What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Prefab Outdoor Kitchen Kit

Types of Prefab Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets 

There are different prefab kitchens to choose from, depending on the size and types of materials you want to go with.  This article will give you an idea of the designs and types of kitchen cabinets that are available and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

The three basic types of outdoor kitchen cabinetry are:

  • DIY cabinets which are built in place (a DIY outdoor kitchen)
  • Prefabricated or RTA (ready to assemble)
  • Custom cabinets which are made to order and delivered complete

We cover DIY cabinetry and custom cabinetry in other areas of this website. But you should be aware of other options for your outdoor kitchen.

Prefab Outdoor Cabinets vs Prefab Outdoor Cabinetry Kits

Prefabricated outdoor cabinets are typically stocked by manufacturers in standard sizes.  The boxes are all the same.  Only the faces (drawers and doors) change the appearance of the cabinet.  

If you are designing your own outdoor cooking or bar area, then you probably have a blueprint or layout of where you want your appliances and cabinetry to be located.  Some cabinet manufacturers have design services that you can use to place the different elements of your set up.  

Prefabricated Outdoor Kitchen Cabinetry Sizes

With prefab cabinets, you can select the sizes and cabinet configurations you want between your grill, your smoker, your sink and your refrigerator. These typically will be in incremental widths that range from 9″ wide to 60 inches wide. You can select just cabinets with shelves, a combination of drawers and door cabinets, or just drawers.  With this many sizes and cabinet configurations, you can get a very workable layout for your outdoor kitchen.  And, if you are a few inches short, there are fillers that match your cabinet door styles that will complete the built-in look.

The different base cabinet and wall cabinet models available include:

cabinet bases with drawer, full height door bases, sink bases, grill cabinets, side burner cabinets, wall cabinets, bar cabinets, three drawer cabinets, four drawer cabinets, corner cabinets, end panels, toe kicks, pull out cabinets and fillers.

Crafting Your Outdoor Cooking Space

If you aren’t really into designing your own outdoor kitchen, never fear. Manufacturers offer prefab kitchen kits for your outdoor patio or bar area. These kits contain everything you need to assemble a working unit. They work well because patios and decks are usually unencumbered by outdoor structures – you don’t have to “fit” them into a restricted space as you do with an indoor kitchen.

There are three types of prefab outdoor kitchen kits available.

  1. Outdoor Kitchen Islands (such as grill islands, bbq island kits, bar island) 
  2. Modular Units
  3. Finished Frames ready to customize (also known as ready to finish outdoor kitchen kits)

The first type, outdoor kitchen island kits, is the turnkey option. These outdoor kitchen packages are stand alone grill units that have, as their centerpiece, a grill. They come complete with everything from the grill, to the cabinets and the countertops.An outdoor kitchen island is a complete all-in-one unit which may consist of any or all of these features: cabinet storage, sink, grill, refrigerator, ice maker, pizza oven, burners and other kitchen appliance.  The size of the unit and the number of included features will determine the price.  All of the pieces you need to build your island are included in the kit.  It is basically an assemble-it-yourself solution and is engineered to be easy enough for a novice to put together.

Modular units are types of prefab kitchens where you select the modules you would like to have and configure your design to include those modules. More workspace can be designed, not just linear, such as u-shaped or l-shaped.  You can add more modules as you need more function in your outdoor kitchen  such as an ice maker module with an outdoor refrigerator and the space to put the modules in.

Finished frames give you the bones of your outdoor kitchen, without the finishes. Many DIYers build an outdoor kitchen cabinet frame from lumber, but if you are not that handy with a table saw, then a ready to finish outdoor kitchen  might be your best option.  The raw cabinet frames can be finished with stone or wood or whatever weatherproof surface you would like.  Ditto for countertops.  Most ready to finish modular outdoor kitchen kits come with appliances such as premium grills.

Construction and Materials

Prefab cabinets are made from many different materials.  These include 

HDPE (high density polyethylene)

Wood

Stainless Steel

PVC

Laminated

Foam resin

Marine-grade aluminum

HPDE is a tough surface that lasts a lifetime even in the harshest outdoor conditions. It is the exact same polymer as used in poly wood outdoor furniture. It is a solid material with solid color all the way through. It won’t rust, delaminate or rot when exposed to humidity, water or UV rays making it an ideal material for outdoor use. It also stays cool when exposed to direct sunlight.  The number of colors and textures available is growing all the time with the number of manufacturers entering the market.  

Still looking for a rustic looking outdoor kitchen but need a kit? You’re in luck. Wood is typically used as the door or panel finish on prefab outdoor cabinetry whereas the boxes are typically stainless steel.  Weather resistant woods such as teak, cypress, and ipe, with teak being the most expensive option of the three.

As for stainless steel, what can we say?  For a sleek, modern aesthetic, there’s nothing like stainless.  It is durable outdoors, it coordinates well with all types of cabinetry finishes and it is the chosen material of grill and outdoor refrigerator manufacturers the world over.  It is not, however, without its shortcomings.  If not cared for, it can pit and it will scratch.  

PVC, polyvinyl chloride, is used to manufacture cabinet boxes and drawers. It is a weatherproof solution for outdoor storage.  It is lightweight and easy to clean.  

Laminated outdoor cabinetry is UV resistant, available in many finish options and wears well under frequent use. It is cautioned, however, that this cabinet type be used only in covered areas where the risk of delamination is slight.

Foam resin is another option you may want to consider for your cabinetry.  It is made by compressing light weight foam in a die to produce a dense and strong profiles. Because this type of cabinet uses dies, the profiles can be made to look like real wood or smoothed for a contemporary look.

Marine grade aluminum is a popular choice for outdoor cabinetry because it won’t rust, but still can corrode.  Aluminum is a soft metal and can be dented easily.  It is a good conductor of heat and may become too hot to touch, especially if near a builtin grill. It is lightweight and lacks the structural strength of stainless steel. 

One of the advantages of a prefab kitchen kit is that a finished outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to be complete.  You can always add another modular outdoor kitchen kit, space permitting, to add more function.