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Considerations for Planning and Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

Plates of food at an outdoor dinner party



One of the best parts of summer for many people is cooking and entertaining outside. That is why most people opt to incorporate a BBQ or portable grill into their outdoor living space. Many others take it to the next level with an outdoor kitchen!


If you are thinking of designing and building one too, then continue reading below! We dive into essential considerations to think about before building an outdoor kitchen.


What is an Outdoor Kitchen?

An outdoor kitchen is a permanent or semi-permanent space on your deck or patio that is fully or partially equipped with the same appliances and cooking utensils as indoor kitchens.


Outdoor kitchens go far beyond adding a portable grill to an area of your yard – they are a robust addition to your outdoor living, dining, and entertainment space that significantly elevates your home and extends your patio seasons!


The options for outdoor kitchens are truly unlimited, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. However, all outdoor kitchens require adequate planning based on your budget, climate, vision, “must-have” features, and the amount of space available to you. In addition, they are often a significant investment, so it is essential to do your research, work with a professional, and make choices that will ensure you can enjoy your outdoor renovation for decades to come!



Components of Outdoor Kitchens

While every outdoor kitchen is unique, there are some key components of every functional kitchen – regardless of whether it is indoors or not, including:

  • Cold zones that feature refrigeration and ice  
  • Hot zones with cooking appliances and grills
  • Wet zones with a sink and bartending accessories
  • Dry zones for meal preparation, counter space, and storage

Which zones you choose to incorporate are up to you! How large you make each zone is also a matter of personal preference.


Within each zone, you will generally need to account for utilities (water, gas, power, etc.), appliances, cupboards/drawers, countertops, and other finishes. Lighting, seating, heating, and shelter from the elements may also be important for you. We cover each of these considerations in greater detail in a separate blog post titled “Elements of an Outdoor Kitchen" if you are interested in a deeper dive.



Important Considerations for Planning Your Outdoor Kitchen

As you can see, planning an outdoor kitchen takes time, effort, money, and a lot of preparation!


That is why we recommend that you consider and implement the following steps in the outdoor kitchen planning process:

  1. Establish a budget
  2. Consider your climate
  3. Dream up your vision
  4. Plan your layout
  5. Work with a professional outdoor kitchen builder

Following these steps will help you successfully plan and design your ultimate outdoor kitchen on time and on budget!



Establish a Budget in Advance

Like for every home renovation, the costs of cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, and utility contractors for outdoor kitchens increase quickly!



Couple planning their outdoor kitchen budget


That is why we always recommend that you set a budget for your outdoor kitchen before you begin anything else. It is easy to get carried away dreaming about your ideal kitchen, especially with all of the upscale outdoor kitchen inspiration available online, so it is best to set a line item for each element to help keep everything in check. 


Therefore, set your budget in advance and make a commitment with your spouse to stick to it! Be sure to also factor in that most renovations have unexpected hiccups beyond your control that require additional time or money. It is always better to be prepared and have extra funds left in the budget once the project is complete than to feel like you need to sacrifice other things along the way that were important features of the renovation to you.



Consider Your Climate

Outdoor kitchens are an investment in your property, and one of the fastest ways to ruin them is to fail to consider your climate during your planning phase.


Canadian weather is harsh, particularly in the spring and winter, when we experience heavy rains, high humidity, negative temperatures, heavy snowfall, and relentless winds!


In the summer, you must also consider your outdoor kitchen’s exposure to the sun, as intense UV light can do just as much damage as other aggressive weather conditions. Special consideration is also required if you live in a coastal area with high exposure to salt.


Luckily, outdoor kitchens can last for decades when you choose the appropriate building materials for your climate. You can also help extend the life of your outdoor kitchen by constructing it in a sheltered space. Having a roof or even just a wall to break the wind also helps extend your patio season, particularly if you choose to add a heat source like a fire feature or propane heater.



Best Building Materials for Outdoor Kitchens 

The best building materials for outdoor kitchens are weather-resistant, durable, and easy to clean.



Outdoor kitchen with stainless steel appliances, tile flooring, granite countertops


For countertops, opt for granite or stainless steel. For flooring, choose natural stone tiles or hardy deck planks in composite materials, wood, or stone. For cabinets, use stainless steel, marine-grade aluminum with powder coating, or PVC/resin options for maximum longevity.



Dream Up Your Vision

Now that we have covered the less fun (but extremely important) topics like budgets and the weather, we can talk about the fun part – dreaming up your vision!


In this stage, you get to explore and see which styles of outdoor kitchens best suit your personal style.


You will likely find all the inspiration you need by searching Pinterest boards and reading up on trends. As you go along, Pin or save photos of outdoor kitchens that appeal to you most. These images will come in handy when you are ready to work with an outdoor kitchen contractor near you.



Search results on Pinterest for outdoor kitchen inspiration


During the exploration phase, we also recommend that you make a list of all your “wish list” features for your outdoor kitchen – just don’t get too overly attached to every one of them! The dreaming stage is about thinking about possibilities and getting an idea of your vision, which is different than planning based on the space and budget you will be working with.



Plan a Layout That Suits Your Space

Once you know which styles you prefer and know how you would like everything to come together, you can begin evaluating your outdoor space and creating a layout.


This stage is where some of your wish list items may need to be prioritized, but it is still an exciting part of any outdoor kitchen build!


First, measure out your space and take note of the dimensions. This information is critical for planning out your four zones, which you may recall include cold, hot, wet, and dry. If you need help figuring out where to start, research common kitchen layouts that maximize functionality. Luckily, many indoor kitchen layouts can work well outdoors as well!


Before finalizing your layout, be sure to think about your needs and how you will use the space available to you. For example, if you realistically will not use a sink outdoors, then do not factor one into your plan. The same goes for refrigeration, storage, and countertop space – only build what you actually need so you can invest your budget where it will make the most impact for you. Lastly, don’t forget to consider utilities such as water, power, and gas too!



Work With a Professional Outdoor Kitchen Builder

After you have established your budget, thought about which outdoor kitchen styles you like, and mapped out how much space you can allocate on your deck or patio, we recommend getting in touch with a contractor near you who designs and builds outdoor kitchens.


Building an outdoor kitchen is a big project with many moving parts, so we always recommend consulting an expert. From acquiring building permits to hiring reliable and licenced electricians and plumbers to sourcing materials and starting construction, adding a fully-equipped and sheltered outdoor kitchen takes a lot of knowledge and skill. So, when in doubt, look into hiring it out!




In conclusion, outdoor kitchens effectively elevate your outdoor living space while increasing property value and extending your patio season.


The options for layouts, features, and finishes are truly unlimited. However, what will work best for you will depend on your budget, climate, vision/preferences, and the space available on your deck or patio.


Remember: always set your budget in advance and be mindful of choosing outdoor kitchen materials that will stand the test of time when exposed to the elements in Canada. Skip any outdoor kitchen features or fixtures you won't use much. Lastly, always work with a professional contractor to ensure you have a functional and well-constructed outdoor kitchen that you can enjoy for decades to come.



Design Your Dream Outdoor Kitchen with Decks by Premier

Are you ready to start designing or building the outdoor kitchen of your dreams? Then consider giving us a call at Decks by Premier!


We have a team of expert designers and construction professionals ready to help you explore the unlimited options available for outdoor kitchens


Decks by Premier has been proudly serving Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, and surrounding communities for over 90 years and counting. We would love to show you firsthand why our reputation in our community is unmatched!   


Reach out to us today to discuss your outdoor kitchen goals and request a no-obligation on-site consultation.   



Paul Hickman at 9:00 AM
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