Planning an outdoor kitchen
Long gone are the days when outdoor entertaining meant throwing a snag on the barbie. Today’s outdoor entertaining areas are often an extension of the main dwelling, complete with custom-built cabinetry, fridges, wet areas, pizza ovens and, of course, a great barbecue.
More and more Australians are recognising that a well-designed outdoor kitchen provides the ideal area for entertaining family and friends — not to mention creating an extra living space and adding value to a home.
However, whether you’re incorporating an outdoor kitchen into a new build or managing a renovation project on an existing home, careful planning is a must.
Andrea Mead, the owner of Australian barbecue manufacturer Heatlie, said there are many factors that designers and builders need to consider when developing an outdoor kitchen for their clients.
“The number one consideration has to be layout and position,” Mead said. “It’s important to discuss with clients how the outdoor kitchen will be used. For example, will they be entertaining large groups or will it be used for smaller family meals? Do they require a lounge area as well as a dining zone, and will it be used year round?
“Consider also the outdoor kitchen’s proximity to other areas of the house, how to make the most of any scenic views and privacy issues in relation to neighbouring properties.
“It also pays to think about how the theme of the overall project can be extended to the outdoor kitchen — be it sleek and modern, homely and traditional or a tropical oasis, the aim should be for a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor living spaces.”
Mead said the concept stage is also the time to check with local authorities as to whether written approval is required. “In some states, council approval is required to construct an outdoor enclosure and, in this situation, professional plans will need to be drawn up,” she said.
Ensuring adequate ventilation is another important consideration, and Mead advises builders and designers discuss this with the relevant local government authority.
“The ventilation requirements for an outdoor kitchen depend on the availability of direct open space compared to the roof, walls and doors which can be closed,” she said. “Regulations vary from state to state so it pays to check with the local council.”
Keeping the budget in check can be challenging when it comes to outdoor kitchens, said Mead, with building materials, appliances, barbecue, floor coverings, shading and furniture all needing to be factored in.
“Planning is the key to keeping the costs down,” she said. “It’s imperative to plan for an outdoor kitchen in the initial stages of the project by ensuring there is adequate supply to electricity, water and mains gas as additional costs will be incurred if these are not installed early in the building process.
“Clients also need to make an early decision on whether they prefer a barbecue that uses LPG or natural gas, as natural gas connections need to be installed by a licensed gasfitter during the construction phase.
“Safety considerations, such as adequate ventilation, are also important. Many authorities require a flame failure device to be connected to gas barbecues, which is a standard feature of Heatlie barbecues.”
Another important consideration that’s often overlooked, according to Mead, is protection from the elements.
“A roof or sail will protect an outdoor kitchen from the rain and sun and encourage clients to use the area year round,” she said. “Appliances, barbecue and cupboards will need to be protected from the elements — even stainless steel barbecues and appliances will rust if exposed to weather.”
Another important consideration is the benchtops, both for aesthetic and safety reasons.
“Hard-wearing materials like granite, stone and stainless steel are popular options for outdoor kitchens; however, wood, MDF and laminate can also work well,” said Mead.
“When choosing a benchtop, consider which type of barbecue you plan to install — many units need to be installed into a non-combustible bench like granite or stone. An exception is the Heatlie Island Gourmet Elite, which is the only barbecue that can be safely installed into any kind of benchtop.”
Of course the centrepiece of any outdoor kitchen is the barbecue and choosing the right one is vital. “An Australian-made unit with steel hotplates, ribbon burner and optional roasting hood is a sound option as it enables your client to cook everything from pizzas and roasts to seafood and even desserts, as well as traditional barbecue fare,” said Mead.
“You also want something that will last the distance: Heatlie barbecues are renowned for their durability and will last 10 to 15 years.”
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