So you want to build your outdoor kitchen on a deck? Great! This location is as convenient as it can get. But even though a deck is really a pro spot for an outdoor kitchen, it has it’s cons too. It’s worth knowing them to be able to address them well.
A deck with the ready flooring, roofing, nearness to the indoor kitchen, and close access to utilities is one of the top outdoor kitchen locations. There are three outdoor kitchen layouts commonly used in this location:
- a central island,
- along the outer edges of the deck,
- against the house.
Even though this location is a perfect spot for an outdoor kitchen it has a few flaws worth knowing too. How much weight can you put on a deck? Which materials are going to work best? What is the perfect design for a big or small deck?
Outdoor kitchen on a deck: 101
So you’re a lucky owner of a deck? Awesome! Do you wish to add an outdoor kitchen to this area? Even better!
There are easy 3 steps to start the project:
- inspect the deck condition,
- get to know max load of the deck,
- figure utilities (gas, water, electricity) connection.
Outdoor kitchen on a deck – Step 1: Inspect the deck condition
There are plenty of deck types, like:
- detached from the house,
- swimming pool,
- over the garage,
- and more.
Each of the given types can accommodate an outdoor kitchen if it’s in good shape. So the first thing to do when planning an outdoor kitchen on a deck is inspecting its condition. If you’re sure your deck is in excellent shape, you can skip this step. Otherwise, it is crucial to inspect, as it is simply a safety hazard not to. Additionally, the deck and outdoor kitchen are expensive additions that influence home value.
According to the North American Deck & Railing Association, there are more than 60 million decks in the United States and 30 million are past their useful life (need to be replaced or repaired). It can be not your house issue, but it is essential to be aware before constructing an expensive on deck addition.
This price includes a structural check, safety check, and code violations check. The result should be a written report with photos.
To be honest a deck should be checked frequently by a homeowner too. There is a deck checklist created by NADRA, that include inspecting:
- split or decaying wood,
- loose or corroded fasteners,
- railing and banisters,
- surrounding trees.
These steps are even more important after adding an outdoor kitchen to the deck.
Outdoor kitchen on a deck – Step 2: Get to know max load of the deck
Each deck can bear a load that is carefully calculated. The end result of simple mathematical operations can be found in your deck documentation. If for some reason your documentation is missing there are two ways to go:
- going to Step 1 and asking for a professional expertise,
- calculating by yourself.
There is a rule of thumb saying that constructed up to code deck should be able to hold up to 50 pounds per 1 sq ft. 10 psf out of it is a dead load, so the weight of the deck itself. 40 psf is a live load, so furniture, people, planters, and so on. How does it work for your deck? You can calculate on your own or just use a table with the most common deck sizes below.
|Deck dimensions||Total Square Feet||Total load (lbs)||Dead load (lbs)||Live load (lbs)|
Now you know how much your deck can hold if it is build up to code. A small outdoor kitchen island with grill, burner, refrigerator, sink, and cabinet weights, on average, less than 1000 lbs, so it can be placed on basically any deck from the table. Bigger constructions need to be carefully calculated.
The goal of this step is gaining knowledge. Even if your deck is currently to wick to bear your dream outdoor kitchen load it can be prepared for the new role by reinforcing the structure. It’s good to know it prior to construction as the process requires an additional budget and time.
The weight of an outdoor kitchen can also be reduced by using specific materials (aluminum, stucco), or size-reduction.
In such regions a movable outdoor kitchen can be a great option for decks – storing it in the garage during winter months is going to be safer for deck construction, as well as increase outdoor kitchen longevity.
Outdoor kitchen on a deck – Step 3: Utility connection
That is actually a pretty important task to research. A deck is a special spot that very often enables building an outdoor kitchen on a budget. There are plenty of reasons for that.
First of all roofing and flooring are very often ready to use. Speaking money: this means saving literally thousands of dollars.
The second thing is the nearness of an indoor kitchen, which allows omitting in an outdoor kitchen design a sink, a fridge, and a burner. Speaking money: additional thousands of $ stay in your pocket, as you do not spend them on appliances.
