11 Tips for a Dream DIY Outdoor Kitchen

Julissa Arangure
Written by Julissa Arangure
Updated December 18, 2021
Outdoor patio with grill and fireplace
Photo: Bmak / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • The cost of an outdoor kitchen ranges from $5,500–$22,200

  • Professionals are needed for electric and plumbing finishes

  • Ventilation is often overlooked but one of the most important parts of a kitchen

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Difficulty: 5/5—This one takes some serious know-how.

Time: 4–5 days

Tools and Materials Needed: 

  • Measuring tape

  • Drill

  • Power drill

  • Hammer

  • Bar clamps

  • Masonry hoe

  • Circular saw

  • Tin snips

  • Miter saw

  • Notched trowel

  • Pointing trowel

  • Finishing trowel

  • Drywall hawk

  • Mortar tub

  • Staple gun

If you are blessed with a backyard and beautiful weather year-round, an outdoor kitchen is a great way to relax and unwind while enjoying a meal with your loved ones. Because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all project, you’ll need to do proper research before you start to build your DIY outdoor kitchen. 

Prefabricated kitchen kits and modular frames have made it easy for you to save money on contractors but there are certain things, like electrical and plumbing, that a professional will have to complete.

1. Plan It Out

Outdoor kitchen with a stainless gas grill
Photo: Eirasophie/ E+ / Getty Images

Before you do anything, there are many things to consider when planning your DIY outdoor kitchen. 

An outdoor kitchen will cost around $5,500 to $22,200, so carefully consider the following questions before investing in this project:

  • What style of kitchen do I want?

  • What is my budget?

  • How much available space do I have? 

  • Do I want a stove or a grill?

  • How much will I use this kitchen?

Once you have an idea of what you want, you’ll get a better understanding of how big the project will be.

2. Decide on a Location

Outdoor kitchens vary in size and while the space you have available is a factor in deciding where your kitchen will go, there are other things to note. For example, an outdoor kitchen is best when it is close to the home so that you can carry items back and forth with ease. 

You’ll also want to consider less windy spots because of the smoke coming from the grill. Another thing to keep in mind is access to gas and electricity since those are important for a functioning kitchen. 

3. Measure Your Space

Chef putting wine in a dish
Photo: Anchiy / E+ / Getty Images

No matter what size kitchen you decide on, you’ll want enough space for food prep, cooking, serving, entertaining, and cleanup. If you’ll be having people over often, give them enough room to sit and cook comfortably. 

To envision how much space you are working with, tape off the whole area to see if you’ll have enough room.

4. Come Up With a Layout 

Once you’ve decided on the right space, you’ll need to choose a layout. 

There are several general floor plans available but these are the three most common for your DIY outdoor kitchen: 

  • Straight line: This floor plan is ideal for a smaller outdoor space because it has all kitchen zones in one straight line, usually against a wall. These can be dressed up with the right cabinets and decor.

  • L shape: If you have a larger backyard, this design is perfect for entertaining as it allows the cook to prepare the meal on one side while interacting with guests on the other.

  • U shape: This layout is the perfect example of a kitchen working triangle, meaning the kitchen’s three main elements (grill, sink, and prep area) create a triangle. This layout allows for multiple people to cook at the same time and provides the most storage space.

You can choose any of these layouts or work with a contractor to fully customize your own, depending on the purpose of your kitchen.

5. Hire for Electrical and Plumbing Work 

To ensure proper installation and your safety, hire a local electrician and plumber to handle these complex tasks.  

Electrical appliance installation can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000, depending on location and types of gas lines you’ll need. A plumber will also need to install your sink and running water for cooking and cleaning.

6. Ensure Safe Ventilation 

Outdoor kitchens are perfect open-air entertainment opportunities, but without the proper ventilation and airflow, your gathering can quickly become dangerous. Not only can trapped gases cause explosions and injury, but without airflow, your appliances can get rusty and dirty. To avoid this, you’ll need to install vent panels every 4 to 6 feet for maximum coverage. 

7. Get Necessary Permits 

It’s always a must to check with your city to see if you’ll need any permits while building your outdoor kitchen. The construction itself will most likely not be an issue, however, any structural, plumbing, electrical, or ductwork changes will require one. 

8. Choose Your Material

Choosing the right materials for different areas of your DIY outdoor kitchen will depend on the style you’re going for, but you should also consider safety and convenience. 

When choosing your flooring, there are various popular surfaces to select from like pavers, brick, cement, stone, wood, and tile. 

Countertops should be decorative and functional so you’ll want to ask yourself:

  • Is it easy to clean?

  • Do I have to refinish?

  • Will high heat damage it?

Granite and bluestone are ideal for kitchen islands because of their durability, but stainless steel is the most affordable choice if fingerprints and scratches aren’t a problem for you.  

Kitchen cabinets can bring personality to your outdoor living space, especially when you choose bold and unique colors, but they should be able to withstand moisture, heat, and dirt. This means wood is not always the ideal option. 

Other finishes include high-density polyethylene (HDPE), stainless steel, masonry, and PVC.

9. Build Your Kitchen Frame

Your kitchen frame is the skeleton of your outdoor kitchen. It provides the essential structure for everything from your pizza oven to your grill. While it won’t be visible in the end result, what you choose to build with will make a huge difference in the long run. 

The easiest DIY kitchen frame is made out of pinewood. It requires the least amount of special tools and expertise, but it will need extra insulation to prevent rotting. Metal is more durable, however, it is much more expensive and more difficult to work with than wood so, if your skill level and budget are of concern, it may not be the best choice. Luckily, prefabricated frames are available in most hardware stores to save you time and money.

10. Buy Appliances 

When considering what appliances will be part of your DIY outdoor kitchen, look for basics that will accommodate your needs. Built-in grills come in many sizes depending on your space, and are perfect for small and large parties. 

While an outdoor refrigerator is not needed, it can really come in handy for food storage and easy access for cooking ingredients. If you really want to wow your guests, pizza ovens are an unexpected crowd-pleaser.

11. Choose Your Decor 

The best part about having an outdoor kitchen is enjoying your meal outside under the perfect summer breeze. An outdoor dining area can be anything from a beautiful, rustic farm table setup to a modern and vibrant stool and countertop combo. 

Choose comfortable water-resistant seating for you and your guests. For ambiance, add string lights and use nature to inspire your decor.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.