The Successful Outdoor Kitchen

design tip222Terry5

Outdoor kitchens are hot. In a 2012 survey by Professional Builder magazine, a fourth of the respondents named outdoor kitchens as one of their top selling features. The best ones are easy to use, work well in less-than-ideal weather conditions and are outfitted with thoughtfully chosen appliances and materials. The following guidelines will support an outdoor space that can be enjoyed year-round.

Come Together: In the best designs, indoor and outdoor kitchens function as one space, making it easier for the cook to move between them. Large windows and sliding doors can visually link the spaces, while making it easier to pass food and dishes back and forth. Placing a small pantry in the pathway between the indoor and outdoor kitchens can make dishes and cookware easily accessible to both. The two spaces also can work together visually. For instance, outdoor decking or concrete can be colored to mimic the indoor flooring, similar countertop materials can be used and tile or stone used on the grill island can match indoor features.

Extending the Season: Adding a pergola or simple roof will make an outdoor kitchen usable in all types of weather; adding lighting and a ceiling fan will make it even more so. When the weather gets chilly, a gas or propane infrared heater can extend the season considerably. A simple wall or glass screen can be used to block prevailing winds. A shelter also makes it possible to add amenities like a flat-screen television or projector system.

Material Selection: Marine-grade plywood, stainless steel and marine-grade polymer sheets like Starboard are good choices for outdoor cabinets. We also have used masonry, stone or concrete for cabinet boxes. Stone and stainless steel (use No. 304) make great outdoor countertops. Stainless steel is the top choice for grill material. It can be expensive and requires cleaning and lubrication, but grills made from No. 304 stainless steel have lasted for years in harsh climates. A powder-coated grill will last if maintained properly, but it needs to be made from quality steel. Either way, design the grill so that it easily can be replaced without having to deconstruct the kitchen. 

Fitting it Out: An outdoor sink should be big enough to hold party platters. The performance of outdoor refrigerators can be less than ideal. On a hot summer day, even an expensive model may not provide adequate cooling. A simple alternative is to build a stainless-steel beverage well into the counter and fill it with ice.


Terry Wardell
Wardell Builders
649 Valley Ave., Suite A
Solana Beach, CA 92075

Categories: Home Design