Planning an Outdoor Kitchen | HomeTips
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Planning an Outdoor Kitchen

Expert advice on how to build an outdoor kitchen or barbecue, with information on planning, locating, construction, connecting water and power, and local codes.

Ah, the aroma of a sizzling London broil wafting from your neighbor’s barbecue. You sneak a peek over the fence, expecting to see Herb huddled over his old charcoal kettle.

But then you see it and, once you do, your life can never be the same again. Herb has a new outdoor kitchen.

This isn’t just a barbecue. It’s a cooking center, tweaked out with a gleaming grill, refrigerator, and stainless-steel cabinets to die for. It’s solid and proud: a tribute to masonry construction. And you’ve got to have one just like it.

Jealousy will get you nowhere. But a plan, a masonry contractor, and a few thousand dollars might.

Be aware that an outdoor kitchen with a built-in barbecue is a serious endeavor. Hopefully, it’s going to be part of your yard for a long, long time.

It’s important to plan and build it with quality to ensure that it will last and serve you well. Here are a few key tips:

Location, location, location

Place your barbecue and entertaining area near the house–particularly the kitchen. Ideally, an outdoor kitchen should be sited where it has a minimum exposure to the elements and protection from the wind.

Because it is designed for entertaining, an existing patio is often an ideal site, but beware of flammable materials overhead, including trees, trellises, and patio roofs.

Allow for utilities

A sink will require a water supply and a drain. Electricity is needed for an outdoor refrigerator, a rotisserie, and lighting. Consider how and where these utilities will be routed from the house to the outdoor kitchen.

Design for comfort. An outdoor kitchen is like an indoor kitchen and should be designed with many of the same considerations. The countertop should be from 32 to 36 inches high and at least 24 inches deep.

Use sound construction

A large, heavy masonry barbecue will require a concrete pad–typically a steel-reinforced, 4-inch-thick slab poured over a 4- to 6-inch-deep bed of gravel.

Many have a perimeter footing that’s twice as wide as the barbecue’s walls and 16 to 18 inches deep (6 inches below frost line). Be sure you install any rough plumbing or wiring conduit before you pour the slab.

Build according to code

Before finalizing your design, check zoning requirements to make sure your outdoor kitchen will be a legal distance from property lines.

Though you may not need a building permit for the outdoor kitchen’s construction, you probably will need permits for any electrical or plumbing work. And, in most cases, a gas grill insert must be framed by non-flammable material.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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