Does the upcoming summer months have you researching outdoor kitchen options for your home? Outdoor kitchens are a rising trend. Why? Because some of our best family memories take place in the heart of the home: the kitchen. This is the place where friends and family gather, learn about each other, and celebrate their days. There’s no warmer space in the home. As the summer months approach, families often take their meals outside to enjoy the comfortable outdoor air.

For the family household that loves to barbeque and entertain in their backyard, an upgrade to their cooking station is something to strongly consider. If you are all about summer grilling and preparing food al fresco, then an outdoor kitchen just might be what you’re missing in your life. Outdoor kitchens provide you with the ultimate space to host summer parties and luncheons, family breakfasts, and luxurious dinners.

A few decades ago, outdoor kitchens were only a feature of very high-income households. But now almost anyone with a backyard can create a beautiful outdoor kitchen due to competitive pricing. The industry has become increasingly saturated in the last few years leading to more moderate costs for materials and installation.

Hyland Landscapes, which is located in Vancouver, British Columbia, is an expert in designing and building the outdoor kitchen of your dreams or giving your current outdoor kitchen a little facelift. Let us help you navigate the numerous outdoor kitchen options available to you.

Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen

Let’s dive in and explore the step by step process of completing your outdoor heaven. Before you start making purchases and constructing, it’s important to do the necessary prep work to ensure everything is implemented flawlessly. We highly recommend working with a landscaper to help you design and execute things to safety standards.

There are three steps to finalizing your design for your outdoor kitchen: choosing the location, deciding on the kitchen features you’d like, and then creating a visual outline for the desired design.

1) Finding the Prime Location For Your Outdoor Kitchen

The first and most important step in wading through the different outdoor kitchen options is to determine the location where you’d like it placed. All backyards are built differently but generally speaking, there are two major choices you can make in terms of location.

Option 1 – Close to the House

We’ll define this as an outdoor kitchen that will either connect with your home’s walls or will be built on top of an existing deck or patio. This type of configuration can shield the kitchen from the outdoor elements including wind and rain. You can add a roof structure for additional shelter from the sun and rain. This design can also make it easier to install cooking elements, as they can be connected to existing fuel lines inside of the home.

An important thing to keep in mind with this type of arrangement is that you may need to install additional ventilation so that smoke doesn’t enter your home when you’re cooking.

Close to the house outdoor kitchens are great for those who want to do some of the meal prep indoors. On the flip side, if you’re placing your kitchen against a wall, you may have less flexibility with how to group your appliances in the area.

Option 2 – Stand Alone Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens that stand apart from the home can really define what each space of your property is meant for. Stand-alone kitchens can also give off the illusion of a more intimate experience, a feeling of being surrounded by the elements.

If you decide to go this route, you’ll have much more flexibility and control with the design of your space. You can truly make it one of a kind. But there are a few more complications with this set-up. Firstly, you’ll need to install or connect to existing fuel lines from a distance. Additionally, you’ll likely need to build this from the ground up, as you’ll need to have a leveled floor for your structures. You might even need to create a new pathway from your outdoor kitchen to your home.

2) Picking Your Kitchen Features

The second step in the process is where the fun really begins. This is the time to dream up a list of all of the different features you’d like to install in your outdoor space. Outdoor kitchen options can be overwhelming when it comes to appliances, so make sure that you select only the dearest items to you.

Some popular items to consider are:

Barbeque/Grill – there are so many things to weigh out when purchasing a grill. First, you’ll need to decide if you want to use propane tanks to fuel the grill, or if you’re going to invest in a direct gas line hookup. While installing a gas line for your outdoor barbeque might sound daunting and expensive, it will make usage much easier than hauling and refilling propane tanks. We highly recommend working with a landscaper on this so that it is hooked up safely.

Charcoal grills, which are inevitably messier, are still a popular option because you can’t beat the flavour. Featuring an outdoor charcoal grill will keep you away from playing with fuel lines but be forewarned, they take more cleanup.

Finally, you’ll want to consider the additional features that a grill can provide. Some grills come with a convection oven for simultaneous baking needs. Rotisserie attachments are also popular for those who love roasted chicken. Warming burners are a notable feature of some models. Aside from assisting in cooking, there are grills that come with under-drawer storage or for those music aficionados, some even contain built-in sound systems.

As we mentioned, outdoor kitchens are typically situated as part of an extension of the house or they’re stand-alone. Likewise, your grill can either be built into a “kitchen island”/whatever kitchen structure you’re imagining, or it can be placed as a free-standing element. The choice is up to your aesthetic and practical needs.

Refrigerators – Outdoor refrigerators are a great aid to anyone who is regularly cooking outside. It saves the chefs the hassle of moving back indoors every time they need something.

