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January 20, 2021

Building an outdoor kitchen can be intimidating, and if you plan to hire a professional to do it, you might have to shell out a significant amount of moolah. However, you can definitely go the DIY route - and that’s where we come in.

Here’s everything you need to know about building your own outdoor kitchen.

What is an Outdoor Kitchen?

Outdoor kitchens are basically a kitchen area outside your house where you and your guests can eat and engage in entertainment. You’ll be able to prep and cook foods in an outdoor kitchen, as it’s equipped with a number of appliances for a great cookout.

Some of the most common outdoor kitchen kits you’d find in an outdoor kitchen include a grill, oven, smoker, stovetop, refrigerator, storage cabinets, countertop space for food prep, sink, and trash bins for an easy clean-up. In higher-end outdoor kitchens, artisan pizza ovens are also a thing.

Aside from the prepping and cooking area, outdoor kitchens provide seats for guests as well. A standard patio table or two will suffice, but bar-style seating is a popular option, too. That’s because when a separate island is built for the barstools, you can also install additional cabinets underneath for more storage or even install the best Bromic heaters for the cold days. If you need a considerable amount of space, this is a good idea.

wine and food on a table

Outdoor kitchens are usually built on your home’s patio or deck, sometimes it has a do-it-yourself pizza oven, as well. This way, you and your guests can be safer from harsh weather and other environmental elements. Of course, your appliances and furniture will be better protected too. 

In terms of design, you can get tons of inspiration online so you can build an outdoor kitchen that meets your preferences. There are also different layouts you can try, but more on that later.

For now, let’s get started with the step-by-step process on how to build an outdoor kitchen.

10 Steps on How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen

Before starting construction, you must have a rough sketch of the outdoor kitchen setup that you want. In reality, the actual steps may vary depending on the type of outdoor kitchen that you want to build and what finish you fancy. However, the construction process will more or less be the same. It’s just that there may be differences in some parts due to the material you’ll be using.

For this project, we’ll be building three boxes for the outdoor kitchen frame. While we’re going to construct each box separately, they can be screwed together to form a single island. The base will be standard stone-veneered plywood flanked by two more bases with cabinets underneath for storage. It will have a countertop, working sink, and space for a grill. (Learn about Broilmaster grills here.)

This configuration allows room for a lot of flexibility because the boxes are practically empty. That means you can install drawers, cabinets, an outdoor refrigerator, propane tank space, or other compartments you want. 

Step 1: Build the frame and set up the posts

Start by cutting eight lengths of 2x4 pieces to the counter height you want. This will be the corner posts for the boxes we’re building. We recommend using a circular saw for this step. When cutting, remember to subtract the countertop thickness and the metal post standoff height so that the measurements are exact.

Then, screw the pieces together in pairs using a drill and 2 ½-inch deck screws. At the top and bottom parts of each post, cut a notch that’s 1 ½ inch deep and 2 ½ inches high. You can also use the circular saw to do this.

To separate the posts, cut four pieces of the 2x4s to the depth of the box. You should then line up the four posts and screw them to the top and bottom. This way, the sides will be tied together.

Again, cut four pieces of 2x4s to the box’s width - but subtract 3 inches this time. These 2x4s should be run at the top and bottom of the front and back of the box.

As a final step to building the frame, decide where you want your cabinets to be and place a 2x4 in the middle of the bottom framing. This adds additional support. 

Step 2: Sheath the Frame

Now that you’ve made the skeleton of your outdoor kitchen, it’s time to start working on making it sturdier and more pleasing to the eye.

Begin by screwing the three boxes together to make a single island. Flip the whole thing over so you can screw a metal post standoff on each post. These standoffs will serve as the feet, so make sure they’re securely attached.

Grabbing your circular saw again, you have to cut plywood panels fitting the frame’s dimension. Put construction adhesive along the stretchers and posts, then lay the plywood over it. Then, using deck screws, screw the plywood to the 2x4s.

For your cabinets, you can make plywood boxes that will fit inside the framing. Carefully do the measurements before making these boxes so you don’t waste any material. To attach, you then just have to use construction adhesives and 1 ¼-inch deck screws to install them.

