We’re thinking of building an outdoor kitchen on our deck at home, and after my research it turns out that while it can be done – like most things doing well it’s more complicated than it first seems.
You can build an outdoor kitchen on a deck, but you’ll first need to assess its load bearing capacity and the wood used to build it. Then you need to consider how your gas, water, electricity and drainage utilities will be connected, and what kitchen cabinets and appliances to fit for outdoor use.
Let’s dive down into this subject in more detail, and consider all aspects of building an outdoor kitchen on your deck – from assessing the weight bearing capacity of your decking to connecting up all those utilities.
Things To Consider Before Putting An Outdoor Kitchen On Your Deck
A deck can be a great place to create your new outdoor kitchen. It’s likely that you already use your deck to eat and maybe do some barbecuing or outdoor grilling, so it’s the natural location to choose. What do you need to consider before building an outdoor kitchen on your deck?
The first and most important question is whether the deck is strong enough to take the weight of your kitchen. If it’s an older deck, should you replace it first? We’ll take a closer look at load bearing in a moment.
One of the best things about building a kitchen on a deck is that a deck is normally up against or close to the house. This means that connecting utilities will hopefully be straightforward. If your deck is situated away from your home, this isn’t impossible but it may become trickier.
We’ll assume that your deck is already in a good, sheltered location. However, does it have the necessary ventilation if it’s to become an outdoor kitchen?
You’ll also need to get the professionals in place. If we’re talking utilities, we’re looking at gas and electrical specialists, and plumbers if you’re having a sink fitted. An outdoor kitchen is more complex than attaching a propane canister to a grill.
And of course, you’ll need to consider your budget, which can easily creep up on a project like this. Don’t just look at the cost of the units and equipment: there’s the cost of installing utilities, possibly engaging a builder to prepare the decking, and perhaps a new deck as well. There’s also the running costs of an additional kitchen.
But, just think: a summer spent practically living in your yard. Family and friends sitting on your deck, while you put together a delicious al fresco meal.
Deck Weight Limit
Is your deck strong enough to take the weight of a complete kitchen? Most of us would respond to that with a simple and natural “I don’t know!” If your deck is old and you’re seeing obvious signs of rot or wear, the clear answer is, no. Build your new kitchen from the ground up, and invest in a robust new deck.
If your decking appears sound and is relatively new, how can you tell if it’s sufficiently weight-bearing for a kitchen?
DecksGo has a great article about the load-bearing capacity of a deck, and we’d definitely recommend reading it. In short, the typical weight capacity is about 50 pounds per square foot: but as this article tells us, the strength of the deck itself is not the only consideration.
You also need to look at the “tributary” areas of the deck (different load areas) and the strength of the wood or composite you’ve used. Then, as DecksGo points out, there’s the footing and the soil to take into account, as decks can eventually start to sink. If you live in a colder state, you also have snow load to take into account.
We’d recommend starting by asking a builder to come and take a look at your deck. They will be able to advise you about the capacity of the current structure and whether additional work is needed before you install a kitchen (ask more than one builder, if it looks like work is needed).
You may already know the exact kitchen set-up you want, and have exact weights for everything. If not, to get a ball-park idea of the weight of a kitchen, go onto the website of an outdoor kitchen brand like Hestan or Fire Magic. These outdoor living specialists have everything you need for an outdoor cooking area, from refrigerators to island units; so their websites will give you an idea of the size and weight of a complete kitchen.
Connecting Up Utilities
If your deck is up against your house, this is more straightforward than if your deck is further down the yard. There are two things you need in place right from the start when it comes to utilities: a plan of what services you need and where, and expert help.
Running a pipe from your home water supply to an adjacent deck sounds simple; however you’ll need to check your local laws. Some municipalities have what they call a “tap fee” which is payable if they consider your outdoor cooking space to be a whole new domestic kitchen. Your plumber should be able to advise with this.
To be honest, if you’re happy with a propane canister for your grill, this can be the easiest solution. However, there is a weight issue with this approach, so you might consider connecting your new kitchen to your home’s gas supply. Speak with an engineer at an early stage of the project for costs and options.
You probably already have a power supply to your deck – lighting, maybe an outdoor-safe socket or two. For a full kitchen, you’re going to need a lot of sockets. As well as the permanently switch-on appliances like the refrigerator, think about all those extras like blenders. Take a moment to look round your current kitchen, and think about what you use and how often.
And yes, you’ve guessed it: speak with a professional. Nobody should attempt their own electrics, and you’ll need everything wired and certified if the kitchen is truly to add value to your property.
Outdoor Kitchen Cabinet Material
The ideal kitchen material for your outdoor kitchen cabinets has to be tough, weather-proof and look good. We’re also still taking weight into account.
Stainless steel is the perfect outdoor kitchen material. It’s suitable for outside use and it’s also lightweight. It gives your kitchen an instant, sleek look which is very fashionable, and also provides a professional edge (great for those super-keen outdoor chefs).
Another big advantage of stainless steel is that it will protect your deck from heat, so you won’t need to think about a heat-proof floor cover.
You could also try marine-grade polymer. This is tough, weather-proof and can look great. It’s also super-easy to care for.
Wood is a higher-maintenance material, but it will give your kitchen a beautiful, rustic finish that may fit in better with your deck and yard. Go for a robust timber like teak or cypress, and be prepared to look after it.
How To Build An Outdoor Kitchen On a Deck
You don’t have to buy a fancy new kitchen from a top brand – it is possible to build your own deck kitchen on a budget. The fantastic BriGuy has a series of films on YouTube showing how he built his own outdoor kitchen.
His first video shows you how to build the outdoor kitchen frame, and it’s definitely worth a watch. Here are his key points for those first steps:
- Plan the area. Know what units you need, where everything will go, and what the measurements are.
- Head to somewhere like Lowe’s for the material (he bought all the timber for the unit frames for under seventy dollars).
- Build the table-like frame for the units (watch how he does this: simple and effective). He used the grill as his reference, and went for 36” high.
- Leave space for freestanding items like the BBQ or grill, so they can be pulled out.
- Use cement-board to lie the unit frame next to the BBQ or grill, so the wood can’t overheat.
Watch the next part to see what sort of countertop and doors he chooses. He gave us a sneak preview of the sink, which he picked up (used) for just six dollars.
Building an outdoor kitchen does not have to be expensive – but never cut costs with safety, and engage professionals for utilities and structural advice.
When building an outdoor kitchen you need to take into account much more than just budget and layout.
You’ll also need to assess the load bearing capacity of your deck, the type of wood used to build it – and also consider where all those utilities will go – the drainage, water supply, electricity and gas.
Then you’ll need to take into account the durability and weatherproofing of the materials used to build the kitchen units and appliances themselves – so there’s lots to think about.
However, as the videos on this page show – building your own outdoor kitchen on the deck can above all be a great fun project – so best of luck with it. 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >