Outdoor kitchen

Recipe for success

Put the ‘fun’ into functional with HIA’s practical reference checklists for designing and building safe and durable outdoor kitchens.

Photo courtesy Enigma Interiors


Gabrielle Chariton

Australians are an outdoorsy bunch and there’s nothing we love more than cooking – and dining – alfresco. It’s a passion which, over the past decade or so, has led to the rise of the outdoor kitchen as a ‘must-have’ inclusion in both new and renovated homes.

At its most basic, an outdoor ‘kitchen’ comprises a barbeque built into a benchtop with some integrated storage space. More commonly though, these outdoor entertaining hubs include a sink and tap, a fridge or wine cooler and a dishwasher; as well as a variety of cooking gadgets such as a barbeque, coal or gas grills, Teppanyaki plates, wok burners or even a pizza oven.

A well-designed outdoor kitchen will improve the general amenity of a home and transform the entertaining experience. It brings the convenience and ease of indoor cooking to the great outdoors – food is prepped, cooked and eaten all in one beautiful alfresco area.

While the trend originated at the luxury end of the housing market, outdoor kitchens are now routinely incorporated into mid-level project homes around the country. The most common iteration is for the outdoor kitchen space to function as a seamless extension of the internal kitchen, extending onto an adjoining deck or patio. In these instances, homeowners will often seek continuity and consistency in the design and finish of both kitchen spaces.

Because outdoor kitchens are still a relatively new concept, the industry has struggled to keep up in terms of design standards, safety, installation techniques, and material compliance. Finishes and fixtures that are used for indoor kitchens, for example, are not necessarily going to be durable enough for outdoor applications, or may even be unsuitable (for instance flooring that becomes slippery in the rain). And one of the biggest issues being reported by industry is the failure of products in outdoor kitchens due to incorrect placement (one example is refrigerators which shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight).

In response to the lack of industry guidance, HIA has created a set of industry reference checklists covering key elements of the design and construction of outdoor kitchens.

These comprehensive checklists highlight common pitfalls and potential issues that often arise in the wear and performance of outdoor kitchens – issues that are easily avoided if addressed at the planning stage – to help members maximise the functionality and ongoing durability of these spaces.

Outdoor kitchen
A well-designed outdoor kitchen will transform the entertaining experience
Photo courtesy Enigma Interiors
outdoor kitchen
Outdoor kitchens brings the convenience and ease of indoor cooking to the great outdoors
Photo courtesy TAK Acquisitions

Some important considerations addressed in the checklists include:

Layout and space

• Check and allow for sufficient clear and uninterrupted space for traffic flow, food prep and serving, seating and dining.
• Locate barbeque units and cooking appliances with requisite clearance from other surfaces and seating areas.
• Locate refrigerators and wine coolers away from direct sunlight and heated or heating appliances.

Lighting and power

• Include task and ambient lighting for the workspace; plus feature lighting for the entertainment area.
• Is sensor lighting required for approach to the area? Are lights switchable from both inside and outside the home?
• All lighting and electrical fixtures and fittings must be suitable for outdoor use.
• Consider the location of power outlets as well as cooking appliances requiring power and gas connections such as refrigeration units, extraction units and heating units or fans.

Product and material selection

• Benchtop materials, cabinetry, appliances and other components must be ‘fit for purpose’ and able to withstand exposure to UV, moisture, excessive heat or salt air.
• Products designed for indoor use may fade, warp, or lose structural integrity when exposed to the elements. Check manufacturer’s specifications and warranties before making any selections.
• A number of benchtop materials are not recommended for hot barbeque surrounds. Others may be too porous for outdoor use or prone to fading.
• Some cabinetry board materials are susceptible to moisture ingress and expansion and contraction in direct sunlight. Choose quality 100 per cent moisture-resistant PVC board.
Hardware (drawer systems, hinges and handles) may be susceptible to surface rust and corrosion.
• A semi-enclosed kitchen will require effective extraction – however indoor rangehoods are not powerful enough to extract barbeque heat, smoke and grease.
• Some refrigerators will have an ‘IP rating’ (electrical rating for moisture exposure) which will need to be considered in the selection process.


Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for correct installation, as incorrect methods of installation could lead to failure of the product and voiding of any warranties.

If outdoor kitchens aren’t designed and installed correctly, issues will arise – most often sooner rather than later. And, if you’ve kitted the space out using products that aren’t ‘fit for purpose’ or failed to follow the manufacturer’s specified methods for outdoor installation, you won’t be protected by warranties.

Forward planning and exhaustive research is essential to the delivery of a beautiful, functional and safe outdoor cooking space that will last the distance.

HIA members can download the 16-page HIA Outdoor Kitchens Industry Reference Checklist free of charge at www.hia.com.au/Membership

Related Articles

Water wise for our future

Ensuring our water security is garnering increasing attention in the face of severe drought gripping parts of Australia. Does the housing industry have a role to play?

Preparing for a crisis

Reputation and trust are the pillars of a strong business. Unfortunately, a crisis can unravel both in the space of a few hours, writes PR specialist Phoebe Netto.

Faster, stronger, greener

The Stoddart Group is continually working to improve onsite processes for Australian builders, helping them deliver better-performing, more environmentally-responsible houses.

More than meets the eye

Every year the HIA National Conference offers members the best in all things building development, and 2019 was no different.

Join more than 120,000 like-minded subscribers