Remember to leave openings in the sheathing to match the cabinet openings. And finally, create a 1 ¼ -inch deep, 1-inch wide flange around the front of each box.

Step 3: Install the Lath (Attach and Trim)

The next step is using builder’s felt to cover all the plywood. Wear gloves during this step because lath can be sharp. You want to keep yourself safe from any injuries.

We recommend starting at the bottom and working your way up, overlapping the builder’s felt by a couple of inches. Attach the sheets to the plywood by using a staple gun. We’ll nail them once they’re permanently placed.

Once the lath is successfully stapled, observe the areas where the honeycombs are sticking out. It’s important to make sure that the wires are facing up as you put each sheet over the felt. 

lemon and herbs on a table

Next, use stainless-steel roofing nails to nail the lath to the plywood. Do it vertically every 6 inches and horizontally every 12 inches. Remember to pay attention during this part, you want to hit the frame as much as you can to make sure everything’s secured in place. Repeat the process while overlapping sheets of lath at the seams by just a few inches.

Now that the lath is installed, use tin snips to cut out excess pieces on the lath’s top to make the installation seamless with the frame.

Step 4: Put a Scratch Coat with a Trowel

For this step, we’ll be using a masonry hoe, a mixing trough, and a trowel. Mix a bag of mortar with water until it has a runny texture that clings to the trowel when it’s turned upside down.

Then, place a ring of scrap boards on the island’s bottom edge. Spread a half-inch thick layer of mortar on the lath and scrap. It’s also important to press down the mortar into nooks and crannies in a downward motion so that everything is covered well.

There might be instances where you’ll notice the lath moving underneath the layer of mortar. While you may be tempted to continue layering the coat, stop first and nail the lath to the sheathing. You want to make sure that the lath is secured before putting on your scratch coat. 

Continue putting on the mortar until you don’t see any part with visible mesh.

Once you’re at this stage, leave the scratch coat and let it cure for an hour.

Step 5: Score the Surface

The scratch coat should feel firm before you proceed with scoring. If it does, use a half-inch notched trowel to score the surface.

Begin at the short end of the island and place your trowel on the edge in a vertical position. Tilt the trowel at 45 degrees and score horizontally from the short side until you get around to the front. 

Remember to keep your lines as straight as possible because they’ll serve as guides for the stone-setting later. Repeat the process of scoring in single passes, wrapping around the island until the mortar is grooved.

After this, leave the mortar to cure for 24 hours.

Place the cabinet boxes you made into the openings and shove them back until the flange hits the mortared face. Use 2-inch deck screws to screw the box in place into the frame and through the bottom.

Step 6: Butter the Back of the Stones

Arrange the stones into the design and color pattern you like. Before you start putting the stone layers on the boxes, you should butter them first.

Use a pointing trowel to butter the back of the L-shaped stones or corner pieces with a layer of mortar. Remember to scrape the excess from the edges, then make a V-shaped air pocket in the mortar by using the trowel point. 

Step 7: Install the First Course

Begin installing the first course at the base of a corner. Remember to start with a corner piece, much like how you’d work a puzzle.

Press the L-shaped stone firmly on the scratch coat and allow it to rest on the scrap board. Mortar will likely ooze from the sides when you press down, so remember to scrape this excess. Press it into the seam to seal it tight.

If any stone comes loose, don’t push it in further because the seal won’t be secured. Remove the stone and repeat the process to create the seal again.

Step 8: Trim and Shape the Stones

Once your first course is set, carry on placing the stones in both directions. It’s also a good idea to dry-fit the stones before putting mortar on them so you can see how it looks first in relation to the pattern or design you want.

Make sure to overlap the stones and make a mark in the areas where they intersect. We recommend using a diamond blade-fitted grinder to shape the stone perfectly. If there are any areas that look awry, use a miter box with a diamond blade to cut and shape the stone side up.

Step 9: Set the Rest of the Veneers

It’s now time to begin the second course of stones from the same corner. You can keep going with the process with the remaining courses. 

Remember to use different-sized stones to create a more natural design. As mentioned, it’s a good move to dry-fit a couple of stones at once so you can see how it looks first before you permanently seal it in. 

