Outdoor Kitchen Design

Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor kitchens continue to be one of the most requested and popular features to include in an outdoor living space. A wonderful addition to any outdoor space, they bring both function and a strong architectural element to any space. Are you considering adding an outdoor living space? Here are a few things to consider.

Outdoor Kitchen Safety

Any outdoor kitchen appliance that puts out heat is going to have required clearances to combustibles, such as lumber. Many people don’t realize, as they have just placed their propane grill wherever it was convenient, but most grills aren’t cleared to go under overhead covering unless a vent hood is in place. They also aren’t rated to go against the exterior walls of wood-framed homes.

If you are working with natural gas you’ll need to pull permits, the kitchen isn’t going to pass inspections if you’ve ignored the clearances to combustibles. This also applies to the building materials used to build the kitchen, you can’t just build an outdoor kitchen out of lumber.

If you look for accounts of what can go wrong ignoring these clearances, it typically goes the same way. After years of use, the nearby lumber suddenly goes up in flames. Over time, the combustibles are subject to heat, and any moisture is baked away until it is dry enough to combust under the appliance’s heat output. Any outdoor appliance is going to provide clearances in the manual, and you’ll want to be certain they are adhered to.

Outdoor Kitchen Grill Top
This outdoor kitchen provided lots of prep space as well as bar seating.

Outdoor Kitchen Layout:

An outdoor kitchen can be a simple step up, or much more complex. You want it to fit well within your space. Do you want to incorporate seating? Need additional prep space?

Selecting your appliances and fixtures:

You’ll need to select your appliances and fixtures. The grill is a given. We always recommend selecting a built-in grill. Sometimes people want to use a well know or beloved grill, like a Traeger or Green Egg, and while they are top-notch grills, they just aren’t meant to be built-ins, and you either need to sacrifice some of their functionality and ease of maintenance, or the look of the kitchen itself. If you can’t part ways with your grill, there are ways we can still incorporate it without forcing it to be a built-in.

You’ll also need access doors, as there has to be some way to access under the grill for connections and maintenance. We always recommend going for a side burner, they add a lot of functionality at a low price point. Storage drawers are recommended for the same reason. Other popular options are bun warmers and refrigerators. www.bbqguys.com is a great place to start looking for appliances.

Plenty of prep space, storage, and outdoor rated fridge. We incorporated low-voltage outdoor lighting under the granite countertops.

outdoor kitchen grill
Plenty of prep space, storage, and outdoor rated fridge.
We incorporated low-voltage outdoor lighting under the granite countertops.


Natural gas is definitely the most popular choice. It’s great to never worry about running out, refilling, and swapping propane tanks. If your house isn’t running on natural gas, or if you have an existing landscape and the cost of running a natural gas line is proving to be prohibitive, outdoor kitchens can be built to run off propane as well.

Specialty Metal Outdoor Kitchen
Specialty metal was used for the firepit, dining table, and kitchen counters for this project.

Outdoor Kitchen Finishes:

The finishes are what’s going to tie this into the rest of the home. For the vertical surfaces, you are going to need to select something that is noncombustible, stucco, stone, or manufactured stone veneer are all popular choices. You’ll want to pick a material that matches or compliments the home. While stone veneers can look nice on these features, keep in mind that there often isn’t a lot of space on the front of the kitchens with all the features, so smaller stacked stone style veneers tend to look better while other styles can be a bit too busy. Countertops have a wide variety as well. Granite is a great option; it can be sealed to resist weather and staining. Concrete, flagstone, and even metal countertops can work well too.

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