How to Install Outdoor Kitchen Countertops and Appliances
Installing Grills and Burners
There are plenty of reasonably priced countertop options, including ceramic or stone tile and poured concrete. Even granite can be surprisingly inexpensive, especially if you buy a slab and cut it yourself—a task that is surprisingly doable. Working at the counter will be more comfortable if its top cantilevers beyond the counter by 2 inches or so. You can install the countertop after installing the counter’s siding. In that case, you may need to add trim under the countertop to cover the gap between the stone or stucco and the top. Another approach is to install the countertop after installing the backer board. Then you can apply the counter’s finish surface so that it butts against the countertop.
A granite slab top is strong enough to span the width of a 2-foot-wide counter by itself, but some installers install a backerboard substrate first to more fully support the slab. For other types of countertop, you will almost always need a backer-board substrate.
Granite and Other Slab Countertops
A granite slab has a substantial feel, great natural beauty, and permanence—and it is a snap to wipe clean. Quartz offers even better performance because you do not have to seal it. You can hire a granite company to install a countertop for you; many charge as little as $30 per square foot, though you will pay extra for sink holes and other cuts. On the next four pages we show how to cut and install a granite countertop yourself—saving a lot of money. With a little buying savvy, you may be able to find all the granite or quartz you need for less than the price of a lesser countertop.
Transporting the slab might be the biggest challenge. If you get a ¾-inch-thick slab that is 6 to 8 feet long, two reasonably strong men can probably carry it without too much strain. If it is thicker or longer, arrange to move it with the aid of a few helpers or have it moved professionally. Another alternative: once you cut the slab to fit, it may be much lighter, so you might want to cut it before moving, if possible. Cutting the material is surprisingly doable using a $35 diamond blade on a circular saw and dribbling water on the blade as you work. You can sand cut edges smooth using a belt sander; if you need it to shine, you will need to buy or rent a wet grinder and a set of polishing wheels made for the purpose. You can also cut a hole for a selfrimming sink; if you want an under-mount sink with polished edges, hire a pro.
A granite countertop with details like these angles and ogee-shape edging is a job for professionals. If it is what you want, check with local fabricators; the cost may not be prohibitive.
Cutting with a Grinder
You can cut granite using a grinder equipped with a diamond blade if the cut does not have to be perfectly straight. Here we show using a clamped board as a guide, but you can cut freehand if you are careful. Keep the blade wet as you cut. Make two or more passes of increasing depth.
Installing a Granite Countertop
- Granite or quartz slab, from ¾ in. to 1½ in. thick
- Framing square, measuring tape, and pencil
- Circular saw with diamond blade
- Clamps and straightedge, such as a level
- Grinder with diamond blade
- Hose with spray attachment
- Plywood for a hole guide
- Belt sander
- Silicone caulk and caulking gun
1. Plan the layout carefully. It is common to have the countertop overhang the counter by 1–2 in. all around. (If you have not finished the counter sides, take into account the thickness of the finish material.) If possible, place any seams behind the cutout for a grill or other appliance, as shown here.
2. To make a straight cut, place the granite on at least four boards (two on each side) so that the waste will not fall when you complete the cut. Clamp a straightedge, such as a level, as a guide. Have a helper gently squirt water on the blade as you cut. It will take a few minutes to make a 2-ft.-long cut. Exert moderate pressure, and cut without stopping for a smooth edge.
3. When making a cutout or notch, keep the waste section well supported, and cut along the line in both directions. If the corner will be covered by a flange, you can run the cuts past the corner by ¼ in. or so. The waste piece should break out easily. If it does not, use a grinder to cut deeply at the corner in both directions.
4. To make a hole for a sink, cut using a grinder. You would probably be fine cutting freehand, but to be sure that the blade does not skip forward and damage the top as you work, cut and clamp a plywood guide, as shown. Hold the blade against the guide as you cut.
5. At each corner, cut short angled sections as shown. Keep cutting until the octagon-shape piece falls down (inset).
6. Continue cutting as much as possible at the corners. The pieces should break out by hand or with the light tap of a hammer; don’t bang hard, or you may crack the top. If needed, make shallow cuts along the lines at the corners (inset); then tap the piece out.
7. Check that the top of the counter is smooth and free of protrusions. Carry the cut top to the counter; gently set it in place; and make sure that it does not wobble. If it does, remove it and lay down a thick bead of caulk to provide a continuous setting bed. Once you are sure of the countertop’s position, run a bead of caulk along the underside against the counter.
