How to Build a DIY Outdoor Kitchen: 3 Methods for Every Budget

Deane Biermeier
Written by Deane Biermeier
Updated September 5, 2022
Outdoor patio with grill and fireplace
Photo: Bmak / Adobe Stock

Too many cooks in the kitchen? Go outside

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Backyard cooking has been popular since the conception of, well, backyards. If you’re looking to expand past your BBQ, you should consider building an outdoor kitchen. Adding a kitchen to your outdoor entertainment space creates a fantastic al fresco cooking area for homeowners. You can hire a professional to construct one for you, but building your own DIY outdoor kitchen can save you a lot of money in labor costs. Read on to learn how to build an outdoor kitchen, as well as how much it will cost you, and the maintenance required.

What Is an Outdoor Kitchen? 

An outdoor kitchen is a dedicated outdoor space that provides a place to prepare meals and entertain family or guests. They can be as simple or elaborate as you like. The most simple designs incorporate a grill and storage compartments for utensils and kitchenware. More elaborate outdoor kitchens may include a cooktop other than the grill, refrigerator, wine cooler, sink, smoker, or even a pizza oven. The only limits are your imagination and budget. 

How Much Does It Cost to Build an Outdoor Kitchen?  

The average cost to build an outdoor kitchen is $13,600, but it can cost as low as $1,000 or as high as $40,000. The price variation depends on several factors, including the space size, the number and type of appliances, and customizations. For a vast, deluxe, outdoor kitchen with all the bells and whistles, some homeowners may pay as much as $100,000.

How to Prepare for an Outdoor Kitchen Installation 

Before starting your project, check with your municipality to determine the need for a building permit and obtain one if necessary. Your kitchen likely needs an electrical source. We recommend hiring a licensed local electrician for that part. Hiring a nearby plumber to run supply and drain connections and a gas line to your new space is not uncommon. 

Other plans for an outdoor kitchen include installing frost-depth footings for weighty kitchen components such as concrete block structures or a pergola to house the kitchen, and building or repairing a patio if that’s part of your plan. 

How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen

Following are three methods of installing DIY outdoor kitchens, including a ready-made kit that you can purchase and assemble in an afternoon, a partial kit that you can build in place and finish as you wish, and an option to create a custom outdoor kitchen from the ground up.

Build an Outdoor Kitchen From Scratch

This method is the most labor-intensive of the bunch. From planning to the finishing touches, you’re in charge of the design and the construction. Building an outdoor kitchen from scratch may take several weekends to complete, but after that, it’s all yours. 

Create a Plan

Starting with nothing requires extensive planning for a successful build. 

  1. Measure the area and create a detailed sketch of your plans. 

  2. Order custom countertops, or build your own.

  3. Pour footings if necessary for masonry structures or a pergola. 

  4. Build a patio or other floor space to accommodate the kitchen.

  5. Install rough-in electrical, plumbing, and gas lines. 

Build the Framework

Framing an outdoor kitchen requires wooden studs, a steel frame, or a masonry sub-structure. 

  1. Obtain the exact dimensions of your outdoor appliances and learn about any extra clearances they require.

  2. For wooden structures, build several sturdy, box-shaped cabinet structures to house the appliances and add box structures for cabinet and countertop space. You can use standard framing lumber, but we recommend using exterior-grade hardware and screws.

  3. Weld or bolt together metal framework similarly to wood if you choose. 

  4. Slightly elevate wooden or metal structures with exterior-grade metal feet. 

  5. You can also create the boxes with concrete blocks if you have some masonry experience. 

  6. Ensure that your framework is level and plumb before proceeding. 

Cover the Framework

Covering your cabinets will provide a solid surface for the finish material and keep water from damaging your frames. 

  1. Install plywood or cement board with appropriate screws on all surfaces that will be exposed when complete. 

  2. For plywood installations, wrap the cabinets in felt underlayment and nail metal lathe onto all surfaces. 

  3. Cover the metal lathe with a 1/2-inch thick mortar scratch coat and score it horizontally with a notched trowel. 

  4. For cement board installations, apply self-adhesive mesh tape to the joints between the panels and spread your scratch coat directly onto the substrate. 

