety hazard.

However, these jackets usually cost around $500 each… Sometimes even more! Even if you just need one, this is pricey. If you need multiple… This adds up very quickly.

You can also add a fire-resistant coating to your outdoor kitchen wood frame to decrease your risk of fires.

It usually comes in a pretty large container… So you’ll have plenty to do the trick, but it’s still going to run you about $70.

Of course, your safety is always worth the extra money. If you’re going to use wood for your outdoor kitchen… You need to spend more to protect yourself, your family, and your home. It just isn’t cost-effective.

Not all outdoor kitchens deal with these issues. If you’re going to spend that much to prevent fires… And you’ll still have to deal with mold and termites anyways…

You might as well just spend around the same amount on a safer material for your outdoor kitchen!

Our last point is that it’s surprisingly difficult to build with!

5. Building A DIY Wood Outdoor Kitchen Is A Difficult Project

The materials selected for an outdoor kitchen construction project can help determine how difficult the project will be.

When you’re looking to build a DIY outdoor kitchen, wood is a common material… But even if you’ve worked with wood before, building an outdoor kitchen is a whole new ballgame.

The construction process for building outdoor kitchen wood cabinets is an advanced project!

You’ll need to create a design that will be functional, match your style, and be able to last long-term…

Have access to carpentry tools to be able to cut the wood correctly and assemble your island…

Have an understanding of woodworking so that you can create appliance cut-outs for your appliances in the frame you’re building…

Know how to meet safety standards for a combustible material…

And so much more.

This isn’t something that you can just do in a weekend unless you’re very skilled.

Fortunately… You’re covered with RTA outdoor kitchens!

RTA Outdoor Kitchens: The Safer Option

a 7 foot rta outdoor kitchen with coyote appliances and a stacked stone finish
family enjoying their rta outdoor kitchen under a pergola with lighting

So you want an option that is actually easy to build…

But that is also fireproof, won’t warp or rot, can’t be eaten by termites, and doesn’t require extra expenses just to keep it safe.

If that’s the case… We have just the kitchen for you!

Instead of using wooden frames for our kitchens, risking fires, rotting, mold, and more… We actually don’t use a frame at all. Instead, we make sturdy panels that work even better!

These panels are composed of a high-performance concrete that is engineered for durability. It is built to last in all weather and elements without rotting or warping.

…And we only use non-combustible materials for our concrete islands. You won’t need to spend more on insulated jackets to feel assured that your island will be safe from everything from fires to termites, because they’re naturally resistant.

As an added benefit… RTA also makes the DIY process for an outdoor kitchen easy!

two men carrying an rta panel to the patio for installation

You can create your very own design in our easy-to-use design software.

You’ll be able to choose the size, layout, countertops, a beautiful finish… As well as a stainless steel grill and other outdoor appliances!

In addition, you can work with someone from our team of Design Experts to make sure that your island is exactly what you’d like… With all the best features.

Then, when your BBQ island arrives to your backyard space… It’ll be a piece of cake for you to do the final assembly.

Your island will be something that you designed and assembled yourself… But without 95% of the work.

It’s all the fun of a DIY outdoor kitchen project without any of the stress.

If you want to know more about how we make outdoor kitchens that are easy to assemble, safe, long-lasting, and beautiful… Visit our Learning Hub!

We hope to hear from you soon!

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.

While you can use wood for an outdoor kitchen… It is recommended that you opt for non-combustible materials instead. Concrete or cinder blocks are good examples of this.

Yes, you can technically use wood outdoor kitchen cabinets in your wood outdoor kitchen plans. However, wood is combustible… So it isn’t the best material to use next to a hot grill. One example of a good alternative is concrete block or cinder blocks.

If you’re building an outdoor kitchen out of wood… Making sure that it’s pressure-treated may help prevent rotting. However, even with this extra measure, it is still recommended that you use a non-combustible material, such as concrete block, instead of wood.

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