The third thing is utilities are very often already there and the whole building process requires only a connection. Speaking money: spending on adding utility lines is both expensive and painful (as your money is located where you cannot see them). The closer the utility is located to the spot the less money it costs to add a line.
Additionally a deck usually already looks coherent with your house exterior and is well illuminated. So style-wise it is also easier to work on it.
There are three utilities for an outdoor kitchen: plumbing, electrical and gas.
Plumbing is needed for an outdoor sink. If you don’t have a plumbing connection on your deck and you do not want to run one, there are plenty of options for outdoor kitchen sink you can choose from, like lift station.
The gas line is something you can use for a grill. It adds to the convenience, as you do not have to change tanks when propane is gone. If you do not want to run a gas line, but use a gas grill, picking a propane grill is a way to go.
Electrical is needed for appliances, lighting, fans, and heating. Before you’ll decide how many circles or power you need it’s worth finishing the design. Solely lighting might be a reason to add another circle.
The utility connection actually can be already accessible at some deck areas and it’s worth incorporating this knowledge into the designing process. In other words, if you already have a utility connection in a specific part of a deck it’s worth using it, if possible.
To get to know how it works in your area ask HOA or your local building department. It’s worth dedicating to permits $500 from your budget during planning, even though they can cost less in your area.
Now it’s time to think a bit more about an outdoor kitchen layout, design, material, and finishes.
Outdoor kitchen on a deck – How to design it well?
A well-done design is like a glove that fits your hand – you know it’s there but you don’t focus on it at all. To get to this state on your deck it is important to research well both – the spot and your family needs. The goal of this process is to figure:
- what appliances you need (size and level),
- what permits are needed,
- if dining/ bar space is needed/ possible,
- lighting design,
I created a list of questions that can help a lot with an outdoor kitchen needs research.
- How often your outdoor kitchen is going to be used (daily, on weekends, rarely)?
- How advanced are you with cooking outside (starter, advanced)?
- Is an indoor kitchen in a close distance?
- How many people are you going to serve (up to 4, 5-10, more)?
- Are you going to dine outside as well?
- Do you want to have an outdoor bar?
- Are you going to cook after sunset?
- What is the size of your deck?
If you consider selling the house at some point it’s worth taking into consideration what buyers want to see in the area.
Best layout and size for an outdoor kitchen on a deck
The deck is a closed-off area, so figuring an outdoor kitchen size should be easier there than anywhere else. There are 3 most common set-ups:
- a central island,
- along the outer edges of the deck,
- against the house.
For decks located next to the house, a central island may be an excellent choice, as it can be accessed from multiple sides. Unfortunately, it also takes a lot of space.
An along the outer edges outdoor kitchen is one that works well both on detached and attached decks. In such a design it is essential to place a grill, and other smoking appliances, downwind, to avoid smoking family and guests during gatherings.
An against the house outdoor kitchen can be the easiest to construct, as very often utility connection is in the exterior wall. This design, usually, eats up the least space and doesn’t block the view. The downside is it very often requires a vent hood installation and can limit the amount of natural light indoors.
The size of an outdoor kitchen on a deck depends not only on deck dimensions but also on the number of appliances. There are three sizes of an outdoor kitchen: small, medium, and large.
A small outdoor kitchen has about 10′ length and can accommodate grill, burner, sink, and storage.
If an outdoor refrigerator is a must for you small should be upgraded to a medium, which is 16′ outdoor kitchen. This is enough space to have a grill, burner, sink, storage, and a refrigerator.
Large outdoor kitchens are 20′ plus and are designed for multiple cooks. This size can accommodate anything an owner dreams about.
Outdoor kitchen on a deck appliances
There are multiple appliances that can be used at an outdoor kitchen on a deck. The first one to choose is usually the grill, but there is a number of cooking appliances that can be added, like side burners, power burners, griddles, smokers, and pizza ovens, as well as bar stations, fridges, washers, and entertainment units.
How to choose a perfect grill for your outdoor kitchen on a deck?