  5. Allow the scratch coat to cure for at least 24 hours. 

Install Cladding

You can choose natural or engineered stone cladding, stucco, tile, or other weather-resistant material for your cladding. 

  1. For stone cladding, lay out all the contents of the product’s box to simplify choosing the next piece to install. 

  2. Start installing the stone cladding at the bottom corner. Work your way up and around evenly. Be sure to avoid installing any pieces that protrude into the plane of the countertops. 

  3. Refer to your appliance dimensions for creating any flanges or unique cutouts for them. 

Install the Work Surface 

Your countertop material can be any water-resistant material. Stone, tile, cement, and some composites are excellent choices.  

  1. Create cutouts for the sink, appliances, and accessories on the countertop. 

  2. Install the countertops following the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Install Appliances

Finally, install your appliances, grills, griddles, and pizza oven components. 

  1. Complete any remaining plumbing and electrical work.

  2. Install the appliances following the manufacturer’s specifications.

  3. Install the sink and drain plumbing.

  4. Hook up the appliances and the sink faucet to their respective mechanical lines. 

Install a Ready-to-Finish Outdoor Kitchen  

Even if you aren’t a fan of building your own framework substructures, you can still create a custom outdoor kitchen with a ready-to-finish kit. You’ll still need to get a permit and install the mechanicals and footings if necessary before you begin building the kitchen. 

Measure and Plan

A ready-to-finish outdoor kitchen still requires plenty of planning. 

  1. Carefully measure and plan your kitchen.

  2. Install rough-in electrical and plumbing.

  3. Purchase your outdoor kitchen cabinets and components.

Assemble the Frames

A ready-to-finish kit includes everything you’ll need to assemble the basic structure. You’ll be responsible for choosing finish materials, components, and appliances to your liking. 

  1. Follow the detailed instructions to assemble the cabinet frames.

  2. Create cutouts for appliances and storage areas in the cement board coverings.

  3. Attach the frames together and build support structures for appliances inside the cabinets where necessary.

  4. Use shims and adjustable feet to level the structure. 

Add Cladding, Countertops, and Appliances

Install the cladding, countertops, and appliances of your choosing in the same way as if it were a build-from-scratch outdoor kitchen. Hook them up, and you’re ready to go. 

Assemble a Pre-Finished Outdoor Kitchen Set

A pre-finished outdoor kitchen set comes with everything you need to assemble your kitchen and get cooking. Some of them even come with appliances and mechanical connections. 

Pre-finished sets allow very little flexibility, so take time to measure and plan your space carefully. There are only three simple steps to follow for these kits. 

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to assemble and level the structure.

  2. Install and hook up the appliances. 

  3. Enjoy your new outdoor kitchen. 

How to Maintain Your Outdoor Kitchen   

Maintenance requirements for your outdoor kitchen depend on your amenities and the weather in your area. Most importantly, keep your outdoor kitchen clean as you do for your indoor one. Here’s a quick checklist. 

  1. Clean the grill, griddle, smoker, and pizza oven after use.

  2. Disconnect or shut off and drain the ice maker if you won’t use it for several days.

  3. Wipe all exposed surfaces with soap and water. 

  4. Cover appliances and cabinets as often as practical.

  5. Winterize your outdoor kitchen if it’s necessary where you live.

DIY Your Outdoor Kitchen vs. Hiring a Pro

A DIY outdoor kitchen project can be as simple as assembling a few cabinets or as complex as an entire kitchen remodel. How much time and money you’d like to invest is entirely up to you. You can save an average of between $1,500 and $6,000—or 20% to 40% on the total cost—to build an outdoor kitchen if you DIY. Those savings are equivalent to the typical cost of hiring a local general contractor for this type of project.

If building your own outdoor kitchen isn’t appealing, or if you’re more inclined to display your cooking talent instead of your handiwork, a local outdoor kitchen builder or handyperson near you can handle everything from permits and prep work to completion. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

The least expensive way to build an outdoor kitchen is to start small and use an existing patio space as close to the house as possible. If you have access to appliances that you can reuse, or have the carpentry skills for DIY outdoor kitchen cabinets, that will save the most cash. Otherwise, start with a few basics and work towards your dream kitchen by adding a little each year.  

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