How to build an outdoor kitchen – create a sociable and practical open-air kitchen

How to make an alfresco kitchen complete with sink, storage and worktop space
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  • If you want to transform your garden, decking or patio into a true extension of your home, a DIY outdoor kitchen is the way to go. Working out how to build an outdoor kitchen from scratch will, of course, take some careful planning, but it’ll be well worth it.

    First, you’ll need to decide which pieces of equipment you want to install, as well as thinking about plumbing and location. Having an outdoor kitchen will up your entertaining game, allowing you to enjoy cooking in the great outdoors without dashing in and out to grab utensils.

    If you’ve been brainstorming outdoor kitchen ideas and want to take on the task of building one yourself, we have step-by-step instructions from interior design blogger and home DIYer Luke Arthur Wells, which he shared as part of his work with COAT Paints.

    How to build an outdoor kitchen

    No matter how much space you have to play with – or how ambitious your plans may be – one thing’s for sure: you’re going to need some seriously hardwearing materials. ‘From a fully functional kitchen to a simple BBQ area, designing your outdoor kitchen will depend on your budget, lifestyle, and space,’ says Nick Whiley, Project Director at luxury decking and cladding company Trekker Global.

    ‘For a kitchen that is built-in, it is important to consider how you use the space. Having a proper prep area and worktop is vital, as well as possible storage options to keep items in throughout the year, such as cooking utensils,’ says Nick.

    ‘Make sure you choose a weatherproof material, like composite cladding and decking, so it can withstand the weather throughout the year.’

    outdoor kitchen with green egg oven and tiles

    Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd

    Before you order any materials or begin any DIY, think about the who, what, when where, and why of your outdoor kitchen. Above all, it needs to be practical, convenient, and sociable.

    Sylvia James, interior design expert at HomeHow says you need to think about what you want to cook, too. ‘Will a simple grill or pizza oven be adequate or are you aiming to wow guests with gourmet meals using rotisseries, smokers and professional grills?’ Sylvia asks.

    As Nick mentions above, Sylvia says it’s important to use good-quality products designed specifically for outdoor use, or you could end up spending more in the long run. Follow the step-by-step below to make a mini outdoor kitchen with wooden slats, a large, traditional sink, and a chunky wooden worktop.

    Materials you’ll need

    • Treated exterior wood (Luke used 900mm decking spindles for the frame)
    • Fence slats or 1 slatted fence panel
    • Treated exterior wood for the worktop
    • Outdoor screws
    • Zinc-plated brackets
    • Mitre saw
    • Drill
    • Electric screwdriver
    • Orbital sander or sandpaper
    • Exterior paint (Luke used a lovely olive green shade called Nomad by COAT Paints)
    • Woodstain
    • Belfast sink, with waste and pipes
    • Spray adhesive (optional)
    • Exterior instant grab adhesive

    Luke had exterior taps put in during a kitchen renovation.

    outdoor kitchen by luke arthur wells

    Image credit: @lukearthurwells

    Step-by-step

    1. Build the frame for your sink

    First, build the frame around a Belfast sink. Turn the sink upside down, and start by creating the supports to go underneath. Luke used 900mm treated decking spindles from Wickes, which were the right height for the outdoor kitchen, but he needed to cut the horizontal pieces to size.

    wooden legs attached to a belfast sink

    Image credit: @lukearthurwells

    2. Attach all of the pieces together

    To attach the frame together, Luke first used a spray adhesive mitre glue to secure the pieces temporarily. Then he drilled pilot holes and used outdoor screws to attach throughout. When you find later on that you cannot attach any more pieces with screws because of existing screws in the frame, you can use your zinc-plated brackets to join these pieces of the frame.

    3. Join the legs with more horizontal supports

    Once the two sets of legs are made for the sink, join them together with more horizontal supports. Add supports between both the top and bottom of the legs for extra support.

    horizontal supports made from 900mm wood

    Image credit: @lukearthurwells

    4. Add more horizontal supports

    Add horizontal supports at the front and back base to finish off the sink unit. Start to extend the kitchen unit base by creating two more legs, to the same proportions as the two vertical pieces on either side of the side.

    wooden frame for the outdoor kitchen sink

    Image credit: @lukearthurwells

    5. Join the legs and add brackets under the sink supports

    Join these together with horizontal pieces to the sink unit. Because of the screws already used, you’ll likely have to use the brackets at this point. Take this opportunity to add brackets underneath the sink supports too, as this is the heaviest part.

    zinc bracket being drilled into the wooden support for the outdoor kitchen sink

    Image credit: @lukearthurwells

    6. Paint the frame

    Now, paint the frame to make it easier once the slats are attached.

