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The Best Options for Outdoor Kitchen Materials

The Best Options for Outdoor Kitchen Materials

By RTA Outdoor Kitchens
Photographs courtesy of RTA Outdoor Kitchens

Are you planning your outdoor kitchen and wondering about the best materials to use? An outdoor kitchen is a huge investment that you want to last as long as possible. This article highlights the best materials for an outdoor kitchen, whether you hire a contractor or DIY.

Outdoor Kitchen Frames

Usually, an outdoor kitchen project has three layers:

  1. The frames, or ‘bones’.
  2. A surface applied to the frames for cladding material to adhere to.
  3. The cladding material, or finish.

Not all outdoor kitchen construction methods utilize frames. However, many do! These are the most common:

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Metal Frames

Metal frames are the most popular, often due to availability. Benefits: They’re lightweight, easy to transport, and allow for cavity space for grill access or storage. Low gauge metal can also hold lots of weight. 

Drawbacks: In humidity, freeze-thaw climates, or near the ocean, moisture can cause corrosion and rust. Eventually, this will compromise the structural integrity of your outdoor kitchen.

Using corrosion resistant metal isn’t foolproof but will provide some peace of mind. Note for DIYers: Working with steel frames isn’t for beginners!

Wood Frames

Benefits: Wood frames are the most cost-effective option and easiest to build without extensive construction experience.

Main issue: Wood is extremely susceptible to rot and termites. Secondly, it’s combustible. You’ll need insulated jackets for all cooking equipment. Otherwise your outdoor kitchen is vulnerable to fire.

Concrete Block

This method is known as CMU (concrete masonry unit). Concrete blocks are dense, heavy, and strong. They hold up well in virtually any climate. Concrete won’t corrode or degrade, and it’s non-combustible.

The downsides: More often than not, you’ll have to hire a mason. Masons can be scarce and aren’t cheap. Installing concrete block is also time consuming. More time + more labor = increased cost. Plus, installation is highly invasive, involving heavy machinery. And concrete block limits the interior cavity space.

For a patio or deck you’ll likely need to install structural footings or additional supports for the extra weight of concrete. Otherwise, the structure of your deck could be compromised over time.

Surface To Attach Your Cladding Material

For metal or wood frames use cement board, or backer board. Cement board is made from cement, water, silica, limestone flour, and reinforcing fibers. It's less likely to rot and also classified as water resistant, though moisture can still get through.

Cement board serves two main purposes in an outdoor kitchen. First, it protects metal or wood framing. Secondly, it provides a necessary masonry surface for masonry-based cladding material to adhere to, creating a lasting bond.

Since cement block is already a masonry surface, simply apply the cladding material directly to the concrete block.

Further, some cladding materials require an extra step, like a scratch coat to properly bond the finish. In this case cement board or concrete block becomes the surface you apply the scratch coat to.

Cladding Material

There are tons of outdoor kitchen finishing materials. We’ll discuss the most popular options.

Stucco

Stucco is an inexpensive finish, popular in areas like Florida and California. The downside? Stucco isn’t durable in freeze-thaw or high-moisture climates. It’s susceptible to cracking and flaking.

Tile

DIYers love tile for ease of installation. There are also tons of options. However, in areas with large temperature fluctuations and high moisture, it’s vulnerable to popping off. Tile also requires keeping the grout clean.

Stone Or Brick

Stone and brick are traditional masonry materials. Natural, sturdy, with a sense of permanence. However, real stone veneer can be pricey. Cheaper alternatives exist to get the look and feel of real stone, like manufactured veneer stone. It’s also a more DIY-friendly option. Unfortunately, stone veneer is also prone to popping off. 

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Countertop Materials

These are a few of the most popular countertop options:

Tile

Tile is probably your most cost-effective countertop option. However, it comes with the same challenges as using tile for cladding material. Tile has good compressive strength, but lacks flexural strength. It’s susceptible to cracking and falling apart. It’s also difficult to keep clean. If bacteria and grime get into the grout, it becomes a non-hygienic surface for food preparation and serving.

Bluestone/Limestone

Being pure, natural stone, limestone and bluestone are heavy! However, they can’t be reinforced internally and run the risk of cracking or splitting with temperature fluctuations and ground movement, though this doesn’t happen often. They’re also porous and require regular sealing and maintenance to prevent staining.

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Concrete

Concrete countertops can be structurally reinforced to better handle temperature fluctuations and ground movement. However, concrete is softer and more porous, so it’s more susceptible to staining and scratching. It also requires maintenance over time.

Granite

Granite is dense, hard, and easy to maintain. With the right sealer, it’s also resistant to staining. Note that granite gets extremely hot in the sun. If your outdoor kitchen is in direct sunlight, consider a lighter color to reduce the effect.

Soapstone

Soapstone is nonporous, doesn’t require resealing, and is more stain resistant than granite. However, it’s softer and more prone to scratches, dings, or chipping.

Quartz

Like granite, quartz is dense, hard, and resistant to staining and scratching. However, quartz doesn’t handle sunlight well. Over time, it yellows. Quartz also has a tough time with humidity and moisture, and doesn’t have good flexural strength for freeze-thaw climates.

Stainless Steel

While stainless steel countertops are easy to clean and maintain, they absorb major heat. To avoid a scorching surface, limit stainless steel to your appliances.

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RTA Materials

And now, we’ll share the unique construction method and materials used in RTA outdoor kitchens.

Our super high-performance concrete panels are structural to eliminate the need for a frame. The finish is fully incorporated into each panel, so no cladding material is necessary either.

The RTA system is engineered for all climates, with non-combustible materials. And the lightweight construction process allows for installation on a patio or deck without structural footings.

Our concrete countertops are composed of a super high-performance concrete, structurally reinforced with composite rebar and microfibers. This gives them incredible flexural strength to handle temperature changes and ground shift. Like other concrete countertops, ours require maintenance.

Our granite countertops require less maintenance than concrete and are more resistant to scratches or staining.

So that’s the rundown on outdoor kitchen materials. Feel free to explore our website for more information!


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