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  • Writer's pictureJohn Coleman

A Guide to Design a Low-Budget DIY Outdoor Kitchen

Updated: Apr 23




Introduction

A low-budget DIY outdoor kitchen with a grill, pizza oven, sink, and lighting. There are mountains set against a sunset in the background.
DIY Outdoor Kitchen

Building your low-budget DIY outdoor kitchen can be an exciting and fulfilling task. It allows for the creation of a unique space for cooking, dining, and entertaining, tailored to your specific needs and preferences. This project combines elements of design, construction, and outdoor living, encouraging you to think creatively about the potential of your backyard. Whether you have experience with DIY projects or are new to building, this guide will provide you with all the necessary steps and considerations to turn your outdoor kitchen vision into a reality.


According to the Outdoor Trends Report 2023 released by FIXR, "52% of professionals predict that outdoor kitchens will be the most popular trend" in the coming years. Moreover, "85% of experts believe that homeowners will allocate a quarter of their home remodeling budget to outdoor living." These statistics highlight the growing demand and importance of outdoor living spaces, making it an ideal time to embark on your DIY low-budget outdoor kitchen project. So let's get started!



What Is A Low-Budget DIY Outdoor Kitchen?

A low-budget DIY outdoor kitchen is a cooking and dining area that is constructed by the homeowner using affordable materials and basic construction techniques. It can range from a simple grill station to a fully functional kitchen with appliances, countertops, and storage space. The main advantage of building your own outdoor kitchen is the cost savings compared to hiring professionals or purchasing pre-made units. Additionally, designing and building your own outdoor kitchen allows for customization and personalization to suit your specific needs and style.

How Much Does It Cost to Build an Outdoor Kitchen?

The first question many people ask is, "How much does it cost to build an outdoor kitchen?" The answer varies depending on the size, materials used, and level of customization. According to HomeAdvisor, an outdoor kitchen typically costs between $6,082 and $25,952, with the average homeowner paying $15,978 for their new backyard space. There are outdoor kitchen cost calculators and helpful articles that can assist you in estimating the costs of your outdoor kitchen project. It's important to set a budget before beginning the project and carefully consider which features are essential and which ones can be added later. This will help you stay on track and avoid overspending.


Is Building an Outdoor Kitchen Worth the Investment?

The return on investment (ROI) for an outdoor kitchen can be quite significant, with multiple factors contributing to this. According to the 2023 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features by NAR Research Group, outdoor kitchens can provide up to a 100% return on investment at the time of home sale, depending on the quality of the construction and regional market conditions. However, the ROI isn't just financial. The intangible benefits of creating a dedicated space for outdoor entertainment and dining can significantly enhance your lifestyle and enjoyment of your home. The added convenience and pleasure of cooking outside, coupled with the potential for increased home value, make building an outdoor kitchen a worthwhile investment.


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How Do I Minimize DIY Outdoor Kitchen Costs?

When planning the construction of an outdoor kitchen, it's important to carefully consider the cost. However, there are ways to minimize expenses without sacrificing quality. Performing this project as a DIY is going to be more cost-effective and will give you more control over every aspect of the design. However, there may be sections of the build that may be above your skill set, such as structural extensions of your home, plumbing, and gas or electrical connections. Make sure to do your research beforehand or hire a professional for those specific tasks. Hiring a contractor can save you time and hassle but may add to the overall cost of the project.


Being a savvy shopper can make a significant impact on cost. Keep an eye out for sales and discounts, compare prices from various suppliers, and consider purchasing second-hand or refurbished items. Usually in a project of this size, you will be making purchases in-store and online. A great way to save right out of the gate is to shop through money saving apps as well as apps that allow you to scan your receipts to get money back. These apps can be found in the app store on your iphone or android. It is also important to note that many retailers show their appreciation to both veterans and active duty military by offering a "military discount" (with presentation of your military ID at the time of purchase). It never hurts to ask before you check out. (You may be interested in my post with helpful tips to save on DIY projects)


Opting for more affordable materials instead of choosing high-end options like granite countertops will save a substantial amount of money. Concrete or tile can provide a similar aesthetic at a lower cost.


