Outdoor Kitchen Cabinet Materials: The 5 Most Popular Types

outdoor kitchen cabinet materials

When you buy indoor kitchen cabinets, the two main things you’ll be considering are how much storage space they provide and what they look like.

Good indoor kitchen cabinets should last at least 15-20 years before they need to be replaced, refinished, or refaced, so longevity is much less of a concern.

With outdoor kitchen cabinets, however, durability will be at or near the top of your priority list when a buying decision is being made.

Because they need to be able to withstand the demands of an outdoor environment (especially in the harsh Canadian weather), the type of outdoor kitchen cabinet materials you choose is important if you want to enjoy years of use from them.

4 considerations when choosing outdoor kitchen cabinet materials

There are several outdoor kitchen cabinet materials available. The most popular types are stainless steel, marine-grade aluminum, masonry, PVC, and wood.

The four most important considerations you’ll have when choosing between the various types of outdoor kitchen cabinets materials are:

  • Durability: even if they’re in a covered outdoor kitchen, are the cabinets highly resistant to moisture, sturdy enough to withstand extreme temperature changes, and able to handle prolonged exposure to the sun?
  • Aesthetics: do the cabinets have a high-end look and aesthetically complement the other key features of your outdoor kitchen, such as the countertop, grill, and other appliances?
  • Construction quality: is the construction quality of the cabinets capable of handling the wear and tear of regular use on a long-term basis? Is high-quality hardware being used for things like the hinges, drawer rollers, and door and drawer pulls? Is the entire cabinet frame of a high-quality, or just the doors and drawers? The latter is sometimes the case to lower the cost of indoor and outdoor kitchen cabinets.
  • Ease of maintenance: how easy is it to wipe up liquid and grease spills and clean the cabinets? Will the cabinets need any major maintenance work every few years?

Let’s take a look at the key features of the most popular types of outdoor kitchen cabinet materials to help you make an informed buying decision.

1. Stainless steel

brown jordan outdoor kitchen cabinets

Brown Jordan stainless steel outdoor kitchen cabinets with a powder coated finish.

Stainless steel kitchen cabinets are popular because they’re very well-suited for an outdoor cooking space. One of their biggest benefits is their durability, provided you invest in cabinets constructed with high-quality stainless steel.

Naturally, rust will be your biggest concern with steel cabinetry that sits outdoors. Top outdoor kitchen cabinet manufacturers like Danver and Brown Jordan use 304 or 316L grade stainless steels that are corrosion-resistant. Powder coated finishes provide further protection against rusting.

Pay attention to the thickness of the steel in the cabinets you buy. This is measured in gauges and the lower the number, the thicker the steel will be (which means the structural integrity will be higher). Aim for steel cabinets with a thickness in the 16-20 gauge range.

Another important thing to look for with your steel kitchen cabinets is the craftsmanship that goes into them. Ensure that they have strong frames with welded corners that won’t start falling apart after a few years.

Stainless steel is also one of the most popular outdoor kitchen cabinet materials because of its design versatility. Powder coating technology doesn’t only prevent corrosion, it allows for a wide array of decorative finishes to be used. This includes using solid colours, creating unique patterns, and even replicating the look of real wood.

The natural look of steel matches well with the aesthetic of an outdoor kitchen’s appliances as well, which gives the space a stylish, contemporary appearance.

2. Marine-grade aluminum

Another metal cabinet material worth considering is aluminum, but not just any old aluminum. Aluminum is naturally corrosion-resistant, which is why it is commonly used for marine applications.

The marine-grade aluminum used to make cabinets for outdoor kitchens comes in thick gauges, which ensures structural stability. Aluminum cabinets are also a bit lighter than steel cabinets.

This type of cabinet can be powder coated as well, so marine-grade aluminum cabinets from a reliable manufacturer like Urban Bonfire (which is made in Canada) should last for years.

They offer a viable alternative to stainless steel cabinets, while also giving you lots of flexibility to customize the type of finish and add optional features like pullout drawers and accessory racks.

3. Masonry

Masonry cabinetry involves covering a metal frame or concrete blocks with a stucco veneer, decorative stone, or brick.

The natural look of masonry cabinetry gives your outdoor kitchen a unique aesthetic with more of a built-in design. You can choose materials that blend nicely with the exterior appearance of your home or surrounding features, too, such as the patio or a rock wall.

As you would expect, masonry cabinet structures are very sturdy and highly resilient in most types of climates and weather conditions.

Some downsides of masonry outdoor kitchen cabinets are that they can take longer to design, are more expensive to install, and are more difficult to accessorize with.

4. PVC and resin

NatureKast PVC outdoor kitchen cabinets replicate the look of real wood.

One of the relatively newer types of outdoor kitchen cabinet materials is PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is a synthetic polymer material.

PVC is one of the most widely used kinds of plastics. Although it was invented well over a century ago, only recently has it been used for outdoor kitchen cabinet manufacturing.

It makes a lot of sense why, as PVC is 100% weatherproof and can’t rust or stain. Like aluminum, this resilient material is often used for marine-related applications.

