If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely decided that a custom outdoor kitchen is right for you… And you’re doing some research on where to begin.
There’s a ton of information to consider before buying a custom outdoor kitchen… And it’s a challenge to find everything you need in one place.
Lucky for you, you’re in the right place.
In this article, our aim is to share with you exactly what you need to get started.
We’ll be discussing how to get a custom outdoor kitchen, challenges with the traditional method… And an alternative solution to consider before you sign the dotted line.
Surely, you’re wondering something. Why are we qualified to speak on the topic?
Well, as a nationwide premium built-in appliance manufacturer… We understand the needs of a custom BBQ island project from that perspective.
Additionally, we partner with an outdoor kitchen company as the exclusive provider for their appliances. Through this partnership, we’ve gained a deep knowledge of the custom market for outdoor kitchens.
With that said, let’s dive in.
How to Get a Custom Outdoor Kitchen: The Traditional Method
Until recently, there’s only been one viable way to get a custom built outdoor kitchen.
It’s your local contractor or mason.
Makes sense, right?
Everyone has a friendly local contractor… And for most homeowners, it’s the easiest way to get the ball rolling.
They come to your house, take some measurements, give you a quote… And come back in several weeks to build your island on site.
Seems pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, working with a contractor isn’t exactly a no-brainer decision.
Challenges with Contractor-Built Custom Kitchens
Despite the fact that working with a contractor is the most common way to get a custom build outdoor kitchen… That doesn’t necessarily mean the process is problem-free.
There’s always a downside to everything… And it’s important to understand the pitfalls before entering a project with rose tinted glasses on.
So let’s get right to it.
Most Contractors aren’t Outdoor Kitchen Specialists
While your friendly local contractor may be skilled on a wide variety of projects… In all likelihood, their outdoor kitchen craftsmanship will be found to be lacking.
Why is this?
Well, it comes down to the concept of generalists vs specialists.
More often than not, your contractor is going to be a generalist. They can handle a wide variety of tasks proficiently… But they’re not masters of any one skill.
For most things, that’s not a problem.
But when it comes to a custom outdoor kitchen… That lack of expertise becomes extra problematic.
This is due to a couple reasons.
For one, your contractor’s lack of skill may visibly show in the final product. And even if it doesn’t make an appearance right away… After a few winter cycles, the mistakes become impossible to ignore.
You’re already spending a pretty penny for this project… So it’s reasonable to expect a high standard of quality that’ll last for years to come.
But even more importantly… If your contractor is a generalist, there’s a 99% chance that they don’t understand how to build an outdoor kitchen safely.
But that’s a whole other can of worms to get into.
Safety is Unknown to most Contractors
Piggybacking on the concept of a generalist vs a specialist… Unfortunately, most contractors are unaware of the safety requirements for an outdoor kitchen.
And this goes down several levels.
Material choices, design requirements, and appliance setback requirements all figure into the equation of safety.
For example, many contractors use wood to build an outdoor kitchen. It’s a solid material and saves money. So what’s the problem?
The problem is combustibility. Wood is a combustible material… And that’s exactly what you want to avoid when you have a searing hot built-in grill. It’s a fire hazard waiting to happen.
But even if they’re wise enough to avoid wood… It’s almost a guarantee that they won’t understand the importance of island ventilation.
Your outdoor grill, side burner, griddle, or other outdoor appliances are all going to be throwing off a ton of heat and gasses.
And it doesn’t take much to realize that all that heat and gas needs somewhere to go. Hence, your grill island needs ample ventilation to flush it all out.
But if your contractor is simply unaware of this requirement… You’re setting yourself up for a severe fire risk, or even an island explosion.
As you’ve certainly gathered… Your outdoor kitchen needs breathing room. And this is yet another point an unskilled contractor is likely to miss.
You don’t want your outdoor kitchen island sitting directly against a wall… As this could cause damage to the exterior of your home, and is a significant fire risk.
At minimum, your contractor will need to install a backsplash and overhead vent hood. But they also must meet the minimum setback requirements from the appliance manufacturer.
So in most cases… Your outdoor kitchen needs to be at least 12” – 24” away from the wall.
Point is, if you ask your contractor some safety related questions and their answers aren’t coming up kosher… That’s a big red flag.
You’re Limited by their Experience
Not to harp on experience too much… But this can also affect the quality of your outdoor kitchen design.
What we’re getting at is… If your contractor isn’t an expert, they may not be able to create the exact design you want. You’re limited by their skill level.
Take a stone outdoor kitchen, for example.