Once you get to the top edge, choose straight-cut stones so they remain flat under the counter.

Step 10: Install Your Chosen Fixtures

Now that your stones are arranged, leave them for at least 24 hours to let it set completely.

Once that’s done, all that’s left to do is attach the cabinet doors over the flanges, fit in the countertops, and install your grill. 

Common Options in Building An Outdoor Kitchen

  • Building an outdoor kitchen with wood frame

Wood remains a popular material with outdoor kitchens because of its elegance and natural look. There are many plans online that tell you how to build an outdoor kitchen with wood frame, but if you’re going this route, remember to purchase insulated jackets for safety. Wood is a combustible material, so you need insulated jackets to prevent fires from happening. 

  • Building an outdoor kitchen with cinder blocks

Cinder blocks give off an aesthetic, rustic vibe to outdoor kitchens. As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many homeowners want to know how to build an outdoor kitchen with cinder blocks. This material is easy to build and easy to customize as well, so you don’t have to be a DIY master to create this project.

The important thing is to get your measurements right. Cinder blocks are typically 16 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 8 inches tall. However, they’re also available in other standard sizes. Also note that this can vary from block to block, so make sure you got your measurements right and add some wiggle room so you won’t have any problems down the road.

  • Building an outdoor kitchen on a budget

It can be tricky to know how to build an outdoor kitchen on a budget because the cost of the construction itself and the appliances you need can be intimidating at first glance. Still, it depends on the space and materials you’re going to use.

If you’re on a budget, you can choose to build a smaller island and maximize the space and storage by opting for barstool seating.

man and child on an outdoor sink 

Another idea is to opt for cheaper appliance options. You can choose a smaller grill instead of a drop-in one or a cooler instead of an outdoor refrigerator. Depending on your preferences, you may not have to spend as much on a cozy outdoor kitchen as a large one. So if you’re on a budget and you’re not looking forward to large parties anyway, you can skimp on some details without sacrificing the quality.

  • Building an outdoor kitchen with pavers

Another excellent material for an outdoor kitchen is concrete pavers. If you don’t have a deck or a concrete surface to build your kitchen on, pavers are an affordable yet durable option for you.  While they’re commonly used for flooring, you can also opt for pavers for your counter and grill surround. 

Knowing how to build an outdoor kitchen with pavers pays off as well. Pavers don’t pose the same problem as a concrete patio when it comes to accessing utility lines. When using pavers for your outdoor kitchen, electric wiring and plumbing can be put under the pavers themselves. As for poured concrete, you need to jackhammer it to gain access to the lines when a problem comes up.

  • Building an outdoor kitchen on a deck

The steps on how to build an outdoor kitchen on a deck will be easier because you don’t have to worry about flooring. You just have to focus on the kitchen itself, whatever finish, design, and appliances you want.

If you don’t have an existing deck, though, you would have to build a small patio space for your kitchen. 

Planning and Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen 

Knowing how to build an outdoor kitchen starts with the planning and designing phase. There are a few factors you should consider in the process, including the budget and style that you like.

So, think about the overall look you’re going for. Do you want a small, cozy outdoor kitchen with a rustic feel? Or are you more interested in a  modern space with all sorts of bells and whistles? Maybe you want something extra like a gazebo or a sunroom[1]?

man being served food by company

Whatever your preferences, these are the things you must consider in the planning stage:

Location

One of the big questions when creating an outdoor kitchen is where you’re going to build it. It makes the most sense to build it on an existing patio or deck. If you have a pool, that’s a great area as well. All these typical locations are ideal because an electrical source is already nearby. 

There’s a mini red flag with this setup though. An outdoor kitchen means smoke, and of course, you don’t want that blowing into your home. Judge the wind direction and intensity before making a final decision if you want to place your outdoor kitchen on your deck.

But generally speaking, you want your outdoor kitchen close to the back door of your house. If there’s nowhere else in your property where you can build your outdoor kitchen, there are ventilation systems you can opt for - but more on this later.