Cheaper PVC or vinyl kitchen cabinets are susceptible to colour fading from prolonged UV exposure and can warp when temperatures fluctuate significantly. This is why if you do want PVC cabinetry for your outdoor kitchen, invest in a high-end brand like NatureKast.

NatureKast PVC cabinets are in a class of their own because they use an advanced hi-density resin system that perfectly replicates the natural colour and texture of real wood, without the maintenance and deterioration that comes with wood cabinetry.

And PVC kitchen cabinets are extremely easy to maintain and clean. Since they’re completely waterproof, all you have to do is clean them with a hose or pressure washer.

5. Wood

Genuine wood cabinets are less commonly found in outdoor kitchens than the other types of cabinets listed above, but some homeowners prefer them for a few reasons.

Although high-quality PVC cabinets can be designed to look just like real wood, some people simply don’t care for the sterile, less organic nature of plastic compared to wood.

There is certainly no doubt that the natural look of real wood cabinets gives an outdoor kitchen a warm, classic feel.

Wood’s delicate nature makes it challenging to use in an outdoor kitchen setting, however, especially in Canada. It wouldn’t be practical to buy wood cabinets unless your outdoor cooking space was covered.

You need to use a more weather-resistant type of wood, such as teak, mahogany, and white oak. These specialty woods can get expensive and require a lot more maintenance than other outdoor kitchen cabinet materials. To preserve outdoor wood cabinets, repeat applications of water seals, oils, and stains will be required, depending on the type of wood.

Customize your outdoor kitchen cabinets

Now that you’re more informed about what your outdoor kitchen cabinet material options are, which type suits your needs best to create your dream outdoor living space?

Our design experts can answer any further questions you might have about outdoor kitchen cabinets and outdoor kitchens in general.

Schedule a free design consultation with us today.

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See also:

7 Outdoor Kitchen Trends That Will Transform Your Outdoor Living Space In 2020

Grilling and outdoor entertaining go hand in hand, with the experience moving well beyond how things used to be with a backyard get together.

Remember when an outdoor cooking area consisted of a standalone basic barbecue and a small rickety side table overloaded with meats, condiments, grilling tools, and the chef’s open beer?

Your guests might dine at a picnic table in need of a new coat of paint and relax in uncomfortable folding or Muskoka chairs.

That has now given way to decidedly more upscale outdoor cooking and entertaining spaces and experiences.

outdoor kitchen trends toronto

Outdoor kitchens are the most popular kitchen upgrade project

Forbes recently wrote that “outdoor kitchens and living areas are trending strongly and richly, with more enhancements than ever before”. Google “outdoor kitchen trends” and you’ll be met with 163,00,000 returned results.

The American Institute of Architects’ recent Home Design Trends Survey provides further evidence of the growing popularity of outdoor kitchen additions among homeowners and design professionals.

500 members of residential architecture firms were asked about their predictions for home design trends.

45% of the surveyed architects forecast that outdoor kitchens would be the most popular kitchen product and feature in the coming years.

7 outdoor kitchen trends and essential design features

The more sophisticated designs of modern interior kitchens are being utilized in the outdoor space, whether it’s a smaller setup in the corner of a deck or a larger, more elaborate outdoor cooking and entertaining area. Outdoor kitchens typically range from 100 to 400 square feet.

We took a look online at what real estate and home design professionals are projecting to be the hot outdoor kitchen trends, as well as what essential features they believe should be included in any outdoor living space that a homeowner wants to stand out.

With the right design and luxurious amenities, you just might find that your outdoor kitchen and lounging area even displaces the living room as your home’s go-to social hub!

1. A versatile, premium grill that’s built to last

The grill is an outdoor kitchen’s centrepiece, so choosing a high-quality cooking appliance worthy of a professional chef is essential for any upscale exterior kitchen.

Premium grill brands like Alfresco, Coyote, Lynx, and DCS make fine-tuned products that are far superior to even the highest-end grill models you’ll find in your local big-box store.

It starts with the construction. Any grill needs to be able to withstand the rigours of Canadian weather, even if an outdoor kitchen and the grill itself are covered up during the winter.

Premium propane and natural gas grills use high-quality stainless steel and construction materials to ensure long-lasting durability and reliable performance.

Grills with expansive cooking surfaces and handy extras like a smoking box, rotisserie, warming and grilling racks, a warming drawer, and side burners are a must-have for anyone who takes their barbecuing seriously.

Today’s luxury grills also come with some very swanky features that would have seemed unimaginable back in the days when grease-caked charcoal grills were the standard tool for barbecuing. Here are a few examples of some premium grill features:

  • integrated illumination with backlit control knobs, interior lighting, and halogen surface lights
  • advanced electro-mechanical valves to automatically maintain the preset surface temperature
  • smart controls that respond to voice commands or a smart device
  • a heat-treated hood assist system that makes opening the grill hood almost effortless

Another of the growing outdoor kitchen trends includes incorporating a built-in grill into the kitchen’s design, as opposed to having a standalone grill. This saves space, looks professional and elegant, and makes for a more efficient workspace.