8. If there is a seam, set both pieces in place, and make sure that you have correctly positioned them. Slide one of the pieces away by an inch or so, and apply a bead of clear or colored silicone caulk. (If you want a perfect color match, purchase custom-colored caulk from a granite supplier.) Push the pieces together, and wipe the seam with a solventdampened rag.
9. If a cut edge will be visible, sand it with a belt sander, using 60-grit paper. If there are substantial protrusions, carefully grind them most of the way down first (inset). Once you have sanded the edge smooth, switch to 80-grit paper and sand again. Repeat with 100-, 120-, and 150-grit sandpapers, and continue to increase grits until the surface is as smooth and shiny as you want.
10. Use the belt sander to slightly bevel the top edge. Work slowly and carefully—do not press down— until the edge looks like a factory edge. At a corner you may choose to make the same bevel as on the other edges (inset), or you may continue sanding to make a more rounded edge.
Cutting Thicker Slabs
The steps on these pages show cutting a ¾-inch-thick slab. Cutting a thicker slab will of course be more time consuming, but the process will be much the same. The corners of a hole cutout will take more care. You may need to make a series of horizontal cuts up to the cut line to make it easier to break the pieces out.
Cutting a Curve
Cutting a curve in granite is not difficult. You can cut a gentle curve using a circular saw, but cutting with a grinder is easier. Make a simple trammel to mark for the curve. Make a shallow cut along the line, pulling the grinder toward you rather than moving it away from you. When you deepen the cuts, use a straight-cut piece of 2x4 as a guide to keep the cut square (straight vertical). Once you have finished the cut, use a belt sander to smooth the edge, starting with 60-grit sandpaper and moving on to progressively higher grits until you achieve a surface that is smooth enough.
If you have a rough stone slab like the ones shown below left and right and bottom left, you can cut it in the same way as a smooth one. You will need to roughen all exposed edges after cutting for a natural look. Different stones act differently, so test-cut a scrap piece, and get proficient before working on the real thing.
Make sure the slab is well supported on a flat surface to minimize the risk of cracking it. Use a grinder Countertop Substrate to slightly roughen the edge by lightly grazing in randomly spaced areas. Pull the grinder toward you rather than pushing it away from you as you work. It may also work to gently tap with a hammer to produce a series of indentations. Take care: one false hammer blow could crack the slab.
Preparing a Countertop Substrate
To prepare for installing a flagstone, ceramic-tile, stone-tile, or poured-concrete countertop, you must first install a substrate. Plywood (preferably pressuretreated plywood) is sometimes used for this, but in most cases the best option is cement-based backer board.
- Cement-based backer board
- 2x4s for cross braces
- Knife or grinder to cut backer board
- Thinset mortar
1. A standard 2-ft.-wide counter made with 2x4s has a gap of about 17 in. between the front and back. A single layer of cement-based backer board is sufficiently strong to span that gap and support a tile top and a grill. To be safe, you may want to add a second layer. Or add 2x4 support braces laid flat and attached every 16 in. or so using angle-driven screws or nails as shown.
2. Cut and lay a sheet of backer board that will overhang the finished counter surface by an inch or more. Drive backer-board screws every 6 in. into the top plates and the cross braces.
3. If you will install tiles, determine the thickness of the edging. If you need to thicken the substrate, cut strips of backer board and attach them to the underside of the overhanging substrate. Butter the strip with thinset mortar. Hold the strip with your hand as you drive short screws to temporarily secure the pieces until the mortar sets. Then remove the screws.
Ceramic tile offers an inexpensive way to install a sturdy, washable countertop surface. The stone-look tiles shown on these pages have a natural, earthy appearance that never goes out of style. But you don’t have to settle for a classic look: given the variety of tile colors and shapes available, it can be fun to personalize your outdoor kitchen with a one-of-a-kind countertop. Outdoor tiles must be installed especially firmly because the weather takes its toll: it is not uncommon for a tiled top to come apart after a few seasons of use. If you choose the right materials and install them correctly, however, a tiled top can survive in extreme climates for many years.
- Use tiles made for countertops or for floors. Soft wall tiles can be colorful and attractive but will likely crack.
- Install cross braces, and firmly attach backer-board substrate so that it is rock solid. Even a slight amount of flex can cause tiles to pop loose.
- Set the tiles in high-quality polymer-fortified thinset mortar, and make sure that the tiles are fully embedded at all points. For even greater strength, you can use three-part epoxy resin mortar, though it is much more expensive.
