The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen Planning Guide

August 7, 2021
The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen Planning Guide

Story Highlights

Outdoor Kitchens are one of the most popular features of outdoor living spaces. As often happens indoors, well-planned outdoor kitchens are the centerpiece and gathering point of outdoor living spaces. As the popularity of outdoor kitchens grows, new innovations provide an increasing number of options for homeowners. In many ways, outdoor kitchens are more versatile than indoor ones.

If you're adding an outdoor kitchen to your outdoor living space, it's important to properly plan and design your structure. In this article, we discuss and provide guidance for budgeting, location, design, materials, and appliances.

Setting an appropriate


Grill Islands and Outdoor Kitchens are one of the more expensive features that you can add to your outdoor living space. A grill island will typically cost between $20,000 and $45,000, while more expansive outdoor kitchens can require an investment of $45,000-$95,000+.

When budgeting an outdoor kitchen, there are three elements that factor into pricing:

  1. The Structure & Counter

  2. Appliances and Accessories.

  3. Utilities


There are many factors you should keep in mind when deciding the placement of your Outdoor Kitchen.

To start, consider keeping your outdoor kitchen as close to your indoor kitchen as possible. When bringing food and ingredients out, close proximity to your main kitchen is of the utmost importance. If you forget an ingredient, plate, or tool, you want to be able to grab it quickly, never venturing too far from your grill. Additionally, if you're dining indoors, close proximity to the kitchen will allow you to serve food quickly, hot off the grill.

Also, be sure to consider the utility access to your Outdoor Kitchen. Making it easy to install gas, electrical, and water will help to keep your utility installation cost down.

Consider your views

While grilling, what do you want to be looking at? What do you want your bar patrons to see?

When designing your outdoor kitchen, don't forget to think through the views of everyone enjoying the feature. For example, many poolscapes feature outdoor kitchens designed to provide a view of the pool. If an outdoor television is being included, design the outdoor kitchen so that individuals do not have their back to the tv or have to turn their heads sharply/uncomfortably.

Structure Material

An outdoor kitchen can be constructed out of almost any building material. At Outdoor Dreams, our grill islands and outdoor kitchens are typically constructed using standard hardscape and masonry methods. Our preferred materials include natural stone, cast veneer, brick, and segmental wall block (see pictures below). Other materials, typically used on decks and porches, include wood, pvc decking, siding, and various forms of polymer boards.

Counter Material

At Outdoor Dreams, we believe the best choices for outdoor counters are granite and marble. These stones are durable and require little maintenance because they typically come treated to prevent staining. Other natural stone slabs (like bluestone, limestone, or sandstone) can be used, but they require regular application of sealants to prevent stains from cooking and mother nature.

Custom concrete counters are also a frequently requested option. Though concrete can create a stunning look, it also requires regular application of sealants to prevent staining. Additionally, in areas with freeze/thaw conditions (like Central Virginia), concrete counters can also crack. And finally, though concrete is typically thought of as an inexpensive material choice, it is typically the most expensive option when it comes to outer counters, due to the labor required to properly frame, reinforce with rebar, pour, and finish the material.


If the location is exposed to heavy sun or if you would like to be able to grill on a rainy day, consider covering your outdoor kitchen with a pergola or pavilion structure. Along with providing shade and protection from the elements, a cover structure also provides the framework needed to mount fans, lights, speakers, and outdoor televisions.

When budgeting, add $8,500 - $20,000+ for a pergola and $25,000 - $40,000+ for a pavilion. All pricing assumes custom structures and varies depending on size, design, & materials.

Bar Top Seating

As with indoors, adding bar-top seating is a popular addition to outdoor kitchens. Bar-top seating is a fun change of pace for casual dining or cocktails. It also provides seating for family members and guests to keep the grill master company.

When planning your bar top, be sure to design the structure using the correct measurements. Using the proper measurements ensures that your barstools will fit properly and that patrons will be comfortable. The proper measurements are:

Bar Top Height: 42"

Bar Top Depth: 24"

Bar Top Overhang: 8-1/2" - 12"

Bar Stool Spacing: 6" between stools & from the counter edge

Filling out the Kitchen...

Appliances & Accessories

As the popularity of outdoor living & cooking increases, so does the potential of outdoor kitchens. These days, you can get almost any appliance or accessory imaginable for the outdoors. At Outdoor Dreams, we proudly offer our clients appliances and accessories from Fire Magic, Delta Heat, and Twin Eagles.

Cooking Options

In recent years, outdoor cooking has exploded in popularity. The increased interest has lead to new innovations and options for outdoor chefs and grillmasters. Along with the traditional grills and smokers, today's outdoor kitchen appliances provide options for almost every style of cooking imaginable.

Keeping Drinks Cold

Whether it's a summer cookout or a game day gathering in the fall, cold drinks are an essential element of outdoor living and entertaining. When planning your outdoor kitchen, there are various appliances and accessories that can assist in keeping your drinks cold.

Options to consider are:

  1. Outdoor-Rated Refrigerators

  2. Wine Chillers

  3. Ice Machines

  4. Drop-In Coolers

  5. Cooler Drawers.


When you're dealing with sauces, marinades, and raw meats, it's great to have a sink nearby to wash your hands. That being said, sinks aren't regularly included in outdoor kitchens because of the plumbing costs associated with the feature. To meet code and pass inspection, sinks must have a return to the sewage line, which is often a costly venture in outdoor kitchens. Though the sink and access door (also required by code) typically cost less than $1,500, the plumbing fees associated with outdoor kitchen sinks can range from $2,000 - $8,000+.

additional features to consider:

Trash Drawers

Grill Lamp

Access Doors

Storage Drawers

Paper Towel Drawer

Bar Caddy


Outdoor Television

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