Outdoor kitchens are an increasingly covetable (and marketable) lifestyle addition in Australian homes. We’re looking beyond the barbecue and creating functional, purpose-built alfresco cooking spaces that make entertaining a dream. ‘Australians have always loved outdoor entertaining, and it has now become an integral part of our lifestyle,’ says Ric Piil, owner of Perth outdoor kitchen specialists Alfresco Kitchens. ‘After all, who wants to leave your guests alone enjoying the sunshine, or miss out on a warm evening breeze while you slave away inside?’
Generally located on a patio or deck adjoining the home’s living area, or within a stand-alone cabana, outdoor kitchens call for specific considerations when it comes to design, fixtures and finishes. This is because products designed for indoor use are not always durable enough to withstand the added environmental demands, such as excess moisture, greater temperature extremes, UV exposure and intense barbecue heat. Plus, Ric says, to get the most out of your investment it’s important to ensure the space is easy to work in and useable year-round.
The first step when planning your outdoor kitchen is to decide on inclusions. ‘An outdoor kitchen can be as simple or as elaborate as you desire,’ says Darren James, director of Darren James Interiors. ‘It should have similar capabilities and flow as an indoor kitchen. The basics include a refrigerator, beverage centre, sink and, of course, cooking facilities – usually in the form of a built-in barbecue.
‘What else to include really depends on how you like to entertain; there are no rights or wrongs. Smokers, grills, teppanyaki plates, combination cooktops, ovens, dishwasher, ice makers and even fireplaces or pizza ovens are some of the requests we have designed in over the years.’
Darren adds that it’s vital to position your utilities and appliances strategically, ‘to ensure the space flows harmoniously in terms of prep, cooking and cleaning zones’. Locate guest seating and dining well clear of the barbecue and other cooking appliances, and ensure refrigerators and wine coolers are installed away from direct sunlight and cooking appliances.
Materials and finishes
When choosing materials for cabinetry and benchtops, Ric says durability is key. ‘Most alfresco areas are subject to moisture from condensation, so using the correct materials is extremely important to ensure the outdoor kitchen lasts.’
Darren says he often specifies Laminam and Neolith for alfresco benchtops. These highly durable, new-generation porcelain sheet products are fire- and heat-resistant, colour-stable, UV-resistant, and don’t stain easily. Formed concrete and stainless steel are also suitable. ‘A lot of benchtop products are not warranted for outdoor use and will fade or fail, so it’s best to check before specifying or using,’ he adds.
Cabinets must be constructed from weatherproof board that is purpose-built to withstand exposure to the elements and excess condensation. Darren suggests Tricoya substrates for (e.g. Laminex’s Compact Laminate range) which have the requisite stability and durability for outdoor conditions. For a high-end look, aluminium-framed doors with glass or aluminium inserts work well. Marine-grade steel is a good choice for longer-lasting tapware, cabinet hinges and drawer runners.
Electrical safety and appliances
Any electrical appliances, heating and lighting installed outdoors must meet Australian regulations, be waterproofed to a rating of at least IP67, and installed by a licensed electrician.1
Darren also points out that regular indoor appliances such as ovens, fridges and dishwashers are generally not made to withstand external conditions, and installing them in an outdoor kitchen may void your warranty. ‘There are specific ranges available that are rated to suit outdoor use – definitely do your research before buying,’ he advises.
Grilling and barbecuing creates high levels of heat, smoke and grease, so depending on how enclosed your outdoor kitchen is, you may need to meet building compliance regulations with regards to ventilation. ‘If the area is open, with lots of natural ventilation, there are no regulations,’ Ric explains. ‘However, if an area is considered “enclosed” [by the regulatory body] there are a number of regulations and certifications required. These can include the use of specific barbecues that have been “approved for internal use”, together with powerful exhaust canopies designed for outdoor use.’ Ric adds that these rules do vary state by state, so it’s important to check with your local council.
A well-planned and professionally executed outdoor kitchen will provide years of enjoyment, and may even add value to your home when it comes time to sell. If you’re thinking about transforming a tired barbecue area into a fun and functional outdoor kitchen, contact me now to discuss your funding options.