Building an Outdoor Kitchen? Here Are 3 Things to Consider

When it comes to entertaining guests or gathering your family together, nothing feels cozier than nestling around an outdoor kitchen. And, by building one on your own, you can not only make that dream come true but also save a boatload of money.

If you’re researching DIY outdoor kitchen spaces, here are the three ‘F’s’ for you to consider: Frame, finish and fuel.

Start With the Frame

When building a DIY outdoor kitchen, you’ll start with the frame. Before determining the type of structure you want to build, consider the durability of the materials, what level of difficulty the material is to work with, the tools you’ll need for proper assembly, and the overall cost for a frame.  

Here are three different options for frames, and the benefits and drawbacks of each of them.

Wood Frame

Wood Frame for DIY Outdoor Kitchen
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Benefits of Using a Wood Frame

Wood is the most cost-effective framing option (at least initially, more on this later). Pressure-treated pine is the most common option for outdoor kitchens. This option ranges in price from $3-$10 per square foot, depending on the quality and your geographic location.

Wood is also easy to work with, which means a frame can be assembled by someone with little to no building experience. Lastly, it’s simple to add backing to a wood frame, allowing you to add accent designs and finishes, like stone, tile or granite to get the final look you want.

Disadvantages of Using a Wood Frame

Keep in mind, wood is meant to burn. That means, if you use wood for your DIY outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to add fire resistant coating and an insulated jacket to decrease the risk of fire. Though wood is inexpensive upfront, the upkeep can become costly. Wood is more susceptible to damage. To start, bugs and insects can eat away at the wood. Mother Nature can be rough on wood, too. Without the proper coating, wood can rot, making for a less stable outdoor kitchen over the years.

Brick Frame

Brick Frame DIY Outdoor Caption
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Benefits of Using a Brick Frame

Brick is a classic look, made from durable material, and is one of the most popular styles for an outdoor kitchen. Because brick is a timeless style, you don’t need to add materials to make the outer-facing wall more attractive, the framing can blend nicely into the beautiful exterior. Unlike wood, brick is weather and fire resistant, making it a safer long-term investment.

Disadvantages of Using a Brick Frame

Because it’s quality material, you can expect to pay more for brick than wood (ranging between $1-7 per square foot). To assemble a brick frame, you’ll also need more tools than if you worked with wood. For example, a trowel and level will be required to build your kitchen. As you might guess, brick and cinder blocks are more complicated to work with than wood, which means you’ll need some experience to assemble a frame with these materials.

Steel Frame

Steel Frame DIY Outdoor Kitchen
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Benefits of Using a Steel Frame

Steel is one of the most durable materials you can use for a DIY outdoor kitchen as it can hold up against a wide range of weather elements. Because steel is an incredibly sturdy material, you can do more with less. In other words, when designed correctly, a steel frame can provide the support you need with a minimal amount of material for the frame.  Steel ranges from $67 – $95 per square foot, which seems expensive, but because you can use less of it to build, it can be a cost-effective method for building, especially compared to brick.

Additionally, steel is renewable and recyclable, making it an eco-friendly material.

Disadvantages of Using a Steel Frame

Unfortunately, working with steel is not for beginners. Of all the materials listed above, steel is the most difficult to work with. To assemble, you’ll need to rivet and bolt the material to a concrete slab, which requires both expertise and specialized tools. Finally, if you live in a humid area, steel can get very moist and will eventually corrode, so you’ll also need to add special coatings of anti-corrosives during construction.

Materials for a Beautiful Finish

After completing your frame, it’s time to select finishes. If you use a wooden frame, it’s wise to add water-and-mold-resistant concrete boards to the frame to support the structure and also provides you a foundation to add decorative panels like stucco, tile, and stone.

But, regardless of your frame, here are some of the most popular finishes for well-designed DIY outdoor kitchens.

Granite Finish

Granite Finish DIY Outdoor Kitchen
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Granite is an excellent option for a sleek contemporary finish and goes well with wood. However, it’s important to note that granite is more prone to staining than the other finishing options listed below.

Price Range: $45 – $200 per square foot

Stainless Steel Finish

Stainless Steel Finishes DIY Outdoor Kitchen
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Stainless steel is known for its durability, which means your outdoor kitchen will last a long time. And, stainless steel is easy to clean and maintain.

Price Range: $67 – $95 per square foot

Stucco Finish

Stucco Finish Outdoor DIY Kitchen
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Stucco is a great option for a finish because it’s inexpensive, naturally resistant to fire, and is a durable material that requires little maintenance. However, if you live in a particularly wet climate, moisture can be a problem for stucco.

Price Range: $6 – $9 per square foot

Stone Finish

Stone Finish DIY Outdoor Kitchen
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Stone looks great on an outdoor kitchen because it easily blends into the natural elements surrounding your home. However, stone can be challenging to work with, so if you want a stone finish in your outdoor kitchen, it might be best to work with a professional. While real stone veneers can be pricey, manufactured stone is a great alternative as it looks the same, but can be purchased at a fraction of the cost.

Price Range: $12-$ 17 per square foot

Tile Finish

Tile Finish DIY Outdoor Kitchen
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Tile is a nice choice for crafty DIYers who want a wide variety of colors and style to play with. However, tiles are fragile, so you might think twice about adorning your outdoor kitchen with this material if you live in an area will extreme climate switches.

Price Range: $2-$7 per square foot

Concrete Finish

Concrete Finish DIY Outdoor Kitchen
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Concrete is a great way to add a modern finish to your outdoor kitchen. It’s cost-effective and visually appealing but will require a bit of extra maintenance. Concrete should be sealed and resealed annually to prevent cracking.

Price Range: $1-$2 per square foot

Add Fuel to Your Outdoor Kitchen

Once your frame has been built, and finishes have been added, you’ll need to add fuel to your outdoor kitchen. The most comprehensive fueling options for outdoor kitchens are natural gas and propane.

Though both fuels are eco-friendly, propane has a few benefits you should consider:

  • Propane is regarded as the more cost-effective fuel, as it is more than twice the energy of natural gas. (One cubic foot of propane equals 2,516 BTUs, while one cubic foot of natural gas equals 1,030 BTUs.)
  • Converting your home to natural gas is an expensive process. Rates can rise as high as $10,000 for homeowners who need a complete conversion.
  • If you already have an above or below ground propane tank, it’s easy to have your gas line extended to provide a fuel source for all of your appliance needs.

Not to mention, die-hard grillers know that a propane grill makes for a better taste to your food as well.

Putting Your Research to Action

Are you ready to start building? Here are some great resources we’ve found to help you get started:

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