Looking to transform your backyard into a unique and versatile outdoor living space? Installing an outdoor kitchen on your patio or deck is a great way to do just that while adding aesthetic appeal to your home’s exterior. While it is possible to build an outdoor kitchen on a deck, you must know the right way to go about it. For example, you may wonder what decking material best supports such an endeavor. Keep reading for everything you need to know about decking materials for outdoor kitchens and what to consider before you begin deck construction or deck design.
Wood vs. Composite
While natural wood is still the most popular decking material, in general, we consider composite to be the superior choice for any deck.
For one, composite decking offers the promise of longevity, lasting around 15 years longer than wood decking (with the average wood deck lasting 10-15 years versus the average lifespan of a composite deck being 25-30 years).
Decks made of wood materials also require a lot more maintenance than those made of composite materials, with tasks including cleaning, sanding, staining, and repainting, and each one typically requiring the use of specialized equipment.
Even a well-maintained wood deck will require more frequent repairs because wood is more vulnerable to the elements, such as UV rays, termites, and water damage, to name a few.
While composite materials often cost more than wood initially, in the long run, composite maintenance versus wood maintenance can save you around $2,300 over a period of 10 years.
Composite Decking for Outdoor Kitchen Spaces
Because the structural materials of a deck (i.e., the posts, joists, beams, etc.) are always constructed of strong, pressure-treated wood, the floor of the deck will be the focus of this post, which will either be made of wood or composite material (or vinyl PVC type). While wood or any other material types can work, composite is the better decking choice by far for an outdoor kitchen, for several reasons, as described below:
Combustibility of Wood
The biggest reason composite decking is widely considered to be better (and safer) than wood is its much higher combustibility rating than wood. So if you’re concerned about adding a fire risk with an outdoor kitchen, go with composite. Why? Composite is less combustible than wood, which can easily catch fire and burn.
Keep Kitchen Elements Separate
It is important to keep in mind that you will still have to place the kitchen elements (namely the grill) away from the home. This is because outdoor cooking heat often ruins siding, even if the material is highly resilient, such as stucco or cement. The heat given off by a grill can also have a negative impact on any nearby wood and even make it more prone to burning. Keeping kitchen elements at least 10 feet away from any siding, deck railings, or other structures (such as garages or sheds) is a good standard to keep.
Both wood-burning and gas fire pits can safely be used on composite decks, provided they are placed a sufficient distance from any adjoining structures and a heat-resistant barrier is used between the fire pit and the deck to prevent potential structural and cosmetic damage.
Get a Grill Mat
Using a grill mat around the main cooking area is always a good idea, not just for safety reasons, but to protect the deck, as well.
Keep a Fire Extinguisher Handy
Whether you build your deck with wood or composite materials, it is always recommended that you keep a fire extinguisher readily available and close by.
Avoid Stains with Composite
Wood materials are porous and therefore stain more easily. As such, composite material is the optimal choice given that it’s less absorbent. Cedar, for example, the most popular option for wood decking, is more susceptible to staining from your typical cooking and grilling messes, such as grease and charcoal dust. These can be cleaned off of composite material much easier than cedar or other wood types.
If you’re still planning to build your outdoor kitchen on a natural wood deck, you’ll want to apply a premium stain repellant to your deck before installation to help prevent unsightly and potentially permanent oil and grease stains.
Other things to consider
It’s important to consider the use of your deck before you begin construction, because the cost change before you build it is worth the benefit. If you know you want an outdoor kitchen on the deck, you will do a lot better knowing that ahead of time and building toward that purpose, rather than trying to retrofit an already-built deck.
Here are some additional things to consider before you start construction on your deck and outdoor kitchen:
The weight of your kitchen
Actually, most materials will support a kitchen. You would really have to go out of the way to add enough to affect the load on a deck, such as a stone chimney.
Covered or uncovered?
It’s OK to build an outdoor kitchen that is covered. People often want to cover an outdoor kitchen so they can cook and eat without getting rained on, or to be shaded from the summer sun. However, you need to be cognizant that it will produce smoke. We always recommend installing fans in the ceiling of a covered deck if there is going to be a kitchen or a fire element (i.e., outdoor fireplace, firepit, fire table, etc.).
This comes into play most importantly when considering how far away from the exterior of your home the grill needs to be placed to avoid damage. Remember the 10-feet-away rule referenced above.
Where do you want your electricity or your gas or water?
All materials will work for this. You will want to plan where you are going to run your utility lines before you start building.
When planning to install a deck for any purpose, you’ll want a knowledgeable and dedicated team by your side. Our professionals at BigDecks.com can help you do it better–bigger–and for less. Contact us today for your free consultation and quick estimate.