Meticulously planning out the layout and design of your outdoor kitchen will be one of the key factors in cutting costs during your project.


By incorporating existing structures or features into the design, you can reduce construction costs. Placing your kitchen close to your house can also lower installation fees for utilities.


With a bit of patience and strategic planning, it is possible to create a beautiful and functional outdoor kitchen within your budget. So, don't let cost deter you from creating the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. With some creative thinking and careful planning, you can have an amazing space for cooking and entertaining without breaking the bank.



Step 1: Where Should I Build My Outdoor Kitchen?

Deciding on the perfect location for your outdoor kitchen involves taking into account several important factors. Ideally, you want it to be easily accessible from your indoor kitchen to ensure a seamless cooking experience. It should also be conveniently located near water sources and electrical outlets. While a beautiful view can enhance the ambiance, be sure to consider protection from elements such as wind or rain. Additionally, consider the sun's orientation at different times of the day for optimal comfort and usability. If there is enough space, it may be beneficial to designate areas for dining and relaxation, creating a complete outdoor entertainment zone. Overall, choosing the right location for your outdoor kitchen involves careful planning and consideration to ensure a functional and enjoyable experience. By keeping these factors in mind, you can create an outdoor cooking space that meets all of your needs. So go ahead and start envisioning the perfect spot for your al-fresco dining and entertainment! The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating an inviting and practical outdoor kitchen.



Step 2: Decide the Layout and Dimensions of Your Outdoor Kitchen

When planning your outdoor kitchen, it's important to determine the appropriate size for your space. Most outdoor kitchens range from 100 sq. ft to 400 sq. ft, which is equivalent to a minimum of 10ft. x 10ft. up to 20ft. x 20ft. This decision should be based on the intended use and the number of people who will regularly use it. For larger gatherings, a bigger space is necessary to comfortably accommodate seating and standing areas. However, if your family is small and you don't entertain often, a smaller layout may be sufficient. Keep in mind the size of your appliances, countertops, and seating when determining the dimensions of your outdoor kitchen. This will ensure that everything fits and functions properly in your space. So, choose wisely!


Additionally, the size of your outdoor kitchen may also depend on your budget and available space. If you have a limited budget or a smaller outdoor area, it may be more practical to opt for a more compact layout. On the other hand, if you have a larger budget and ample space, you can consider a more spacious and elaborate design.


In terms of functionality, a larger outdoor kitchen may offer more options for cooking, entertaining, and storage. However, even with a smaller space, you can still create a functional and efficient outdoor kitchen by carefully planning its layout and utilizing clever storage solutions. This will ensure that your cooking and entertaining needs are met, regardless of the size of your outdoor kitchen.


Step 3: Designing Your Low-Budget DIY Outdoor Kitchen

There are different ways to design your DIY project. You may need a little inspiration or ideas to get you started. You have probably already been looking in magazines, books, and online but perhaps you know a contractor or designer who might offer some advice and pointers. You may also consider using an outdoor kitchen design app. Some of them are free while others cost very little to download. Now we are getting to the fun part.


Designing your outdoor kitchen can be exciting as you get to choose everything from the layout to the finishes. The key is to incorporate functionality while keeping aesthetics in mind. Below are some common but important amenities that you will need to consider as you put your design together.



What type of structure cover to choose for your outdoor kitchen?

Deciding on the type of cover for your outdoor kitchen is largely guided by various factors, such as your geographical location, personal preference, and budget. There are multiple options available to consider:


Pergolas: These structures are popular due to their pleasing appearance and ability to create an open, airy atmosphere. They offer partial shade, allowing sunlight to filter through while granting a view of the sky. (See my information guide on choosing a pergola)


Purple Leaf is a good place to explore for ideas and compare prices for affordable DIY pergola kits of various sizes and types including louvered and retractable.


Gazebos: A gazebo provides more protection than a pergola, shielding you from direct sunlight and light rain while still maintaining a feeling of spaciousness. (See my guide on choosing a gazebo)


SunJoy Group is a website I recommend checking out for reasonably priced gazebo kits. They offer a huge variety of hard and soft top gazebos made of wood, steel, and aluminum with many color selections to choose from.


Purple Leaf offers a large variety of hard-top DIY gazebos with various features including screened-in options, outdoor curtains, and lights.


