Locate the outdoor kitchen as close to the indoor kitchen as possible unless the outdoor kitchen will be fully self-sufficient.
Keep the outdoor kitchen area as close to the outdoor living space (dining, lounging, etc) as possible without smoke and/or heat causing issues.
Will the kitchen be against the house and attached to its utilities? If it is close to the house, make sure all fire codes are considered. If you're running separate utilities consider underground obstacles.
Does the site need to be graded level? If unstable soil is present, possibly consult with a local engineer or landscaper.
Is current patio and yard drainage sufficient or will it need to be upgraded or installed?
What is the prevailing wind pattern and will you need to provide some shelter from the wind, sun, or road noise?
What is the sun exposure and how will you ensure adequate shade in hotter climates?
Are you going to provide shelter from rain? Will the structure be an extension of the house? These structures almost always require permits and must follow local codes.
What are the setback requirements for any new structures? Your local planning office will be able to assist.
Are permits needed for the outdoor kitchen or any pavilions or other structures you're planning? Check with your local building department before starting work.
Are permits required for gas, water, or electric work you are doing? It's always best to involve professionals that are fully familiar with the local codes and are reputable.
How much time is typically required to obtain the necessary permits?
Is the project being constructed on an elevated deck or lot? Consider lines of site into neighbor's outdoor living spaces as well.
Are you building the kitchen on an existing patio? Does it have enough support? (Note: We always recommend that new Islands be built with their own separate foundation rather than just over an existing patio, for a few reasons:
The weight of the island will typically be too much for standard 4” thick patios
If you ever wanted to replace or change your patio surface the island would be in the way
To prevent water from entering into the island it's always best that the foundation for the BBQ island be ¼” – ½” higher than the surrounding patio
Are you building your island out of wood? If so you will need to purchase and in some cases have made, an insulating liner to go under any combustible appliance. We always recommend that island be built from galvanized steel studs or concrete block. Steel studs are typically faster and cheaper and also leave more room inside the cabinet as they are not as thick.
It's always best to have all utilities stubbed through the floor of the BBQ Island so as not to be seen on the outside.
If you do choose to use metal studs for the construction, it's also nice to install stainless steel sheeting on the inside of the island attached to the framing for cosmetic purposes. This way when you look inside the island its clean looking and leaves no room for little critters to nest.
Is the patio in the kitchen area slip resistant when wet or greasy?
Is there a gas safety shutoff valve in a convenient location that is not behind or too close to the grill? Make sure there is a door to get to it and that there are no appliances in the way.
Where will a fire extinguisher be stored?
Have you clipped or rounded counter corners?
Is there adequate safety lighting for walkways and steps?
Are cabinets and counters placed at a comfortable elevation?
Are any storage drawers placed too low for comfort?
Have you considered the relationships between the four functional zones (Cook, prep, plate & garnish and serve)?
Have you planned enough space for multiple people working in the kitchen?
Will the bulk of the prep work be done inside or out, and have you designed your zones accordingly?
Have you provided enough counter space overall? Have you allowed for minimum landing areas around each work center and appliance?
Have you provided enough storage for the planned uses of the outdoor kitchen?
Have you ensured no major traffic patterns intersect with the primary work area?
Where will the cook keep cleaning supplies or hand towels?
Is accessibility an important consideration? ADA requirements for commercial outdoor applications?
Has the gas line size and pressure been confirmed? Natural gas should be 7" water column. Bulk propane should be regulated to an 11" water column. Has the plumber or gas technician planned for the total BTU volume of all the BBQ equipment? If additional gas appliances are running off the same line such as firepits, pool heaters, and patio heaters, a load test may be required.
Will the kitchen be plumbed for water supply? Hot and cold, or just cold? An under counter water heater installed below the sink is usually less expensive than running hot water lines and performs better.
How will the plumbing be winterized? Have you provided a shutoff valve and a drain?
How are you handling waste water? Dry well (not recommended) or French drain? Connected to home's waste water lines? Tied into yard drainage (some areas allow gray water to be handled this way)? In some cases a simple sewage ejector pump can be installed to get waste water out to city sewer or septic in cases where the kitchen area is at a lower elevation than drain lines. Have a qualified plumber access this for you.
Have electrical outlets (GFCI) been planned throughout the kitchen and above the counter? Be sure to provide a dedicated circuit to any refrigeration as these typically need more amperage. Outlets for standard appliances should also be on a separate circuit. Outlets above the counter can be used for blenders, rotisserie motors, and the like but you will also need outlets below the counter for refrigeration, BBQ lights, BBQ ignition, water heaters, and things such as these.
If a TV is planned for the outdoor space, be sure to provide conduits to run the cable lines and or HDMI cables from where the TV box will be housed. Also provide a waterproof storage area for the TV box. Low voltage wire (telephone, Cat 5 or Cable) cannot run in the same conduit as high voltage (110 volt) power which will be required to run the TV.
