11 Things to Consider Before You Build an Outdoor Kitchen

Since we’re just about to start a project for a client where we will be building an outdoor eating space, it’s a great time to review some top considerations in planning an outdoor kitchen. I really like these projects because our clients end up with a fun space they can really enjoy with their friends and family for years to come.

Outdoor Kitchen

This elegant outdoor covered patio and kitchen is perfect for entertaining in all weather. Even if you're not going all-out on your design, your outdoor kitchen can be just as functional.

In planning for an outdoor kitchen when you live in the Northwest, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the weather, specifically rain. Don’t let that stop you. In other parts of the country, folks have to put up with wind, dust, pollution, temperatures that restrict outdoor eating and entertaining to the evening hours, and even tornadoes. So these considerations count for all of us. In the Northwest we’re really quite fortunate. The months when it’s the coldest we usually don’t consider eating out of doors anyway, and as far the rest of the year is concerned, protecting the kitchen and the guests usually isn’t all that difficult.

1. Don’t Let Worry Stop You Before You Start – If you don’t heed this piece of advice, you needn’t read further. Just consider the fact that there are going to be more than enough days of great or at least decent weather where you and your guests can truly enjoy all an outdoor kitchen has to offer.

2. Location – This recently was an issue of mine since my main grill and outdoor eating space is on a different floor than the kitchen. Honestly, I get tired of running up and down the stairs to the kitchen when I forget something. Try to keep your outdoor kitchen close to house and as close as possible to the main kitchen or be prepared to do a lot of walking while you cook.

3. Shade And Cover – Shade and cover doesn’t need to be permanent, if it were you wouldn’t really feel you were out of doors, and you don’t want to place your kitchen and guest seating in a tent. Screens or tarps, umbrellas, or any other type of portable covering needs to be part of your design. If things get bad enough, everyone can move inside, but that will probably happen much less often than you would expect. Umbrellas are particularly important, as most people don’t like sitting and eating under a hot sun any more than in a driving rain. Even here in the Northwest the outdoor eating season can be prolonged with well-placed cover, some heaters and a good sweater!

4. Create Visual Interest – Make your outdoor kitchen a part of the overall area. It can be more than a grill on a patio with a table and chairs facing the grill. Think of the parts of your kitchen, stove, grill, bar, fireplace, whatever, as parts of the landscape, pieces that should fit into the landscape. The truly excellent outdoor kitchen is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing, a place you and your guests will want to spend some time. Since some, and possibly most of your entertaining will be in the evening, make lighting a top priority, be it strategically placed pathway lights, strings of lights, or tiki torches. The challenge is to provide enough lighting, but not too much. Don’t forget candles, or if impractical, hurricane lamps. Do a little “exterior” decorating.

5. Don’t Forget The Music – Make a sound system a part of your outdoor kitchen design. When we think of kitchens, we don’t usually consider music, but an outdoor kitchen is a place for entertaining, unless you expect everyone will go inside once they’re done eating. You may very well want to have a dancing area in your “kitchen”. Nothing wrong with that.

6. Where Do We Sit? – If you place the seating with everyone facing the grill or fireplace, as many designs dictate, you needn’t worry too much about the overall appearance of the surroundings. The grill has become the alter, and the guests are more or less forced to pay homage to it, and to watching you cook dinner. A good outdoor kitchen design doesn’t have to spotlight the grill, or the fireplace, or the bar. In fact its better it they are slightly off to one side. Let the guests see the back yard, the surrounding scenery if it’s spectacular, or the lawn, garden, or container plants. Living in the Northwest means there is plenty of greenery to look at and on the best days, deep blue skies. Arrange the seating so the guests can look at one another, not just the stove, grill, or bar.

7. How Do We Sit? – Even if your seating arrangements are integrated into the overall design of the kitchen, considerations of comfort should override those of appearance. Sitting on a stone bench isn’t as comfortable as sitting in a folding chair, though you may not care for the latter. When designing your kitchen, the comfort of your guests is as important as are the bells and whistles your grill or other appliances may feature.

8. What Do I Plan To Cook? – If you’re a professional chef, or even a fairly good amateur one, the sky’s the limit as far as the features you may desire your kitchen to have. If hot dogs or grilled finger food is about as far as you want to go, you probably don’t need a $50,000 kitchen except to impress. Granted, an outdoor grill by itself can’t really be considered a kitchen, but the money spent can go into seating, decoration, and landscaping if you really don’t need a top of the line grill, stove, refrigerator, sink, or portable bar. Put another way, if you plan on spending a considerable amount on your outdoor kitchen, learn to cook or hire someone else to do it.

9. How Much To Spend? – Assuming the sky is not the limit, you’re probably not going to want to spend more than you feel you have to. Even if your not going to be doing much more than using a grill, get a good one. If your design calls for a built in grill this is even more important, as although this can be a high-ticket item, it can cost even more have it replaced or repaired, which will likely happen eventually. Even if you save money by using a portable grill, it’s still important to get the best one you think you can afford. Even though the good old Weber that sits on three legs is practically as American as apple pie, you’ll want something larger and nicer appearing, especially if your design is to resemble an outdoor kitchen in any sense of the word.

10. Getting it Done – If you have the time and are willing to accept the challenge, you can manage some or all of the construction yourself. However, in some circumstances you’ll need to be careful. Just like building a home, designing and installing an outdoor kitchen takes planning and preparation. An experienced licensed contractor (like us!) has the skills and tips to make your vision come to life with a minimal number of “oops” moments.

11. Maintenance – This is the least exciting of the tips offered here, but nevertheless important. When you design your kitchen you need to design it with maintenance in mind. It is out of doors after all, and in spite of your most heroic efforts, things are going to get wet and sometimes dirty. This includes not only the appliances but everything else. Stone or ceramic you don’t have to worry too much about, but you’ll have plastics, fabrics, and painted surfaces that have to either be protected or cleaned up and dried out later. Even stainless steel can take a beating over time. It can mean a lot of work if you allow things to get out of hand. You want to plan for an outdoor kitchen that requires a minimum amount of maintenance knowing full well there are maintenance chores that will need to be done. Don’t let yourself become a slave to your kitchen.

If you’re interested in building an outdoor kitchen and live in the Portland, Oregon, or Vancouver, Washington, areas feel free to give Fazzolari Custom Homes and Renovations a call at 360-571-7027 or fill out our free consultation form and we’ll follow up with you right away.

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