6 Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Options
Outdoor kitchen countertops get a lot of use. Let's narrow down the options and determine which type is best for your outdoor kitchen.
JUPITER IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
What To Look for in an Outdoor Kitchen Countertop
Adding a kitchen to your outdoor space opens up lots of opportunity for socializing and hanging out with family, especially when no one wants to be cooped up in a stuffy indoor kitchen. Choosing the proper kitchen countertop is important because it’s a visible element that needs to be durable.
Here’s what to take into consideration when shopping for an outdoor kitchen countertop:
- Climate: The weather in your area will impact your countertop, visually and structurally. Intense sunlight can fade and stain some materials. In cold climates, the freezing and thawing cycles can cause cracks leading to structural damage. Sylvia Fountaine, a professional chef and creator of Feasting at Home, says stainless steel countertops can get extremely hot in direct sunlight. She has been scorched while using them with clients!
- Aesthetics: Think about color and texture so the countertop effortlessly blends in instead of standing out. An expensive, high-end countertop can look out of place in a rustic setting. Ben Neely, owner of Riverbend Homes, says if your outdoor kitchen features a lot of masonry, choose a stone countertop to complement it.
- Durability: Consider how you’ll use the outdoor kitchen countertop. Will it be only for food prep and buffet setup? Or will it also be a staging area for gardening and outdoor projects?
- Ease of cleaning: Non-porous countertops (stainless steel, granite, soapstone) let you wipe up spills and grease spots easily. Porous surfaces (tile grout, unsealed concrete, wood) can be easily stained by red wine, cooking oil and condiments.
- Food safety: “The more porous the substance,” Fountaine says, “the more opportunities there are for bacteria and foodborne illness.” Stainless steel, granite and sealed concrete are easy to keep sanitized, she says, with little to no texture to hide germs. Porous materials like unsealed tile and grout aren’t a dealbreaker, but Fountaine is adamant about using cutting boards outdoors and not letting food sit on the countertop.
- Maintenance: Porous countertops need to be sealed with a protective coating every couple of years. Besides being inconvenient, that adds to the long-term cost. Neely says if you keep you countertop in the shade you can go longer between sealings, depending on the material.
- Cost: Outdoor kitchen countertop options come in a wide range of prices. Generally, the more expensive the material, the more durable and convenient it is to maintain and clean. Although cheaper options save money up front, future repairs, resealing, and cleaning challenges might not be worth the initial savings. “If you don’t have budget up front,” Fountaine says, “prioritize food safety above all.” Tile is usually the cheapest option for as little as $10 per square foot, while high-end quartz countertops can run as much as $200 per square foot.
Also consider the type of sink you want, especially if it will be mounted on or in the countertop. Some sinks work best with certain countertop materials.
Flavio Coelho/Getty Images
Granite is an igneous rock created from ancient volcanic activity. It can contain lots of different minerals, creating unique patterns of swirls and veins.
According to Neely, granite is “probably the most ideal for outdoor kitchen countertops,” citing its durability against stains and the elements. Granite countertops are extremely heavy and must be positioned and supported properly to avoid cracking. If you’re up for the task, you can DIY the installation. If not, leave it to the professionals.
- Can go years without resealing;
- Resists prolonged sun and moisture exposure;
- Easy to sanitize;
- Available in a range of color and pattern choices.
- Can get hot in direct sunlight;
- You may regret an ultra “busy” design after a few years;
- Challenging to install.
These engineered countertops are made by grinding up quartzite stone and combining it with polymers and resins to form a slab. Pigments and metal flakes can be added to this mixture to create specific colors.
The high price tag and heavy weight of quartz make it challenging to install correctly. An inexperienced DIYer can easily damage the slab or seriously injure himself or herself attempting installation. Hiring a professional is worth the cost.
- Variety of colors to choose from;
- Non-porous surface resists stains and bacteria;
- Elegant and modern look.
- Can yellow in direct sunlight, so should be placed under an awning;
- Vulnerable to cold weather damage;
- Installation is not DIY-friendly.
© Monika Halinowska/Getty Images
No-frills concrete countertops are one of Neely’s favorite options, calling it “probably the third most common countertops our clients want.” If you don’t mind a few inevitable cracks, concrete could be a great choice.
If you’re comfortable working with concrete and constructing molds, you can install a concrete countertop yourself. It’s time-consuming, though, so be sure you have enough to take this on.
- Mid-range price;
- Relatively simple to repair;
- Stays cool to the touch;
- DIY installation.
- Will crack over time;
- Porous surface susceptible to stains and water spots;
- Must be sealed to serve as a food surface.
A food-safe favorite of Fountaine, stainless steel countertops are what you’d find in a professional kitchen. That makes them a practical and functional choice for serious cooks, indoors and out.
Installation is fairly simple. If you have access to a fabricator that can create the shape and size countertop you want, an experienced DIYer should be able to take it from there.
- Easy to clean and prevent bacteria growth;
- Sleek and modern look;
- Can be installed by an experienced DIYer.
- Can rust in wet climates;
- Can get hot in direct sunlight;
- Vulnerable to scratches;
Kwanchai Lerttanapunyaporn/Getty Images
Tile countertops can be made of whatever tile shape and size you like, and arranged in a variety of patterns. If a striking visual is your priority over a functional cooking surface, tile countertops could be a cost-effective choice.
If you have the budget, porcelain and ceramic tiles provide the best protection against bacteria and stains. Installing tile is relatively straightforward and the easiest option for an adventurous DIYer.
- Most tiles are cheaper than other countertop options;
- Relatively simple installation for DIYers;
- Endless color, pattern and design choices.
- Porous grout is hard to keep clean;
- Tile and grout must be sealed to be a food surface;
- Susceptible to cracking and dislodging over time, especially in climates with freeze/thaw cycles.
mikhail badaev/Getty Images
The incredible pressure required to create this metamorphic rock makes it extremely dense, so it resists stains and moisture without a sealant.
Soapstone has a noticeably softer consistency than other stone options though, and scratches easily. This softness makes it easier to cut and shape during installation than harder stone options, but also relatively fragile; it can snap if not supported properly while placing.
If you do decide to tackle installation yourself, make sure you know what you’re doing and have several strong friends to help out.
- Non-porous surface resists stains;
- Resists heat well;
- Doesn’t need to be sealed;
- The dark color creates a powerful, dramatic look.
- Soft consistency not ideal for those who want a pristine surface.
- Color hues are limited to what nature created.