Wondering how to build an outdoor kitchen? Here’s where you can get started. Whether you’re interested in cinder blocks, metal studs, or a wooden frame, you can find the information you need to get you on your way here. We’ll cover the essentials of planning, design, and costs and then go over what you need and what you need to do to bring to life your dream outside BBQ kitchen.
Build Your Own or Buy Prefabricated?
You have two choices for building your kitchen. One, buy one that is prefabricated. Or two, make your own from scratch.
What is a prefabricated kitchen? Don’t mind the fancy word the industry has decided to use. All it means is it is pre-made. Ready-made kitchens come with all the parts and pieces you need in a kit. You buy the package and put it together per the instructions.
Pre-made is excellent because of how simple they are. It’s not all pros though. Generally, they are more expensive. You are also a little more limited when it comes to designs. While they do come in many shapes and sizes, you can’t choose exactly how big you want an island. You’ll have to work with the predetermined dimensions from the manufacturers.
Your second choice, which is to make it yourself, offers much more flexibility. Because you are genuinely building everything from scratch (including the frames), you can make something as big or as small as you want.
You also save a little more because you aren’t paying a premium for a ready-made kit. However, that means you have to gather all the materials necessary. It also takes a little more time and that you have more skill with using tools like power saws, etc. Don’t let that scare you away though because it’s not that hard.
How Much Does it Cost to Build?
The cost to build your BBQ kitchen outside varies. It depends on the size of the kitchen you’re planning to make. The bigger the kitchen, the more it will cost. Cost also depends on the materials you’re going to use. Opting for a metal studded kitchen will cost more. Choosing to use fancier veneering stones will require more money. The accessories you install will also add to the total cost.
In truth, it’s hard to give a number without knowing precisely what you’re looking to build. It will cost anywhere from a $2,000-$3,000 to almost as much as $15,000. You’ll have to go through the planning stage first. Once you’ve gone through the planning stage, you’ll have a more accurate number of how much it will cost.
Planning & Designing
Planning and designing is a vast topic to cover, and you need to look into it in detail. We’re not going to cover it in detail, and we’ll just touch base on some of the basics. After getting the basics down, make sure to look into it a bit more before you proceed with planning and designing your outdoor kitchen plan.
Before you start planning, decide on your budget first. You have to know exactly how much you are willing to spend to build your kitchen. Be realistic and be sure you have access to those funds.
Once you have your budget determined, you can start looking for ideas. Some places to look for ideas and draw inspirations from include:
- Personal blogs and websites on the internet
- Manufacturers of prefabricated kitchens
While you’re looking for ideas, make sure to write down the various dimensions if they are provided. Ready-made outdoor kitchen manufacturers will usually provide some very detailed information about the sizes. Writing these down will give you an idea of whether the dimensions you settle on is too big, or too small.
Once you’ve found some inspiration and have an idea of what you like, you can proceed to put your plan on paper. Decide where you want the kitchen, how big, how long, how high, etc. Get all of your measurements correct. Double check your measurements. It’s better to revise the plan on paper than to try to change part way into the build.
Keep in mind that part of planning is also deciding which materials you’ll be using. Don’t plan just yet until you’ve read everything.
How about all the cool little small kitchen appliances? Well, I know it just doesn’t feel like the kitchen if you don’t have a few unused small appliances sitting there. But…that’s a real bad idea though. One, those things are not meant to be used outdoor. They’re going to be a fire hazard.
So, you are forever unable to enjoy your small appliances outdoor? Nope, not at all. If you’re planning to build some electrical outlets for your kitchen, you can enjoy them as much as you want. The only think you have to do is pull them out to use and when you’re done, you’ve got to store them back up again. Which small appliances can you use and which ones are the best? We all have our personal preferences to what’s best. I recommend you check out Kitchen Reviewed if you want to figure out which ones might be best for your kitchen.
Okay, I won’t leave you completely in the dark here. There are some appliances that I feel works perfect for the outdoor kitchen. My favorite is the vacuum sealer. When I’m vacuum packing a bunch of meat, or game and fish I really like to use the outdoor kitchen. Why? Because it’s so darn easy to clean up. I can spray it down real fast with the hose, scrub it with dish detergent and get it rinsed nice and clean. It’s never that easy when you vacuum pack meats indoors.
Another one I like to used with the outdoor kitchen is the pressure cooker. Feel like some beans with that BBQ? Plug in the pressure cooker and let it do it’s thing while you work on preparing and grilling the rest of the stuff. I know, you can just do that inside, but it just it’s nice for when the weather is beautiful and you just don’t want to stay inside.
What if you aren’t running electrical wires and you’re not installing outlets? No worries there. Just run an extension cord! It’s so much cheaper. You just have to watch for the cord and not trip over it.
