Choosing Countertops for Your DIY Outdoor Kitchen

GRILLNETICS Blog DIY Choosing Countertops for Your DIY Outdoor Kitchen

One of the more exciting aspects to your DIY outdoor kitchen, besides selecting the grill of your dreams, is choosing a unique countertop to suit your style and needs! But how do you know which one is right for you? Well, here are a few things to consider: climate, style, size, and budget.

Climate
The most important thing when choosing a countertop for you DIY outdoor kitchen is to select a material suitable for your climate. Depending on where you live, climate will dictate what type of countertop you can install. As an example, the rocky mountain region and northeast get a tremendous amount of snow and ice. As temperatures fluctuate, ice and snow will melt, get into cracks, freeze and expand, and destroy certain materials like grout. In these areas we typically like to see granite or stained concrete countertops. In other areas like the southwest and warm coastal areas you have a wider range of materials to choose from, and it’s quite common to install a tile countertop.

Styles
There are many types of materials to choose from when building your DIY outdoor kitchen, and even more color and texture variations. However, there are three time-tested countertop categories to choose from: stone, concrete, and tile. Here are the benefits to each, and in order of our personal favorites.

Stone: Granite, quartz, travertine, and onyx are some of the most beautiful stone available, and they come in hundreds of unique colors and patterns. Plus, they hold up extremely well in all climates because of their durability. Stone will handle excessive heat and cold, can be scratch and stain resistant if sealed, and is relatively low maintenance.

Another new trend in the stone world is “engineered stone.” In this process the manufacturer takes quartz crystals and bonds them together using resin. The main benefit we see from engineered stone vs natural stone is a more brilliant pattern or color. However, while this material is more stain resistant, the resin is also more susceptible to changes in temperature. Both engineered stone and natural stone cost roughly the same per square foot.

Concrete: Another option is a formed concrete countertop. This option is extremely appealing because if has very similar properties to stone – it’s extremely strong and durable, handles heat and cold vey well, and requires little maintenance. An advantage that concrete offers is that it can be stained, thereby creating almost any color imaginable. While the concrete is setting you can also add a pattern, round or texturize the edges, and fill the seams so it looks like one solid piece. Furthermore, concrete can be formed into any size or shape, which makes a custom countertop easier to install for a DIY outdoor kitchen.

Tile: A historically common approach to finishing a DIY outdoor kitchen countertop is tile. Tile is generally lighter and cheaper than stone and concrete, yet still has great properties like its tolerance for heat. However, as we eluded to earlier, tile doesn’t hold up well in areas with lots of snow and ice because the moisture will seep into the grout and then expand.

Furthermore, overtime tile tends to lose some of its original “pop.” If you decide to install a tile countertop on your IDY outdoor kitchen, it’s usually a good idea to also get something to cover it with when not in use.

Size
Similar to choosing the best grill for your needs, when selecting a countertop size for you DIY outdoor kitchen you need to ask yourself two questions: 1) how many people do you typically cook for? 2) will you be using the countertop as a table for snacks and drinks – in addition to food prep and cooking?

Be sure to have at least 24” on either side of your grill for food preparation and plating. In addition to this, you’ll want an additional 24-36” of linear countertop space per person you intend to have seated at your DIY outdoor kitchen island. If you have the room, a little extra countertop space is always valuable.

Budget

Determining what a DIY outdoor kitchen countertop will cost is the easy part. Below is a quick guide to give a ballpark idea. If you need a more concrete number (pun intended), feel free to call one of our designers.

Average Cost per Square Foot Installed by a contractor
Granite $125
Stained Concrete $90
Tile $45
Average Cost per Square Foot DIY
Granite not recommended
Stained Concrete $65
Tile $20

Final Thoughts
Regardless of the countertop you choose for your DIY outdoor kitchen, remember that they all require some maintenance. Installers recommend sealing your countertop annually to ensure a stain resistant finish and to remove any tarnish.

If you have other questions on how to select the right grill, which cabinet system to use, latest design trends for finishing your cabinet system, or how the outdoor kitchen should “flow,” our design experts are here to help. We also provide a free 3D rendering and CAD drawing, with a complete list of building materials and step-by-step instructions, as well as on-going support for customers.