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on December 21, 2015 Kitchen Exterior

Outdoor Kitchen Checklist: 18 Tasks to Tackle In the Design Phase

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There is no better way to enjoy the Southern California lifestyle than setting up your own outdoor kitchen.


Here are 18 tasks that you (along with a professional designer) will need to tackle in order to make your Outdoor Kitchen Dream a reality:

Task #1: Review Building and Fire Safety Codes.

Before you begin, become knowledgeable about your local building and fire safety codes, and be aware of any restrictions regarding the size and location of the kitchen.

Task #2: Assess Water Lines.

If you want an outdoor sink, be prepared to spend extra money to extend water and waste lines from the house. If the outdoor kitchen is positioned near the indoor kitchen, as sink or other appliance requiring plumbing might not be necessary. An alternative to a fully plumbed sink is a portable unit hooked to a garden house.

Task #3: Don’t count out prefab as an option.

If you can’t afford a custom out-door kitchen or don’t have the time or desire to build one or work with a designer, a prefab grill island could be an option. Prices begin at about $1,000 for a basic grill counter setup and got to $30,000 or more for kitchen/bar/entertainment units that can include everything from a cooking center to a flat-screen television.

Task #4: Determine counter height.

How high should your counters be? A comfortable standing height for working the grill is thirty-six inches, and bar-height seating should be at forty-two to forty-six inches.

Task #5: Figure out placement.

When deciding where to put your outdoor kitchen, keep in mind it’s no fun for the cook to be isolated from everyone else. To solve this, face the kitchen toward the rest of the yard, or build a seating/dining counter into the kitchen station so that people can sit and talk to the chef.

Task #6: Evaluate the aesthetic element.

Aesthetics are important when it comes to the design of an outdoor kitchen. How will it appear from inside the house? It should be eye pleasing as well as functional.

Task #7: Line up the layout.

The scope of your outdoor kitchen will depend on the yard, budget and lifestyle, but make sure its layout is as efficient and comfortable as possible. A basic single galley island with a built-in grill can be turned into a double galley by placing another counter opposite, in a parallel configuration. An L-shaped kitchen provides connected counters for cooking and eating, and a U-shaped layout adds even more counter space, making it possible to install special appliances and reserve one counter for seating and dining.

Task #8: Give the grill adequate attention.

A basic grill is a necessity, but additional features can make cooking outdoors even more fun and efficient. For example, rotisseries can be prepped and started before guests arrive so that the food can cook largely unattended while the chef socializes. Side burners are useful for heating sauces, sautéing vegetables, quickly cooking fish and boiling water.

Task #9: Think about adding a trellis.

A trellis can provide excellent sun protection, but its function doesn’t stop there. It can also serve as the framework for light fixtures and stereo speakers.

Task #10: Know your kitchen zone.

Whether you opt for a freestanding or attached outdoor kitchen will depend on your yard and how you plan to use the kitchen. If you desire a “destination” within the yard, or a separate entertainment space, a freestanding structure might be your best option, budge permitting. If you want to keep the outdoor kitchen close to the house, you can place it against an exterior wall or a few steps from the building.

Task #11: Make it easy.

Pay attention to things that might seem obvious but if ignored can turn outdoor cooking into a chore. For example, how far will you have to reach or walk to set down a plate of hot food? You don’t want to have to traipse all over the place searching for a free counter, so make sure your design incorporates ample counter space right next to the grill.

Task #12: Consider the logic of counters.

Counters come in a variety of materials. Non-porous granite is heat and weather-resistant but can be costly. Nonetheless, its longevity might make it worth the expense in the long-term. Weather-resistant concrete counters have the advantage of being grout-free and can be tinted to meet you color palette.

Stainless steel also works well in outdoor settings and is particularly good for damp coastal environments. In general, avoid wood counters for outdoor use because overt time they will deteriorate under exposure to the sun and wet or cold weather.

Task #13: Power up.

Designers caution that many people underestimate how many electrical outlets they need for their outdoor kitchens. Keep in mind that in addition to outlets for powering a gas grill, rotisserie or side burner, you might need extra outlets for a refrigerator, blender, food processor, coffee maker etc.

Task #14: Keep it clean.

Plan for no-fuss clean up when selecting counters. In general, the smoother the surface, the easier it will be to clean. Grout lines can trap food particles and stain if not finished and seal properly. One popular counter option is smooth cast concrete, which can be sealed to prevent staining and cleans up with a simple swipe of a sponge.

Task #15: Let the light shine.

Fiber optic cables are a savvy choice for outdoor lighting because they can withstand all kinds of weather without breaking down. And, they can be programmed to create impressive light shows right in your backyard. A nice fiber optic setup will cost around $2,000 to $3,000. Another benefit: fiber optic systems are inexpensive to run.

Task #16: Ensure safety.

Extra safety precautions must be taken into account if you cover your kitchen with a wood trellis or other potentially flammable shelter. Make sure the covering is high enough to avoid becoming a fire hazard. If you have a gas grill, position the trellis fifty-four to sixty inches above it and, if you are using a charcoal or wood grill, plan for at least sixty inches of clearance.

Task #17: Maximize sun protection.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, where summer temperatures are known to soar, consider covering your kitchen with a trellis. You can train vines to grow up and over the trellis, which will provide even more shade (an added bonus is that plants help to cool specs through their natural process of transpiration). Avoid solid coverings, as this will trap heat. Ceiling fans can also help circulate air through a covered kitchen.

Task #18: Hire a pro.

Although some outdoor kitchens resemble their indoor counterparts in terms of layout and appliances, outdoor kitchens have their own particular requirements --weather, which materials will last over time, how to set up plumbing lines and electricity, and how the kitchen fits in with the rest of the yard. When it comes to these kinds of details, the safest bet is to consult a design professional or architect.