Man cooking in outdoor kitchen.

How To Build An Outdoor Kitchen Yourself: A DIY Guide

Katie Ziraldo6-Minute Read
May 04, 2022

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When people were forced to stay home to stay safe during the global COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor living spaces became more important than ever before.

If you enjoy spending time outside, incorporating an outdoor kitchen can be an amazing way to transform your backyard into an entertaining hot spot. And if you think grilling for parties is great, imagine having a dream outdoor kitchen setup that takes the whole experience to the next level.

At a glance, this type of project might sound like a luxury for the rich and famous – but though it’s true that outdoor kitchens can be expensive to have professionally installed, they can be both doable and affordable as DIY projects for outdoor cooking enthusiasts.

Wondering how to get started? In this article, we’ll walk you through all the steps involved with creating the outdoor kitchen of your dreams.

Steps To Building Your DIY Outdoor Kitchen

Like any large home project, it’s important to get all your ducks in a row before beginning construction – so if you decide to design and build your own outdoor kitchen, follow the steps below.

1. Research Outdoor Kitchen Ideas 

Outdoor brick wood burning stove with plenty of storage options and countertops surrounding.

The first step to creating an outdoor kitchen is to research possible layouts and appliance arrangements. To do this, you’ll need to take measurements of your yard, consider your landscaping and calculate your budget for the project. 

As you design your plans, consider how you plan to use your outdoor kitchen. For example, if you have a lot of big parties, you’ll want a larger grill than if you plan to mostly cook for your immediate family. If you’re going with a built-in grill, you’ll need a different kind than the freestanding ones that easily roll onto your porch. These are important considerations to make before you begin construction.

If you’re looking for more guidance in your design, you can also consider modular outdoor kitchen products – which allow you to pick and choose cabinets, grills and sinks – that are specifically designed to be easy to install.

2. Apply For Building Permits

Depending on your location, you may need to apply for building permits once you’ve finalized your kitchen plans. If you’re constructing a new deck or even building around a grill, your city or county may require a permit, so it’s always a good idea to check local guidelines before beginning construction or even buying materials.

After all, it’s much cheaper to pay for a permit and an inspection than to be forced to remove your outdoor kitchen down the line!

3. Find The Perfect Grill

High-end built in grill with countertop for outdoor kitchen with stacks of wood underneath.

The grill is the centerpiece of any outdoor kitchen, so it’s important to choose the right one. When considering your grill options, think about the amount of food you’ll be cooking at any given time as well as the types of meals you want to be able to prepare. Some grills may be standalone while others, like BBQ islands, may provide the cooking prep space you need without having to incorporate additional counter space.

The look and feel of the grill will also impact the overall aesthetic of the area, so pick something you’ll enjoy using and looking at every day. The most popular grill types include: 

  • Propane or natural gas grills: This is the most common type of grill, though there are several styles within this category to choose from. One of the biggest benefits of gas grills is that they heat up quickly, so you can get grilling faster.
  • Charcoal grills: This has been a long-standing fan favorite for a reason, as these grills are both easy to use and install, and the charcoal creates a rich, smoky flavor, which can be great for certain types of food like BBQ.
  • Kamado grills: Also referred to as ceramic smokers, kamado grills are similar to charcoal grills, though they can take much longer to heat up – potentially up to an hour. But unlike other types of grills, the shape of kamado grills emulates oven cooking, which means you can make everything from pizza to pulled pork.
  • Pellet grills: If you combined a smoker with a grill, you would essentially end up with a pellet grill. For added convenience, these grills often come with smart features like electronic temperature control, which means once your grill reaches its ideal temperature, you won’t have to worry about monitoring and making adjustments.

4. Buy Other Cooking Appliances

Like an indoor kitchen, an outdoor cooking space may need multiple appliances to function successfully. In addition to your grill, consider which other appliances could add style and functionality to the space. Some of the most popular additions include:

  • Outdoor pizza oven
  • Rotisserie roaster
  • Outdoor refrigerator or ice maker
  • Outdoor heaters
  • Fire pit
  • Vent hoods

To make clean-up easier, some homeowners may also choose to include an outdoor kitchen sink.

5. Install Outdoor Cabinets And Countertops

Luxury outdoor kitchen with built in grill and cabinetry.

Many outdoor kitchens feature a grill wrapped by cabinets, which can then be extended to provide additional cooking prep space. But selecting outdoor cabinets goes beyond what you might expect when designing an indoor kitchen, as these cabinets will need to be durable enough to withstand the elements while protecting whatever is stored inside.

Stainless steel, concrete and granite countertops are all good options for creating cooking space. Also consider outdoor kitchen access doors, cabinets and counters, providing protection from both water and humidity.

6. Add A Seating Or Eating Area

If you’re building an outdoor kitchen, you probably intend to use it as a place for friends and family to gather and enjoy the food you’ve prepared alfresco – so think of it as an entertaining space as you design the dining area.

There are a few viable ideas for outdoor eating areas. From simple free-standing tables to outdoor sectionals, chairs, or even some bar stools next to the cooking space, you can seat a crowd on any budget.

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7. Build A Roof Or Pergola

Luxury outdoor kitchen with full pergola and seating area with lighting.

Nothing puts a damper on your grilling plans quite like a storm cloud, so if you plan on spending more time outside in your new kitchen, you may want to consider building a roof or pergola to protect you and your kitchen from the elements.

This may be especially helpful for homeowners in particularly wet or sunny climates, providing some welcome storm coverage and shade. Different shade options will have different looks, and the precise scope of this project will depend on if your outdoor kitchen is freestanding or directly next to your house.

Incorporating a roof or cover into your kitchen plans also creates an opportunity to add lighting to ensure a bright, comfortable cooking area. Popular lighting options include string lights hung from above and LED lighting built into the counters and cabinets.

How Much Does It Cost To Build An Outdoor Kitchen?

The precise cost to build an outdoor kitchen depends on a few factors, including the scale of the project, the features you select and the types of materials you use. According to HomeLight, you can build a 100-square-foot outdoor kitchen for $4,500, though more elaborate, luxury set-ups could cost upward of $30,000.

If you prefer to hire a professional, expect to pay roughly 20% – 40% more in labor costs, per Home Advisor. But paying more may be worth it if you aren’t confident in your design or construction abilities.

Let a pro do it for you.

Find a top-rated pro to help on HomeAdvisor.

The Bottom Line: Are Outdoor Kitchens Worth The Money?

It’s very important to build an outdoor kitchen because you want to use and enjoy it – not for resale value. While a well-built, high-quality outdoor kitchen will most likely add some value to your home at resale time, nothing is guaranteed. Additions like this usually don’t add value equal to their costs, especially if you hire a contractor or use high-end finishes.

Instead, measure the value of your outdoor kitchen in the enjoyment that you and your family will get out of it while living in the home. After all, that’s why you want an outdoor kitchen – to make memories. Outdoor kitchens are a great option for people who love to entertain and who live in climates where they can be outdoors for a large portion of the year.

If you’re looking at financing options, a cash-out refinance could be a great way to go. You’ll be able to secure a large amount of cash at what will likely be a lower interest rate than you could get with most other loans. If that holds appeal, why not start the process to get a cash-out refinance today? You can also give one of the Home Loan Experts at Rocket Mortgage® a call at (833) 326-6020.

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

Katie Ziraldo

Katie Ziraldo is a financial writer and data journalist focused on creating accurate, accessible and educational content for future generations of home buyers. Her portfolio of work also includes The Detroit Free Press and The Huffington Post.