The grill is the king of the area, so it has to be chosen wisely. The first thing to consider is type. A basic choice is between gas and charcoal. There are fans of both solutions. Some people say charcoal adds a flavor no gas grill is going to add. Others stress that gas grills seem to be a healthier option. Regarding the deck, this choice is a bit more complicated.
As decks are located very close to the house it is crucial to choose a grill that is not going to be inconvenient. Keeping a grill in some distance from the house is a good idea unless a vent hood is going to be installed above it.
Anyhow, the amount of smoke should be as limited as possible. For charcoal grills, it’s worth considering kamado, unless your heart is already set on a certain type. If it is, follow your dreams 🙂
If a gas grill is your choice it’s worth figuring which type of fuel it should have. Decks are usually next to the house, so adding a line to a grill is usually an option, even though it requires a permit and additional budget. If you do not want to spend extra money on construction going with propane gas grill is going to work just fine.
Gas and charcoal are not the only grill types though. If you’re looking for a low key solution an electric grill can be a way to go. For environmentally concerned users, a pellet grill might be an option, as it is quick to heat and is fueled by a renewable source of energy.
The second thing to choose regarding a grill is its size. It’s not worth buying the biggest grill in the store for 4 member family. If you’re a weekend griller, who cooks mostly hamburgers and hot dogs, a 360 sq in grill is going to be enough for you. For a slightly bigger family or ambitions, 400 – 500 sq in grill should work great. For ultimate entertainers, 550 – 600 sq in grill is going to be needed.
Regarding gas grills these size levels depend on the number of burners. 2 burners suit small family, 3-4 are in a happy medium, 5-6 burners is a size for entertainers or large families. To show you how big a medium grill is (3-4 burners) – you can usually make 20 burgers at the same time on it.
A deck is a place where fire safety is a big issue. A deck is most often constructed out of combustible materials, so it has to be protected.
What other cooking appliances can be used in an outdoor kitchen on a deck?
Basically anything you put in any other type of outdoor kitchen can be placed also in an outdoor kitchen on a deck. I wrote an entire blog post about outdoor kitchen essentials, feel welcome to read it.
Cooking appliances that can be used are the grill, griddle, side burner, power burner, smoker, and pizza oven. Refrigerator, wine fridge, kegerator, dishwasher, and bar station are also an option. As mentioned before, the nearness of an indoor kitchen gives you the option of installing fewer appliances outside. It makes an outdoor kitchen area a bit less convenient, but also your pocket very happy.
If you’re able to add a sink to your design/ budget it is always a nice option, as it makes cooking easier. A sink is also one of the essentials home buyers are looking for (grill, sink, refrigerator, storage, countertop space, lighting). If you do not want to spend a fortune on it there are ways to make it simpler and less expensive. You can read about it here.
While planning outdoor kitchen appliances for an outdoor kitchen on a deck, that is located next to the house, it’s worth taking into consideration:
Smoke is actually a major issue in the area. If not managed properly it can not only smoke your family and guests but also get to the house. I would personally avoid appliances that produce smoke unless you’re sure you know how to control it. If your outdoor kitchen is located against the wall installing a vent hood is a must.
As decks’ space is limited it is always important to design the whole area, not a part of it. The overall design should include not only an outdoor kitchen but also a bar/ dining area, other additions (like fire pits), paths, and lighting. If appliances like outdoor pizza oven take to much space it’s worth reconsidering. Usually drawing everything on a paper shows pretty good how much space is left.
And while we’re at pizza oven – a deck is a space that can bear a lot of weight, but not any. Pizza ovens weight varies a lot – from 600 lbs up to 4000 lbs! If you dream to have Friday pizza nights keep an oven in your design, but pick one with proper weight and size. And it applies to all outdoor kitchen elements.
What permits are needed for an outdoor kitchen on a deck?
Specific requirements depend on your City Local Building Inspections and HOA. They vary a lot depending on your location. Basically a permit is needed for zoning requirements and utilities work.
Zoning requirements are all about a distance of a construction from property lines. Utilities work is basically adding gas, plumbing, or electrical lines.