Dimensions and Layout

There are different outdoor kitchen layouts you can choose from, the most common of which include the following:

  • Island

The island design is a pretty simple yet popular layout because it makes all four sides of

the kitchen easily accessible. It has a central unit where all the appliances and the grill itself are placed, with the refrigerator placed in a compartment below. This is a great layout if you don’t have a very large space for your outdoor kitchen, especially since it still allows a smooth flow both for backyard cooks and guests. 

The only caveat is that you won’t have much separation between the kitchen zones such as prepping, cooking, and cleaning up. The limitation on space can affect your comfort while cooking, especially if there are two people who will mind the grill and food prep. Still, the standard island layout is a great option if you don’t plan on having large parties anyway.

  • U-Shape

In contrast to the island layout which is great for compact spaces, a U-shaped layout is the way to go for big gatherings and backyard parties. With three sides, this design provides more room, so you can have your grill, refrigerator, cabinets, sink, dishwasher, and bar area in one layout. 

If you’re planning on doing a lot of cooking, you will have a sufficient amount of space in this layout. Of course, the counter space will be bigger as well, so you have more area for food prep and other fixtures if you’re serving a larger number of people.

  • L-Shape

An L-shaped layout is also a good option for small spaces and if you intend to install your outdoor kitchen against a wall. While this technique offers sturdy support, make

sure you’re using non-combustible materials especially if you’re building the island against the wall of your home. 

One of the reasons why an L-shaped layout is quite popular because it provides enough separation for prepping, cooking, and washing up. Cooks won’t be as limited as in an island-shaped layout because of the ample space and division. 

There’s also enough area in this layout to accommodate the basics - grill, refrigerator, sink, and bar-style seating for guests. It’s a generally more comfortable and manageable layout.

Flooring

Flooring won’t be an issue if you’re building your outdoor kitchen on an existing patio or deck. If not, you can always build on top of concrete. Washed aggregate, stamped concrete, or salt-finished concrete are some options you have. Concrete is the best flooring choice when it comes to safety, but some people may not prefer how this material looks.

If that’s the case, you also have non-slip and sturdy flooring materials such as brick, tile, plastic decks, pavers, and rubber deck tiles. Remember that apart from the look, you want your outdoor flooring to be low-maintentance yet weather-resistant as well.

Accessories and Appliances

  • Grill

In an outdoor kitchen, your grill will be the focal point of everything. After all, it’s where you’ll be cooking all those delicious steaks, burgers, rib-eyes, and other mouth-watering dishes you’ll be serving your guests.

You have a couple of options when it comes to the grill. You can go with a charcoal grill, pellet grill, or a gas grill, and this mainly depends on your budget and the number of people you expect to serve on a regular basis. 

This means you can go with something portable and small if you’re expecting small parties, or you can pull out all the stops and have a large-capacity drop-in grill with better features.

Choosing a grill has a few considerations as well. This includes the grate materials, size, BTU rating, and durability, along with other add-ons such as a thermometer and LED lighting.

  • Furniture

As mentioned earlier, you can go with traditional furniture such as tables and chairs or go with barstool seating if you want. Aside from the style, storage also comes into question at this point. If you do need additional storage space, you can utilize the bar-style island for more cabinets and drawers underneath. 

  • Smoker

Besides a grill, you may want to have a smoker in your outdoor kitchen as well. While grills are perfect for fast cooking, smokers will allow you to whip up slow-cooked meals. Of course, your recipes will also have that steakhouse-quality smokiness in the taste.

The only catch is the amount of smoke that will be produced, but you can always place your smoker outside of the kitchen itself for better ventilation.

  • Oven

You also have a variety of options if you want to put an oven in your outdoor kitchen. From simple gas ovens and electric ovens to artisan and stone hearth ovens, the choice is yours to make. Baked recipes always have a place in cookouts, so you won’t go wrong with this one.

  • Countertops and Cabinets

An outdoor kitchen requires storage for kitchen items and counter space for food preparation. It’s always good to keep everything organized so you’ll feel comfortable when cooking. Just keep in mind that when it comes to countertops and cabinets, you should choose waterproof and weatherproof materials for durability and longevity.

