THE COOKING STATION
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times — think safety first. Avoid flammable construction materials such as wood around the cooking area. If you can’t avoid these materials, make sure there is proper insulation around the cooking elements, such as a grill insulation jacket, as well as ventilation to prevent overheating. Gas safety vents can prevent disaster in the case of a gas leak. Gas shut-off valves should be readily accessible, but not behind or too close to the grill. If you have kiddos, place the grill within sight of the swimming pool or other play areas so you can keep an eye on them. Be sure to include shade over or near the grill. A Texas summer is hot enough as it is, combine that with direct sunlight and heat from a grill, and you’ll dread using the kitchen during the day. Consider adding a warming drawer to your grill station to keep freshly cooked items hot or toast buns. Last, but not least, ventilation is the number one overlooked element when designing and outdoor kitchen. Don’t assume because you’re outside of the main house, you have proper ventilation. If there’s a covering over your outdoor kitchen, it will collect smoke and grease, which could damage the cover material as well as your air quality. Including the proper ventilation unit will direct the dirty air elsewhere and help keep the area cool.
Sinks eliminate the need to hustle in and out of the house to wash your hands, dishes or clean surface areas. Be sure to investigate local city codes regarding proper plumbing and drainage requirements. A bar sink is ideal as it gets the job done without taking up too much counter space — you can never have too much counter space. Storage doors and drawers with organizing accessories such as a paper towel holder and utensil compartments will help keep your workspace in order.
Enjoying the outdoors is best accomplished with a cold drink in hand and an under-counter refrigerator means you won’t have to trek in and out of the house for it. It will also enable you to store condiments conveniently nearby. Refrigeration drawers are a great way to organize refrigerated items. If your outdoor kitchen plan includes a bar, a beer dispenser unit will ensure your guests are always served cold, crisp brew.
Weather is an unpredictable beast and shouldn’t determine when you can and can’t use your outdoor kitchen. You can block the sun or rain by installing a pergola or pavilion over your kitchen. Solid roofed structures will help keep heat in; installing heaters along the roofline is an efficient way to keep your outdoor kitchen comfortable during the colder winter months. If you just want a place to cool off, wood arbors or thatched roofs are a less expensive solution and can be outfitted with a misting system.
The blazing Texas sun means a majority of outdoor cooking will be done after dark. Your outdoor kitchen should have bright task lighting directly above the area where you will be cooking and preparing food, such as Par-20 halogen bulbs. Ceiling fans with lighting kits are a great way to help keep the mosquitoes at bay. If the outdoor kitchen is covered by a slotted arbor, the installed lighting system should be rated for a wet location. For outdoor kitchens with a solid roof overhead, lighting rated for a damp location is acceptable.
Don’t forget to install a few electrical outlets for small appliances like a margarita machine, Magic Bullet®, phones or tablets. You may need to ramp the amount of electrical if you’re planning to install an entertainment system with speakers and/or a TV.
The placement of your outdoor kitchen should be adjacent to the outdoor dining area as well as the rear door of the house. The layout should offer ample room to move and work within your outdoor kitchen. In an efficient kitchen layout, the refrigerator, grill and sink should form three points of a triangle, with no leg of the triangle measuring more than 10’ feet, and free of obstructions such as cabinets or an island. The most common outdoor kitchen design is an island layout, which clusters the grill and all appliances in one central unit. It is cost-effective and great for creating an entertaining hub. Consider raising one side of the countertop to separate the cooking and socializing areas. Straight line kitchens are similar to an indoor “kitchenette” or galley kitchen as it is installed against a wall. It’s ideal for smaller, more budget-friendly spaces where only one cook will work at a time. Keep in mind, if the kitchen will be against the wall of the house, you’ll have to choose non-combustible materials to protect the siding. It’s best to consult a professional in this case. If you’re planning a larger, freestanding kitchen with a full suite of appliances, sink and bar area, a U-shape layout may be best for you. This design mimics most indoor kitchens, allowing you to cook and engage with your guests simultaneously.
WORTH THE SPLURGE
Not all grills are created equal. Grills with non-magnetic or a 300 series grade of steel are ideal — they’re more durable and resistant to corrosion. And they typically come with a lifetime or extended warranty on parts. If picturesque grill-marks on your steak are important, splurge for a grill with a sear burner. Modern grills offer a suite of accessories to enhance your grill. Refrigeration products should be UL approved for outdoor use. This is also known as “Outdoor Rated.” UL or Underwriters Laboratories, is an independent organization which tests and rates products based on quality and safety. Outdoor-rated refrigerators have the capacity to maintain a steady internal temperature despite the fluctuating outdoor temperatures. They also have weather proof electrical components, ensuring your refrigerator won’t electrocute you or short out during a rain storm.
Non-porous, natural countertop materials are worth the extra money. Manufactured surfaces, such as Silestone®, are easily affected by UV rays, which will weaken the material and cause discoloration. Granite is an ideal choice as unlike Lueder’s stone, concrete or limestone, it’s stain resistant, cleans easily and has no grout lines.
INSTALLATION & CONSTRUCTION TIMELINE
Construction timing will vary depending on the size and intricacy of the project. If you’re working with a contractor, they’ll typically need about 10 days for equipment and materials to be delivered. The average grill stand or island will take four to five days to construct, after which the counter top can be measured and ordered. Counter fabrication and installation typically adds another four to five days. Once the counters are in, appliances can be installed. Any electrical or plumbing needs are usually done in unison with the grill stand construction. Building an outdoor kitchen, like indoor kitchen remodeling, requires a great deal of planning and consideration. Stop by your local Factory Builder Stores showroom to discuss the best options for your outdoor kitchen with our experienced and friendly staff.
FACTORY BUILDER STORES
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