DIY outdoor kitchens – 10 ways to build an al fresco cooking spot from scratch

Discover the clever ways you can create a DIY outdoor kitchen with your own two hands

outdoor kitchen with Big Egg
(Image credit: Alamy)

There are myriad DIY outdoor kitchen ideas that will enable you to upgrade your backyard cooking space without the high price tag. 

Of course, these ideas can vary from a basic BBQ with shelves to outdoor kitchen ideas with countertops, a sink, tap, lighting, appliances and a dining zone. So before you begin it's worth weighing up how much you will use it. 

If you live in a hot climate and intend to entertain outside with long, lazy lunches, dusk dinners or even breakfasts outside for extended stretches of the year, consider having your DIY outdoor kitchen connected to your mains hot water and electricity supplies.

For those in cooler parts of the world who'll be lucky to get a few weeks' use, a gas bottle barbecue or wood-fired pizza oven may suffice for cooking. And a cold outdoor mains tap that hooks up to an outdoor sink via a hose can be a bonus for rinsing plates or preparing salads outside. 

Either way, there is some incredible DIY inspiration out there if you want to add an outdoor kitchen to your backyard. Here are 10 of our favorites. 

10 DIY outdoor kitchen ideas

'It pays to think of any space outside not as a standalone area but an extension of your interiors,' says Massimo Minale, founder of Buster & Punch. 'Colours, materials, textures are all elements that can be translated in an outside space. 

'There’s an added aspect to have in mind when working with architecture and styling outdoors, which is that curves, soft edges and textured materials help to echo the forms of nature itself. 

'While you want a connection to your interior styling, the most successful projects also have a synergy with their outdoor surroundings.' 

1. Pair timber with teal

When Marisa @prettychicandsimple was planning her DIY outdoor kitchen she left no stone unturned where what to include was concerned. Wisely, she checked with her followers who have outdoor kitchens already as to what would be useful. 

The list included a smoker, sink with a cutting board and faucet, pull-out garbage bin, fridge, ice bin, drawers, gas and charcoal grills. 'I don't want to keep running into the house to get things when we're entertaining outside,' says Marisa.

Marisa pulled together a moodboard and her husband built the frame that houses the kitchen with timber and added a black metal roof for protection. He built wooden cabinets with concrete outdoor kitchen countertops to house the appliances.  

After taking a poll to decide which shade to paint the cabinets, she opted for a teal blue, which contrasts with the timber and rattan lampshades and works well with the stainless steel on the appliances. 

2. Include an accessible herb garden 

This project in Umbria, Italy by Rosandra Ferri @mommodesign is a clever IKEA hack and a simple and stylish way to create an outdoor kitchen in their backyard. The carcass and unit are an old freestanding stainless steel IKEA Udden kitchen unit, which comes with a sink built-in. 

Rosandra had the sink professionally plumbed into her hot water supply, but it could be connected via a hose to an outdoor cold tap too. The grill is connected to a portable gas canister. 

Rosandra then painted a disused pallet in charcoal and pale grey to blend with the steel. Then attached it to the front of the unit so she could create a herb garden in the gaps of the pallet base.

You will need to find plastic troughs that fit the width of your pallet base, so you can place the planters comfortably and water your herbs easily.

3. Create a pretty prep area for pizzas

In Ireland, Emily @enchanted._.whispers and her husband have built a bar and preparation area to surround and house their pizza oven. 

After leveling an area in their garden and laying concrete slabs, Emily's husband built a standard wooden frame for the pizza stone, oven and countertop to be attached to. He included shelves in the frame, where the firewood, a drinks bucket, and cooking items can be stored. He also fitted a modern kitchen backsplash at the back, which Emily painted with grey outdoor paint. 

The countertop was created with concrete outdoor tiles from Topps Tiles. 'Check when you buy them that they're suitable for outside,' says Emily. 'The first tiles we used weren't and they cracked, so we've had to replace them. There's usually a symbol that indicates if they can be used outside.'

Emily then tiled the splashback with Mediterranean-style tiles, leaving a small section where she added hooks to hang utensils and pots of basil for the pizza.

The couple created the adjoining gin bar with pallets, sanding them thoroughly, so the surface was smooth and splinter-free, and painted the bar frame in grey paint too.

4. Build an attractive brick base for your barbecue

This impressive project by Christine Gummersall @honeybuilthome took six weeks and looks so worth it. Christine was initially unsure of the layout to go for, so she experimented with taping out the area on the patio. 

After stocking up on lumber and cement board, Christine cut it to size and built the frame with pressure-treated 2x4s with pocket holes cut into them and exterior screws. It helps that she is a dab hand with a power tool (and if you follow her tutorials you could be too). 

With two rectangular frames and four boards, she created a cube for the barbecue to sit on and one for the counter, which contains a beverage sink, built-in trash can and a store for the wood pellets. 

'The patio slopes (as it should) to allow rainwater to drain away, so the left frame supports are 1.5" higher than the right so that the worktop sits level,' explains Christine. 'We don't want hot dogs rolling off!'.

She built the countertops with plywood and cement board, leaving holes for drainage and electrics. She then covered the frame with fiber mesh, mortar then brick slips and a lot of grouting. Finally, she poured the concrete work surface. It's a pretty fine job, and as she already had all of the tools, this outdoor kitchen cost just over $2,300.

'One of my followers was quoted $14,000 to build a barbecue of this size, so we saved thousands,' says Christine. 

5. Go for a cool white wash

This smart outdoor kitchen belongs to Bec and Alex

It was built from scratch by Alex, and although it's a DIY outdoor kitchen, he is in fact a professional handyman. Having built a sub-floor and laid the decking, Alex used weather-proof lining boards to make the kitchen cabinets from scratch, then added concrete for the worktops. 

A professional plumber and electrician would be required if you intended to run outdoor kitchen appliances like a beer fridge and hot water supply outside. 

The couple has already painted the fences white, so it made sense to continue the color scheme with the outdoor kitchen. We love the cool whitewash effect and dappled light coming through the pergola. 

Based in Melbourne, the family get plenty of use throughout the summer months. 'It's one of our favorite spots,' says Bec. 'I can't wait to do some more projects. We have our pizza oven area that needs finishing.'

6. Keep it simple with a counter and cupboards

Interior stylist Sarah Twigg Doyle @retwiggdstylist has kept her DIY outdoor kitchen simple and stylish. With a convenient counter beside the barbecue and cupboards below, summer entertaining is a breeze. 

Built by her partner @artistgmd and son with pallet boards and scrap wood the couple already had plus timber given to them by family members, it has three generous cupboards with shelves for keeping barbecue paraphernalia and cooking gear. 

After much cutting, drilling and assembling to create the base, the extra deep countertop was made with old scaffold boards, sanded, planed, glued and nailed into place. 

Then finally stained, sanded and sealed to bring out the wood grain and complement the charcoal grey of the cupboards. The gorgeous vintage latches were from her father-in-law's collection of reclaimed hardware. 

With all hands on deck, the weekend project has resulted in a charming outdoor kitchen the family can enjoy through the warmer months. 

7. Create a covered entertaining area for all weathers

Of course, if you live in a sunny climate, you'll get max use from an outdoor kitchen. However, whether you're in warmer climes or a place that is cool at certain times of the year, outdoor shade can help you use your DIY kitchen for longer. 

Chloe @thewhitepinesproject and her husband 'DIY Dave' have created a smart outdoor kitchen and al fresco dining space with treated timber and offcuts from the pergola. They've given it a rain-proof roof made with corrugated plastic. It's angled so that they can add guttering and collect the rainwater in a butt. 

'We'll batten it when we get the chance, so you can't see it,' says Chloe. 'For us it came down to cost. If I lived somewhere hot, I'd want a proper roof, but living in the UK, it seemed a waste of money. It's super easy to clean with a jet wash.'

The couple had already had the patio laid by professionals and wiring installed for the pergola. Having sketched the layout, Dave worked out the measurements and drew some plans before building the timber frame. 

Living in the UK,  they decided against a fridge or sink. 'Our kitchen is close, so we didn't feel the need,' says Chloe. 'If I lived in a warmer climate I might have added them though.'

They made sure the barbecue and pizza oven are not close to the timber for safety reasons. Then laid a lovely tiled worktop, where they can prepare and serve burgers and margaritas. 'I'd like to leave the timber to age as it's less maintenance,' says Chloe. 'But if it hasn't aged by next year, I may use something to dull the color.'

8. Go green by using leftover materials

Carla @carlaelliman and her partner created a DIY outdoor kitchen on a budget by using leftover fence panels and tiles found on Facebook Marketplace.

They sketched out their plans and worked out the measurements, along with the number of cupboards they wanted to include. Then built the carcass with treated timber using plenty of crossbars to create a sturdy frame.  

The frame was clad with MDF with a damp proof seal and fence panels cut into strips and the doors fitted. 

They coated with a good quality exterior painted, tiled the top and added the door handles. 'It's probably our most ambitious DIY project yet,' says Carla. 'We built the lot for just over $250 using leftover materials.'

9. Make an impact with monochrome

This gorgeous cook space in Texas from @dry_creek_hallow is actually a temporary measure but it looks pretty good already. The couple had an outdoor kitchen plumbed in when they did their house renovation but knew it would have to wait. 

So this is what they did in the meantime. Propped against the white wall, the timber-framed sink area looks gorgeous coated in a matt black wood stain. And now they have a cool and convenient washing-up area when they're using the grill outside.   

10. Mix matt black and timber

Having built their own beautiful home, an outdoor kitchen was small fry for Carla @happyharrishousebuild and her husband.  

The couple used a pair of timber workbenches for the frames on either side of the barbecue. Then stained them in the same matt black as the fence and used larch for the doors. The result looks gorgeous, especially with the coordinated seating area at the end of the garden.

What materials do I need to build an outdoor kitchen?

Treated timber was the most popular material used for the frames and doors in the best DIY outdoor kitchens, as it's weather and rot-proof. It also gives the option to leave the timber bare to develop a patina, stain it a darker tone or paint it in a favorite colour.

Make sure you build your outdoor kitchen on a flat surface, and keep cooking gear, which will get hot, a sufficient distance from a timber frame.

What is the best countertop for outdoor kitchens?

Outdoor (frost-proof) tiles, stone and concrete are sturdy choices for countertops. They can withstand the elements, as well as the heat from a barbecue, pizza oven or grill. 

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites

A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.