  • Refrigerator

An outdoor refrigerator is different from an indoor refrigerator, so you mustn’t choose just any old model at the depot. You may ask,what’s the difference?

Well, your home is practically a temperature-controlled environment while the outdoors is prone to temperature fluctuations, so an outdoor fridge is better-equipped for that. Plus, environmental elements such as wind, rain, and dust are present outdoors. 

So, it’s imperative that you choose a refrigerator with additional insulation, weather-proofing, seals, and filters so it stays protected. Otherwise, any regular fridge would deteriorate faster and you don’t want to let your money go to waste.

  • Pizza Oven

This is another versatile piece of cooking equipment you can put in your outdoor kitchen.

A pizza oven is wood-fired, so you can cook other recipes (yes, aside from pizza) such as veggies, roasted meats, fish, pasta, and evenbasque burnt cheesecake.

Tools Needed

To make your outdoor kitchen a reality, you need a couple of tools for the construction process. Here’s a quick list of everything you might need:

  • Measuring tape
  • Hammer
  • Masonry hoe
  • Circular saw
  • Miter saw
  • Drill
  • Power drill
  • Bar clamps
  • Notched trowel
  • Pointing trowel
  • Finishing trowel
  • Drywall hawk
  • Mortar tub
  • Staple gun
  • Tin snips

Other Considerations

  • Ventilation

Yes, you need plenty of ventilation. This is an extremely important feature in an outdoor kitchen that’s often missed. Oftentimes, people think that they don’t need it because the natural ventilation outdoors is enough. 

However, the purpose of ventilation is more than keeping the smoke and odor away from you and your guests. It also sucks up streaking fumes, gases, grease, and heat. Whether you’re using propane tanks or natural gas lines, a buildup of gases may occur - posing a high risk for explosions. 

We recommend getting a deep vent hood and a blower for proper exhaust. Always include ventilation in your plans. Plan it with care and check your local property laws as well, as ventilation is often a necessity for this kind of structure.

  • Fuel Use

This depends on the grill you’re going to use. If you’re using a propane grill, then you need a propane tank that goes under. If you’re using a natural gas grill, you need to have a gas line installation.

The electrical components of your outdoor kitchen must be considered as well. Make sure you have enough outlets to power your appliances. You may also want to include additional outlets for charging phones and such.

  • Lighting

You have a lot of options when it comes to lighting, so take your time deciding which one

you need. Primary lighting options include chandeliers and ceiling fans with lights, but you can also be more creative with LED lights, string lights, and under-the-counter lighting.

Whatever you choose, make sure you can see your appliances and counters clearly even at night. This is a safety measure as well since you’re working with fire and electric components in an outdoor kitchen.

  • Storage

How much space do you need? There must be enough storage for all your utensils, kitchen items, pots, pans, and other accessories. You want your outdoor kitchen to look organized all the time, so having enough storage space is important so all your kitchen stuff is properly stored. 

  • Cost

Having a budget is crucial in building an outdoor kitchen. You don’t want to burn a hole in your pocket and you also don’t want to have a half-finished kitchen because you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. 

So, make sure you consider first all the things you need in your kitchen. This includes the island itself, cabinets, appliances, ventilation, countertops, lighting, seating, and other furniture. 

Estimate the cost of the materials you need, as you want them to be high-quality so they’ll last longer. Also look at additional costs such as electricity, water lines, gas lines, and network installation lines if you want to have WiFi in your outdoor kitchen.

Reasons Why You Need an Outdoor Kitchen

Easy Cleanup 

It’s definitely easier to clean an outdoor kitchen than an indoor one. Indoors, you have to be more meticulous when it comes to mopping the floor and wiping off the mess on countertops. But outdoors, you can just hose it down. You can use a garden hose to clean up your floors and countertops, but we recommend washing the latter with a disinfectant first.

Energy-Saving

Having an outdoor kitchen can save you from high electric bills especially during the summer. Indoor kitchens heat up easily, more than an outdoor kitchen does. This causes your AC to work harder whenever you’re frying, roasting, or baking when you’re inside your home. An outdoor kitchen doesn’t have this problem.

hotdogs and patties on a grill

Cooking during the day would also provide you with enough natural light, while indoors you would need to turn on your kitchen lights even in the daytime. Plus, if you’re having guests over, your AC will also get a break if you’re hosting the party outside.