    7. Remove slats from old fence panel and cut to size

    Next, if you’re using a fence panel, you’ll need to remove them from the frame with a crowbar. Hammer out any remaining pins or nails. Cut these down to size.

    You’ll need 900mm ones for either side of the sink, then measure the space under the sink too. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect, but it’s better to be too long than too short.

    painting the wooden frame for the outdoor kitchen sink

    Image credit: @lukearthurwells

    10. Paint the slats

    Give the slats their first coat with your exterior paint now before you attach them.

    900mm strips of wood being painted green

    Image credit: @lukearthurwells

    11. Space the slats out neatly

    Work out the spacing between the slats by using a slat turned sideways to create a regular gap. To fix the slats onto the frame, use an instant grab exterior adhesive first.

    Pick one that takes 10-15 minutes to dry, which will give you enough time to adjust as needed before they stick. Make sure they’re all aligned at the top of the frame when sticking. Once dry, you can knock a few nails in to secure. For a professional finish, fill over the nail holes with exterior filler, sand, and then paint.

    attaching wooden slats to outdoor kitchen frame

    Image credit: @lukearthurwells

    13. Tidy up uneven slats

    If your slats are looking uneven, you can cut along the bottom at this point using a multi-tool to ensure they all look even.

    14. Add plastic feet

    Add some small plastic feet to ensure the frame is raised off the ground to avoid the timber being in direct contact with sitting water where possible.

    14. Fix it to the wall

    Now you have your frame, it’s time to fix it to the wall. Consider using large brackets and long masonry screws.

    15. Make and attach the wooden worktop

    To make the worktop, cut some chunky exterior treated wood to the size of your units on either side of the sink with a little overlap. Sand the edges to smooth out.

    Treat these surfaces with an exterior wood stain, then stick down using your instant grab adhesive. You can also attach some small zinc-plated plates to the underside of the timber to secure it into place.

    outdoor kitchen made from concrete with pizza oven and egg chair

    Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd

    It’s also worth thinking about landscaping and planting to help blend your outdoor kitchen in with the rest of your outdoor space. When you’re happy with your outdoor kitchen, you could also think about incorporating some garden bar ideas for creating homemade cocktails with friends and family this summer.

    And ahead of alfresco get-togethers, make sure you’re prepared by reading up on how to clean a barbecue.

    Can I build my own outdoor kitchen?

    Construction expert Gregory Smith from PriceYourJob says anyone can build their own outdoor kitchen – it’ll just take some planning. He recommends placing it on decking, which means you can combine the kitchen with an outdoor dining area or outdoor living room.

    Gregory highlights the importance of drawing up a strict budget and deciding on which components you want to include. The construction expert also suggests looking for a ready-built workstation made of iron or concrete rather than using wood.

    ‘These will last longer and survive the worst weather conditions,’ he says.

    outdoor kitchen with wooden units and pull out drawers for storage

    Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd

    How do I build an outdoor kitchen on a budget?

    ‘If you do intend on building your kitchen from scratch, then work with salvaged materials, for example, reclaimed wood or recycled brick,’ says Gregory Smith. ‘This will help cut your costs and will create a functional and stylish outdoor kitchen space.

    ‘Another cost-saving method is to repurpose trolleys, such as bar carts. These work well in an outdoor kitchen environment, as they can be used as both storage and worktops. Most can be retiled and treated so they can withstand the outdoors, or you can simply bring them inside when the weather turns.’

    Aaron Markwell, COAT‘s colour guru recommends looking for bargains on Facebook Marketplace or eBay for second-hand, more costly items like sinks and taps. ‘The rest of the kitchen won’t break the bank and using exterior paint will mean the paint will look fresh for years,’ says Aaron.

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