Outdoor kitchen countertops – The ultimate guide

Have you dreamed of having an outdoor kitchen? Preparing your food in the open air with freshly plucked herbs from the kitchen garden sounds wonderful. And luckily for us, it’s practically possible too. If your home’s layout permits it, this is something you can – and should try!

Most people know that outdoor kitchens are a possibility, thanks to home décor and celebrity magazines. So we won’t waste time telling you about that. Instead, we want to cover the how-to build the perfect outdoor kitchen. In particular, we want to discuss everything to do with outdoor kitchen countertops.

It goes without saying that outdoor countertops – which will be exposed to the elements at all times – will need to be rather different from your average kitchen countertop. In this article, we’ll discuss just how different that is.

Factors to consider for an outdoor kitchen

First, let’s list the differences between an indoor and outdoor kitchen which will go on to affect your outdoor kitchen countertop options. They are the following:

1. Dust and dirt

An outdoor kitchen will be exposed to dust, pollution and dirt. So bird droppings, flecks of soil, plastic bags and other garbage, and smoke – lots of it. There’ll certainly be a lot more cleaning involved. Imagine if you had to knead dough on a table that’s been lying out on the patio.

2. Precipitation

Rain, snow, hail, drizzle. If you live in an area with a lot of rainfall or snowfall, you’re best off avoiding an outdoor kitchen altogether. You’ll definitely need a ceiling for the kitchen, but even with one you might end up with burst pipes, disfigured cabinets and all manner of damage.

outdoor kitchen with a see- through ceiling to protect the kitchen from the weather

3. Direct sunlight

While an outdoor kitchen will be nice and breezy, it’ll also get sweltering hot. A skylight will keep precipitation out and let light into the kitchen, but it’ll also let sunlight in, unless the kitchen’s positioned strategically. Direct sunlight can fade and damage wood, plastic, and make metal objects too hot to use (temporarily).

4. Bugs and critters

This might be the worst of them all. Your kitchen, being open, will attract insects and small animals, which could spell disaster. The last place you want bugs is near your food. If you live in an area which has venomous snakes or spiders, an outdoor kitchen would be a definite no-no.

Choosing the best countertop for your outdoor kitchen

As you can see, an outdoor kitchen will bring a fair share of problems. For most people, it’s not very practical – the maintenance is simply too much. However, if you’re intent on getting one, clever design and good habits may see you through! Let’s talk about those now.

You’ll need to figure out the best position and layout for the kitchen so you can avoid the worst of the elements, while making the best possible use of the outdoors. And kitchen layout brings us to the subject of the countertop. Kitchen appliances can be shut inside cabinets and the cabinets themselves can be waterproofed, but your countertops will take a beating. As it happens, countertops are also our forte!

So here are some outdoor kitchen countertop ideas that’ll make maintenance easier:

1. Tiles and ceramicbeautiful outdoor kitchen with ceramic tile countertop cover with a see-trough ceiling

Both good options – affordable, tough, and appealing. While ceramic is good all-round, tile has one con – the grout can start to look dirty over time, and water freezing in it during winter can cause cracks in the tile. You can use larger tiles and darker grout to combat these problems. Tile will usually fade a little under the sun, so choose a color accordingly.

2. Concrete

Concrete is an increasingly popular option for outdoor kitchens. It looks simple and stylish, is low maintenance, will withstand the elements, can resist staining, feels great to the touch, and is generally a great countertop material. There’s effectively no downside if the countertop is made and installed by a professional, and properly sealed. It’s cost-effective too!

3. Stone

Limestone, soapstone, travertine, quartz, marble, granite… So many options to choose from. The best stone for outdoor kitchen countertops is granite. It’s dark, durable, resistant to the elements, and beautiful. Granite doesn’t scratch or stain easily, and as long as it’s sealed regularly it’ll work perfectly. Just make sure it doesn’t develop water stains – those look nasty!

4. Metal

If you can afford it, a metal countertop would look absolutely gorgeous. It doesn’t appeal to everyone’s aesthetic, but for people who want a sleek, minimal yet futuristic look, this is the perfect option. Stainless steel and copper both look beautiful, are low-maintenance and anti-bacterial, and would be the perfect highlight in your outdoor kitchen. They would heat up quite a bit under the sun, however, and as we mentioned, they are rather expensive.

5. Other options

Paving stones might work, but wouldn’t feel ‘right’ as a countertop material. Laminate won’t do well against heat, humidity or moisture. Wood, while it’ll look gorgeous, will need frequent sealing, and will be prone to damage outside. If you really love the idea of a wooden countertop you can make it work, but it’ll take lots of maintenance.

Outdoor kitchen countertops: maintenance

Depending on the outdoor kitchen countertop material, maintenance could be simple or time-consuming. If you moved into a new home that had wooden countertops, for example, you’ll have to do the best you can until you’re ready to replace it with a better option, like a granite or stainless steel countertop.

Here are some maintenance tips for outdoor kitchens:

1. Use a squeegee

You need to be vigilant about keeping the countertops dry. This doesn’t mean you need to go out on a rainy night with a tarp; just keep a sturdy squeegee in the kitchen, and give the countertop a wipe after you’re done preparing your meals, and before you go to bed. If it rains overnight, make sure to dry the counters early in the morning so the water doesn’t sit there any longer than it has to. Squeegees are much more efficient than towels and rags.

2. Be vigilant about cleaning

Since the countertop will have dust blowing onto it and bugs crawling across it, you need to make sure you clean properly – both so you don’t inadvertently leave out food for bugs, and so you aren’t preparing food on a dirty surface. Use an antibacterial cleaning agent after wiping the countertop with a moist rag, both before and after preparing food.

3. Protect it from the elements

This isn’t just about water – make sure your outdoor kitchen and countertop are protected from snow, ice, hail and sun. A simple tin roof could make a world of difference. Direct sun and exposure to extreme cold will wear down most countertop materials rather quickly, except metal and concrete.

4. Unplug the appliances during winter

Leaving appliances and utilities connected during harsh winter months is likely to cause damage. An outdoor kitchen won’t be suitable for use during the winter (unless you live in a warm area), so limit damage by bringing appliances inside, and disconnecting the utilities. Drain the sink’s supply lines before shutting it off so the pipes don’t burst.

5. Don’t leave out debris in the lawn

If you’ve been weeding, digging or mowing the grass, make sure to clean up after yourself or the wind will blow the dirt right into your kitchen. You’ll have to wipe down outdoor kitchen countertops regardless, but you don’t want clumps of soil or sap stains on the furniture!

6. Stone can be power washed

If it’s been a few years and your outdoor kitchen’s starting to look a little grimy, instead of scrubbing and using elbow grease, you could get the power washer out and give it a thorough wash. Stone surfaces and tile are safe to power wash, and it’ll knock off the grime within seconds! Don’t do it on old, crumbling stone, however.

7. Clean the grill when it’s warm

Do you let the grill cool, forget to cover it, and then struggle to clean it? You’re not the only one! However, if you want to make the cleaning process simpler, it’s best to clean the grill while it’s still warm. Once it’s cleaned up, don’t forget to cover it! Once a year, it’s a good idea to tune-up the grill – vacuum it thoroughly, and clean the burners. Expensive grills are easier to clean, but they do need some care too!

Outdoor kitchen countertops: cost

Outdoor kitchens make your home look glam and chic, and if you’re preparing the home for sale they can actually increase your property’s value! As such, you knew they weren’t going to be super cheap. However, how much should you expect to pay for a patio kitchen?

Prices will depend based on the contractor, the kitchen’s size, the state you’re in and many other factors, but as a ballpark figure it should cost anywhere between $5,000-15,000. How much would a countertop cost? Granite, which is a popular choice, costs around $50-80 per square foot. If you want a metal countertop, you’d be paying $70-100 per square foot for stainless steel, while copper countertops often cost upwards of $100 per square foot. The countertop framework will also need to be built, which will cost extra.

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