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Nothing encourages bonding between family and friends like sharing a good meal together. And sharing that meal al fresco makes it all the more special. Having an outdoor kitchen and eating area to entertain your guests will not only help you make memories that you will cherish for a long time to come, but it will also increase the value of your property. So if you think it’s time you give your backyard a much-needed upgrade, here’s a guide to building an outdoor kitchen to get you started.
It All Starts With a Plan
Before you begin buying things and putting your outdoor entertaining space together, you need to come up with a plan. Here are some things for you to consider.
- Decide if you need a full-fledged kitchen to put together complex meals, or if you’re just considering a barbecue grill. The size of the countertop on your outdoor kitchen island will depend on these factors.
- How far away from your indoor kitchen will you be building your outdoor cooking space? The number of appliances and the amount of storage space you will need to invest in will depend on this.
For example, if your outdoor kitchen is going to be an extension of your home separated by just a screen door, you won’t need to bother too much about storage and can manage to go back and forth from your kitchen. But that’s something you’d want to avoid if your open-air set up is a distance away from your house.
- Choose a design and appliances that will be accessible, efficient, and will offer you value for money. Use your indoor kitchen for inspiration if needed. Get accurate measurements of everything you will need to buy, including your grill, cabinets, refrigerator, sink, etc. This is important because you will need to buy all of this hardware before you begin building your outdoor kitchen.
It is always a good idea to have a friend, preferably someone who may have built a similar kitchen earlier, take a look at your plans and specifications before you begin.
Choosing the Right Materials
Since you’re building an outdoor kitchen, it will definitely have to be weather resistant.
- Popular countertop materials include stainless steel, granite, concrete, tiles, and Dekton. Whichever material you choose, make sure it is non-porous. Make sure not to choose limestone or quartz as these materials don’t stand up to the vagaries of the weather too well.
- Outdoor cabinets made of marine-grade polymers, aluminum, stainless steel, or natural stone are preferred. If you want cabinets made of wood, teak wood handles aging and weather changes better than other hardwoods.
Here’s a step-by-step description of the process of building a DIY outdoor kitchen island using frames made of wood, metal, or concrete panels.
1. Wooden Frames
Build a frame using lumber and plywood. Reinforce it using cement board cutouts. You can cover the board with a veneer of your choice like tiles, stucco, or stones to make it aesthetically pleasing. Cover the top with the counter of your choice, and attach the hardware, including grills, cabinets, fridges, etc. This is the most affordable option amongst the three.
2. Metal Frames
Choose a strong base like a 4” cement footing. If you build your kitchen on soft ground or even on pavers, you can be sure of it sinking. Weld together a frame made out of stainless steel or aluminum studs. Apply cement boards with matching cutouts to the frame. The rest of the process is the same as with wooden frames.
3. Concrete Panel Frames
A lot of companies now offer outdoor kitchen island frames made out of modular concrete panels in custom sizes that can be easily glued on together. While these are easy to assemble, extremely durable as well as weather and fire-resistant, assembling these kits requires considerable physical effort, thanks to the weight of the concrete panels.
Concrete panel frames can handle the weight of heavy countertops better than their other two counterparts. And when it comes to making them look great, they can handle all kinds of veneers as well.
Popular Outdoor Kitchen Layouts
Here are some popular outdoor kitchen layouts to inspire you when you’re designing yours.
1. The Classic Island
If you’re looking at space optimization, the outdoor kitchen island is your go-to design. This design is characterized by the outdoor grill and burners in the center, with the appliances on either side.
2. The Galley
The galley is ideal for spacious outdoor kitchens, with a cooking counter on one side with a serving side on the other. There’s ample space for the chef in between the two counters.
3. The L-Shape
The L-shaped outdoor kitchen is similar to the island design, with a small extension on one end for a few guests to sit and enjoy their meal.
Here are some extras that you can add to your outdoor kitchen guaranteed to make heads turn and mouths water.
1. Outdoor Eating Area
You’ll want a comfortable and covered seating area for your family and your guests to enjoy their al fresco meal. Consider a covered gazebo-style seating area. Outdoor furniture made from wrought iron, wicker, and teak wood are great choices for outdoor dining areas. For a more bohemian, upcycled look, consider buying furniture made from repurposed metal or wood, or even making your own tables and chairs using wooden pallets.
2. Mood Lighting
You’ll want to enjoy your outdoor space after the sun goes down as well, so plan your lighting to set the mood. Consider accent lighting around your grills, appliances, and counters to allow you to see clearly. Recessed lighting below your eating area with string lights from nearby rafters and shrubs, or maybe even some lanterns will add to making the mood more enjoyable. And of course, there’s nothing quite like a fire pit for you to warm yourselves around while basking in its warm glow.
3. Woodfired Pizza Oven
Pizzas are an eternal favorite, and adults enjoy them as much as kids do. A wood-fired pizza oven will allow you to bake fresh pizzas with the added smoky goodness that comes from the woods you use as fuel; something that an electric oven just cannot replicate.
Things That Will Need Professional Attention
- Your outdoor kitchen site will need adequate plumbing and irrigation.
- You will need piped gas to fire your gas grills and burners.
- You will need electricity to power your fridge, dishwasher, rotisserie motors, blenders, etc. Plus, if you plan on having entertainment in your outdoor eating area, such as a sound system or a flat-screen TV to watch the game on, that will need power as well. So make sure you get electrical work done.
- You will definitely need water lines as well.
What It Will Cost You
Building an outdoor kitchen can cost you anything between $4,000 to $12,000 in materials alone. Your appliances could set you back another $5,000. So building the kitchen of your dreams outdoors is definitely not going to be cheap!
Build Lifelong Memories Along With Your Outdoor Kitchen
A lot of every family’s fondest memories revolve around great meals shared with great company. An outdoor kitchen is a surefire way to build a treasure trove of pleasant memories.
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