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The Most Common Mistakes Done When Building An Outdoor Kitchen

by Minuca Elena February 09, 2023

The Most Common Mistakes Done When Building An Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens have become a popular feature in many homes, offering a great space to cook, dine and entertain guests.

However, building an outdoor kitchen can be a complex process, and there are many things that can go wrong from choosing the wrong materials to failing to consider functionality.

To create this expert roundup, we hired Minuca Elena to reach out to 26 realtors and interior designers to ask them the following question:

What are the most common mistakes people should avoid when building an outdoor kitchen?

They discuss the importance of considering the space's overall design and layout, as well as the best ways to incorporate appliances and lighting into the outdoor kitchen. Without further ado let's see what tips the professionists shared with us.

Mike Powell - Red Flag Home Inspection

Mike Powell

Having performed thousands of inspections for failure, allegations of failure and construction defects, I have inspected and rendered findings on numerous custom and modular outdoor kitchens.

The most common defect found, in my experience, has been construction of the kitchen using wood, drywall, or other organic components without proper provision for drainage.

When the elements touch the ground, and are made of wood or drywall, decay will occur over time and failure is inevitable.

The most catastrophic defect that I have found (on a shocking number of kitchens) is improper installation and/or ventilation of the cabinetry.

Every gas powered grill, whether propane or natural gas, requires ventilation openings in the cabinetry. This ventilation is to ensure that any incidental leakage that occurs in the gas lines/fittings is allowed to dissipate harmlessly without risk of explosion.

The installation specifications should be reviewed for the devices being installed, and proper placement of the vent openings.

A key component to these openings is to ensure that you put the vents in the proper location. Propane is heavier than air and settles, whereas natural gas is lighter and rises.

If you put the opening in the opposite end of the cabinet, they will essentially do nothing to dissipate the gas levels.

Laurice Constantine - Casadar

Laurice Constantine

Many of us are spending more time at home than ever before, and all that extra time in your backyard may have you fantasizing about having your own outdoor kitchen next to your house.

The good news is that you don't need a large estate to house one. You simply need to think creatively about your space and know what your priorities are.

An outdoor kitchen may appear to be a difficult project, but it begins in the same way that any other space does.

However, as with any other type of home improvement project, things can go wrong. So, if you're thinking about investing in an outdoor kitchen, do your research to avoid the headaches and ensure good results.

You won't be able to use your outdoor kitchen all year if you live in a cool climate. If you live in a cold, snowy climate, you must plan your space carefully and equip it, accordingly, use a pergola seems a good choice for moderate climate.

Electrical components, such as refrigeration units, may need to be winterized and stored in a garage or other enclosed structure depending on how cold your area gets.

Another key component to beware of is the sunlight factor, you should avoid the mistakes most people neglect when designing their outdoor kitchen, you must base your design according to the sunlight as to avoid the nuances caused by it, whether to protect your equipment or in terms of creating a relaxing area to sit and enjoy your meal time.

 Adam Watson - Hollywood Mirrors

Adam Watson

There are several common mistakes that I see people make when building an outdoor kitchen, especially at the design stage. I will share the two most important ones. They are:

1. Not properly planning the layout and design of the kitchen.

It's important to carefully plan the layout and design of your outdoor kitchen to ensure that it meets your needs and is functional.

This includes considering the size and location of the kitchen, the type of appliances and equipment you will need, and the overall style and aesthetic of the space.

2. Not correctly considering the weather and climate.

Outdoor kitchens are exposed to the elements, so it's essential to design and build your kitchen in a way that will withstand the weather and temperature in your area.

This includes using materials that are resistant to moisture, heat, and cold and ensuring that the kitchen is adequately sealed and insulated.

Bob McCranie - Texas Pride Realty

Bob McCranie

Outdoor kitchens are great, especially when they’re new and shiny. But, as a REALTOR, we see those kitchens after several summers and winters take their tolls.

The equipment selected is vital to the continued enjoyment over the years. If the grill or cooking appliances are built in too tightly, you have to break up the stone work to bring in replacements.

