Looking to install a new Outdoor Kitchen and Bar?
You love spending time outdoors with your family and friends, and when entertaining outdoors most of your parties or get-togethers revolve around food and drinks. It’s not much different than entertaining indoors, and this correlation is what has contributed to the current rise in popularity of building outdoor kitchens and bars. In fact, outdoor kitchens are now becoming the focal point of backyard entertaining areas over swimming pools and hot tubs. And what better way to relax after a busy day at work than relaxing outside with family and friends around a few drinks and some freshly grilled BBQ.
So what do I need to consider for planning a new outdoor kitchen and bar?
At Cross Points Landscaping our design staff will use these same planning tools when designing and building out a new outdoor kitchen or bar. And keep in mind just like with any other landscape or home remodeling project, developing plans and designs are key to having a smooth project that meets your needs and fufils your ‘vision’.
1) What is the condition of my current outdoor entertaining space, patio or deck?
This is important to keep in mind as you develop the list of outdoor components you want to incorporate into your outdoor kitchen. The current space may not be sufficient in size, location or structural strength to just drop a new outdoor kitchen on top of it or around it. In fact most of the new outdoor kitchens/bars we install also incorporate building a new outdoor space or patio (or significant rebuilding) that will be needed for adding in this type of structure. Keep in mind most of the structural components need to build out any outdoor elements are bigger and heavier than what is used indoors. Instead of 2×4 studs, drywall, and ‘wood’ based indoor building components, out door building components will consist of concrete (CMU) or landscape blocks, concrete boards, metal/steel frames, etc. The structure of these outdoor building components are what give them the strength and durability to last in an outdoor environment. An existing patio or deck more than likely was not constructed to support just building on top of an existing structure and doing so could cause them to fail if doing so. Also look at the size of your existing patio or deck, there may not be enough space to comfortably add on an outdoor kitchen and still have room for additional outdoor furniture or dining tables.
2) How do I want to utilize an outdoor kitchen and how does it work with the rest of my outdoor spaces?
This is a big part of getting a good design developed for our clients when we build a new outdoor kitchen. Are you just looking to add some addition convenience to your existing grill? Or do you want a fully functional outdoor kitchen that can be used to both prepare and cook an entire meal without the use of any indoor components? Maybe you are an avid grilling and BBQ hobbyist wanting to be able to cook outside 12 months a year. Since there are very few limits to what is possible to design and build in an outdoor kitchen or bar these days this is an important question to answer, and then take those ideas and set them up in priorities. Maybe an outdoor sink is something you would like to have, but can live without if the cost of running water out to it becomes a budget breaker. This also helps if you need to phase parts of a project in over time. Some planning for items that can be added later will be easy to plan for during initial construction and will likely save money down the road if these components can be allocated for in additional phases. Fitting an outdoor kitchen into the overall functionality of the rest of your outdoor living spaces is also a key goal for our designers. Making the outdoor kitchen work with the rest of your backyard living spaces are important so the entire space functions together.
3) What components do I want included in my outdoor kitchen and bar?
Again, the different components, outdoor appliances, and features available for outdoor kitchens and bars are limited only by your imagination and budget. Do you want a dedicated outdoor blender for making smoothies? How about an outdoor beer keg cooler and tap? Do I want both a gas grill and charcoal smoker? The list of available components or features is considerably long, and when our designers work with our customers we typically put this list together and then prioritze it based on: 1)Must haves, 2) Would like to have(s), and then 3) Wish items. The primary center point of most outdoor kitchens is a grill and other cooking elements. The availability and functions of grilling and cooking elements is a blog article all in itself, so check out our blog on grilling options here. Other components to consider for an outdoor kitchen and bar include:
- Smokers and ‘Egg’ Cookers. More info on these great units in our grill selection blog. But these are great for true slow cooked BBQ.
- External Burners & Griddles. Again more info on these here. For preparing a true outdoor cooked meal, these are extremely helpful. And who wouldn’t want to enjoy Sunday morning pancakes outside!
- Pizza Ovens. Specific units or hoods for grilling pizzas outdoors. More info available here.
- Grill Station. This is the simplest form of an outdoor kitchen. Most often used with an existing stand alone grill. This is typically an area built for adding counter space or an additional component where an existing grill is just slid into.