Roof extensions: For ultimate protection from the elements, extending your house roof to cover your outdoor kitchen is an ideal choice. This option may require more significant structural work and be more expensive, but it seamlessly integrates your indoor and outdoor spaces. (See my post on back patio roof ideas)


Umbrellas or Shade Sails: These options are the most economical, providing a convenient and adjustable covering that can be removed as needed. When selecting a cover, ensure that it complements the overall design of your outdoor kitchen and home.

Make sure to select one that meets your specific needs and enhances the overall aesthetic of your outdoor space. Remember to take into account not only practicality but also style when making this decision. (See my posts on large patio umbrellas and shade sails)


If you are looking for a standard or custom size shade sail, I would recommend Covers & All. They have standard sizes but can also make a custom shade sail to fit whatever area you are looking to cover. It's worth taking a look even if you are just gathering ideas.



What type of outdoor kitchen island will you choose?

A significant feature of outdoor kitchens is the island, which not only adds style but also functionality. There are various types of island designs to choose from, each with its benefits.


  1. Straight or Rectangular Islands: These islands provide a simple yet functional design, with a straight countertop and enough space for seating and cooking. They are a great choice for smaller outdoor spaces or as an addition to a larger island.

  2. L-Shaped Islands: This design offers two connected countertops at right angles, creating an L-shape. It allows for a designated cooking area on one side and additional counter space for prep work or seating on the other.

  3. U-Shaped Islands: As the name suggests, these islands feature three connected countertops in a U-shape. They offer maximum workspace and storage while also allowing for separate areas for cooking, prep work, and seating. They are ideal for larger outdoor kitchens.

  4. Galley Style Islands: These islands feature a long and narrow design, making them perfect for smaller spaces or budget constraints. They also provide ample counter space for food prep and can be customized to include storage cabinets, sinks, and even grills.

  5. Custom Islands - If you have a larger budget, consider investing in a custom island for your outdoor kitchen. This option allows for complete customization and can be designed to fit your specific needs and space. From built-in appliances to unique design elements, the possibilities are endless with a custom island. There are companies out there that can build custom island DIY kits to fit your space and needs. One that I recommend is RTA Outdoor Living. They will review your plans with you and make suggestions to help you accomplish what you are envisioning.


As you explore the options above, think about if you would like to build them from scratch or go with a pre-fab option. Keep in mind that there are some pre-fab options that are customizable and may be all-inclusive with appliances, sinks, grills, etc. There are specific situations where each of these options are beneficial but it depends on the extent of the project and time frame desired for completion.

No matter the shape or size of your island, careful consideration should be given to its placement and functionality within the overall layout of your outdoor kitchen. It should not obstruct traffic flow and should allow for easy access to appliances and storage.



What Materials Should Be Used on the Island Base? 

It is important to prioritize durability. Your island should be made from materials that can withstand various weather conditions, constant use, and potential spills or stains. Some popular options for outdoor kitchen islands include natural stone, stainless steel, and concrete. Each material has its own unique benefits and aesthetic appeal.


For a luxurious look, natural stone is a great choice. It offers durability and a timeless elegance to any outdoor space. Just keep in mind that regular sealing is necessary to protect against potential stains or damage.


Stainless steel is also a popular option for its modern and sleek appearance. Not only is it durable, but it's also easy to clean - perfect for outdoor use. Be sure to choose high-quality stainless steel (304 and 316 grades) to ensure it can withstand outdoor conditions.


If you want a more customizable design, concrete is a great option. It's available in a variety of colors and allows for unique designs. Concrete is also able to withstand extreme temperatures and if sealed properly, is resistant to stains and cracks.


Prioritizing durability is a must and this is achieved through choosing the right materials. Though you are trying to complete this project as cost-efficiently as possible, it is still a large investment and you want it to last.



What Materials Should Be Used for Outdoor Kitchen Countertops?