- Fill the joints with epoxy grout. You will spend more time wiping it clean during installation, but it will reliably seal the joints and remain cleanable. Choose a color that matches or complements the tile; grout in a contrasting color may sound like a good idea, but it exaggerates minor imperfections and tends to produce an amateurish appearance.
The exposed edges of most ceramic tiles are unattractive. Purchase special edging and corner tiles so that all visible surfaces will be glazed. Here we show installing V-cap edging, but you may choose instead to install bullnose tiles around the perimeter and narrow edge tiles below the bullnose. Wood-trim edging is charming, but it is not a durable solution for an outdoor counter.
You can create a completely customized design using ceramic tiles. Here, diamond-shaped accents add pizzazz to a neutral palette and make the backsplash more interesting.
If you need to make only straight cuts rather than notches or cutouts, you can use a tile snap cutter on most ceramic tile (not stone tile). To cut a series of tiles all the same size, adjust and tighten the sliding guide. Place the tile against the guide; press the cutting wheel down onto the tile; and slide it across the tile in one motion to score the tile’s surface. Position the pressure plate so that it pushes down on both sides of the score, and press down to snap the tile in two.
Installing a Ceramic-Tile Countertop
- Ceramic Tiles
- V-Cap or other edging tiles
- Thinset mortar
- Epoxy grout
- Masonry wet saw
- Snap tile cutter
- Square-notched trowel
- Plastic spacers
- Bucket and margin trowel
- Sponge-type grout float
- Grout sponge
1. If you are using V-cap edge tiles, slide one of them along the perimeter where they will be installed, and hold a pencil against it to draw a layout line for the field tiles.
2. Position some field tiles using plastic spacers to mimic the grout joints, and mark for any needed cuts. Marking for a sink opening from below is shown here.
3. Make the cuts using a tile wet saw, as shown here, or a snap cutter for straight cuts. Rent or buy the saw, and follow instructions to keep the blade wet at all times while cutting.
4. Test-fit full-size tiles, cut tiles, and edge tiles. Use spacers to maintain consistent grout lines. Check that the grill, burner, or sink, or any combination, will fit into the opening(s).
5. Mix a batch of fortified thinset mortar in a bucket, following the manufacturer’s instructions. The mortar should be the consistency of mayonnaise, firm enough to stick to a trowel.
6. Use a square-notched trowel to spread and comb the mortar. Hold the trowel at a consistent angle, and scrape lightly on the backer board to produce a setting bed of even thickness.
7. Lower the tiles into place. Do not slide them more than ½ in. or so. Use plastic spacers to maintain the joints (inset). Press down with your hand to bed the tile firmly in the mortar.
8. You may need to butter the edge tiles with mortar where they meet the edge of the backer board. You can adjust the position of the edge tiles in or out and up or down by adding or subtracting mortar.
9. Check the layout. Aim for straight, evenly spaced grout lines. If you get mortar on your hands or the tiles, wash or wipe it off immediately. Allow the mortar to set overnight or longer. Once the mortar sets, you can grout the joints.
10. Mix epoxy grout according to directions, and scoop it onto the surface, holding the grout float nearly flat as you press grout into the joints. Make sure that the joints are completely filled.
11. Tip the float, and use it to scrape away excess grout before it starts to harden. Move the float diagonally so as not to dig into the joints. Use the float’s wide edge for large sections and its front edge for smaller areas.
12. Fill a bucket with water; dampen a grout sponge; and wipe the surface. Rinse the sponge often, and use it to create joints of even heights. Allow the grout to harden; then buff the tiles using a dry cloth.
Handsome faux-stone tiles with a cooler, formal feel give this kitchen an ambiance that is reminiscent of an indoor kitchen.
A variety of natural materials gives this kitchen an eclectic feel. The tall backsplash provides privacy from neighbors and adds interest to the design.
The term “flagstone” generally refers to any large stone that is ¾–2 inches thick. The actual kind of stone varies; limestone and sandstone are two of the more common. Some flagstones have deep pits, while others are nearly flat. Some are irregularly formed; others are cut to geometric shapes. If you don’t mind a somewhat rough working surface, consider installing flagstones for the countertop. This can be an inexpensive option; it will basically have the same square-foot price as a flagstone patio. Use a grinder equipped with a diamond blade to cut flagstones. For a more natural-looking appearance you may choose to tap the cut edge with a hammer or rough it up using a grinder. You can allow the flagstones to overhang the counter by 1–2 inches, and the overhanging edge can be irregular in shape.