If poor quality appliances are used initially the kitchen will not stand up. Moisture is the enemy and rust will find it’s way into any outdoor kitchen.

Cooking surfaces should be able to be removed for storage in a dry location. If not, they should be seasoned with oil.

Counter tops should be sealed to make them non-porous. Granite and other stone surfaces can absorb water and, over time, can crack or pit.

Formica should be avoided at all costs as it’s made on a wood base which can expand and fracture with repeated wet weather.

Arch. Andrei Vasilief – Animo Regis

Andrei Vasilief

The most common ones I've seen are these:

1. Not budgeting sufficiently for the project

High-quality outdoor cooking equipment can be very pricy, so it's important to do some research beforehand to see what your budget allows you to build.

2. Not creating some shading or pergola for the outdoor kitchen

Building some shading is important for both preserving the equipment, and protecting it from the elements, as well as having a pleasant cooking experience.

3. Not designing enough counter space

Many outdoor kitchens have the equipment sandwiched together, leaving no room for essential counter space, meaning you need to do a constant back and forth from your indoor kitchen to the outdoor one.

4. Choosing inadequate materials

An outdoor kitchen will have a certain degree of exposure to the elements, so choosing materials that will resist wear is very important.

5. Forgetting about lighting

Think about constructing lighting to expand the usability of the outdoor kitchen outside of daylight hours and avoid using of improper light sources for cooking.

Bella Zinti - The Homey Space

Bella Zinti

Nowadays, we are hanging out more at home than ever. And it's nice to host dinner parties and get-togethers for your friends and family, especially when you have a beautiful backyard and the perfect outdoor kitchen.

But with any home improvement project, things can quickly go wrong when not carefully planned out. So before investing, do your homework to avoid headaches and ensure excellent results.

Here are the three most common mistakes to avoid in an outdoor kitchen.

1. Poor positioning

Direct sunlight is a no for outdoor kitchens. Exposing your refrigeration equipment to sunlight can cause severe damage.

Also, avoid positioning next to a pool or garden features because this will only cause your space to feel cramped and not enjoyable.

You want your guests to refrain from shielding their eyes from the sun while enjoying a meal in your backyard.

2. Stainless steel surfaces and cabinets

These materials are only perfect for indoors and not advisable for your outdoor kitchen. For one, it is not very weatherproof; thus, It is sensitive to developing rust.

3. Cramped outdoor kitchen area

You need enough counter space and an outdoor sink for prep and clean up. Having a cramped space will also limit the coziness you're aiming for. Install storage cabinets so you won't constantly run back inside for things.

Stephany Smith - Fantastic Services

Stephany Smith

Having an outdoor kitchen can be a great way to spend more time outside. Besides that, in 2022, the sales for outdoor kitchens has significantly increased. They clearly add value to a home.

However, just like with any other home improvement project, things can go wrong. These are the three most common mistakes people make when building an outdoor kitchen:

1. Not planning enough counter space

The main reason most people invest in an outdoor kitchen is convenience. That includes having ample counter space.

Without enough counter space to place platters, other kitchen items and cook food, you’ll be forced to constantly make trips in and out of the house.

If you plan enough counter space in advance, you’ll enjoy the benefits for many years.

When you’re thinking about the layout, consider how you intend to use it and design it with enough counter space for your needs.

2. Not incorporating storage

One of the most overlooked factors of planning an outdoor kitchen is storage. It’s not as flashy as the other appliances, but, in terms of convenience, storage adds a lot of functionality.

If you don’t have where to store your utensils, cups, plates and other items, you’ll constantly make trips in and out of your house.

There are many different types of storage drawers you can incorporate into your outdoor kitchen design.

However, the main thing is not to forget about it, because you’ll regret it later on.

3. Going completely DIY

Home improvement DIY projects have become more popular with the advancement of technology.

Professionals make them look easy on TV and YouTube but, in reality, they aren’t.