It may occur that in your area more permits are needed, so it is always worth asking local department, for example in multiple areas adding few feet of deck requires additional permit.
All in all it doesn’t cost that much. You can reserve for it up to $500 of your budget, but it is likely to take way less.
It all seems like a big pain, right? I have to admit – this is additional work to do. But building up to code is important for plenty of reasons. First of all, if you do not follow the instructions and somebody is going to report you, it can result in a demolition order. Second of all, if one day you’re going to sell your property all if the mess will have to get fixed. As you probably already guessed – it is going to be way more expensive in the future.
Can I fit a dining/ bar space in an outdoor kitchen on a deck?
Yes, you can! But it is important to pick a solution that is going to be convenient. It can be actually calculated prior to buying any furniture type. And yes, it depends mostly on math.
Let’s start from the dining space. Measure the part of your deck that is going to be working solely as the dining space. It has to be a clear area, so no doors, no paths, in a distance from cooking appliances.
To figure the max size of the table subtract 72 inches from your measurements, as the general rule says a table needs a 36″ of free space from every side. This is the space for chairs and paths. So now you know your max width and length of the table.
It’s all a bit complicated at the moment? I hope this chart is going to be helpful.
|Space size||Table shape||Table size||Number of chairs|
|5′ x 9′||square/ round||36″||2|
|9′ x 9′||square||40″||4|
|9,5′ x 9,5′||round||42″||4|
|9,5″ x 11′||oval||42″x60″||6|
|10′ x 10′||round||48″||6|
|11′ x 11′||square/ round||60″||8|
|9,5′ x 14,5′||ractangular||42″x100″||10|
While choosing chairs it is important to set a goal for yourself too. If the area is not to grand using furniture with visible legs is going to increase the continuity of floor feeling, therefor it is going to visually enlarge the space. This is going to work if your deck is smooth.
There are three table heights to choose from. Traditional ones are 30″, 36″ and bar counter height, so 42″. Higher solutions are excellent if you want to show your guests a view during gatherings.
And while we’re at the bar, let’s dive a bit more into this area. The bar is usually 42″ high and at least 24″ wide.
This is the size perfect for 30-inch bar stool and standing users. It is important to leave a free space of 36″ on both sides. A space required for each stool is 2′.
How to design lighting for an outdoor kitchen on a deck?
Believe it or not – an outdoor kitchen can be totally transformed with lighting design. It doesn’t matter if the space is small or grand. After the sunset, you create the way people are going to view this area.
First of all, remember that style is important. Not every fixture has to be rustic/modern/traditional, but they have to be used wisely. If you wonder how to compliment your outdoor kitchen style go ahead and read this article with case studies.
The first thing to figure is when are you going to use your outdoor kitchen. If the answer is after sunset let’s dive a bit into safety. Look around the area and check if steps are illuminated if there is enough light to see the path from an outdoor kitchen to back doors? If not these are the first things to fix. All of that can be done with accent lights.
The second thing to figure out is ambient light. This is a type of lighting that illuminates the whole area. There are plenty of fixtures to use as one, from the chandelier to recessed lights.
The last thing to do is incorporating task lights. It is especially needed everywhere where cooking takes place. Grill lamps, and above countertop lights are probably going to give enough light.
Lighting is a huge subject. If you want to get to know all fixture types you can use and their purpose, please go to my beginners’ guide to outdoor kitchen lighting.
Covering an outdoor kitchen on a deck
As I mentioned before, there are plenty of decks. It may occur necessary to cover them in some way, so they can be used during sunny, windy, and rainy days. There are basically three types of coverage for an outdoor kitchen:
Basically if your concern is mainly a sun, pergola is going to be an awesome choice for you. Gazebos and roofing over patio are pricier solutions that protect also from other elements. If you want to get to know more about this subject check this blog post. If you wish to get to know more price-wise you can find more information here.
I hope you have now enough data to start designing your outdoor kitchen on a deck. This resource was created to help others with this process. Did you use any of the tips? Which one is your favorite? Leave your answer in the comment section.