When considering the different types of materials available for outdoor kitchen countertops, several options stand out, each with its unique set of pros and cons. For example, concrete is commonly used due to its hard-wearing properties and the freedom it allows in design, although it does necessitate regular sealing to avoid staining and cracking. Granite, on the other hand, is a popular choice for its durability and natural beauty but can be costly. Additionally, it requires occasional sealing to maintain its appearance. Quartzite, with its natural, upscale aesthetic, resists both heat and scratches, a quality not shared by its cousin, quartz, which may fade under direct sunlight. Stainless steel countertops offer a sleek, sanitary surface that is both heat and rust-resistant, but their susceptibility to scratching and stark aesthetic might not appeal to all. Outdoor tile is a cost-effective, adaptable solution that resists heat and stains; however, the grout lines can prove tough to clean. Slate and soapstone are attractive options offering decent heat resistance, but their proneness to scratching demands regular upkeep. Wood countertops impart a warm, rustic vibe, but they are vulnerable to decay and insect damage, requiring continuous maintenance. On the flip side, certain materials are best avoided due to their unsuitability for outdoor use. Marble and limestone are stain and weather-prone, glass risks scratching and shattering, and bluestone, although sturdy, can overheat under direct sunlight.


Determining the best choice of material for outdoor kitchen countertops depends largely on the specific needs and preferences of the user. However, among the options presented, concrete, quartzite, granite, stainless steel, and outdoor tiling stand out as strong contenders. Concrete's affordability, design flexibility, and durability make it a popular choice for outdoor spaces. Quartzite's resistance to heat and scratches, coupled with its natural and upscale aesthetic, makes it a versatile choice. Granite's durability and resistance to heat, scratches, and weathering make it a top choice for outdoor countertops. Stainless steel, being sanitary, heat, and rust-resistant, offers a sleek, modern look, despite its propensity to scratches. Outdoor tile, while not as high-end looking, is cost-effective, adaptable, and resistant to heat and stains, although its grout lines may need regular cleaning. Each of these options presents a unique combination of durability, aesthetic appeal, and maintenance requirements that cater to different lifestyle needs and design preferences.


Essential Elements for Your Outdoor Kitchen Island

Your outdoor kitchen island can contain a multitude of items tailored to your cooking style and entertainment needs.


A grill is a vital component, providing the perfect space for barbecuing your favorite dishes. Paired with a vent hood/range hood, it ensures efficient smoke and scent extraction, maintaining a pleasant environment. ( See my post on how to choose a grill and how to choose a vent hood)


An outdoor sink is also essential for food preparation and clean-up, saving you from frequent trips indoors. (See my post on how to choose an outdoor sink)


Fridges, wine fridges, and kegerators are ideal for keeping your drinks chilled and at hand, while a beverage center offers an organized area for mixing and serving drinks. (See my posts on outdoor fridges and wine fridges)


Storage drawers and cabinetry provide ample space to store cooking utensils, plates, and other essential items, ensuring your kitchen remains clutter-free.


Access doors add functionality, providing easy access to gas lines and plumbing — they're a must-have for an outdoor kitchen.


An ice maker can be a great addition if you frequently entertain, ensuring a steady supply of ice for drinks.


You can save a lot of money on the items above when you consider versatility. Seeking out options that combine some of the functions of each of the items listed above is likely to be more cost-efficient.


Finally, proper insulation and ventilation are key to maintaining the longevity of your outdoor kitchen and the safety of those using it. Insulation ensures your appliances work efficiently, while ventilation prevents heat buildup and removes excess smoke. As you can see, an outdoor kitchen island can be as full-featured as any indoor version, bringing unparalleled convenience to your outdoor living space.


What Lighting Should You Choose?

Proper lighting selection is a pivotal aspect of designing an outdoor kitchen, enhancing both functionality and aesthetics.


Task lighting is crucial for activities like cooking and cleaning, ensuring safety and precision. Task lighting can be achieved with under-cabinet lighting, spotlighting, or focused overhead fixtures.


Ambient lighting creates the mood and provides overall illumination. Soft, diffused light sources such as lanterns or string lights can be used for this purpose.


Accent lighting highlights specific features or areas of your outdoor kitchen, such as architectural elements or landscaping. Spotlights, uplighting, or downlighting can be employed to this effect.


Lastly, Safety lighting is essential for areas such as steps, pathways, and pool areas, to prevent accidents in low-light conditions. This can include path lights or stair lights.