Going completely DIY and building an outdoor kitchen from scratch might not save you as much money as you’d expect.

When you account for the potential errors and mistakes, you’d likely not be saving a lot of money at all.

Tristan Gary Designs

Tristan Gary

Let’s be real. An outdoor kitchen is a luxury. A luxury that needs to be well planned and as thought-out as an indoor kitchen is with the finishes and the details….because, details matter!

When considering an outdoor kitchen, it’s very important to place your kitchen logically for use but also for the weather where the home is located.

You want to get the best use of the space, so directing it to a view but remain cognizant of sunshine, or away from the direction of rain fall where it can still be used year round and enjoyed by all.

A few practical considerations to think of:

Do not place a grill near a window or door to the main house. The smoke could be sucked into the home and make for an unpleasant experience.

Include a sink. It’s an additional expense that you will never regret.

When thinking about your experiences you desire in your outdoor kitchen, do you think “I would love to make multiple trips inside for the food”?

No, then include a refrigerator for food/drinks. Maybe refrigerator drawers that can go between charcuterie settings all the way down to freezing as you them.

Depending on your environment, include heaters and a fan. Infratec make beautiful flush mount heaters so that we, in the Pacific Northwest, can use our outdoor spaces year round.

Thinking about the environment where you are located again, what are the best materials for your region?

Materials you use for your indoor kitchen may not have the same life if used for your outdoor kitchen. John Michael manufactures some of the most beautiful outdoor kitchens for homes near water, for example, with marine grade steel.

Quartz, if used in high temperatures with loads of sun exposure, will fade or change color.

And I know we are talking outdoor kitchens, but, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest a powder room.

I LOVE a fun powder room….but it really takes that luxury outdoor kitchen experience to the next level of thoughtfulness.

Josie Abate - Ambience

Josie Abate

When designing an outdoor kitchen many may overlook the transition between the outdoor and indoor space.

One can create a smoother look if you stick to a consistent design theme by using sliding glass doors, along with similar colours and materials in both spaces. Choose materials for patio furniture such as cast aluminum or teak that will endure outdoors.

Don't overlook that the project includes a lot of work and budget, including investing in items such as an outdoor stovetop, an inset grill, a bar, refrigeration, stainless steel drawers, a sink, a patio, and a concrete countertop.

Consider that you may want to use the outdoor kitchen in every season. A protective structure like a shed, awning, or retractable roof will keep you and others safe from too much sun, insects, and bad weather.

Adding lights, comfy furniture, throws and pillows will also make it possible to spend time outdoors at any time.

Don’t be afraid to embrace all types of weather and consider solutions to keep you and your guests comfortable, and warm.

Zara O'Hare - Land of Rugs

Zara O'Hare

1. I've seen many people make the same mistakes when building an outdoor kitchen. One of the most common mistakes is not planning the layout. An outdoor kitchen needs to be functional and well designed.

Many people overlook the importance of planning, leaving a space that's cluttered. More than that, it makes the space hard to use.

2. Another common mistake is not choosing the right materials. Outdoor kitchens must be able to withstand the elements. It's important to choose durable, weather-resistant materials.

Stainless steel and concrete are great choices for an outdoor kitchen. Don't use materials that aren't suited for outdoor use. This will result in a beautiful outdoor kitchen that doesn't last.

3. Finally, many people underestimate the importance of lighting in an outdoor kitchen. Proper lighting is essential for safety and creating a comfortable atmosphere. It's vital to incorporate a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting.

Darla DeMorrow - HeartWork Organizing

Darla DeMorrow

Home shows are a great place to see styles and layouts available, and to meet with contractors. Use the off-season to research your preferences.

Outdoor kitchens are exposed to the elements, so the wear and tear on the appliances is going to be tougher than your inside appliances. Be prepared to service and replace your grill, refrigerator, and any other appliances more often.

Even if you DIY some of a new outdoor kitchen project, you’ll need a contractor for at least part of your project. You don’t necessarily get what you pay for; you get what you manage.

Work with a contractor who provides proof of insurance, references, and a written contract. Even if they’ve installed a hundred projects, your project is unique to you.

Spend enough time planning so you have a written plan that you and your contractor can agree on. Keep the lines of communication open during your project, and inspect it often.

For many, the biggest factor is proximity to your inside kitchen. If access to your kitchen isn’t easy, consider adding or expanding a doorway to improve flow between the inside and outside kitchens.

It seems obvious, but ensure that outdoor materials are used for an outdoor kitchen project, even if it’s under cover. For instance, use granite instead of Formica for counters to ensure that your kitchen can withstand storms, humidity, and damage from sun and critters.

David Ashbolt - Materials Market

David Ashbolt

One of the considerations you want to pay special attention to when selecting your finishes for outdoor elements is how well the type of material you use will be able to handle the elements of the outdoors overtime.

Specific product types are going to perform better than others in different parts of the country with their different climates (e.g. Florida you want a product that won't fade in sun whereas up north you want something that will sustain freeze thaw cycles).

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in outdoor kitchens was using concrete for the countertops in the outdoor kitchen in a northern climate.

Even though the countertops were well sealed they were absolutely destroyed by the elements within only a couple of years and had to be replaced.

Also, before starting any construction project, it's important to check the local building codes and obtain the necessary permits. Skipping the permits can result in fines or even require you to tear down your outdoor kitchen.

Omer Reiner - Florida Cash Home Buyers

Omer Reiner

One of the worst mistakes people make creating an outdoor kitchen is when they build the ovens and other structures on an unsafe foundation, or even worse, no real foundation.

Some people believe they can put these structures in places with no foundation, but even structures built on concrete need some foundation underneath them.

Sometimes this may just be sand and gravel, but a foundation is needed either way.

Eric Sztanyo - Team Sztanyo

Eric Sztanyo

Many who desire an outdoor kitchen at their home are those who want to use it to entertain.

It's easy to think about the fixtures, cabinets, grills, and so on, but what about the people?

Something that can be easily overlooked when designing this outdoor space is seating.

Taking the time upfront to think about what would make the space most comfortable and inviting to both you and your guests is vital.

No one wants to enjoy a great meal while standing around a grill, so be sure to incorporate enough space in your design for a seating or dining area.

KD Reid

KD Reid

On a warm night, hosting dinner parties with family and friends in your backyard becomes a special occasion.

The essentials for your outdoor kitchen—a grill, a table, and some chairs—are fairly simple to keep in mind. 

High-end appliances, comfortable lounge seating, and the most durable table account for the bulk of the budget.

The last thing you want is for your dinner party guests to leave early to spend more time indoors.

By incorporating floor, table, and outdoor pendant lighting, you can create moods, define outdoor spaces like the dining area or the pool, and highlight architectural and foliage details.

Additionally, offering light and heat during the chilly evenings.

Kylieanne Simpson - KASdesigns Country Style

Kylieanne Simpson

A big mistake that many people do when building an outdoor kitchen is forgetting the ventilation. Good ventilation is extremely important in an outdoor kitchen and it is often overlooked.

Not budgeting enough to fully fund quality products.

Forgetting some sort of weather cover for cooking equipment.

Forgetting some form of storage or counter space. Barbeques often have little space if you need to do food preparation.

Ariel Path - Ariel’s Home

Ariel Path

I have seen many common mistakes people should avoid when building an
outdoor kitchen. Here are some of them:

1. Neglecting to consider the weather

An outdoor kitchen is exposed to the elements. Choose materials and appliances that can withstand the weather. Consider things like wind, rain, and sunlight when selecting items like cabinets, countertops, and grills.

2. Skimping on storage

Outdoor kitchens often have limited space, so it's important to make the most of every inch. Include plenty of storage in the form of cabinets, drawers, and shelving to keep everything organized and within easy reach.

3. Underestimating the importance of lighting

Proper lighting is especially important in an outdoor space where you'll be cooking and entertaining at night. Include plenty of lighting options, overhead, task, and accent lighting.

Pay attention to the cardinal directions and how the sun moves throughout the day to ensure that your outdoor kitchen is always well-lit.

4. Forgetting about ventilation

An outdoor kitchen may generate smoke and steam. Be sure to include a ventilation system to keep the air clean.

By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure that your outdoor kitchen is
functional, stylish, and enjoyable for years to come.

Kristina Chrissimos - Vogue Homes

Kristina Chrissimos

Creating an outdoor kitchen is a good way to extend the living space of your home, allowing you to enjoy more time outside. However, some considerations must be made for such a project to be successful. Here are some frequent causes to avoid while constructing an outdoor kitchen:

1. Failing to plan

A well-thought-out design is essential for building any outdoor kitchen. Take measurements and draw up plans, so you know what type of appliances, countertops and other items will fit best within the confines of your space.

2. Not investing in high-quality materials

Cheap components won’t last very long outdoors due to their lack of resistance against the elements, leaving them vulnerable to rust or corrosion, making even the most lavish-looking kitchens look terrible once they deteriorate quickly.

3. Not waterproofing

You need to make sure that everything, including cabinets and countertops you install, is waterproofed by using sealants regularly, as water damage from rain or even from accidental spillages could ruin your outdoor kitchen faster than anything else if left untreated for too long thus leading down the path towards costly repairs later on!

June Grinstead

June Grinstead

1. Not considering the space

Designing an outdoor kitchen requires careful consideration of the dining area, keeping in mind elements such as rain and heat from the sun which can both damage the kitchen.

Ensuring there is enough space and adequate protection from the elements is important when assessing the site. Creating an ideal outdoor dining experience involves making use of the existing space, both indoors and outdoors.

This is to ensure that guests have access to a pleasant dining environment even while they are in an outside area. Finding the right balance between aesthetics and functionality will ensure you can make the most of your outdoor space.

2. Not understanding materials

One of the most common mistakes when designing an outdoor kitchen is choosing the wrong materials. You need to adequately protect yourself and your cooking appliances from the elements.

Ensure that you choose an insulated grill jacket to cover your grill, instead of ones made with regular steel or aluminum. These will protect them from the heat from the sun and other external weather conditions.

Additionally, if you are putting in any electrical appliances, ensure it is properly insulated. Both against rain and also to prevent a short circuit due to exposure to moisture.

3. Cold storage and dry storage solutions

However, one common mistake when designing an outdoor kitchen is to forget about cold and dry food storage solutions.

Installing outdoor cabinets, drawers, and a refrigerator will provide the necessary storage for outdoor grilling ingredients. Also to ensure that too much time isn't spent running back inside for various perishables or condiments during outdoor meal prep.

4. Forgetting appliances and equipment

When planning an outdoor kitchen, one mistake that many homeowners make is forgetting to include the necessary appliances and equipment.

For example, sinks should be waterproof and fire-rated as well as have proper isolation valves so water can be shut off from the sink if needed; vent panels are essential for any gas appliances; and waste bins need to be fire-rated and watertight.

Taking the extra time to consider all of the pieces involved will ensure your outdoor kitchen is both aesthetically pleasing and safely functional.

Barbara Chancey Design

 Barbara Chancey

When the big shindig is over, failure to properly clean the floor around your outdoor kitchen can lead to uninvited guests such as ants, insects and rodents who feast on the crumbs you left behind.

Include a storage cabinet with power/USB and keep an outdoor vacuum by WPPO charged at all times to make cleanup a breeze.

Although residential outdoor kitchens are not subject to health inspections like restaurants, it’s important to follow safe food handling procedures to protect dinner guests from contamination or food poisoning.

Include a sink with hot water for washing utensils and surfaces that contact raw meat and check with your local health department for specific codes required for businesses that serve food outdoors.

To protect your investment, purchase the recommended cleaning products before cooking, and stock plenty of microfiber towels in the storage cabinet.

