Outdoor Living Project Guide

Outdoor Kitchens: Utility Needs & Functionality

Evaluate Your Utility Needs

When it comes to utilities, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve planned for sufficient electric supply and outlets — not just for your outdoor kitchen appliances, but also for lighting, speakers, and electronics and other devices. And you’ll also want to ensure that you’ve arranged for adequate gas to fuel your grill, cooktops, fire features and anything else powered by gas. Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, recommends using dedicated circuits for your outdoor kitchen and putting GFI breakers in the panel rather than in each outlet. And for gas, he says it’s not uncommon for outdoor kitchens to require a 1-inch or greater gas pipe diameter.

Many homeowners also include water lines. This is much easier and less expensive to do when you can tap into the home’s existing plumbing without running the new lines underground or for long distances.

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Everything But the Kitchen Sink?

Running water is an indoor kitchen staple. And it’s nice in an outdoor kitchen too. But not every outdoor kitchen needs it. Consider the following when deciding whether to run water to an outdoor kitchen sink:

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Focus on Functionality

Just like your indoor kitchen, your outdoor kitchen depends on a thoughtful layout to perform at top efficiency. And planning enough space for what Faulk refers to as the four “functional zones” — hot, dry, wet and cold zones — is tantamount to achieving that goal. “Pay attention to each functional zone and think about how they will work together for prep, cooking, serving and cleanup activities,” says Faulk. “Together, these are the keys to designing an outdoor kitchen that really works for the avid cook.”

Courtesy of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Hot Zones:
Grills, cooktops, pizza ovens, etc.
Cold Zones:
Refrigerators, freezers and adjacent countertops
Wet Zones:
The sink and surrounding areas
Dry Zones:
Food prep areas, counter space, cabinets and storage

Of course, each functional zone in the outdoor kitchen requires a dedicated counter space to support it, which Faulk calls a “landing area.” And failing to provide for that space is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in building your outdoor kitchen.

“People often try to squeeze too many features into a space that can’t quite accommodate them all,” says Faulk. “The result is too little countertop that becomes too fragmented or broken up. Ample countertop is an entertainer’s best friend.”

Look for a professional with the functional and aesthetic expertise of both a kitchen designer and a landscape designer.

The Best Outdoor Countertop Materials

Outdoor kitchens call for outdoor-rated countertops. These materials will typically stand against the elements without creating extra work:

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