Set flagstones in a thick bed of standard masonry mortar (rather than thinset). Allow the mortar to dry; then use a grout bag to fill the joints with more mortar. Allow a few days for the mortar to cure; then protect the stones from staining with two or three coats of masonry sealer.
The natural beauty of flagstone has an irresistible charm in an outdoor kitchen. Careful choosing and cutting will minimize unevenness.
The warm colors in these stones, combined with the taupe-colored stucco, make this counter fit naturally in a Southwestern landscape.
The gleaming grill at this kitchen’s center is framed by thick, uneven stone in both the counter and counterop for a pleasant rustic effect.
Pour-in-Place Concrete Countertop
A concrete countertop can be remarkably inexpensive; all you really need is bags of concrete mix, some simple metal reinforcement, wood for temporary forms, and perhaps some colorant. Also, a top that is poured in place, right side up, is tricky but requires no special masonry skills. The result is a top that may be variously described as “organic,” “rustic,” or even “shabby”; expect imperfections and perhaps trowel marks. It will, however, be smooth enough for countertop use. You will need to seal it every year or so using masonry sealer.
Artisan concrete tops are typically fabricated upside down in forms made of melamine. You can find companies online that will sell you special concrete mixes and tools, as well as detailed instructions, for creating a top that is a work of art. Building the top may become a sort of hobby for you. The materials are more expensive than the ones we show on the next six pages but still make for a reasonably priced countertop. You can order bags of special countertop concrete, which is pretty certain not to crack and is easy to work with, from most home centers. It is made from white cement, which makes colors more vivid. You can also achieve good results using bags of high-early-strength concrete mix. Just be sure to make the mix as dry as possible. Add fiber reinforcement, which you can buy from a concrete supplier or from online sources, to improve crack resistance. The fibers will appear in the final surface, however, making it slightly less smooth.
To calculate how much concrete you need, go to a concrete supplier’s Web site, and search for a countertop mix calculator. There you can enter the square footage and thickness of your top to learn how many bags to buy. When calculating the square footage, be sure to subtract for the grill, burners, sink, and any other gaps. Here is a simple calculator that covers many situations. In the following pages we show a simple top, lightly colored and treated to expose the aggregate. You may choose to add decorative elements such as colored stones. The project has a grill and burner that are inside the countertop. If an appliance will protrude beyond the front or back of the top, construct a substrate and form with a cutout that is the right size. Mix a test batch of concrete, adding colorant. Calculate the amount of colorant you will need to maintain the same ratio in your real batch. Allow the test batch to cure for several days. If you do not like the color, experiment with concrete acid stains until you achieve a color that pleases you.
A concrete countertop can be an elegant choice for an outdoor kitchen. A flawlessly smooth surface like this may require assistance from professional fabricators.
Pour-in-Place Concrete Countertop
- Concrete mix (countertop or high-early-strength)
- 6-in. ladder-type masonry reinforcement
- Concrete colorant
- 2x2s and 2x4s for forms
- Rigid foam insulation and duct tape (for making inner forms)
- Wire cutters
- Spray cooking oil
- Wheelbarrow or mason’s tub
- Hoe and shovel
- Rubber gloves
- Magnesium or wooden float
- Concrete edging tool
- Steel trowel
- Drill-driver, bits
- Reciprocating saw
- Random-orbit sander
- Muriatic acid, baking soda
- Acid stain for concrete
1. Install a backer-board substrate that comes flush to the outside of the counter. For a countertop that will overhang the counter by 1½ in., cut and attach lengths of 2x2 to the perimeter, flush with the top of the backer board.
2. Attach 2x4s to the 2x2s to create forms for the outside edges. Here, the 2×4s are screwed with their bottoms flush with the bottoms of the 2x2s, to make a form for a 2-in.-thick top. If you want a thinner top, bring the 2x4s down accordingly.
3. Apply caulk to the inside edges so that the form will be smooth and gap-free all around. Where needed, make inner forms for a burner or grill.
4. Cut pieces of 6-in. masonry reinforcement to fit inside the formed area. It is made of No. 9 wire, which most experts agree is the right thickness for the purpose. The wire does not need to be cut precisely, as long as it will generally reinforce the concrete.
5. To keep the concrete from sticking to the wooden forms, spray them with cooking oil. Do not use form-release oil because it can discolor the concrete.
6. Pour about 2 in. of water into a wheelbarrow or mason’s tub; then add a bag of concrete mix. Combine the colorant of your choice with additional water, and work the color into the concrete as you mix it.
