Outdoor Kitchen Defined:

An area outside of the home purposefully built to cook, gather, and entertain all while enjoying all that nature has to offer. It’s essentially an expansion of your living space to an outdoor space. An outdoor kitchen is meant to be enjoyed beyond the summer months and with the help of our design methods and construction capabilities, we can turn your dream outdoor kitchen ideas into reality.

Planning and budgeting for an outdoor kitchen project requires quite a bit of diligence and strategy to make optimum use of the space while having the space remain functional. In markets like Houston, outdoor kitchens greatly enhance the value of the home since the weather is often times conducive to their use by the family. In addition to providing extra space for entertaining, outdoor kitchens also provide extra storage space.

In this article the team at Miel Construction will explore the top 5talking points of strategizing, planning, and building your own outdoor kitchen spaces specifically in the Houston area. We are specifying geography because, well, this is an outdoor space, and variances in climate regions will change how you should go about planning an outdoor kitchen build.

As the figure of speech goes, you can enjoy the very best of cooking and entertaining right in your own backyard. Let’s go!

1. Budget

First thing’s first when deciding on how to go about strategizing and planning any home improvement project. It is critical to understand what your personal budget is and then sticking to it. If spending gets out of control from the start some of the later items that follow below will be financially strained and corners will eventually have to be cut, thus undermining the entirety of the project, if not kill it completely.

Some of the main budget items to plan for include:

  • Designers, Landscape Architects, General Contractors
  • Quality of Finishes and Materials
  • MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing): Just like building an interior kitchen in a house, these spaces have a large need for utilities. If you plan on having a grill or cooktop gas will likely need to be ran. If you plan on having a sink, plumbing will likely need to be ran. If you plan on installing a tv, a vent hood, or lighting and a ceiling fan, electrical will have to be ran.
  • Infrastructure Additions: This includes decking or a slab to support the newly built outdoor kitchen as well as a roof to go over the outdoor kitchen.
  • Appliances and Cabinetry
  • Additional Amenities

2. Kitchen Placement: Location, Location, Location

There are several things to consider when deciding how and where to place your outdoor kitchen. The configuration is also equally as important.

  • For starters you want to take note of your indoor kitchen location. When entertaining and cooking for friends and family you will often carry heavy platters of food from the indoor kitchen to the outdoor kitchen. You don’t want to have to travel a long distance or go through other rooms to end up at the other kitchen. Ideally a door separating the outdoor and indoor kitchens works perfectly for this transition.
  • Thirdly, you want to consider the exposure to wind and where the wind can waft the smoke from the grill. An overhead vent can help to solve this problem tremendously. You still want to orient the grill strategically as to not be too exposed to wind. After all, it’s going to now be a permanent fixture.
  • Fourth, you don’t want to disrupt the view of the outdoors with your outdoor kitchen. You will still want to view your yard. The placement of the kitchen should be at an angle or to the side of your main field of vision to the outdoors
  • Finally but not least, an outdoor kitchen is full of hazards. Place it relative to the overall traffic in your backyard. You don’t want to put the grill next to where you and your kids play catch. Instead, tuck it up against the wall and have a hood to remove the smoke.

3. Appliances

There are two main items to consider when choosing appliances. The first is the functionality of the kitchen. The second is the size of the kitchen. Appliances vary in functionality and size, so depending on your desires as head chef and the available space you have for the footprint of the kitchen will determine what appliances you go with. Matching these two criteria with budget should point you in the right direction when choosing appliances.

  • The first thing to consider is functionality. What do you want to be able to do in your outdoor kitchen? Let’s start with a regular kitchen. A standard kitchen has four main zones. Cold, hot, wet, and dry. To simplify, a fridge and/or ice maker, a cook surface, a sink, and counter space/storage.
  • After you determine what you would like to be able to accomplish in your kitchen the second thing to consider is the amount of space you have to work with. The grill will need space on either side of it for tools and platters. Don’t place your appliances too close together. The width of your sink depends on the available counter space. Don’t go too big and in effect not have enough room for plates and prep.
  • Finally, you tie what you’ve uncovered so far regarding appliances with your budget to select the perfect options for you.

4. Design

Once you’ve selected the right appliances and chosen the placement of the kitchen it is time to tie these two line items together. One of the most fun parts of a kitchen is the design. You get to think about using the kitchen. How you want it to be laid out. The perfect placement of certain things in order to streamline your capacity to entertain, cook, and enjoy your backyard.

Many homeowners tend to duplicate the style consistent in the rest of the home, especially the indoor kitchen. Remember, the kitchen should be close to the outdoor kitchen so as to transport platters to and fro more easily. Some want to make it a completely different vibe all together. No matter which route you choose, there are tons of ways to go about this and the possibilities and combinations are virtually endless. This is when you, as the home owner, get to express yourself.

At this point you’ve determined a rough layout, chosen appliances, and thus will have measurements for cabinets. The main things to figure out during the design phase are picking out the cabinet material and countertop material.

When deciding on cabinet finishes make sure you choose a resilient material. It is important to choose weather resistant material. What a lot of people don’t consider is these outdoor cabinets are also susceptible to termites and other bugs that can be destructive to less resilient material.

Materials that will stand up to weather and critters are stainless steel, marine grade polymers, teak wood, and stone. What we see in the Houston area is stone is quite popular. It is very weather resistant and not many critters will munch on rocks. It also provides a built in look that homeowners tend to enjoy.

For more in depth information regarding cabinet and cabinet materials check out this article from the team at BHG.

Another surface that you want to consider is the counter top material. You are limited to tile granite, glazed ceramic, and concrete countertops because any other surface will tarnish and won’t hold up to the conditions nearly as good. Luckily in Houston we don’t see extreme cold weather so cracking shouldn’t be much of an issue with these. Out of the surfaces I’ve mentioned, granite seems to be the most resistant to cracking or fading and is the most common surface we see in the Houston area.

For countertop comparisons check out this article from our friends over at CS.

5. Seating and Ambiance

Finally, the last thing to consider once you have your overall design, layout, and budget mapped out is the seating arrangements and the ambiance of the space. Having an outdoor kitchen is a way to enjoy the outdoors while having similar comforts of your indoor kitchen. To do this incorporate items and features that allow for your outdoor kitchen to be the center of your entertainment setting.

Lounge chairs with comfy cushions, a table to eat, and proper lighting can complete this feel. The furniture must be comfy while remaining durable. Fill up the space with the largest table you can without getting so large that it is hard to navigate around it. Consider stackable chairs to help save space when the entirety of the kitchen is not in use.

Dimmable lighting for night time and a large overhead fan can help keep you and your guests relaxed and cool on those fun summer bbq nights. For the cherry on top, include a television set and ceiling audio system to watch the big game or listen to tunes as you grill out on your built in grill. Just make sure the electronics are as far from the elements as you can get them. Rainy days could end the fun quickly. Doing this right can really send your outdoor kitchen space over the top and have your friends asking you to host all the game nights!