With warm weather on the way, you may be getting that familiar itch to clean up the grill and spark off some outdoor entertainment. If you truly love eating outdoors, it has probably occurred to you that an outdoor kitchen would offer you a fabulous space to soak in the summer sun, a great way to entertain friends and family, and an addition to your home that certainly increases curb appeal. True, true, and true.
But if you’re thinking of moving forward with the design you’ve laid out in your head for years (and why not!), you should familiarize yourself with the basics of outdoor kitchens. An outdoor kitchen isn’t just the same space you cook in each day moved to the exterior of your home; a well-built outdoor kitchen has special considerations.
Your indoor kitchen, for starters, comes equipped with plumbing, electricity, lighting, and support walls. While you may have the basics of these if you’re building an outdoor kitchen adjacent to your house, a satellite kitchen will require: running water and drainage lines; running electrical source lines and installing outlets, light fixtures, and special appliance connections, and building the support structures that will allow you to create a beautiful and lasting kitchen space. Either way, there are questions you will have to ask about your outdoor kitchen that you wouldn’t necessarily have to ask for indoor kitchens, primarily considerations about weather resistance, temperature tolerance, and light reactivity.
Differences between outdoor vs. indoor kitchens include:
Flooring: Even if you have a deck or patio that will act as the base for your kitchen, you may have to consider, depending on the types of materials you use to build it, reinforcing the floor to accommodate the extra weight. For satellite kitchens, you’ll need to start anew with durable, fire, and weather-resistant materials. Stone and concrete are the most popular choices.
Framework: You can buy cabinetry that doesn’t require supporting walls, but for a full kitchen you will want a framework for grills, ovens, and stovetops, and to stabilize cabinet spaces. The framework can be built using metal tubing (not recommended for DIYers and subject to corrosion in moist climates), wood (easier for inexperienced builders, but the most likely to deteriorate due to weather and requires special fire considerations), or concrete block (stable, but heavy and requires expertise to install).
Undersurface: Concrete block doesn’t require an undersurface, but wood and metal need cement board attached so that cladding (the exterior finished surface) can be bonded to it.
Cladding: There are a number of materials with which you can finish the exterior surface of your kitchen, each with advantages and drawbacks. Stucco has become a popular and inexpensive finish but tends to crack in cold or moist climates. Masonry materials such as stone and brick are elegant and durable, but are more expensive, create more weight, and may require a professional. Tile is easier for the DIYer and comes in a range of patterns and colors, but doesn’t tolerate cold thaw cycles well (tiles tend to pop off).
Countertops: Many of the choices come down to style and weather tolerance. Stainless steel, for example, becomes extremely hot in the sun and is thus only suitable for covered areas. Tile offers the same benefits as cladding, but in addition to the problem of popping tiles in colder areas, the grout of tile is hard to keep free of bacteria and thus doesn’t work as well as a cooking or eating surface. Concrete can make a durable surface that can be internally reinforced but is more porous and soft, thus making scratching and staining a possibility. A number of stone tops make excellent choices, including soapstone, quartz granite, limestone, or bluestone.