Outdoor Kitchen Countertops Options

Stone, concrete or tile? Get tips on how to find the right surface for your outdoor kitchen.
Mediterranean Outdoor Kitchen & Patio

Mediterranean Outdoor Kitchen & Patio

Photo courtesy of Mark Scott

From: Mark Scott Associates

Photo by: Mark Scott; Photo by Will Hare Photography ©Will Hare Photography

Mark Scott; Photo by Will Hare Photography, Will Hare Photography

By: Amanda Lecky

In an outdoor setting inferior craftsmanship will deteriorate quickly. When choosing outdoor kitchen countertops your priority should always be durability first, and looks second. Otherwise, you'll find your investment going up in smoke.

Planning enough counter space is your priority here. A total of 36' of 24"-deep counter is the bare minimum. Select a material that will suit the style of your house and your cooking style. Your best choices are natural stone, concrete or tile. If your heart is set on a manufactured countertop like quartz or recycled glass, talk to the manufacturer first. Most use pigments that are not designed to stand up to outdoor use, so if the counter is exposed to UV rays the color may change over time.

Stone

There are many types of stone, and you can use any of them on your outdoor countertop, but should you? Porous stones like marble, limestone and bluestone may look great at first, but they stain easily, so you may be left with counters marred by grease or wine.

Granite's a popular, durable option. It stands up well to the elements, doesn't absorb stains or odors as easily as other stones, and shouldn't fade in the sun. "Look for a style that doesn't have a lot of veining," says landscape architect Steve Chepurny of Beechwood Landscape Architecture. "The epoxies and fillers used in heavily veined granite can have a negative reaction to the UV rays."

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With granite, choose a mid-range color. Darker stones will absorb heat and you can burn your hand if you touch a really hot countertop.

Another durable stone option is soapstone. Available in a range of gray to black shades, your color choices are limited but soapstone has lots of pros in its favor, like heat-, stain- and bacteria-resistance. Also, unlike granite, soapstone is non porous so regular sealing isn't necessary. It can also stand up to acidic foods, like citrus, vinegar and tomatoes, which is a big bonus in any kitchen prep area.  

Price: Granite: $50-$100 per square foot / Soapstone: $70 to $120 per square foot

Concrete

It's at the top of the trend heap right now thanks to its clean, contemporary look, but choosing concrete’s not a no-brainer. Why? It's prone to cracking if not installed correctly. "When we do custom concrete counters we reinforce them with tensile steel," says Steve. "And you still have to worry about cracking."

Finding an experienced installer is everything. If you do, you'll have virtually infinite range of custom color options, and can even integrate features like a draining board beside the sink. Concrete must be sealed on installation and resealed regularly.

Price: about $100 per square foot

Tile

Tile offers the widest range of style options. You can go with an ornately patterned style, or a stone look, or just about anything in-between. It's frequently affordable, and it's the easiest do-it-yourself surfacing material of the bunch. But if you live in a cold climate, the freeze-thaw cycle puts the grout and tiles at great risk of cracking.

Also, grout stains, even when it's been sealed. If you decide to go the tile route, choose freeze-proof tiles, use dark grout, and hire an installer who knows the business very well. He or she will use products appropriate for your climate, and can instruct you on proper care.

Price: $10-$30 per square foot

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