You have a wood deck, and now you’d like to put in an outdoor kitchen, but your designer tells you that it’s going to be difficult. And she’s more than likely correct in her assessment. Kitchens and wood or composite decks are often mutually exclusive, as wood is, well, flammable, and cooking appliances tend to generate a lot of heat (composites will melt if the temperature is too high, which is not any better).
Then there’s the matter of weight – an outdoor kitchen needs a non-flammable base to handle said heat, and that, plus appliances like fridges, grills, and smokers are pretty heavy. Additionally, the stone and masonry that comes with a designer outdoor kitchen may quickly overburden your deck and cause significant damage, or worse, a total collapse.
Can My Deck Handle a Kitchen?
First, let’s discuss the two primary considerations when installing an outdoor kitchen in a new deck design or on an existing build: extra weight and utility connections. A professional deck installer will be able to estimate the weight load of your deck and determine how many of your wish list appliances it can handle in addition to your outdoor furniture and other decor. Grills, pizza ovens, sinks, smokers, mini-fridges, and associated cabinetry and countertops can quickly add up to a lot of weight. You may need to account for that by adding support beams or additional posts.
Before you start building or installation, you also need to map out your utility connections for gas-powered and electrical appliances and plumbing fixtures (think sinks and built-in ice-makers). For example, if you install your kitchen sink on the side of your deck farthest away from your plumbing connection, you’re going to have to run an extra pipe to connect to the drain. That adds up to additional expenses.
Generally, the best place to run the electrical wiring, gas lines, and plumbing is along the beams under the deck. Again, a custom deck builder can help you place your kitchen in an area of your outdoor space that will ensure the most efficient hook-ups and the best structural support.
What Type of Materials Do I Use?
Second, you want to look at design options that won’t erode under heavy ice, snow, wind, or hail, all of which are common here in Colorado. What kind of material is best for enclosures and cabinetry? Will wood withstand the harsh weather? I really like the look of masonry, but will it put too much of a weight burden on my deck? Am I able to customize stainless steel or marine-grade aluminum cabinet finishes? Is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) a viable option, or will it look and feel cheap?
All of these questions are extremely important, and the answers will not only impact your immediate kitchen budget, but they could also affect the necessity for future repairs and replacements.
One of the most popular materials used for outdoor kitchen enclosures is masonry, but it is among the priciest and most challenging to install. The pros of going with a masonry setup are many, though: You end up with a rich stone, brick, or stucco look; a very durable structure that holds up to any weather; and more of a seamless, built-in vibe for your outdoor kitchen. You and your deck contractor will need to take more time putting together construction plans to account for the additional weight of metal framing and heavier rock veneers, as well as the logistics of getting the materials onto the deck in the first place. But choosing masonry doesn’t mean you have to build everything from scratch. Some similar, more simplified masonry structures include pre-fabricated and ready-to-assemble enclosures.
- Wood. If you’re looking at wood cabinetry, you’ll want to stick to hardwoods, as they will stand up the elements a lot better than softwoods. There are three types of South American wood species that are exceptionally sturdy and well-suited for outdoor kitchens: Ipe, Cumaru (Brazilian Teak), and Tigerwood. Unlike pressure-treated pine, cedar, and redwood, these hardwoods have been proven to last several decades. They are also incredibly resistant to mold, mildew, dry rot, splintering, and wood-boring insects.
- Ipe is your most durable and cost-effective of the three, and it can last more than 75 years in almost any climate with very little maintenance. Did we mention that big attractions like Disney World, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Atlantic City Boardwalk use Ipe decking? It’s just that good.
- Cumaru, or Brazilian Teak, is a beautiful hardwood, nearly as durable as Ipe, but is about 30 percent cheaper. Both Ipe and Cumaru also have a Class A fire rating, which is comparable to the flammability of concrete and steel. If you live in an area of Colorado prone to wildfires, this can be a great asset. While Ipe is limited to its chocolate brown color, Cumaru offers a broader palette, ranging from golden brown to reddish-brown.
- Tigerwood, our third hardwood option, is not as dense or as flame-resistant as Ipe and Cumaru, but it is durable, stylish, and likewise guaranteed to last for several decades. It comes in two primary colors: Cherry and a deep, dark brown that looks almost black.
- Stainless steel and marine-grade aluminum are great cabinet options, as they have supreme durability, are easy to clean and maintain, and come in a variety of customized finishes. Powder coating adds additional weather protection and gives the consumer an endless array of designs from which to choose.
Look for a thicker-gauge stainless (usually about 16 to 20) and a 304 or 316L grade of steel to ensure the best anti-corrosive properties. Marine-grade aluminum is made in thicker gauges and is naturally corrosion-resistant. Craftsmanship in the structure, such as solid frames and welded corners, are also good signs that your cabinets will endure well.
- PVC. This synthetic polymer is fully weatherproof and won’t rust or stain, and modern scientists have even developed PVC that looks and feels like real wood. The variety of colors, textures, and styles available can satisfy even the pickiest of homeowners.
On the flip side, PVC can discolor under prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays and is likely to warp under constantly fluctuating temperatures. Anyone who has lived in Colorado for more than a minute knows that a warm sunny afternoon in May can turn into a spring blizzard by the following morning. So, if you decide PVC is the way you want to go, your best bet is to go with a high-end brand to ensure the best quality.
As you have probably noticed by now, there are plenty of materials and setups available to help you design that perfect outdoor kitchen. You’re only limited by your imagination and, of course, your budget. If you have more questions or if you’re ready to build, our Colorado deck builders here at SRI Decks are ready to help you design an outdoor dining space that will stand the test of time and the weather.