If you want a custom backyard kitchen made from real stone, or a concrete block island with real stone cladded onto it… Your contractor simply might not have the masonry chops to handle the task.
Which means you’ll have to be on the hunt for a true stone mason. (Which is both rare and expensive.)
If you were hoping for a simple stucco finish, you’ll probably be in the clear. But if you have grandiose visions of two-tier countertops and intricate finishes… Be prepared for a bit of a letdown.
It Might be More Work than You Bargained for
We don’t know about you… But when we imagine working with a contractor, our instinct is to think it’s a pretty hands-off process.
Sure, you’ll need to meet with them a couple times to get all the details ironed out. But after that… There shouldn’t be much more input required from you.
Well… Not always.
The reality is, most contractors aren’t building many custom outdoor BBQs. And because of that, they typically don’t have direct relationships with appliance manufacturers.
So instead of letting your contractor source appliances for you… That task gets dumped onto your plate instead.
Do you want an Alfresco grill? A Big Green Egg? How are you supposed to know?
If you’re a nerd about outdoor appliances, you might actually prefer it that way. But more often than not… You’d rather defer to the expert opinion.
And all of a sudden, a ton of research was added to your plate.
You need to understand appliance cutout sizes, material quality, utility requirements, setback requirements… And that’s just the beginning.
Ultimately, the need to select your own appliances might not be a deal breaker. But it’s important to know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
Timeline Expectations Often Don’t Meet Reality
And speaking of time… Expectations tend not to meet reality in this area.
Your local contractor is always juggling several different projects at a time. Which means, you’re not getting their undivided time and attention.
They have to jump around to keep other projects moving along… And you’re just another job in the rotation.
So it’s not a surprise that it could take several weeks, or even months, to get your custom outdoor kitchen built.
You know what that means.
Yep, your backyard is likely to be in shambles for quite some time. And if you’re undergoing this project during the spring or summer… You’re likely to miss a good chunk of peak barbecue season, too.
If you have an expansive outdoor living space… This intrusion might not be as bothersome to you.
But for most of us, this could prove to be quite an unwelcome disturbance!
Communication May be Spotty
Piggybacking on the concept of extended timelines… Since your contractor is so busy, you’ll likely have a hard time getting in touch with them.
Most of the time, your contractor is quite literally a one man band… And it’s pretty much inevitable that a ball will get dropped somewhere along the line.
And generally speaking… Communication is the first thing that’ll drop off.
So if you’re 3 weeks into your custom outdoor kitchen project, your backyard’s disturbed, and you’ve sent several unanswered messages to your contractor… Things can start to feel a little dicey.
Do things usually work out in the end? Yes.
But that’s a whole lot of unnecessary stress and headaches to put yourself through. You shouldn’t have to pull teeth to get answers on a $10,000+ custom outdoor grill station.
Material Quality can be a Concern
Just like any other company, a contractor wants to earn your business. And a common strategy to do this is by offering the lowest possible price.
And where is that price cut happening?
Although we’ve already told the cautionary tale about wood from a safety perspective… That’s not the only issue with this material.
In the outdoor environment, wood is susceptible to rotting, warping, swelling, and termite damage. Safety concerns aside, it won’t be long before your wood outdoor kitchen starts showing signs of aging.
Alternatively, your contractor may use a metal framed outdoor kitchen. Metal frames will form the core, be covered with cement board, layered with a cladding material, and the finish will be layered on top of that.
It may sound like a significant upgrade… But there’s still some systemic problems here.
Metal frames are prone to rust and corrosion, particularly if you live in a coastal or northern climate. Left unchecked, your outdoor kitchen can end up with severe structural damage.
But that’s not even the only problem.
These materials also take a toll on your finish. You’ll often encounter issues with tiles or stone popping off… And even cracking stucco. All of which allow moisture to get directly into your island and wreak even more havoc.
So, what’s left?
Your best bet is to find a contractor who works with concrete block, brick, or stone. Unfortunately, it’s tough to find someone with the skill… And the price for an outdoor custom kitchen like that can get exorbitant really quickly.
Warranties go by the Wayside
To top it all off… Contractors tend to be a bit wary of warranting their workmanship.
We need not remind you that a custom outdoor kitchen is a huge investment.
So isn’t it only reasonable to expect some sort of warranty? We’d like to think so.
Because if anything goes wrong with your outdoor kitchen… You’ll be on the hook for it. (Repairs aren’t cheap!)
Before you sign the dotted line… Be sure to get a warranty on record.