7. Mix the concrete thoroughly, adding only as much water as needed to get it completely wet. Aim for a firm mixture that you can roll into a ball with your hand (inset). Scrape the bottom and sides of the wheelbarrow or tub to be sure you have mixed all of the ingredients.
8. Remove the metal reinforcement, keeping track of where it goes. Use a shovel to place the concrete around and against the forms. Press the metal reinforcement into the concrete so that it is suspended halfway through the thickness of the top.
9. Wearing rubber gloves, press the concrete firmly against the forms at all points. Tap the sides of the wooden forms with a hammer, and press again to remove air bubbles.
10. Use a length of 2x4 that is a foot or more longer than the width of the countertop forms to generally smooth the surface—a process called screeding. Employ a back-and-forth sawing motion as you move the screed board along the surface.
11. After screeding once, you will likely have a series of voids. Fill them with concrete as needed, and screed again.
12. Smooth the surface using a magnesium or wooden float. Where possible, span the float between forms. Elsewhere, use a light touch to maintain an even surface. Hold the float close to flat, and use long, sweeping strokes. Once surface water appears, stop and let it dry.
13. Use an edging tool to produce a rounded edge on the perimeter. Insert the edger’s flange between the form board and the concrete, and run it back and forth several times until the edge surface is smooth.
14. Once the surface has no pools of water, gently smooth it using a steel trowel. You will probably not achieve professional results, but with care you can remove most of the obvious trowel marks. Avoid overworking; stop as soon as water reappears on the surface.
15. Remove the screws from one of the 2x4s after an hour or so, and gently pull the board away. If the concrete holds its shape, pull all of the 2x4s out; if not, wait and try again later. Use an edger to smooth the nowexposed edge.
16. Wait a few hours for the top to get hard; then cover it loosely with plastic to keep it moist. (The slower the top cures, the stronger the concrete will be.) After a day or two, remove any other forms. If you have an inside form like this, drill holes at the corners, then use a reciprocating saw (inset) to cut out the backer board on the inside.
17. To expose some of the concrete’s aggregate and create a stonier appearance, abrade the surface after a couple of days using a belt or random-orbit sander. Dampen the surface, and slowly sand it, starting with 30-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Repeat the process as necessary, moving on to successively higher grits, until you achieve the surface you desire.
18. Once the top has completely cured—turning a lighter color when fully dry—protect it with stone or masonry sealer. Some sealers are meant to soak in, while others coat the surface; the best products do both. Apply the sealer using a clean rag; allow the sealer to dry; then reapply. Reapply sealer again every year or so or whenever rainwater appears to stop beading.
Acid to Expose Aggregate
Once the top has cured (become both hard and dry), you can use muriatic acid to expose aggregate. Mix one part acid with two parts water. (Always pour the acid into the water, NEVER the other way around.) Wearing nitrile gloves, protective eyewear, and long clothing, scrub the acid solution into the surface. Wait a few minutes; sprinkle the surface with baking soda to halt the acidic reaction; and scrub again. Rinse several times.
If you want to darken the surface or change its color after the concrete has cured, apply acid stain. If possible, experiment on an inconspicuous spot first. Mix the stain with water, and apply it using a clean sponge. Repeat if you want a deeper color.
Counter with a Kamado Grill
With the growing popularity of kamado grills, many homeowners are choosing to incorporate them into an outdoor kitchen counter. You can simply place a kamado grill on an open shelf, which is easy to build and shows off the whole grill. You can also purchase a rolling cart, perhaps with a small wooden counter on each side, and simply roll it up next to your counter. But if you build one into a countertop, it will appear more integrated, and you will find food preparation more convenient.
We show making a concrete countertop with a round opening, but you may choose to hire professionals to cut a granite slab to fit. You could use tile or flagstone for the countertop, but it would require painstakingly careful cutting. Most of the steps for a kamado-surround counter are the same as for any other outdoor kitchen counter. The next four pages show some of the special methods for supporting a heavy grill that is round in shape. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- If you buy a small kamado grill, it may fit into a standard 24-inch-wide counter, but for a larger unit you will need to widen the counter. Keep in mind the dimensions of the framing pieces as well as the thickness of the backer board and finish material.
- The kamado grill must rest on a solidly framed shelf. This does not need to be elaborate, as Step 1 shows.
- Refer to manufacturer’s specifications, and carefully plan how tall the shelf needs to be so that the kamado unit will be at the correct height and you will be able to raise and lower the lid. Take into account the total thickness of the countertop.
- Be sure to provide ample access below the grill for ash removal and the lower vent control. With some models, you may need to provide access for a chip feeder as well. You may choose to simply leave a large opening for these (as we show in the following steps), or you can build an access door.