Larger Space for Entertainments

It’s not uncommon for your home kitchen to be the focal point of gathering when you’re entertaining people at home. Although the living room is wide open, the kitchen just becomes the entertainment spot for some reason.

But with an outdoor kitchen, you’ll have more space for entertaining your guests. It also becomes a nice venue for a backyard party or a pool party, especially when the weather is nice. If you'd be hosting parties, the music will be a focal point of that. We recommend adding Alexa-enabled soundbars as a little extra to your outdoor kitchens so you can keep your guests entertained with just a few voice commands.

Additional Resale Value

Adding an outdoor kitchen to your home increases its value, but this largely depends on where you live. If you’re somewhere warmer like in the south or southwest, you’ll have a higher return with an outdoor kitchen compared to other areas with unstable climate.

Keep in mind that the value also depends on the outdoor kitchen’s finish and materials. The higher the quality, the higher the value.

Taking Care of Your Outdoor Kitchen

  • Pergola

Having a pergola overhead gives a great look to your outdoor kitchen, but it also provides an additional layer of protection. You can attach a mesh roof to protect against sunlight, while still allowing the natural light and breeze to get through. 

  • Solarium

A solarium, also known as a sunroom, is a glass enclosure that can be added to your house to serve as the space for your outdoor kitchen. Sunrooms typically have a hinged door that allows access to and from the backyard. For an outdoor kitchen, you can equip a solarium with a retractable roof to allow ventilation and minimize smoke. 

  • Gazebo

A gazebo is also also a good investment to provide protection if the weather isn’t so

good. You want your outdoor kitchen and your guests to be protected from snow and rain. If you want, you can also add curtains and mosquito nets to keep the sunlight glare and pests out, respectively.

  • Umbrella

An outdoor patio umbrella is also a great option if you just want to cover a seating area. There are also different sizes available in the market, so remember to choose one that can provide adequate coverage for your guests. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to build an outdoor kitchen?

It costs about $3000 to $15,000 to build an outdoor kitchen. But if you want higher-end materials, extra appliances, and custom flooring, an outdoor kitchen can cost as much as $50,000. The total costs also depend on the space size and inclusions you need.

How do I build an outdoor kitchen on a budget?

You can build an outdoor kitchen on a budget by installing it on an existing deck and choosing lower-cost appliances. Building your kitchen near the backdoor of your house also saves on costs because it would already have electrical sources nearby.

Do you need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen?

You don’t need planning permission for an outdoor kitchen. It’s not considered a permanent structure. However, there may be restrictions if your outdoor kitchen will be constructed near a boundary, in a conservation area, or a listed home. 

What should I build my outdoor kitchen out of?

You should build your outdoor kitchen frame out of wood, concrete block, steel, or brick. For the flooring, you can choose concrete, stones, ceramic tiles, and other non-slip materials. Remember to choose high-quality materials that are waterproof and weather-resistant.

Why are outdoor kitchens so expensive?

Outdoor kitchens are so expensive because the grill, countertop, and patio itself can cost a couple of thousand dollars already. The appliances and utilities will add to the final cost as well. But overall, it depends on the size of the outdoor kitchen you want and the inclusions. 

Is an outdoor kitchen a good investment?

An outdoor kitchen is a good investment because it increases the value of your home. Depending on your location, outdoor kitchens provide a good return on investment when it comes to the resale value. 

Conclusion

Building an outdoor kitchen has a lot of benefits for homeowners. It helps you save energy, it’s easier to clean up than an indoor kitchen, it adds value to your home, and it provides a larger space for entertaining guests and family who want to come over. 

Plus, it’s hard not to imagine the smells of mouth-watering meat cooking on a grill during a cookout. With an outdoor kitchen, you’ll be able to enjoy a lot of BBQ parties and backyard gatherings without worrying too much about space restrictions and cleaning up.

Wondering which brand to go to when it comes to your new grill? We reviewed AOG vs Fire Magic here.


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