- Exterior grade refrigerators and beverage coolers. This can range from true refrigerators to beverage chests that just hold ice. Most exterior grade ‘fridges have the evaporator units housed differently and are short units made to be place under a counter to add extra protection from the elements. Cooling drawer units are great for outdoors for storing salads, desserts, etc.
- Bar/Beverage Prep Units. These are typically a built in component made to hold ice, fruit, beverage mixes, bar utensils, etc. Great for utilizing an outdoor bar and preparing drinks during a cookout or party.
- Storage Units, Drawers and Cabinets. Sames as indoor kitchens, needed to keep the outdoor kitchen organized and reduces the need to having to keep bringing items in and out from inside. Mostly constructed in stainless steel with sturdier hinges or rollers than indoor units. There are also built in cabinet structures for holding trash and recyclables.
- Sinks. Very convenient to have for clean up and food prep. Can be complicated to get a water source extended outside and drained properly in the winter. Never try to hook one up through an existing irrigation system.
- Wine Center. Wine is becoming more and more popular every year as an entertainment focal point. Naturally there are now ‘Wine Centers’ made for the outdoors. These include specific outdoor wine coolers, glass holders, bottle holders, and bottle racks. We are designing more outdoor bars centered on the ‘Wine’ lifestyle, and what better way than having an outdoor evening of fun with friends by having an Wine party under the stars! And what better way to have that party next to an Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit.
- Access Panels. Important to have built in around areas where access to some of the mechanical hook ups are located for grills, fridges or sinks. Make sure you have access to reach areas that need seasonal service or are around gas hook ups or shut off valves. Often we design these with door panels and use some of the space for storage.
- Counter Tops. Similar to interior kitchen counter tops, outdoor kitchen counter tops come in many options. At Cross Points Landscaping we use granite quite often, but also use some other natural slab stones such as limestone, bluestone, and travertine. We tend to use thicker slabs that hold together better and all can be custom cut into the final shape similar to working with granite. As with granite sealers are always recommended.
4) What else should I consider when planning an outdoor kitchen and bar?
Once a design starts coming together for a great outdoor kitchen or bar there may be a need for some additional elements to compliment the kitchen area. Some of these items may be needed since there will be an increased amount of time spent outside or that make the area usable for longer periods of time. Here is a list of some additional outdoor elements to consider before starting construction.
- Electric Access. Not only is this needed to run certain outdoor kitchen components, but consider adding some exterior outlets in convenient locations. If you have a grill with a rotisserie unit, place one near the grill itself, others can be spaced throughout the rest of the area as needed. This can be hard to add on after the fact.
- Lighting: Again, another feature that is often over looked until after using the outdoor kitchen for awhile. Summer days can get a little hot to grill or cook out during the warmer parts of the day, so often people will use the outdoor kitchen will be used after the sun goes down. Many people find themselves entertaining in the evenings as well so additional lighting is often needed. When Cross Points Landscaping designs lighting into our outdoor kitchens, we often incorporate different lighting zones. A direct lighting zone for cooking and meal preparation and then a zone of softer lighting for entertaining.
- Shade Structure. Also often comes up later as the outdoor kitchen area is used more and more often. Again, during the daytime the outdoor kitchen area can become very hot if it is exposed directly to the sun. Adding a shade or roof structure such as a pergola can cool an area down significantly when it is shielded from the direct sun. These structures are also a great place to add lights and fans from, not to mention keeping the rain away while you are finishing grilling up some ribs or burgers. You can see some examples of our outdoor roof and shade structures here.
Lastly, what are some things to consider when constructing an outdoor kitchen or bar?
Again, plan well with a good design so the area is utilized to match your needs and how you want to utilize the space for entertaining. With good design and good construction, an outdoor kitchen can be a great place to spend some wonderful time with family and friends, all while increasing the time spent outdoors. Outdoor kitchens and bars are constructed ‘outdoors’ so keep in mind that both the construction materials and kitchen components need to be able to stand up to the weather and being outside. Using items that aren’t made for these conditions will most likely fail or breakdown, and it will happen quickly. Also, with good planning certain components or elements can be phased in over a few seasons with minimal amounts of rework. This is not uncommon for us here at Cross Points Landscaping as a Design/Build company to phase in projects over time, so let us put your vision into a great design and we will work on a phased process for construction.
Need some outdoor grilling recipes and drink ideas: