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How to plan an outdoor kitchen

Feel like it’s time to up your outdoor-entertaining game? Build an outdoor kitchen!
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Raymond Design Studio

Feel like revamping your current outdoor space and building an outdoor kitchen? An alfresco cooking area is one of the most desired features in a home nowadays. Building one is a surefire way to add real value to your property. More than that, it allows you to experience the alfresco lifestyle dream at home.

Let’s start!

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Oliveri

Budgeting

Come up with a decision on how much you plan to spend for this kind of project, budget the expenses, and stick to it. It is crucial to establish this from the onset, otherwise you are at risk of overspending and going over budget. 

Wise budgeting tips to remember:

  1. Always opt for higher quality materials and finishes. These cost a bit more but are more durable and will last longer, hence helping you save money down the road.
  2. Make sure that you have an itemised budget for everything you have spent on. List down the major and minor expenses. The little things you spent money on add up and take up a chunk of your budget too. 
  3. Prepare for extra expenses and surprise costs. 
  4. Include the fees of the design and construction professionals and the tradies whom you’ll work with in your budget and expenses tracker. 

Learn how to prepare a budget for kitchen projects here. 

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Project Floors and Design

Where to put your outdoor kitchen

Location is a key factor when planning your outdoor kitchen. In most cases, you need to rethink the layout of your entire backyard for this project. 

Plan the ideal flow of foot traffic in the backyard. Where is the best place for an outdoor cookout and a barbecue? Where is the best spot to entertain people? How do they move around the area? 

Identify the location of the water, gas, and power lines to your house. You want your outdoor kitchen near these for easy installation and to avoid hassle during construction. For this reason, many homeowners decide to connect their indoor and outdoor kitchen

If extending your indoor kitchen outdoors is not an option, connect your outdoor kitchen with your indoor lounge and dining area instead.

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: AC Stone Group

The ideal size of your outdoor kitchen

The ideal size of your kitchen depends on several factors, including: 

  • the available space in your backyard
  • how you plan to use the space
  • your budget, and 
  • the features you want to have here

Work with a skilled designer when planning the design of your outdoor kitchen. Together, you can come up with a design that fulfils all your requirements. 

No matter the size of your outdoor kitchen, make sure that you have enough space for food preparation, cooking, dining, entertaining, and cleaning up. Ideally, it must have four distinct zones: cold, hot, wet and dry ⸺ and these work zones must be easily accessible to one another to be functional. Make sure that there is enough space for people to move around. Your outdoor kitchen should be big enough, ergonomic, and functional.

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Danver

The ideal outdoor kitchen layout

Like designing indoor kitchens, you need to decide on the layout of your outdoor kitchen. 

Unlike indoor kitchens, your outdoor kitchen design isn't confined by walls. It is out in the open. So, opt for a layout that maximises the available space in your backyard.

Here are some popular outdoor kitchen layouts and an example for each one: 

One wall / linear / straight-run kitchens

  • these have a single long bench that houses all work zones and appliances
  • the best setup when you have a small space
  • many can access the kitchen because it is open
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: The Design School

Island kitchen

  • a layout perfect for socialisation; you can cook whilst entertaining
  • designed to be surrounded by guests
  • only a limited number of people can cook and prepare the food
Image credit: Lime Tree Alfresco

Galley kitchen

  • an efficient outdoor kitchen layout
  • accessible from both ends
  • one bench doubles as the bar, where one can eat and drink

L-shaped kitchen

  • the layout preferred by many homeowners
  • the work areas and appliances are spread out 
  • as open as a straight-run kitchen, but with extra bench space
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Lime Tree Alfresco

U-shaped kitchen

  • the layout that provides the most storage and bench space
  • an extremely efficient outdoor kitchen layout when designed and built right
  • a layout that separates the outdoor kitchen from the rest of the backyard entertainment areas
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Futral Construction

Opt for the layout that maximises the available space in your backyard, houses all the appliances you need, and gives you the storage that you'd like to have. Make sure the design of your outdoor kitchen relates to everything around it too. 

Integrate your outdoor kitchen design with your home’s architecture, landscaping, hardscaping, and adjacent areas 

The best outdoor kitchens relate with what's around it. It matches the house's architecture, blends in with the landscape design, and shares the aesthetics of the room next to it.

Duplication of the colour, style, materials, finishes, and design is the easiest way to do this. Be consistent with your colour palette and material selection. Using the same building material over and over again correctly creates a strong visual connection between spaces. 

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Imperial Kitchens

Another important element is the door that lets you access the space. It is highly recommended to use transparent glass doors. Choose between sliding, stacking, concertina, or bi-fold mechanisms ⸺ opt for the one that suits your space the best.

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Sublime Architectural Interiors

If your outdoor kitchen is next to a pool, use a frameless glass fence around the perimeter of the pool. Glass fences don’t obstruct your view and heighten the safety in your outdoor kitchen as well.  

outdoor kitchen
Image credit:

Of course, surround your outdoor kitchen with greenery. Your outdoor kitchen is a major part of your landscape design. It’s nice to see a lush garden when eating outside, and it’s a delightful background of the space too.

