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Avoid these 3 outdoor kitchen design mistakes!

February 16, 2016 Dave Marciniak 0 Comments

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Outdoor kitchen design is a lot of fun, but it’s also easy to make some pretty serious mistakes along the way. No matter what your outdoor kitchen has to work well for you. Awkward angles, nowhere to set things down, all these can contribute to a huge problem that will keep you from loving your Virginia outdoor kitchen design – and we can’t have that, can we? Here are some pitfalls you can avoid pretty easily.

Avoid these 3

Outdoor kitchen design mistake #1: designing the size and shape of the space before figuring out the function part

I just spent a good deal of back and forth helping a homeowner on Houzz with her outdoor kitchen design. From what I could gather, the builder created a space on her patio for an outdoor kitchen, but there was a problem. Rather than basing the size on a set of criteria and a kitchen design, the builder created a rather arbitrary space. It was a roughly 40” x 72” rectangle, which wouldn’t be too bad, except it’s surrounded on three sides by walls. Yikes.

And of course the homeowner had a huge wishlist, because outdoor kitchens are awesome and we always want everything cool. So in this space she wanted a 30” grill, a double side burner, a sink, and a pizza oven. There’s no way. There’s a really easy way to avoid this problem, if you follow these simple steps:

  1. write down the list of all the appliances, cabinets, and accessories you want to have in your kitchen
  2. note the width of each item
  3. next, consider the type of construction your outdoor kitchen will be. For example, a masonry kitchen generally needs a minimum of a 4” block between appliances to support the counter and the appliance (6 or 8” is better if you’re doing a stone veneer).
  4. add in the counter space you’ll want for different functions. I always shoot for at least 18” next to the grill for setting plates, tongs, basting brushes, etc. Do you want to prep outside as well? That’s at least a three foot section of counter.
  5. All it all up. That’s the length of your perfect kitchen.

Now, what usually happens is these numbers add up to something insane like 30 linear feet of kitchen. Some accessories can stack, some can’t. Do these first to shrink things. Still have a huge kitchen? Start prioritizing appliances and accessories until you can fit your space constraints. Or your budget constraints, which leads us to:

Outdoor kitchen design mistake #2: going in with unrealistic notions of cost

Let’s be frank: outdoor kitchens can get really expensive. Unless you’re doing all the work yourself it’s probably safe to say you’re not getting one built for under $7-8,000. Where do the costs come in? Let’s look at the components:

Outdoor Kitchen Haymarket VA

The structure: What is your outdoor kitchen built with? You can have your outdoor kitchen built with masonry block on a footer, it can be built from studs anchored to the patio and covered with concrete board, or you can even build your kitchen using stainless steel outdoor cabinets (we sell Danver cabinets, which are amazing). Installed, you’re looking at anywhere from $500 to $1500 per linear foot just for the structure of your outdoor kitchen. That can add up quickly!

Counters: What do you want to use for your worktops? Granite is the most common counter material, but we’ve also used concrete, flagstone, brick, tile, and composites for outdoor kitchen counters. Low end granite starts around $45-55 per square foot installed and can go up from there. Some flagstone counters can be significantly less, but keep in mind that flagstone is much more porous than granite and demands frequent sealing. Ever seen the grease stain from a burrito become a permanent part of a counter? I have.

Appliances: Once you’ve built your outdoor kitchen design, you need your cooking appliances. What do those cost? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • grills: a built-in grill typically starts at around $1,800 and goes up from there. My most popular 36” grill is right around the $3,000 mark.
  • side burners: single burners generally start around $400, double burners are closer to $500, and power burners are about a grand.
  • refrigeration: just shoving a fridge outside doesn’t make it an outdoor fridge. An entry level Fire Magic outdoor refrigerator with locking door is $699. A Summit 2-drawer fridge is north of $2,000.

Storage and accessories: If you’re not using Danver stainless steel cabinets for your outdoor kitchen design you’re going to need access doors, drawers, and cabinets. A single access door for your grill starts at around $160, a 3-drawer unit runs $800-900, and an outdoor trashcan is in the $500-900 range depending on features.


Can you go cheap on components? Sure, but keep in mind that everything you install has to stand up to summer and winter, sun and rain and snow, heat and cold. Built-in appliances and accessories should give you years of trouble-free use. If you’re on a budget, talk to your designer about how to phase in your purchases. It’s not always practical but it can be,

Outdoor kitchen design mistake #3: not planning the infrastructure

In this case, infrastructure means everything needed to run the outdoor kitchen: power, lighting, plumbing, gas, etc. Since most outdoor kitchens are built on a patio you don’t have easy options for adding utilities later. That means you need to think about three things:

  1. what utilities will I need now and in the future?
  2. where will these utilities enter my kitchen?
  3. where will these utilities go under the patio?

What utilities will I need for my outdoor kitchen?

You can run your grill and burners off a propane tank under the counter, which is the simplest choice. Obviously you’ll need to remember to check the fill level, and ideally keep an extra tank around so you don’t run out during a party. You can also run your grill off of natural gas or, if your home runs on propane, you can use the house supply for the outdoor kitchen. Either way you’ll need to provide conduit for the gas lines and have the installation approved by your city or county authority.

outdoor kitchen design elevation

Electricity is critical. I’ve never heard someone say “I have too many outlets.” You’ll want outlets in the wall or backsplash for blenders, charging phones, and more. You’ll also need dedicated outlets for the following items (which is easy to forget):

  • some grills (for the igniter)
  • electric warming drawers
  • electric induction side burners
  • refrigerators and ice makers
  • icemaker drain pumps (if needed)

When possible, I like to run a subpanel out to the new kitchen. By the time you account for everything above, then add in outdoor audio and video, you’ll need a lot of circuits,

Plumbing is a challenge with outdoor kitchen design and the viability of plumbing your kitchen depends on your municipality. In some cases you can run the lines from the house with no issues, but in other cases you’ll have to pay a large “tap fee” to put what is, in the eyes of the code office, a whole new residential kitchen into their system. So it’s not just important to work out the how and where of the plumbing, you need to make sure what you want to do is legal.

Where to place your utilities

This is where having a design is so important. If you have an accurate, scaled drawing of where your outdoor kitchen design will go, you can decide where the utilities will come up out of the ground. You have a little wiggle room when it comes to moving around gas, power, and water supply lines inside your outdoor kitchen, but you’ll want to be as close as possible for the drainpipe.

How to avoid outdoor kitchen design mistakes

The easiest way to avoid outdoor kitchen design mistakes is, of course, to call on a designer! That’s what I do. Whether you’re a homeowner or a landscape contractor, I can design your outdoor kitchen project to give you what you need. Contact me today to learn more!

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