This counter, with its kamado grill and burner, offers cooking flexibility and keeps all of the mess outside. You will need an access hole as shown to remove the kamado’s ashes.
Counter with a Kamado Grill
- Framing tools and materials
- 1-in. rigid foam insulation
- Measuring tape and cardboard
- Utility knife
- Caulk and gun
- Duct tape
- Concrete and finishing tools for countertop
- Drill-driver and masonry bit
- Reciprocating saw
- Belt sander
1. Frame the counter using wood or metal studs, being sure to allow enough space between the top plates for the kamado grill. To support the shelf at the correct height, frame an opening in the front, and add a cleat at the back. Check that they are level with each other and 1½ in. below the finished height of the shelf.
2. If the shelf will be visible, make it out of cedar heartwood (as shown here) or some other goodlooking and rot-resistant wood. Also install trim pieces at the sides. Have the shelf and trim pieces protrude past the backer board by at least 1½ in. so that you can butt the finish material up against them.
3. We made a circular form using rigid foam insulation (here, two thicknesses of 1-in. boards). Consult the manufacturer’s literature to find out the size of the hole you need. Make a simple trammel out of a piece of cardboard. Make a mark near the end, and poke in a screw at the radius dimension (half the diameter), piercing the insulation.
4. Poke a sharp (new) knife blade straight down through the mark, and hold it straight upright as you slide the trammel around to cut a circle. Make the first pass about ½ in. deep; then cut again to complete the cut. Measure to be sure that the circle is the right diameter; if not, try again.
5. Cut another circle. Apply caulk to the top of the bottom piece, and duct-tape the two pieces together. Tape the perimeter; then add short pieces of tape to the top. Smooth the tape firmly so it will stay in place when you trowel the concrete (Step 7). The form does not need to be perfect, but the top piece should be cleanly round.
6. Attach the countertop backer-board substrate, and build the form for the concrete. Determine where you want the kamado grill to go; apply beads of caulk; and set the form in the caulk. Measure to double-check the form’s location, and allow at least an hour for the caulk to set.
7. Mix the concrete; shovel it onto the countertop; screed it; and trowel it. Push the concrete up against the form, but there is no need to tool the edge as with the countertop outer edges. After the concrete has hardened enough to remove the wooden form, wait at least an hour and perhaps a day to remove the circular form.
8. Use a flat pry bar or a scraper to cut and pry out the form. There is no need to fill in the gaps around the perimeter because they will not show once the grill is in place. Use a masonry bit to drill a starter hole or two (inset); then cut the backer board using a reciprocating saw equipped with a masonry blade.
9. Use a framing square to check that the bottom of the concrete will not butt against the grill. Sand away any protrusions using a belt sander equipped with a 60-grit sanding belt. Also use the belt sander or a random-orbit sander to slightly round over the top edge of the hole so that there are no sharp edges.
10. Lighten the grill by removing its top. In most cases, you remove the screws holding the strap, rather than disconnecting the hinge. Position the grill’s feet (if any) on the shelf. Working with a helper or two, carefully lower the grill into position. If the fit is too tight, perhaps set tiles on the shelf to raise the grill a bit.
11. The countertop will typically come within about 1.8 in. of the grill all around. Apply sealer to the concrete. During heavy rains, water will drip down to the shelf below, so keep the shelf well sealed as well.
Cooking with a Kamado
Even when a kamado grill gets up into the 700-degree-F range, it is not uncomfortable to work near the unit because it encases the heat so efficiently. For extra flavor, use the tool provided to add hardwood chips (inset).
Several companies sell pizza-oven kits that can be shipped to your home. The ones shown here are designed and fabricated by Sergio De Paula for his company Fogazzo Wood-Fired Ovens & Barbecues. This type of oven does not require a roof and can be installed on top of a structure made with metal studs and backer board. It is a “treasure chest” shape—rectangular, with an arched top. (Some ovens are round in shape, but De Paula has found that a rounded top is all that is needed to maintain even temperatures throughout the oven and avoid burning the pizza or bread.) The instructions here are general. Consult with the manufacturer to learn all of the steps you need to support and install an oven. Purchase a chimney tall enough to carry smoke away from any nearby buildings.
The finished oven may have a single large space at the bottom, or you may choose to divide it into two compartments. You also may want to wrap the opening with decorative tile.