2. Stylish, yet durable built-in cabinetry

You can’t call a space a kitchen without cabinetry. Naturally, an outdoor kitchen requires a special type of cabinetry.

It must be durable enough to handle being outdoors, while still maintaining the exterior cooking space’s stylish aesthetic. It needs to maximize your storage space as well.

Stainless steel is the material of choice for custom and semi-custom built-in cabinet systems used in the majority of outdoor kitchens.

Brands like Brown Jordan and Danver are made with commercial-grade stainless steel for superior durability. Powder-coated finishes ensure the cabinets stay rust-free for many years.

Stainless steel cabinets have a sleek look that can be customized to match your style preferences and to conform with your grill system and other outdoor kitchen features.

Another weatherproof cabinet option is a hi-density resin cabinet system, such as what NatureKast offers. Their cabinets replicate the texture and natural colour of real wood remarkably well.

Marine-grade aluminum kitchen cabinets are also engineered to withstand harsh weather and climates. Quebec’s Urban Bonfire is one of the leading manufacturers of this type of outdoor cabinet.

outdoor kitchen with grill and grey cabinets

Danver cabinets were used for this outdoor kitchen.

3. A resilient outdoor kitchen countertop

An outdoor kitchen countertop has three main functions. It has to:

  • have a resilient surface that can handle the requirements for a food prep area
  • be engineered for long-lasting structural and aesthetic integrity in an outdoor environment
  • visually complement the kitchen’s other stylish features

Some of the more common types of countertop materials include marble, granite, porcelain, soapstone, and concrete.

One of the outdoor kitchen trends we’re seeing more with countertops is to use surfaces made with sintering technology. This high-tech manufacturing process produces extremely durable surfaces that are highly customizable.

Any higher quality outdoor kitchen countertop will be non-porous and provide strong resistance to abrasions, stains, chemicals, and ultraviolet light (which will prevent the surface’s colour from fading over time).

4. An efficient, full-service food prep area

A well-designed outdoor kitchen should include a full-service food prep area. A practical layout for everything facilitates an efficient workflow.

The need for good lighting and an ample amount of counter space are a given.

Having all the amenities you’ll need to handle all of your food prep within easy reach is helpful, too. With so much to do getting your guest’s meals ready, there’s no time to waste shuttling in and out of the house to retrieve a needed item!

There are a full complement of interior kitchen amenities that can be added to an outdoor kitchen. Here are a few examples:

  • faucet and sink
  • built-in countertop side burners, flat top grill, and fryer
  • outdoor pizza oven and countertop oven
  • built-in countertop steam table
  • pullout electric warming drawer
  • refrigeration and ice-making appliances

5. Plenty of refrigeration

Let’s look a little closer at refrigeration in an outdoor kitchen. After all, ice and keeping things cool go hand in hand with cooking and lounging outside when the weather warms up.

Ensuring an outdoor kitchen is fully equipped to take care of both the host’s and guest’s refrigeration needs is the ultimate in convenience for an outdoor entertaining space.

Once again, having enough refrigeration in your outdoor cooking area saves you from making trips to your indoor fridge or freezer to restock on meats.

It saves guests from needing to make trips inside to get a fresh cold drink. You also won’t have to keep coolers or tubs of ice filled with bottled beverages scattered around your outdoor entertaining area.

There is no shortage of outdoor kitchen refrigeration options available. Top outdoor appliance brands like Alfresco and Lynx offer under-grill refrigerators, wine fridges, built-in under-counter fridges, and professional fridge/freezer combos.

How about adding an outdoor ice machine? Lynx has an energy-efficient luxury appliance that can produce almost 40 pounds of ice and provides audible alerts and programmed cleaning reminders.

6. Décor that coordinates with your home’s interior

The attention you pay to the design and décor of an indoor living space should extend to the outdoor living space as well.

The modern trend of “style continuity” in the home (where there’s a natural decorative flow from room to room) drives another of the outdoor kitchen trends gaining traction with designers.

More and more, the décor of outdoor kitchens installed on decks or patios is coordinated to align with and complement the style of the interior kitchen or the closest room to the outdoor kitchen.

Decorative flair can also be added to the already-impressive looks of a premium grill, cabinet system, and countertop in the form of cabinet backsplashes and decorative moulding elements.

7. Add-on features that elevate your outdoor living experience

We’ve covered a lot, but there’s still more you can do to elevate your outdoor living experience. Some add-on features and design elements to consider are:

  • an outdoor fireplace or fire pit
  • a TV mounted in your cabinetry
  • an integrated sound system with hidden speakers and wiring
  • high-end outdoor furniture
  • landscape lighting to boost the ambiance in your outdoor lounge area
  • a herb garden close to the food prep area
  • an outdoor kitchen island that has multiple uses as a supplementary food prep area, extra storage space, and as a flat surface for guests to use

Start adopting these outdoor kitchen trends for your cooking space

All of these outdoor kitchen trends and essential features will contribute immensely to the enjoyment of any outdoor cooking and entertaining space.

If you’re planning to upgrade or add an outdoor kitchen in your home, request a design consultation with Outdoor Kitchens & Cabinetry today.

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