Jul 20, 2016

How to Build Your Own Outdoor Kitchen (For a Fraction of the Cost)

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Perhaps you've heard - it's suuuuummmmmmeeeerrrr!!!! That means the evenings stretch out seemingly forever, and every dinnertime is an opportunity to get the grill going. I love it. But I got tired of trying to cook dinner for my family in a space that is, objectively speaking, not a kitchen. I mean, where am I supposed to set plates, cooking tools, and seasonings, fill pots, and chop veg and everything else I need to fashion a fantastic BBQ? 

So I finally decided to go for it, and build my own outdoor cooking space, complete with a durable concrete countertop, lots of storage, and a convenient outdoor sink. Here's how I did it:

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This project was sponsored by mike's hard lemonade. mike's is made with all natural ingredients for a refreshing, flavorful alternative you can enjoy on a warm summer evening.

This little backyard adventure has been in the back of my mind for a while now, beginning when a perfectly good steak slid off a plate balanced on the ledge of my grill. I'm not above dusting a little dirt off my sirloin, but when your food is on the floor, it's a good sign you have a problem. So I started off with the objective of building the one thing every grilling area lacks: a countertop. Take a look at the steps I took (and you can follow) to make my own custom BBQ surround.

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The Frame:

I started off with a sturdy base of 4x6 posts secured with 2x4 cross-members, because the concrete countertop would need something solid to support it. The wood came from the standard lumber yard, so to make it a bit more interesting, I roughed it up with a chainsaw, then charred it to add some weathered character, and finished with an outdoor stain.

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The crossmembers were joined with rabbets in place to give the entire frame a bit more stability and strength (and also because the joinery is interesting and adds a bit more unique character to the project).

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Rabbets were added to the legs to accept the crossmembers.

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I cut the joinery with my oscillating saw and a plunge blade which took some time, but was much easier than a chisel and mallet.

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The Backing:

The backing between the framing members provides lateral support, as well as a surface for the stone facing. For this I used a water-and-mold-resistant concrete board. This material is much more stable than wood and can withstand the weather much better over time. After I cut it to size and glued it in place, it also added some extra weight and structure to the frame.

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The Stone:

The outer stonework on this project was a light, flat brick material that can be cut easily with a multi-tool. It secures in place with construction adhesive to the rough concrete board backing. This material is great for an outdoor application because it’s stable and won't get damaged by water.

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The Concrete Mold:

Making a concrete top was a bit of a process ... but totally worth it. The countertop was poured upside-down, allowing me to get a really nice, smooth surface without having to trowel the face at all.

Using melamine sheet goods (smooth plastic layer on top of particle board), I made a mold with a cutout for the sink area. The construction of the mold took a bit of time, but wasn’t overly complicated.

Once the mold was finished, I added wire mesh and rebar, measured and cut to fit with about an inch room around the edge.

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Pouring the Top:

This was the fun part. I mixed up a batch of standard, high-strength concrete, colored it, and then poured it into the mold. The first batch was wet enough to flow into all of the edges and corners, but it’s important to limit the water use to control cracking and surface bubbles.

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After the first lift of concrete, I gently inserted the metal frame and tamped it into the wet material. Then the remaining concrete was added, screeded flat, and floated smooth.

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It's important to vibrate the concrete really thoroughly with a sander and rubber mallet for about 30 minutes to bring most of the bubbles to the surface (what will be the bottom) and away from the finished side. After about 48 hours, it was ready to flip and secure in place with adhesive.

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Finishing Touches:

To finish off the project, I applied a final stain and clear protectant layer. The concrete top was left mostly organic with just a bit of sanding on the edges to knock off and exposed surfaces. The stainless steel bar sink was plumbed, and simple door and hardware bolts were installed to bring together the pieces and provide a protected place to store outdoor supplies.

The sink was plumbed with a garden hose attached to the faucet via a splitter and a few brass pieces, and another short run of hose from the drain out into the shrubs. For now that will be good enough as long as I watch the usage and use biodegradable soap. In the future, I'm planning on adding a climbing vine to the trellis against the fence and I will route the  drain water through a reservoir in that planter.

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This was a long project, taking about 40 hours to get fully right, but the results sure make it worth the effort.

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Imagine the next outdoor party with food prep and cleanup all done without making a mess of the inside kitchen. And Mike’s Hard Lemonade is the perfect drink to enjoy while grilling in my new backyard -  it's light, flavorful, and refreshing.

Now that’s a successful barbecue!

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This post was sponsored by mike's hard lemonade, but all opinions are mine alone. Thanks for supporting the brands that make ManMade possible.



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Richard Hackett on Aug 03, 2020:

I just read in the comments that there are no blueprints available. Any chance of a few more pictures of the framing, particularly of the door & where you turned the corner by the grill? Thanks.