And if your contractor’s still shying away from the idea, that’s cause for concern.
Is the Traditional Method Really All that Bad?
Up to this point… We’ve been pretty harsh on the local contractor.
Are they really all that bad?
Not at all! The problem is finding the right fit.
A contractor that’s an outdoor kitchen expert, understands safety, and all the rest is like finding a needle in a haystack.
So if you want your new outdoor kitchen to be the best it can be (and as stress-free as possible)… You may want to pursue other options.
Is there a Better Way to Get an Outdoor Kitchen Custom?
As we mentioned earlier… Traditionally, the local contractor was your only viable option for a custom outdoor kitchen.
But times have changed.
There’s a way to get your dream kitchen without any of the aforementioned pitfalls… And it’s truly a customizable outdoor kitchen without compromise.
So, what is it?
It’s a ready to assemble outdoor kitchen, courtesy of RTA Outdoor Living.
Impeccable Quality without Compromise
Rather than a dangerous wood island or metal framed kitchen that’ll start breaking down after a couple winters… RTA islands are made with high performance concrete that’s rated for 100 years.
Concrete is impervious to rot, rust, corrosion, swelling, warping, and insect damage.
So no matter the weather, these islands will handle it like a champ. (Even in frigid Minnesota or coastal Florida!)
Point is, you know your custom made outdoor kitchen will be built to last the long haul.
To “top” it all off, you’ll have your choice of either concrete or granite countertops… Both of which are impressively resilient materials in the outdoor environment.
Not to mention… Every RTA outdoor kitchen comes complete with premium 304 stainless steel outdoor appliances from yours truly, Coyote Outdoor Living. (Also backed by a lifetime warranty!)
We’re proud to be their trusted source for built-in grills, pizza ovens, outdoor refrigerators, griddles, storage solutions, and more.
Seamless Design & Appliance Selection
Speaking of appliances… You’ll have full access to our entire suite of outdoor cooking appliances with the help of the Coyote design tool.
This easy-to-use, free tool allows you to design your dream custom outdoor kitchen in mere minutes.
Whether you want a linear, L-shaped, U-shaped, or galley style island… This tool can do it all, with a whole host of finish options as well.
But RTA doesn’t stop there.
After you complete your design… It’s submitted to their design team for review. And from there, an assigned Design Expert will reach out to you to iron out the details.
With no additional cost, you’ll get their expert advice on how to best refine your design… And make sure it perfectly matches your vision.
Unparalleled Customer Experience
Without a doubt, RTA has a leg up on any local showroom or contractor when it comes to customer experience.
In fact, they don’t even have a Customer Service department. They have a Customer Success department.
This is an important distinction.
Rather than waiting for problems to arise… RTA is proactive, working closely with you to prevent problems from ever happening in the first place.
RTA’s Customer Success team is there to support you every step of the way.
Once your design is submitted and your blueprints are approved… They’ll prepare you for installation, offer phone support on the day of install, and stay in touch even after you’ve had a successful installation.
Working with RTA Outdoor Living isn’t just like working with any company. It’s more like a partnership… And they’ll work tirelessly to ensure you’re happy with your outdoor entertaining space.
Safe Design from the Get-Go
Unlike the local contractor… RTA is a true expert in the outdoor kitchen space.
And as a result, they’ve planned for safety from the get-go.
Take, for example, the high performance concrete. Concrete is a solidly non-combustible material.
So there’s no need to worry about your island catching flames. It’s a far cry from wood!
Of equal importance, RTA has accounted for adequate ventilation on all sides.
The very top and very bottom of the left, right, and back sides of the island are vented.
Heat and natural gas are able to vent freely out of the top… And if you have propane, that will be able to freely vent out of the bottom. (Propane sinks rather than rises.)
When it comes to proper safety… That’s never a concern with an RTA custom outdoor BBQ kitchen.
Warrantied for a Lifetime on All Fronts
As a final vote of confidence for RTA… Every island comes with a limited lifetime structural warranty.
So you can be confident that your investment is protected… Even on the off chance that something goes wrong.
Plus, our appliances are warrantied for a lifetime as well.
That’s the kind of peace of mind you can’t put a price on.
Get Started with Your Ideal Custom Outdoor Kitchen Solution
Starting to get curious about a custom outdoor kitchen with RTA and Coyote?
Lucky for you… It’s easy to get started.
Start by taking a few minutes to play around with the Coyote design tool.
Once you’re happy with your design, request a free quote… And the design team will be in touch to discuss your project.
Happy designing, and we look forward to hearing from you!