Material selection for your outdoor kitchen

The environment and the climate where your home is located are the major factors to consider when choosing the materials for your outdoor kitchen. The building materials you should choose must survive the challenges brought by the climate. 

For instance, homes in areas where the weather fluctuates drastically over the seasons should avoid using materials and surfaces that crack, bend, and warp easily. Hence, natural stone tiles and benchtop materials, PVCs, and non-stainless steel surfaces might not be the best choice for homes in areas with extreme weather conditions. Ask the product supplier of your choice for more durable alternatives. 

outdoor kitchen

Building outdoor kitchens for homes in beach areas and coastal regions is also a challenge. Sea air and saltwater wreak havoc on so many materials and surfaces. It’s best to use marine grade and corrosion resistant stainless steel to build your cabinets and work surfaces. Choose materials, fixtures, and fittings, with powder coat finishes because these have an extra layer of protection for durability.

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Danver

Plumbing, gas, and power for your alfresco kitchen

After choosing the layout of your alfresco kitchen, you need to plan the power, gas, and plumbing. Think ahead to save a lot of time and effort when it's time to lay pipes and run the cables. Refer to these guide questions: 

  • Where is the sink area?
  • What appliances need water supply and where are they located?
  • How many appliances here need power?
  • Where do you put an outlet?
  • Where do you put the light switches?
  • How do you light up your outdoor kitchen?
  • Where do you place the light fixtures? 
  • Where do you put the range?
  • What other appliances need fixed gas connections?

Answer all these questions and make sure your planning drawings reflect the same details.

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Raymond Design Studio

Amenities you’ll want to add to your outdoor kitchen

The best alfresco kitchens have appliances that allow you to do various cooking styles. Think of grills (electric, charcoal, infrared, gas, teppanyaki), pizza ovens, smokers, bar refrigerators, wine coolers, ice makers, etc. Having these pro appliances that you can use can help you host parties and entertain like a breeze. Ensure that you place these high-performance appliances in the right spot for maximum functionality.

Here are several stunning outdoor kitchen designs to inspire you, plus the amenities that make each one special.

outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Dean Herald-Rolling Stone Landscapes

Features we love about this outdoor kitchen design:

  • High-end BBQ area
  • Modern pizza oven 
  • Built-in bar fridge
  • Custom island with a cantilevered dining table
  • A balanced hardscape and landscape design
  • Covered outdoor area so all luxury features are protected from the elements
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: COS Design

Features we love about this outdoor kitchen: 

  • Luxurious polished granite benchtop material 
  • Durable Laminex cabinets 
  • Timber privacy screen
  • Electric louvre roof
  • Well-planned landscape
  • Neutral-coloured, textured granite pavers
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Bagnato Architecture & Interiors

Features we love in this outdoor kitchen:

  • Recycled timber cupboards
  • Non-slip limestone tiles shared by interior and exterior spaces
  • Petite dining area for eight people
  • Small but functional kitchenette
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: The Home Improvements Group, Inc.

What we like about this outdoor kitchen design: 

  • Stainless steel cabinets that suits the colour scheme of the space
  • Pass-through window right in front of the dining space
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Levell Design

Features we love in this outdoor kitchen space: 

  • Retrofitted with the existing house
  • Maximised the available space
  • Efficient U-shaped layout
  • Large bar and bench space for dining
  • Timber soffit
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Modinex

Features we love about this outdoor kitchen: 

  • Matching timber species used in the soft and deck
  • Flexible seating next to the built-in bbq and indoor dining area
  • Built-in bench as extra seating 
  • Tall plants conceal the fence
outdoor kitchen
Image credit: Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens

Safety of your outdoor kitchen area

Home safety is also a major concern when planning your outdoor kitchen project. You want to avoid accidents and keep the children safe at all times. 

Proper design is a key to safety as well. Consider these expert suggestions to make your future outdoor kitchen safer for everyone: 

  • Make use of a fireproof insulation around the built-in barbecue or any cooking appliances. This layer of insulation will contain the flames, preventing serious accidents from happening. This layer will prevent the materials near the flame from getting uncontrollably hot and melting. 
  • Keep the BBQ away from flammable materials at all times, and at a height that only adults can use.
  • Place the barbecue and oven out of the main foot traffic path. Keep the hot zone off-limits to playing kids.
  • Weatherproof your outdoor kitchen to lengthen its life so you and your family can enjoy this investment for many years to come. 
house extension
Image credit: Aspect 11

Building and renovating your outdoor space? Use the Superdraft project coordination dashboard

All built projects are challenging, but you can make planning, designing, and building your outdoor kitchen extra fun and creative using Superdraft’s project coordination dashboard. 

With the project coordination dashboard, you can establish a real partnership with the design and construction professionals whom you chose to work on your project. You can also easily revisit the budget throughout all stages of the project, helping you avoid budget blowouts.  

Need help bringing an outdoor kitchen design idea to fruition?

Sign up to Superdraft and talk to one of our project consultants today!

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