Outdoor Kitchen Design Considerations

Outdoor Kitchens – Increase your Home’s Outdoor Pleasure

By Mark J. Donovan

A neighbor of mine is in the process of completing a new home. I was surprised to see that the design included an outdoor kitchen. At first my reaction was, “boy, this is overkill”, but after thinking about it I began to see some value. An outdoor kitchen allows you the ability to stay where the action is when you are having a summer party by the pool or waterfront. It affords you the opportunity to fully enjoy the outdoors during the consumption and the preparation of the meal. And it also is a great way to keep your indoor kitchen and your house cleaner during parties. If you have kids you know what I mean. When company comes there is a constant flow of little feet running from the pool to the kitchen to grab sodas and food.

Though there are more upsides to the concept of an outdoor kitchen design than I initially thought, I do however think there are a few design considerations that should be considered before going down the path of an outdoor kitchen.

The first outdoor kitchen design consideration is how, if at all, will the outdoor kitchen be sheltered. Will it sit in a screened in porch area, or on a patio with a roof? My suggestion is that the outdoor kitchen design should include a semi sheltered enclosure, e.g. with a roof and at least two sidewalls for the appliances and countertops to sit up against.

This will at least ensure some shelter from the weather elements, which will increase the longevity of the appliances and work area.

The second outdoor kitchen design consideration is the gas or charcoal grill. The grill is the focal point of your outdoor kitchen so you should not skimp in this area, both in terms of size and cost. Grills can range in price from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

You need to consider both the size and location of where the grill will reside. Grills typically come in widths from 24” to 60”, pending if there is a side burner attached to it. Their depths can range from 15” to 24” in depth. The grill should be positioned so that countertop space can be installed on either side of it.

If you are not considering a hood to vent out the smoke, then you will want to position the grill near the edge of the roof structure of the outdoor kitchen. Otherwise, smoke will get trapped in the kitchen area. You also should consider prevailing winds for the placement of the grill, as you will want to prevent smoke from blowing in your guests’ faces.

The third consideration is the choice of cabinets and countertops. As my neighbor did, I would consider using stainless steel for both. They are resistant to corrosion or rust, and easy to clean. Granite or Ceramic Tile countertops, over lightweight concrete cabinet systems, may also work well as they too are relatively impervious to weather conditions.

The forth consideration is appliances. Again, I would recommend stainless steel appliances, including the grill/range and refrigerator.

Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet

I would forgo the dishwasher in an outdoor kitchen design. Instead add a stainless steel sink to the outdoor kitchen design. Why not make the outdoor kitchen experience complete by having to clean up dishes by hand! Frequently only cold water is run to outdoor kitchens, so cleaning dishes outside may not be practical. If, however, the outdoor kitchen is connected to the main house, then running hot water to the outdoor kitchen may be something to consider.

I would also consider situating the outdoor kitchen near the area where your guests and family will be expected to be during parties and functions. It should also be near the outdoor eating area. Otherwise, the outdoor kitchen will not serve its main purpose – keeping you where the action is.

Electricity, Gas and any other utilities will need to be brought to the outdoor kitchen area. Frequently digging a single trench and separating and shrouding the utilities in separate steel or plastic conduit is satisfactory. However, you will need to check with local building codes to ensure this is done properly to your area. In addition, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters will be required for the electricity.

Outdoor kitchens are expanding in popularity. Even in colder climates. The only limitation in colder climates is the length of the season(s) they can be used. As cold weather approaches, plumbing pipes will need to be drained and refrigerators turned off and emptied. Other than that, they are low maintenance. So as you plan for your next home, consider an outdoor kitchen and increase your home’s outdoor pleasure.

For help on your kitchen remodeling project, see my Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet provides a request for quote checklist section that you can provide to prospective kitchen remodeling contractors. It also includes a comprehensive kitchen remodeling cost breakdown table, in Microsoft Excel format, that allows the contractor to include his projected remodeling costs for every phase of the project.

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Additional Kitchen Remodeling Design Resources


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