• Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News – ask@renovationdesigngroup.com

The outdoor entertaining season is almost here. Even with the occasional spring showers, the pleasant weather lately is practically begging us to take dinner parties outside. It is hard to imagine spring and summer without a little outdoor cooking.

Eighty percent of all U.S. households have a grill or smoker, according to a 2013 study by Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, with 60 percent of those using their grill or smoker year-round, not just in the peak season of May to September.

The backyard culinary experience has moved far beyond a simple barbecue on the patio. Manufacturers of appliances and cabinetry are now producing products to create complete outdoor kitchens.

This built-in BBQ is part of an outdoor kitchen (Kevin Bunell Renovation Design group)



A trip to the nearest home-improvement center will confirm the wide range of free-standing barbecues that are available. Pushing aside the lowly kettle barbecue, huge, stainless steel barbecue behemoths stand ready to meet a griller’s every need.

Barbecues don’t just grill anymore. Some come equipped with rotisseries and can double as smokers. Additional stovetop burners are also available in some models, so you can prepare the whole meal without ever stepping foot inside the “real” kitchen.

For some, a giant, all-inclusive barbecue just isn’t enough. These intrepid grillers want more — an actual outdoor kitchen.

Only stainless-steel appliances can be used to equip an outdoor kitchen as stanless steel is less likely to rust and is more durable for the outdoors. These may include an undercounter refrigerator and small cooktop (usually one or two burners).

Stainless steel sinks and faucets are often used as well. And, of course, we can’t forget the barbecue itself, which is generally built into a counter with shelves or cabinets below.

Large grilling “islands” are produced commercially and include all these amenities in one free-standing unit. Remember, when you are considering purchasing one of these islands that the placement in your yard or on your patio is critical. Check the manufacturer’s requirements for clearance, which ranges between 12 inches and 36 inches. This distance is required both for reasons of venting the barbecue and for keeping heat away from combustible materials.

Some homeowners decide to build a permanent structure of their own design so it can be customized to their particular needs and wants. Safety is a primary concern when designing a grilling station. The barbecue itself is best supported by fire-resistant masonry, though this only works if you have a ground-level patio.

All materials used must obviously be weather resistant. Any kind of concrete, stone or brick is suitable for the base of the outdoor kitchen, as are stainless steel, pre-manufactured cabinets.

If you construct something out of wood, any wood that comes into contact with the ground or any masonry or concrete-based product (concrete slab, concrete block, brick, etc.) needs to be pressure-treated. The structure needs to be covered with water-resistant materials such as stucco, stone, or tile to meet the requirements of fire and weather resistance.

If you are creating an outdoor kitchen, the same functional ‘rules’ apply as the inside kitchen. Make sure there is ample counter space on either side of the barbecue and a clear 42-inch-wide area available for circulation in front of the barbeque. Lighting is an issue that should be addressed if you think you will barbecue year round.

The counters must take exposure to wind and water, as well as Utah’s freezing temperatures. Stone, tile, stainless steel or concrete are appropriate materials.

Often homeowners want a roof over their outdoor cooking space. Technically, no wood should be used over a barbecue, whether a roof or a pergola. If some roof is a must, consider partially covering the area, leaving the barbecue in the open. A frame can also be constructed of steel and a metal roof applied if a full roof is non-negotiable.

Remember, the design of the outdoor kitchen should have some relation to the design of your home. Barbecues produce a lot of smoke, so keep in mind the prevailing winds in your area when placing a grilling station. Plumbing issues will also need to be considered as a water and drain line as well as a permanent gas line to the area may be needed. In addition, electric power may be needed for lighting, refrigeration and a rotisserie.

So, get ready to grill! Plan ahead now to be ready for the Fourth of July extravaganza of your dreams.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com


Designing your own ultimate outdoor kitchen