- Pizza-oven kit, with insulatiom
- Metal studs and backer board
- Metal stucco lath and nails or screws
1. Build a metal-stud frame about 4 ft. tall to support the oven and provide storage space below for the firewood. At its top, the frame should have bracing every 12 in. or so, topped by a layer of backer board. Set the fireplace’s concrete floor base on top of the framing. (This one uses two layers.)
2. Position the oven’s threshold on the base (inset), and add firebricks to complete the floor. You would typically lay the firebricks dry, but it is OK to lay them in a bed of refractory mortar if you prefer.
3. Set the kit on top of the base. This model has a concrete chamber with a decorative door surround. (Here, the builder has chosen to use gypsum-based exterior sheathing boards instead of cement-based backer board for the counter surround.)
4. Install the chimney. Use metal framing to create a seamless wall running up from the structure below and around the oven. This provides several inches of room for insulation. Attach stucco lath to the framing. Then fill the space between the lath and the oven with vermiculite, and apply stucco.
Building an Eating Counter
If an eating counter—which is typically 42 inches or so high—is attached to a wide counter below, it usually needs only some large brackets (or corbels) to keep it in place. A narrow eating counter like the one shown below, however, requires a bit of engineering to keep it standing sturdily upright. In this case, the builders anchored the counter’s frame to the deck’s framing and then installed support pillars, clad in PVC sheeting, on each side.
1. At each end of the counter’s frame, attach a 4x6 post. Checking that the post is plumb as you work, attach it to one of the joists. Then install short framing pieces along all four sides of the post; they should fit snugly. Drive lots of screws or nails.
2. Install the decking; then build a simple 2x6 stud frame between the posts. Make sure that the studs are no farther apart than 16 in. on center.
3. Wrap the frame with cement-based backer board. Make sure that the top piece is level because the top piece of granite rests on it; you may need to use a rasp (as shown here) to provide a perfectly flat surface.
4. Build simple pillars out of 2x6s, two in the front and three in the back. Anchor the pillar frames by driving screws into the studs. Enlist some strong help, and rest the granite pieces on top of the pillars.
5. Check that the granite pieces are level in both directions, and slip in shims as needed. Tilt the counter pieces up; apply a thick bead of silicone caulk; then reset the counters. Do the same for the backsplash piece (inset).
6. Wrap the pillars with PVC sheeting or another finish of your choice. Attach the PVC using silicone caulk and finishing nails. Now you are ready to apply the finish to the areas between the pillars.
You can purchase a churrasco grill in kit form; the following instructions generally show how to put one together and finish it. The basic parts are made of refractory concrete and firebrick. You will finish the insides and fascia with tiles that are heat resistant and cover the sides with stucco, tiles, or veneer stones or bricks.
The kit is heavy, so it should rest on a concrete pad at least 4 inches thick; there is no need for a thick footing. Most kits come with a short chimney, so position it at least 12 feet away from a house or other structure so that smoke has ample room to escape. Buy a rotisserie unit made to fit into the churrasco. Some rotisseries are motorized; other less-expensive ones are manual.
For a more rustic look, apply stones with wide joints between them to the outsides.
In this example the homeowner used the same tiles for the sides as for the insides. Set the outside tiles in standard thinset mortar, and set the tiles inside the firebox using refractory mortar. Apply grout to the outside tiles, and use refractory mortar to fill the joints inside.
A motorized or hand-crank churrasco rotisserie turns all of the spits at the same time.
- Churrasco kit
- Type-N mortar
- Hammer drill and bits
- Refractory mortar
- Tiles for the inside and the opening
- Finish material for the sides
- Rotisserie to fit
1. Uncrate the kit (inset), and inspect all of the parts. Mix a batch of Type-N mortar, and set the legs of the base in beds of the mortar. Check that the base is level, adding or subtracting mortar as necessary to make it so. Drill holes, and attach an anchor to each of the legs.
2. Assemble the parts in order, setting each in a bed of mortar. At the bottom of the grill opening, set firebricks for a floor. Set the next piece in place, and trowel refractory mortar all around the firebricks (inset).
3. Once you have assembled the concrete unit (inset), apply the finish materials. If you choose to tile the firebox and stucco the outsides, first apply heat-resistant tiles. Fill the joints with refractory mortar.
4. Protect the tiles with tape and construction paper. Apply stucco lath and corner bead. Attach the lath by drilling holes and driving short masonry screws with washers (inset). Apply the stucco in two coats, keeping each coat moist so that it dries slowly.
Installing a Sink
Installing a sink or sinks is a fairly straightforward job once you have run the supply and drain lines into the counter. A small bar-type sink about 15 inches square is a common choice. But you can install a larger one if you plan to do a lot of food preparation and cleaning. Many sinks come packaged with the faucet and basket strainer; if not, buy them separately.