Ahr Aitch on Jul 20, 2020:

Nicely done!

How about a little more detail about vibrating the concrete with a sander?

Ahr Aitch on Jul 20, 2020:

Nicely done!

How about a little more detail about vibrating the concrete with a sander?

Galen A on Jul 01, 2020:

Very good. Glad to see you have a sink!
We did one a couple years ago.

Greg Nielsen on Jun 22, 2020:

Very nice project and well done!
I am in the middle of my outdoor kitchen build...made a few changes and I am making it a bit larger will share some pictures when I am done

Michael O on Jun 09, 2020:

This is awesome. I would be very interested in doing this. I may modify some, but would love to get the basic. What wood did you use? I love the burned look as well. If anyone has something like this, and blue prints, please email me: [email protected]

Lee McCallum on Feb 13, 2020:

Nice project. Very timely for me as I getting ready to pull the trigger on my bbq space project. Could be ten years now. Like I said. Really nice.

Bryan W on Feb 08, 2020:

How in the heck do you flip a big piece of concrete? Looks awesome!

Angie on Oct 10, 2019:

Thank you for sharing. I love the step to step instructions 😍 I can't wait to have mine

Robert Davies on Jul 28, 2019:

This looks incredible. If you don't mind me asking how much building materials cost did you end up in the project? Do you have plans that you worked to?

Anthony ODell on May 29, 2019:

Hello Everyone,
I made a straight version of this with the grill in the middle, no sink and one end open on the front to accommodate an out door refrig. I would happy to share photos and dimensions with anyone interested. My email is [email protected]

Thanks Anthony

Brian on May 26, 2019:

HI @David,
This is a great project. I'm looking to do something similar for my backyard. I had some questions though.

1. What type of wood did you use? I'm guessing you didn't use PT based on the look and the work you did to it but I could be wrong.

2. How well has it held up? Have you noticed any warping from heat or weather after it's 2 or 3 years of use?

3. Any "wish I had thought of that at the time" recommendations?


David on May 03, 2019:

Hi @Mark,

1. I didn't use backing board for the top, it's just one big piece of concrete. The form board was 3/4" melamine which I discarded once I flipped it over.

The stone has a 1/2" concrete backer board, used commonly for showers and such. This is a stiff board that takes well to the adhesive on the stone, and won't rot over time.

2. The stone came from a local big box store, I think it was blue or orange but honestly can't remember which. It came in about 10 sqft boxes that were easy to mix and match for a nice textured look.

3. The door is a quick half lap jointery, with 5/8" boards in the center. It was cut and glued together, then I routed a 5/8" slot to recess them flush with the back. The frame on either side of the door was cut to length and attached with wood glue and pocket holes in the back.

4. The concrete was standard high strength, about $3 a bag at a local big box place, and the color comes in a small box/bag that should be found close to it. Be sure to count the scoops of powder accurately for each batch for a consistent color.

Thanks again for the note!

Mark Michalec on Apr 01, 2019:

Thank You David! I have a few more questions?
1. What backing board did you use for the top and stone?
2. Where did you get the stone?
3. How could I build the door?
4. Where do I get the high strength concrete and color?
This kitchen looks great!!!

David Skinner on Apr 01, 2019:

Here are the overall measurements for reference.
The L shaped cabinet is 18" x 60" on the thin end, 26" wide on the wide end. 33" high. 2" thick concrete top. Door is 14.5" x 24". End posts are 4x6, rails are 2x4.

The smaller cabinet is 24" x 19", 33" high. 2" thick concrete top.

The tiles are 16" square for reference.

The concrete top was poured upside down then flipped over so the final surface was super smooth and flat because of the melanine form.

Thanks for all the comments, sorry a full blueprint is not available for this project!!
Cheers, David

Mark Michalec on Apr 01, 2019:

You did a wonderful job! Looks Great! If you don't mind sharing I would like the blue prints. Very good information, I need a little more information for the sink and door. I would also like to know what you did with the concrete? What did you mean by flipped it?

Mark Michalec on Apr 01, 2019:

You did a wonderful job! Looks Great! If you don't mind sharing I would like the blue prints. Very good information, I need a little more information for the sink and door.

jcl on Mar 27, 2019:

Hi David. Are the patio tiles 12" or 18"? I'm trying to get an approximation of the dimensions of the surround. Thanks! awesome project!

David Skinner on Mar 08, 2019:

Hi @Axel! We don't have blueprints for this and there is no plan to produce any. This was a custom job so the measurements and details were made to fit.


David on Mar 08, 2019:

Hi @Lauran, the sink drains into a small 5-gallon bucket of gravel the allows the water to perk slowly into the soil under a maple tree in the yard. I don't let pieces of meat wash down as this could become smelly, and I use boi-degradable soap to keep the plants healthy around it.