A Place for Your Outdoor Kitchen

From convenience to budget, use these tips to evaluate where you should build your outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor Kitchen Palm Beach

Photo by: Outdoor


By: Amanda Lecky

There's no "right" spot for an outdoor kitchen. You might like the idea of a barbecuing area just outside the back door of your house, or a freestanding kitchen pavilion by the pool might suit your style better.

An outdoor kitchen close to the house is popular for several reasons. When the outdoor kitchen is close to the house, the house provides natural shelter for the culinary station. The walls of the house shield appliances from wind and sun, and it's easy to extend a roof overhang or add an attached pergola or other overhead structure to provide protection from rain and snow. Additionally, it's generally less expensive to run utility lines from the house to the outdoor kitchen.

If you choose a close-to-the-house kitchen, remember you'll stay more comfortable in the kitchen if it's against a north-facing wall instead of a warmer south or west-facing wall. "If the cooking area is positioned under a roof overhang or porch ceiling, make sure it's near the end—otherwise, smoke and cooking odors will be trapped," says Mark Allen, president of the National Outdoor Kitchen and Fireplace Association (NOKFA). It's a good idea to think about proximity to windows and doors, unless you want the inside of your home to smell like a smokehouse.

More far-flung locations can work very well, particularly if you're planning a fully outfitted space that requires less to-and-from the indoor kitchen. In this scenario, you may want to incorporate more storage, so you can keep essentials like mixing bowls, tools, condiments and dishes at their point of use. A sink will keep you from having to run inside every time you need to rinse your hands.

Wherever you locate the kitchen, remember to plan shelter from the elements, and shade from the sun. If it will be on an existing deck, you may have to reinforce the structure to support the weight of heavy grilling equipment.

Site It Right

Once you know where you want to put the outdoor kitchen it's time to evaluate where you should put it. This is a good time to consult a professional, even if you're planning to install it yourself.

"Even if you're not going to have someone else build the project, it's smart to consult an expert in the beginning," says Mark. "They'll see things you haven't, and will probably save you money in the long run." Whether you're working with a pro or not, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Codes vary by municipality, so check with your town's building department to find out rules about setbacks, regulations about how close you can build to your property line, fire safety, and what kind of permits you'll need to file.
  • Even if you can build right up to the property line, you probably shouldn't. Be considerate and evaluate privacy, noise and smoke issues from your neighbor's point of view.
  • "To prevent fire, the grill or any heat-producing appliance should be at least 10' feet from the house or from any combustible material," says landscape architect Richard Gibney of Gibney Design Group.
  • Be sure to light the kitchen adequately, and don't forget surrounding areas, like steps and paths.
  • Long runs of pipe and wire can add up. If you're planning to run water, electric and gas to your outdoor kitchen, keep it close to the house or to the source of the utility.
  • It's no fun to cook in, or hang out near, a smoky kitchen. So be sure the grill is near the edge of any enclosure, or install a ventilation system.

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