Many outdoor kitchen owners swear by the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, and in just a few swipes, burnt-on food pieces and grease will magically disappear.

Before using, always check with the manufacturer and follow directions on the package.

Jordan Obermann – FORGE + BOW Dwellings

Jordan Obermann

One of the biggest mistakes I see with outdoor kitchens is the placement of grills.

Obviously, having a grill in a covered and convenient location is ideal, however, there are several issues here:

1.You have the threat of fire and heat up against flammable materials, like siding. Heat can also damage paint, caulking, window glazing, etc.

2 Often something people overlook, smoke can get trapped in eaves and overhangs, typically resulting in staining and smoke damage.

I recommend finding a spot away from the house, surrounding it with flame-resistant materials (brick, stone, stucco, etc.), and then building a cover that allows the smoke a place to escape is the way to go.

Mark Cutler - Cutler Schulze

Mark Cutler

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when creating an outdoor kitchen is trying to make as much storage as possible. We try yo encourage our clients to minimize storage outdoors.

It is almost impossible to keep insects and vermin out of those spaces so we find that anything that is stored outside, usually needs to be taken inside and washed before use.

Another idea is to create as much counter-space as you possibly can. Outdoor cooking often involves platters of food both cooked and uncooked, having space to lay those out is critical to success and is totally different from how you cook inside.

Lastly give yourself options, not just a grill, but a hot plate , potentially a pizza oven etc. The bane of the outdoor cook is having to tend to multiple cooking locations at once, that's not fun and certainly doesn't feed success.

Blima Ehrentreu - The Designers Group

Blima Ehrehtreu

As an interior designer, it's important to be mindful of several common mistakes when building an outdoor kitchen to ensure its functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Firstly, weather considerations such as rain, wind, and extreme temperatures should not be neglected, as this can result in damage to the kitchen and its appliances.

Poor ventilation can also lead to discomfort while cooking and pose a fire hazard.

Improper electrical and plumbing installations can create dangerous conditions.

Traffic flow should be carefully planned to avoid bottlenecks and difficulty in using the kitchen.

Adequate storage is crucial for keeping cooking tools and ingredients within reach.

Lastly, the outdoor kitchen should complement the style and design of the home, not clash with it.

Martina Hayes

Martina Hayes

Exposed to the elements, the finishes of an outdoor kitchen need to withstand the elements, be it rain, hail or extreme UV exposure.

You wish to avoid a benchtop that is not designed for this purpose. Instead, select an engineered benchtop with a hard-wearing surface, or alternatively, opt for a natural stone that ticks all the above boxes by nature. Think travertine, granite or marble just to name a few.

The same is true for the cupboards as they need to be able to deal with moisture which is unavoidable in an outdoor setting. Otherwise, the cabinet panels may start to warp and distort.

When your kitchen is under cover, you can get away with moisture-resistant MDF boards, but if the kitchen is out in the open, metal cabinets made from stainless steel are your best option.

Easy to overlook is the material for the cupboard handles. You don't want the top layer of the handles to peel off or the colour to fade in the sun. Consider giving the handles a miss altogether creating a contemporary and sleek look if this works with your style preferences.

These tips are for you to enjoy your outdoor kitchen for years to come.

 Heather Mastrangeli - Innovatus Design

Heather Mastrangeli

The most common mistake I see homeowners making when installing an outdoor kitchen is using incorrect materials.

It’s super important that everything used for an outdoor kitchen is rated for exterior use.

Whether that is the faucets, cabinets, cabinet hardware or lighting - everything needs to be rated / suitable for exterior use. This will help to avoid buildup of rust or deterioration of individual items.

Another tip that will help to keep your outdoor kitchen fresh is to incorporate ventilation for cooktops when the kitchen has a roof over it.

After reading the expert insights shared in this roundup, we hope you now have a better understanding of the process and what to consider when planning your outdoor kitchen. 

With careful planning and attention to detail, you can create a beautiful outdoor kitchen that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations.

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