Remember to opt for energy-efficient and waterproof lighting fixtures designed for outdoor use. Dimmable lights are also a good choice, as they offer maximum flexibility to adjust the brightness according to your needs and preferences. Lighting choices should not only be functional but also complement the overall design and mood that you are looking to achieve.



Outdoor Fireplace or Fire Pit?

Adding a fireplace or fire pit to your outdoor kitchen can greatly enhance the overall ambiance of your outdoor living area. These features serve as eye-catching focal points, providing not only warmth and coziness but also an element of sophistication. An outdoor fireplace offers a more traditional aesthetic while producing substantial heat output and adding architectural appeal. On the other hand, fire pits have a more casual feel and are perfect for creating a communal atmosphere, making them ideal for gatherings with friends and family. Whichever option you choose, both provide the opportunity to extend your outdoor usage into the colder months.


Safety should always be a top priority. Be sure to leave enough space between the kitchen and the fireplace or fire pit and use only fire-proof or fire-resistant materials. So go ahead, take the plunge, and add a touch of warmth and charm to your outdoor kitchen with a fireplace or fire pit. Your guests will thank you and your outdoor dining and entertaining experience will be elevated to a whole new level. So whether you prefer a more traditional fireplace or a casual fire pit, the result will surely enhance your outdoor living area and create unforgettable memories with loved ones throughout the year. And remember, safety and budget considerations can always be addressed as you continue to enhance and personalize your outdoor space. So why wait? Start planning now and bring that cozy, inviting feel of an indoor living room to your backyard. And don't worry if your budget doesn't allow for these features right away - they can always be added later on as you continue to build and improve your outdoor living space.


Safety Considerations

Just like with any indoor kitchen, safety should be a top priority when designing an outdoor kitchen. Make sure to incorporate fire safety measures, such as a fire extinguisher and proper storage for propane tanks. Additionally, be mindful of the materials used in your outdoor kitchen, making sure they are heat resistant and won't become slippery when wet.


Conclusion

Designing and building a low-budget DIY outdoor kitchen is a great way to upgrade your outdoor living space and elevate your dining and entertainment experience. By thoughtfully planning the layout, selecting suitable appliances, and incorporating design elements that fit within your budget, you can create a functional and stylish outdoor kitchen that meets all your needs. It is important to keep safety in mind when including fire features, such as a fireplace or fire pit, in your outdoor kitchen. With careful consideration and planning, your outdoor kitchen can become a beloved gathering spot for loved ones for years to come. Don't hesitate any longer - start designing your dream outdoor kitchen today! Enjoy cooking and entertaining in your new space! Now you can finalize your design and begin your project to make your outdoor kitchen dream a reality!


Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What are some low-cost materials I can use for my DIY outdoor kitchen countertops?  

A: Several reasonably priced materials can work well for outdoor kitchen countertops. Consider using tiled countertops, which are both cost-effective and heat and stain-resistant. Concrete can also be cost-friendly if you're up for doing the work yourself, and it provides a sturdy, customizable surface.

Q: Can I build an outdoor kitchen on a small budget?  

A: Absolutely. While some outdoor kitchens can be quite elaborate, a functional and attractive setup can be created on a budget. The key to this is planning and choosing materials wisely. Repurposed items can also be incorporated into your design for additional savings.

Q: What appliances are essential for a budget-friendly outdoor kitchen?  

A: The essential appliances depend on your cooking preferences. A good grill is often the centerpiece of an outdoor kitchen. A small refrigerator for keeping food and drinks cold can also be essential. Other appliances like a sink or a burner can be added as your budget allows.

Q: How can I save money on my outdoor kitchen build?  

A: There are several strategies to save money on your outdoor kitchen. Doing the work yourself where possible, repurposing items, and shopping sales for appliances and materials can all significantly cut costs. Also, keep the design simple and focus on the essentials first.

Q: Can a DIY outdoor kitchen add value to my home?  

A: Yes! Outdoor kitchens can significantly increase the value of your home, especially in regions where outdoor living is highly valued. Even on a tight budget, a well-designed, DIY outdoor kitchen can provide a good return on investment. Just be sure to use quality materials and execute the project with attention to detail.


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