Be cautious when deciding on the style of refrigerator you’d like to install in your space. You can’t simply place an indoor refrigerator outdoors. Outdoor refrigerators experience a much larger pendulum swing of temperatures. The outdoor refrigerator needs to be sophisticated enough to withstand the temperature range from morning to night. The refrigerator needs to be insulated enough that when temperatures peak in the summer, it’s able to keep food cold.

Refrigerators need to be weatherproofed, especially in a rainy area like Vancouver, British Columbia. Water and electricity is a very risky mix so you’ll need to work with your landscaper to ensure the right precautions are taken to protect everyone from electricity.

Again, you’ll need to keep in mind where your outdoor kitchen is situated. If you plan on incorporating the refrigerator into a stand-alone kitchen, you’ll need to make sure you’re running electricity to it. Ventilation is another key ingredient in making the right fridge decision. Refrigerators that are designed to be built-in usually come with vents. Whereas freestanding refrigerators ventilate differently. Freestanding refrigerators need to have space around the sides, back, and top of the fridge for proper ventilation.

Countertop Materials – Choosing the right materials is crucial to making your outdoor kitchen sing. It is vital to choose a material that looks good but is also durable. Since your outdoor kitchen will face the elements, the countertops need to be resistant to keep the structure thriving.

The amount of space you want for your countertop is based on your personal needs. Generally, there are three choices in material, each one serves a different style.

  • Stone – there are so many varieties of stone out there and it is important to keep their durability in mind. Marble and limestone might be beautiful but they stain easily. We recommend granite which puts up a good fight against the weather and does not absorb stains. Be mindful of the colour of granite you select as darker shades soak up the sunshine and become very hot throughout the day.

  • Concrete – this is a popular option because it’s clean. However, concrete is more prone to cracking with wear and tear. A landscaper should install this in your backyard as there are several steps to getting concrete in a good place, including sealing and resealing the concrete.

  • Tile – probably the most malleable option as it comes in dozens and dozens of different styles. You can really customize the look with tiles. If you live in a place where the temperatures drop drastically in winter, tiles may crack under the weather changes. There are freeze-proof tiles for those in cold weather.

Sinks – If you’re going for a more elaborate outdoor kitchen, a sink is a great luxury or even a near necessity if you’re planning on cooking up a storm. Installing an outdoor sink allows quick access to water for cooking and cleaning. You have the option to build in a large outdoor sink if you’d like to do dishes outside. This is a feature that needs to be hooked up to a water source.

Flooring – Outdoor kitchens require a floor that separates them from the grass or dirt they’re built on top of. Not only does this add a stylish flair, but it also keeps you clean and dry from the elements.

Popular flooring options include concrete, which you can merge into a pathway from the home, bricks for a rustic look, ceramic tile for a variety of styles, and natural stone for a classic look. Choose your materials based on what best complements the look of your outdoor kitchen and also functions for your space. Sealers should be used on most materials to protect the floor from inevitable food and wine spills.

Storage and waste – in planning the configuration of your outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to plan for both storage and waste space.

If you want to store cooking, serving, and dining accessories, you’ll need cabinets for your kitchen to help manage the organization of your goods.

You’ll also need to be very considerate of where you store your waste and how it’s stored. It’s important to buy durable waste receptacles so that animals can’t get access to them.

Shade – If you plan on dining around your kitchen, you may want to build an outdoor roof for shading. For more ideas on this, take a look at our pergola suggestions for the backyard.

3) Configuration and Blueprints

Now that you know what features you want to include in your outdoor space, it’s time to go to the drawing board and figure out the configuration.

Against the Wall Configuration – this style can be against your house wall or you can create a wall for your freestanding structure. This is the simplest, most minimal way to arrange the space and usually has enough room for one cook. Countertops can be featured on either side of the grill, depending on how you want the elements displayed.

L-Figure Configuration with this set-up it’s easier to incorporate extra appliances like a refrigerator or a sink. Countertops can cover either portion of the L and you can even place chairs on the outside of the kitchen to create a “bar” feeling. Two or maybe even cooks can move around comfortably in this variation.

U-Shape Configuration – This design works best for a freestanding kitchen with a variety of appliances. U-shape is great for entertaining as there’s more space for countertops where guests can be sated.

Island Configuration – This is completely freestanding and can be adapted to be a variety of sizes. Multiple cooks can work in this very open space and there is plenty of room for guests to be seated around the outdoor kitchen.
Finally, it’s time to reach out to your landscaper and get a blueprint designed for execution. If you’re still not able to visualize all the outdoor kitchen options available to you, we recommend looking at HGTV’s suggestions for outdoor kitchen designs. These feature even more elaborate additions such as a wood-fire pizza oven, firepit, and cocktail bars. Hyland Landscapes is happy to work with you to bring your vision to reality and suggest some innovative designs if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure of your options. You can choose to create something as intricate as the HGTV hit list or create a minimalist single wall outdoor kitchen, we’re here to help. After all, they’ll serve the same purpose: bringing your loved ones together to dine under the sun or stars.