Chapter 4 — Outdoor Kitchen Guide
Kitchen placement? Check. Kitchen zones? Check. Outdoor kitchen appliances? Double check. By now, you should be just about ready (or finished!) with your outdoor kitchen design plans. The only thing left to do is the fun part of designing your entertainment area—choosing the materials!
Over the last few chapters in our Outdoor Kitchen Guide series, we’ve walked through several elements and steps that it takes to create an outdoor kitchen. If you’ve been following along, all of the major aspects of your open air kitchen should be just about complete. The final stages of the design process are typically the most enjoyable, but it’s easy to forget that your outdoor kitchen is not the same as your indoor one. That’s why, in this chapter, we’re reviewing a few common materials and whether or not they’re appropriate for your new outdoor entertaining areas.
When you create an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to remember that all of your design materials are going to be exposed to the elements. With that said, you’ll want to avoid porous stone materials like marble or limestone since they will stain much more easily. You’ll also want to stay away from certain manufactured countertop materials like quartz or Corian. Talk to the manufacturer first, but most of the time these countertop materials will begin fading when exposed to UV rays.
At the end of the day, you’ll want your outdoor kitchen countertops to be durable and easy to maintain. That’s why we recommend the following:
- Granite: Easy to clean, heat-resistant, and offering a modern look, granite countertops are a favorite among most homeowners. This style countertop will hold up well in your outdoor kitchen while making it look as luxurious as the one you have indoors. On the downside, this is probably one of the most expensive options, so if you’re looking to save money, you may want try something else. We also recommend avoiding darker colors since they will absorb heat and can become very hot to the touch.
Cabinets are one of the most important design choices you’re going to have to make when you create an outdoor kitchen. Not just for aesthetics, but because you likely won’t be able to use the same materials that you use on indoor cabinets. Indoor cabinets are typically made with pressboard or plywood, which means they can’t be used outside where they’ll absorb water and get destroyed.
But don’t worry—finding cabinet materials that withstand the elements and still look good is not that difficult. These are the three most popular choices:
- Stainless Steel: If you love your stainless steel appliances, why not apply this material to your outdoor cabinets as well? Match your countertops to your grill for a seamless and clean design aesthetic! While it’s a bit more expensive than other types, it’s durable, won’t rust, and will definitely stand up against the elements. It can also get hot in the sun, but if your open air kitchen has a slight overhang or covering, you can easily avoid this problem.
- Wood: Speaking of overhangs or coverings, wooden cabinets can be great if they’re properly covered or treated properly. Wood is a classic look and can really tie together the design aesthetics of your home. We suggest asking your contractor about the types of wood to use (typically higher grade lumber), since it will need to withstand weathering, various temperature extremes, and UV exposure.
- Polymer: Another great (and popular) choice for outdoor cabinets is marine-grade polymer. Polymer is a plastic-like material that was designed with the elements in mind. Rain, sun, or snow, polymer is completely waterproof and can be hosed down for a quick clean. Most outdoor kitchens use this material since it’s so easy to work with.
If your outdoor kitchen is being built on a pre-existing patio or porch, flooring may not be a topic you’re all too concerned with. You’ll of course want to check with a contractor to make sure the patio is up to safety standards, but otherwise you may not need to change anything. But if you’re already making other changes, you may still want to consider upgrading your flooring, as well.
Whether it’s for aesthetic purposes or because you need to, outdoor flooring can be a beautiful asset that really sets off your open air kitchen from the rest. So if you’re ready to make the leap, here are a few of our favorite choices:
- Concrete: This option should be a no brainer by now. The durability of concrete is great for your outdoor space, and the best part is that it can be stamped and colored for a wide range of looks. Since concrete is poured, you’re also not limited by space or the shape of your kitchen. While they’re a little pricier, you can also consider concrete pavers if you’re looking to add an interesting dynamic and shape to your flooring.
- Wood Composite: You’ve likely seen wood composite on a lot of outdoor decks already, but there’s a reason for that. You get the look and warmth of real wood, but without any of the maintenance hassle. At first the cost may not seem worth it, but over the years, wood composite flooring will still look brand new. Also, the fire resistance of composite is great for any cooking accidents you may have. The only drawback is that it will retain more heat under direct sunlight, so it may not be the best option for bare feet.
- Tile: Similar to your countertops, tile flooring can be another great versatile and cost effective option for your flooring. It can transform any space to look upscale and requires very little maintenance. While it’s okay at standing up to most of the elements, it is not always the best option for extreme cold since it can become easily damaged. Also, if you have pets or little ones, it can be a bit dangerous if it gets wet because it becomes very slippery.
Creating your outdoor kitchen should be a fun process, but we understand if all of the options become too overwhelming. That’s where we come in. At LanChester Grill & Hearth, we help you design and decide on elements of your kitchen every step of the way. We’re the experts, so don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have about what materials will work best for you.