If you install a self-rimming sink as shown on these pages, you do not have to cut the countertop hole precisely. For an under-mounted sink, on the other hand, you must make a clean, accurate cut in the countertop and finish the exposed edges. Most often, this means hiring a granite company to cut the hole for you. They can supply the hardware needed for mounting the sink, or they may mount the sink for you. You could mount the sink onto the counter and then install the plumbing, but it is much easier to install as much plumbing as possible ahead of time.
A drop-in beverage unit like this is not difficult to install, as long as the opening is correctly sized and the basic plumbing is in place.
This fairly large one-bowl sink is equipped with a faucet, which has a pull-out spout/sprayer, as well as a soap dispenser.
Installing a Sink
- Stainless-steel self-rimming sink
- Faucet (which may come with the sink)
- Supply tubes to reach the stop valves
- Adjustable wrench
- Basket strainer
- Plumber’s putty
- Spud wrench to tighten the strainer
- PVC P-trap
- Mounting clips
- Caulk and gun
1. Mount the faucet onto the sink. For a two-handle model, slip the gasket onto the faucet body; thread the two inlets through the hole; and fasten the faucet with two gaskets and nuts, as shown. If you have a one-handle faucet, you will thread all of the plumbing through the single hole and then attach it using a mounting ring and a nut.
2. Install a basket strainer in the sink’s hole. Apply a ring of plumber’s putty around the hole on the inside of the sink; slip on the gaskets; and tighten the nut on the underside. Fasten flexible supply tubes to the faucet inlets. Make sure the tubes are long enough to reach the stop valves inside the cabinet and that they fit the valves.
3. Assemble a P-trap (which comes in a kit), and fasten it to the basket strainer. Be sure that all of the washers are in place, and tighten the nuts. (This kind of nut tightens by hand.) Test to see that the drain will reach the trap adapter inside the counter. You may need to cut one or two pieces or add an extension piece.
4. Slip the mounting clips into the sink’s channels. There should be at least two flanges on each side. Turn or flip up the flanges so that they can fit into the hole. Apply a bead of caulk or plumber’s putty to the underside of the flange. Position the sink, and make sure the caulk or putty seals all around. From below, tighten the mounting clips (inset).
5. Screw the supply tubes onto the stop valves. Slide the P-trap’s arm into the trap adapter (the elbow on top of the drainpipe at the back of the cabinet), and tighten the nuts. Turn on the water, and test for leaks.
Installing Grills and Burners
The last step in an outdoor kitchen project is usually sliding in the grill, burners, and other appliances. As long as you made openings of the correct size as described in manufacturer’s instructions, this is should be straightforward. Be sure that the grill or burner is suited to your gas source—either natural gas, which comes from your house through a pipe, or propane (LP), which connects to a tank inside the counter.
Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. You install most grills by simply sliding or dropping the unit into place. Other grills require first installing a metal sleeve for heat protection. Most gas grills are not too heavy, so two people can easily carry and install them. If you have a giant 48-inch-wide unit, you may need a third person.
Offering instant heat, a simple side burner may lure your family outside more often.
Anchoring a Drop-In Burner
Some side burners slide in like a grill. Many drop-in units do not have fastening hardware. You could just let it sit there, but it may move while you cook. To anchor it, first draw its outline on the countertop. (Slide the unit slightly over after drawing the first two lines so that the lines will not be visible when you install the burner.) Apply a fairly thick bead of clear silicone along the lines, and set the burner into it. Scrape away the excess; then clean with a solventdampened rag. Allow a day for the silicone to fully set.
Consult with your dealer to get the flexible line hookups you need. If your gas grill has a “dual gas valve” label (inset), for example, you will need a conversion kit like this in order to hook it to a propane kit.
Attach the flexible gas line to the underside of the grill or burner you want to install. Check that its other end will reach the gas line or propane tank. Also check that the connection will fit at the pipe or tank. If there is a connection problem, take as many parts as possible to a plumbing supplier to get the right parts.
To install a grill, slowly slide it in, taking care not to bump against the grill’s siding or bend the gas connections attached to the grill. Once you are certain of the fit, you may choose to lift it up slightly and apply silicone caulk under the flanges to make a watertight seal. If there is no flange on the back (as with this grill), simply apply a bead of caulk there.
Once you have installed the grill, there may be a gap like this between the grill and the counter in the front. This is normal and prevents overheating of the grill and counter.