Finding the right material for your outdoor kitchen countertops is equally as challenging as picking a finish for your indoor kitchen. Sometimes, it can be even more challenging. There are many factors to consider before picking the perfect outdoor countertop material, and equally as many options on the market.
From concrete to tile and even stainless steel, understanding your options is a key part of the buying process. Becoming an informed consumer helps you to avoid mistakes, and get your outdoor kitchen design right the first time.
Here are some of the most popular materials for outdoor kitchen countertops.
Concrete isn’t just for the pool deck or patio anymore! As decades have passed, concrete has become an increasingly versatile material, even appearing as concrete flooring inside of homes. This said, concrete is now a viable option for outdoor kitchen countertops.
Somewhere concrete consistently shines is in cost. That is, concrete is a notoriously cheap material in comparison to products such as stone or even tile. Concrete is versatile, and can be molded to fit any custom shape or layout of outdoor kitchen countertop you can think of.
It’s versatility extends beyond just shape. Concrete can be treated with different colors and finishes to achieve a look that is seamless within your outdoor living space and outdoor kitchen.
When it comes to kitchen countertops, you need to think about how the material will impact the function of the space. This means that hygiene is paramount, since sooner or later you will be working with food. Unfortunately, concrete is a naturally porous material. This means it is more susceptible to trapping bacteria which can create contamination during food preparation.
To avoid this, concrete countertops will need to be sealed and maintained, making them a higher maintenance option. Additionally, concrete countertops may stain easily, or cracks over time. This can turn a one-time investment into a long term cash-suck.
Next up on the list is natural stone. This is one of the most commonly used and most popular materials in the world of indoor and outdoor kitchen countertops.
Natural stone is a popular choice for countertops for good reason. Not only is it durable, but it leaves a finish that is hard to beat in terms of appearance. With countless colors, finishes, and types of stones to choose from, you can find a type of stone that appeals to you and makes sense in your space.
Some popular stone options for countertops include granite and marble. However in outdoor spaces, additional stone choices may be fitting. Choosing an option like bluestone or limestone can link your kitchen to the other hardscaping in your outdoor space such as your patio or pool deck. This will help make the design feel cohesive and give it an upscale finish.
While stone is popular, it’s not perfect. Common complaints surrounding natural stone countertops vary depending on the material. However, certain stones can be more prone to staining or chipping than others. Softer stones or more porous stones can be more vulnerable to fading and other damage from the elements. Talk to your contractor or designer to find a stone that will stand up to your climate and intended uses.
Tile has been a popular choice for indoor countertops for a while. While it has gradually become outpaced by other materials, it remains a viable option for outdoor kitchen countertops.
One of the biggest pros of tile countertops is the exceptional variety of options on the market. There are hundreds of colors, styles, shapes, and finishes to choose from. Whether you want something sleek and modern, or bright and colorful, there’s a tile on the market you’re sure to love.
Additionally, tile countertops can be easier to repair over time. Where cracked granite or concrete will usually require a replacement of the entire slab, tile is simpler. A cracked tile can simply be removed and replaced with a new tile. This makes repairs cheaper over time.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason tile has fallen out of vogue for both indoor and outdoor kitchen countertops. Tile means one thing–grout. And where there is grout, there is the inevitable hassle of cleaning grout. The small spaces collect dirt and grime, and in outdoor conditions, this can be especially frustrating.
Additionally, tile can be porous and can trap bacteria in its nooks and crannies. Like concrete, this can present a hazard for food safety. If you love the look of tile but don’t want to deal with the drawbacks, try using it on the sides of an outdoor kitchen island or peninsula instead.
Wood or Butcher Block
Love the wood look? You’re not alone. Wood and butcher block countertops are popular choices for outdoor kitchens.
If you’re looking to warm up a space, there is no material that does it quite so effectively as wood. Coming in a variety of finishes, the natural grain of wood provides built in warmth and visual interest. Not all wood is created equal, however. It’s important to choose a wood that is well equipped for use around food. This means sourcing butcher block countertops made from durable woods such as maple, cherry, walnut, or oak.
Butcher block countertops can have their own set of drawbacks. Moisture is already a concern in indoor kitchens. It becomes a significant factor when designing an outdoor kitchen. Worn countertops made of wood can easily become vulnerable to rot and swelling from moisture that naturally occurs in the climate.
To prevent issues with rotting and keep your outdoor kitchen countertops safe for use with food, make sure to maintain and seal wood countertops regularly. This can make them a higher cost option over time.
Stainless steel makes frequent appearances in both indoor and outdoor kitchens. Most of the time, stainless steel shows up in appliances. From refrigerators to grills, it has been a popular choice for upscale kitchens for decades. However, it’s also a great choice for outdoor kitchen countertops.
Aside from the modern look, stainless steel is popular in the kitchen for a good reason–it’s not porous. Unlike stone and wood which have higher levels of porosity, stainless steel does not absorb moisture or bacteria.
This fact has made it the most common choice for countertops in restaurant kitchens and chef’s kitchens for decades. Preparing food on stainless steel is simply more hygienic than other options on the market. Additionally, stainless steel can be quickly and easily sanitized between uses. This is harder to do with other outdoor kitchen countertop materials.
Not everybody loves the look of stainless steel. It is a highly modern, industrial aesthetic and may not be to everyone’s tastes. Additionally, while stainless steel is extremely hygienic, it does have one other drawback when it comes to application in outdoor spaces. It gets hot. And when we say hot, we mean HOT. If you’ve ever touched a metal seatbelt in the dead of summer, you know it’s an unpleasant experience.
Outdoor kitchen countertops that are exposed to long periods of direct sunlight may not be good candidates for stainless steel. To improve the situation, consider adding a pergola or other shade structure above your outdoor kitchen to guard from the elements.
What material is right for your outdoor kitchen countertops?
The right material is the one that looks great and also functions in your space. Not every material is right for every outdoor kitchen. What works great for one space may not be practical in another.
While you may love the look of a concrete countertop, it may not be the best choice for families who cook mainly outdoors. Similarly, those who are more concerned with hygiene standards might want to look into a stainless steel finish. At the end of the day, the outdoor kitchen countertop material that you choose is based on your lifestyle, design preferences, and of course your budget.