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7 Questions You Need to Ask BEFORE you design or build your dream outdoor kitchen

By Ed Ball | Published on April 17, 2018 | 5 min read

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Thinking about building an outdoor kitchen?

Great, then you will definitely want to check out these 7 questions that Ed Ball of Ed Ball Landscape Architeture recommends you think about before you begin designing or building it.

1. How are you going to use the space?

The first thing you are going to need to think about is how are you going to use the space? I have clients who just want a grilling station, and by grilling station I mean a counter top with an outdoor grill and I have other clients who want a complete outdoor kitchen, with outdoor refrigerators, a bar so people can sit at for the kids or for the adults who are talking to the person cooking while enjoying a beverage. There’s a wide range of possibilities which is why before we can get into any real design or building concepts, I always ask my clients, ‘how do you really want to use this space?’ Is this just a place to cook or do you want to truly create an outdoor living destination?

2. How often do you see yourself cooking?

You really need to think about the cooking aspects carefully when thinking about building an outdoor kitchen and that starts with thinking about how often do you see yourself cooking. Personally, I love to cook outside all the time, and so if that is your goal, then clearly you are going to want a cooking station that allows you to cook the way you want to. You are also going to want to add key elements of a kitchen that allow you to do all that you have to do with minimal trips back into the house so that you can spend more time doing what you want to do which is cook outside and socialize with your friends and family.

3. What size grill do you want?

Now that you’ve really begun to think about how you want the space to feel and the cooking to flow, you should have a better feel for how big of a grill or grilling station you want. Do you want a 32″ grill, a 36″ grill, or a 48″ grill. I generally recommend to my clients a 42″ grill because I think it’s a happy medium size to accommodate most people’s needs. Another key thing to think about is that a lot of manufacturers like to attach a side burner to their grill. A side burner is just like what you would have on your gas stove or cook top in your house, so basically its a double burner that is separate from your grill, however they tend to take up too much space which is why I recommend at least 12 inches of separation between your grill and side burner.

4. Do you want to have dry storage?

The next question for your outdoor kitchen space is ‘do you want to have dry storage?’ because there are a number of ways to achieve dry storage. There are a number of appliance manufacturers who make stainless steel dry cabinetry. There are polyethylene cabinets that you can buy that look a lot like your in-home cabinet finishes. Would you like a refrigerator outside or a freezer. I even had a client take an old dish washer and we winterized it and even though its not rated for outside, it works. So again, there are many options and possibilities to achieve dry storage.

5. How do you want your outdoor kitchen to compliment or be complimented by the surrounding space?

As we think about the outdoor kitchen space, we need to remind ourselves of the essential question which is — Do want to just be able to grill outside? or do we truly want to create an outdoor destination space? In either case, you want to consider the surrounding non-kitchen space. Depending on your budget and aspirations, the outdoor kitchen could be featured space or a complimentary space to, for example, a living room patio area with outdoor fireplace. Or perhaps, you want your grilling station and kitchen to be embedded into a larger deck, or multi-level deck design. Your can emphasize open air, you could have a pavilion with a roof, screened in space. Plantings can always make a space feel alive also, and its important to have the surrounding space in the back of your mind. The possibilities are endless and even with regards to construction, you could build all at once or in phases over a period of time. I have clients who do both.

6. What’s your budget?

Having some sense of your budget and aligning that with your outdoor space is always key. Just talking grills, a simple grill can run you from a few hundred to a thousand dollars to more deluxe grilling stations that can go up to between $5000 and $7,000. In terms of the entire outdoor kitchen space, including all the bells and whistles you could create a killer outdoor kitchen for $50-75K… you could also do something basic for as little as $5000. It all really depends on exactly what you want to do and there are various places we can try to be economical as well while still having some of the bells and whistles you imagine.

7. Who will you hire?

Perhaps the most important question of all is who will you hire to do the job. The important thing to remember here is that you want somebody that just isn’t going to build what you tell them, but more importantly, someone who will help navigate you through the essential questions and help you refine what you are imagining for your outdoor space. Ideally, you want somebody who will advise you not only on your outdoor kitchen design but someone who is going to make sure you answer the right questions for yourself first so that you end up with a space that you truly love and will use for years to come.

Ed Ball is Principal Architect and Designer of Ed Ball Landscape Architecture — a premiere full-service landscaping company based out of Northern Virginia.


Phone: (703) 433-1863