If considering High Voltage (220 volt - 440 volt) patio heaters, make sure that a dedicated mininimum 50 amp breaker is used for this type of install and that a load test is calculated to consider all uses.
How has lighting been addressed? Overhead, counter, and possible fans?
It is always best to install switches for any outlets that run refrigeration so that the units can be turned off without anyone having to pull them out to be unplugged.
Materials and Finishes
Are the counters, patio materials, and veneers suitably freeze/thaw resistant for your geographical area? What about planters and other accent pieces?
Can you place a hot pot directly on the counter?
Are the counters and patio materials highly grease and stain resistant?
Are you and the homeowners familiar with the supplier recommendations regarding sealing of the chosen counter and patio materials?
Have you specified a solid brass faucet using ceramic valves or a solid stainless steel one? Do not use any zinc or pot metal materials in outdoor plumbing.
Is the sink 304 stainless steel, plastic, or solid copper? If not, are you certain it is suitable for outdoor use?
Have you selected equipment that matches the homeowner's desires for types of outdoor cooking and entertaining?
Gourmet meals, including appetizers and sides
Basic grilling fare, like burgers and steaks
Traditional American barbecue (low-and-slow smoking)
Wok cooking & stir fry
Pizza & bread making
Lobster, fish, or crab boils
Wine storage or beer dispensing
Do you need ventilation to manage smoke, soot, and food particles from the grill? Where and how will these be vented? This is recommended if the grill is under any sort of structure or located against a wall. This is required if the grill is located below a combustible structure. Does the ventilation system have enough power and capture area to overcome crosswinds? Will the fan be too loud for conversation or relaxation? Consider a remote fan rather than one located in the hood. Make sure the remote fan is powerful enough to overcome length of pipe run and twists and turns in the piping. Have you determined how the vent pipe will be concealed?
Have you followed the manufacturer's recommendations regarding the use of the grill in proximity to combustible surfaces such as wood cabinets? Is the grill NSF certified? (You would be surprised how many are not)
Does the refrigeration specified meet the demands of the climate (can it maintain set temperatures in hotter climates or humidity)? Does it have one setting or multiple? Most non-outdoor rated units cannot withstand extreme climates, cold or hot.
Have you included the ice maker in your winterizing plans? Does other refrigeration need to be switched off, unplugged or stored indoors? Does the ice maker require a pump to rid itself of condensation moisture? Is there a drain for this?
Is the refrigeration suitable for food storage (i.e. raw chicken) or only for beverages? Maybe multiple refrigerators would be advisable?
Ergonomics and Usability
If the counter will be exposed to direct sunlight, have you tested the material to be certain it does not get too hot? Darker materials usually have a risk of getting hotter.
Have you provided shelter from the sun?
Have you provided shelter from rain?
Will there be an issue with smoke blowing into the dining area or around the kitchen and have you planned for ventilation?
Is there adequate heating through gas heaters, fireplaces, or fire pits? They can be gas driven or electrically driven. If gas driven, make sure pipe sizing is adequate. If electrical, typically a dedicated circuit is required and a special switch to run all heaters at once is advisable.
Have you planned cooling with fans or a misting system?
Do you need to manage insects through screens or insect control systems?
Is there enough ambient lighting and have you planned for avoiding glare in lounge and dining areas?
Where will dirty dishes be placed when the table is cleared?
Does counter seating or bar seating have enough knee room (15" for counter-height and 12" for bar-height)?
Have you allowed at least 24"-wide spaces for each seat?
Have you allowed enough space behind each seat?
If there are more than four counter or bar seats, have you curved the counter to aid conversation (or placed seats around a corner)?
Where will temporary or folding tables and chairs be stored (if applicable)?
Where will cushions and pillows be stored (if applicable)?
Will the cook feel like part of the party? Is there seating in the kitchen?
We always recommend that all of your outdoor components be at least 304 grade stainless steel. These will provide protection from the elements for the long haul. Grade 430 stainless steel is a widely used product for middle to lower ends products. Where this steel may be sufficient in hot arid locations it is absolutely not recommended for moist, cold, or salt air locations.
In most cases when you buy something that is more expensive in the BBQ world, that usually means it's of a higher quality and well worth the money. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule though. There are 3 or 4 very well-known product brands on the market (I won't name names but feel free to call) that are simply priced high because their branded name allows them to do so. Don't be swayed by a name brand. Our top 5 BBQ companies are typically not a name that the normal consumer is familiar with. They are in no particular order: FireMagic, Alfresco, Lynx, Twin Eagles, and Bull BBQ. Anything you buy from these manufactures will last a lifetime and typically their warranties say so.
Try not to mix and match appliances and built-in units where possible. Each manufacture uses specific materials that can be quite noticeable when not using the same brand for the entire project. The exception would be where budget does not allow for the top of the line products for all uses. There we recommend purchasing the grill as a higher end unit and then purchase all of the door and drawers at a lower price point.