DIY Outdoor Kitchen Design for the Leisure-Minded

Written by Larry Waters

It’s not a trend but a lifestyle. Outdoor kitchens take grilling to the next level, add space to entertain, and keep the extra heat from the kitchen outside in the summer, with space to enjoy meals fresh off the grill? An outdoor kitchen is a great project for DIYers and it's good for your home's value too. Are you convinced? Here's how to get started building your DIY outdoor kitchen.

1. Leisure isn’t lazy

Our work culture is changing, but we continue to work too much. While the number of self-employed has been rising, suggesting that folks want to be their own boss, but the reality is less rosy. People can be pretty hard on themselves when they’re employee number one, and the entrepreneurial drive can make it so they forget how important it is to step away and to take time off, even if just for an afternoon. The time put in building your outdoor kitchen or tackling some lawn and garden work will pay off in leisure down the road.

2. Get style inspiration

What’s your outdoor cooking style? Before you start spending, explore outdoor kitchen designs like those featured on HGTV to settle on a look. Do you want a modern kitchen and cabana, an outdoor BBQ pit for the big game, or an elegant entertaining space? You can also spruce up your outdoor kitchen using decorative tea towels that reflect your personal style.

3. Set your budget

Your home improvement budget reflects more than your wallet. Your budget should also reflect your home's value and neighborhood. This is especially important if a return on investment is a consideration for your remodel (and it should be). Natural stone tile is a budget-friendly option (click to see TileTrader's best-quality natural stone products) that can blend in with any style. Tiles are durable and aesthetically understated, allowing your accents to snap. Tile is great because it can go anywhere and be made into nearly any design, like LEGOs for grownups.

Renovating in line with your home's value ensures your investment pays off in increased value. If remodeling with an eye on ROI, homeowners should also take before and after photos and keep receipts to substantiate the boost to their home's appraisal value.

4. Choose an outdoor kitchen configuration

Outdoor kitchens come in many forms. Should you choose a linear island to save space, a galley kitchen for workflow efficiency, or a u-shaped design for an intimate outdoor setting? Consider how much space you have available, your entertaining style, and your budget when choosing a configuration.

No matter which kitchen configuration you settle on, BBQGuys suggests planning four distinct zones:

  • Prep zone.
  • Cooking zone.
  • Plate-and-serve zone.
  • Entertainment zone. 

Establishing zones improves your outdoor kitchen workflow and creates separation between “work” areas and “play” areas. 

5. Account for utilities

Utilities are an important consideration when planning your outdoor kitchen configuration. Extending utilities is one of the biggest costs of building an outdoor kitchen. While it’s possible to go budget-friendly with propane cooking and no running water, homeowners installing a full outdoor kitchen should consider the cost of running water, gas, and electricity to their chosen location.

6. Plan ahead for inclement weather

Don’t let a little drizzle derail your outdoor dining plans. LandscapingNetwork.com explains that a covered outdoor kitchen protects diners from sun and rain so you can use your outdoor kitchen in all weather. A roofed structure also provides space to install overhead lighting, ceiling fans, and other creature comforts. 

There’s no reason to limit outdoor kitchens to summer use. Extend your entertainment to the shoulder season with a fire pit or patio heaters. A backyard fire pit isn’t just cozy. It’s also the ideal space to gather with family and friends.

7. Consider fire safety

There’s one final consideration for building your outdoor kitchen (and it’s a big one): fire safety. While integrating indoor and outdoor kitchens is great for entertaining, cooking appliances shouldn't be too close to the house. Place grills at least 10 feet from homes, garages, and other structures for safety. It’s also a good idea to invest in an outdoor range hood to capture cooking exhaust.

Hard work is important. Leisure time is just important, by turns. An outdoor kitchen ranks high on the at-home leisure list. Outdoor kitchen and dining spaces expand a home’s square footage and make eating in (outside) feel like a five-star experience.