How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen with Wood Frame
Can I build an outdoor kitchen with wood? This is a common question, and it’s often asked for good reasons. Many people are more familiar with using wood. Cinder blocks and metal studs just seem much harder to work with. While that isn’t entirely true for everyone, I do find wood easier to work with. Wood frames are a popular choice for many who are on a tight budget. That’s because wood is cheaper. Another beautiful thing about a wood frame is it doesn’t take as much space as cinder blocks. You have more space to add storage compartments, and other accessories.
Building the Frame
Start by making your frames with pressure treated 2x4s. Why use pressure treated? Because they’re more tolerant to the harsh elements from the weather outside. Being pressure treated makes them tolerant to moisture and rot; which is critical because If your frame fails, the whole kitchen will fall apart.
Build multiple smaller frames and connect them to make a larger structure. For example, if your island is going to be six feet long, split that into two frames measuring 3 feet long. Not only will this allow for a stronger structure, but you can also have two separate storage compartments for different things. It costs a little more for materials, but it’s worth it.
Use long decking screws (at least 2 ½ inches) to put the frame together. You can also opt for stainless steel screws instead If so choose. Use a drill bit to predrill your holes first before screwing in the screws. You’ll want a drill/driver for this.
Don’t cheap out on the screws. Any other cheaper screws cannot handle the outdoor elements very well and will rust out in time. The chemicals used to treat the wood will also rust cheap screws very fast. If the screws that hold the frame together corrode and the structure will weaken, or worse, just fall apart entirely.
Once you have your frame built, you can sheathe the structure with plywood. Sheathing is merely covering the frames, and it also helps re-enforce the structure. Op for at least ¾ inch thick plywood that’s resistant to the weather.
Cut the plywood to the appropriate sizes for your frame and screw them in place with 2 inches deck screws (or stainless steel). Add a bead of construction adhesives along the frame posts for a stronger structure.
Before this step, it’s going to look pretty dull and ugly. This is the final step that completely transforms the look of your outside kitchen. Staple on lathe, mix some mortar and cover the entire structure with stones. You have a lot of choices to choose from, so a little research into your options will be needed. This is the final step that will determine if it’s eye-pleasing or not. You will really want to do your homework for this step.
Need a more visual help? Check out this video.
How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen with Cinder Blocks
Cinder blocks, also called concrete blocks, is another option you can consider. Contrary to what some may assume, they are actually pretty easy to work with. It’s almost like work with lego blocks (except you have to glue them together with mortar).
Using concrete blocks also make a much more durable frame. In fact, the structure is so much stronger, that it is the perfect choice for those wishing to use heavy, poured concrete countertops. There is also no rusting problems at all, so you never have to worry about that.
It does have it’s drawbacks though. The most significant drawback to using cinder blocks is you’re a little more limited in design. Due to the size and shape of the blocks, it’s difficult to get round, smooth curves; you’re limited to 90 degrees angles. Changing the build halfway through is also tricky and often not worthwhile. You’ll really want to make sure the plan is correct before proceeding. Only mix as much mortar as you can use or you’ll end up wasting them. There is no taking a break for a few hours when you’re in the middle of laying down those blocks—unless you want to waste mortar.
One beautiful thing about cinder blocks is there is no need for sheathing. Once you’re done laying the cinder blocks, and the mortar has dried, you can jump straight to the finish touches with veneering. This step is the same as for when you’re building with wood (minus the lathe).
How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen with Metal Studs
Metal studs have become a more popular option recently—beating wood and cinder blocks. I can’t blame them because they’re so much lighter compared to cinder blocks. They’re also very easy to work with because you can just cut them to size using tin snips. There is no need for messy mortar to put the studs together. You join two studs together with screws and a drill/driver.
Steel studs are also thinner, so you have more room for storage and accessories. There is also a lot more flexibility in terms of design. Best of all, mistakes are easy to undo because all it takes to simple removal of a few screws.
Building the frame is easy. Measure your studs to the right lengths and cut them to size with tin snips. Use a drill to pre-drill the holes for the screws. Then use a driver to drive the screws through the metal studs to hold them together.
Just like with a wood frame, you will have to cover the structure. The difference is you don’t use wood. In truth, no rule says you can’t use plywood for this step. However, if you were going to opt for wood, you would’ve used wood for the whole thing.
The preferred material for covering metal stud frames are cement backer boards. Just cut them to size and screw them in place.
Again, this step is the same as with cinder blocks and wood. No mortar your chosen stones straight to the concrete backer boards (no lathe needed).
That about does it. Now you know more about how to build an outdoor kitchen and where to start. Don’t worry, it’s gong to be completely worth it. You will love it.