Keep Your Cool with a DIY Summer Kitchen

Create an outdoor space for friends and family to gather, cook, and enjoy the bounty of the season.

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by Len Churchill

We all enjoy life’s simple pleasures: gardening, cooking, the “pop” of a canning lid, eating, spending time in the great outdoors, and, even better, doing these things with friends and family. This outdoor kitchen and canning center combines all of these joys. It’s straightforward to build and can be easily modified to suit the way you cook, can, and entertain. The walls are open for good ventilation, yet the roof is covered to keep rain and blazing sun at bay. Wide countertops provide plenty of room for equipment, produce, preparing, and eating.

Before You Start

Before you begin hammering nails, let’s hammer out a few basics.

Every city and region has its own building, fire, and health codes that dictate what can be built where, by whom, and what it can be used for. Before you dig in, take a look at your local codes, specifically regarding the following:

Setbacks and permits. In some areas, you don’t need a permit for structures smaller than 100 square feet, but in most areas, you need to abide by “setback regulations,” which specify how close to your property line you can build a structure. Check with your local building official for specifics.

Health regulations. If you plan to sell your wares at farmers markets or at retail, you may need to run a gauntlet of health regulations to do so legally. Check out the health regulations in your area. Visit here for an overview of state cottage food laws to get started.

Safety. If you anticipate cooktop flareups or oodles of smoke or steam, you may want to move your cooking equipment outdoors. Additionally, keep a fire extinguisher mounted on the wall.

Siting. Before locking in on your site, think about factors such as prevailing wind direction (you don’t want smoke or steam blowing into your face as you cook), solar orientation, and proximity to other structures.

Tools and Materials

Note: All wood is treated for outside use.

  • Circular saw
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • 2x6s, 8 feet long (10)
  • 3/4-inch plywood, 4-by-8-foot sheet (3)
  • 2x4s, 8 feet long (36)
  • 4x4s, 8 feet long (2)
  • 2x8s, 12 feet long (4)
  • 2x12s, 12 feet long (7)
  • 2x4s, 14 feet long (8)
  • 24-inch polycarbonate panels, 12 feet long (7)
  • 24-inch corrugated-steel panels, 12 feet long (6)
  • 1x6s, 8 feet long (6)
  • Metal siding corners, 8 feet long (4)
  • Metal ridge cap, 14 feet long
  • 16D galvanized nails (10 pounds)
  • 8D galvanized nails (5 pounds)
  • 2-inch washer-head screws (10 pounds)

Note: Some siding and roof panel suppliers will cut your materials to length if provided the correct dimensions.

Cut List

  • 2×6 floor joists, 8 feet long (2)
  • 2×6 short floor joists, 93 inches long (7)
  • 2×6 floor blocking, approximately 22-1/2inches long (6)
  • 4-by-8-foot 3/4 -inch plywood floor sheathing (2)
  • 2×4 end wall bottom plate, 8 feet long (2)
  • 2×4 end wall top plate, 90 inches long (2)
  • 2×4 end wall long studs, 90 inches long (12)
  • 2×4 end wall beam support studs, 82-3/4 inches long (8)
  • 2×4 end wall blocking, cut to fit (12)
  • 2×4 end wall cross braces, 2 feet long (8)
  • 2×4 side wall top/bottom plates, 89 inches long (4)
  • 2×4 side wall studs, 29 inches long (10)
  • 4×4 side wall bracing, 2 feet long, measured long to long (4)
  • 2×8 roof support beams, 12 feet long (4)
  • 2×12 taper-cut roof rafters, 12 feet long (7)
  • 2×4 purlins, 13 feet long (8)
  • 24-by-89-by-3/4 -inch plywood countertop (2)
  • 4×4 countertop braces, 16 inches long, measured long to long (6)

Note: Corrugated-steel siding panels, translucent roof panels, 1×6 door trim, ridge cap, siding corners, and countertop materials are all “cut to fit.”

Floor and Walls

We built our structure on a floor made of treated wood, but you may want to build on a concrete slab, a section of pavers, or a framework of landscape timbers leveled into crushed gravel. We sheathed our floor with treated plywood, but you can use decking with spaces between.

illustration of materials required for the building of an outdoor kitchen

Begin by leveling an area at least 10 feet square and about 8 inches deep for the shed itself. If you’re going to include a patio area, expand that space accordingly. Fill the shed area with crushed gravel, and level that using a 4-foot level taped to a straight 10-foot-long 2×4.

Build the floor using treated 2×6 boards and 3/4-inch plywood, as shown in Figure 2. Make sure to include the blocking in the middle to support the edges of the plywood.

Using the floor as a large workbench, build the front and back walls (they’re identical). Cut the 2x4s to the lengths shown above and on Figures 3 and 4, and nail the studs to the top and bottom plates. The outer two studs will be 7-1/4 inches shorter than the inner studs so they can carry the 2×8 beams supporting the roof.

Stand the front and back walls, and temporarily plumb and brace them in both directions. Install the cross braces in the door openings and the walls to prevent the walls from racking.

illustration of measurements for the walls of a building

Note: The cross braces in the door opening and side walls aren’t just decorative; they’re structural. Don’t eliminate them if you alter the design.

Once the front and back walls are stood and braced, build the two shorter side walls. Set them in place and secure them to the ends of the front and back walls.

Install the double 12-foot-long treated 2×8 beams that rest on the end walls’ studs, making sure they overhang equally on both ends. Check and double-check to make sure your corners are square, and then install the cross bracing in the side wall openings.

Secure the corrugated-steel siding to the front, back, and side wall framework using 2-inch washer-head screws or nails. Drive the fasteners through the high part of the rib of the corrugated siding. When cutting the siding, use a metal cutting blade in your circular saw, and wear eye and ear protectors, as well as gloves and a long-sleeved shirt.

Finally, install the metal corner siding pieces and 1×6 boards around the perimeter of the door to cover and protect the edges of the corrugated siding.

Roof and Roofing

The roof rafters are made by taper-cutting 2x12s to the dimensions shown above. It involves a lot of cutting with a circular saw, but it’s still easier than more traditional roof systems.

Install a sharp blade, and use a straight edge to guide the saw as you cut. For more details, visit YouTube and search for “straight-edge saw guide.”

Use 16D nails to secure the rafters in place every 2 feet, making sure they overhang the walls equally — 24 inches on both sides.

Cut the purlins to length. Secure one just below the peak and one just above the tails on both sides, as shown in Figure 3. Let them hang 6 inches beyond the outermost rafters on each end, and use two 16D nails to fasten them to each rafter. Install the two intermediate purlins so they’re equally spaced — about 24 inches apart along the rafters.

Cut the translucent corrugated roofing to length, and secure the panels to the purlins — again in the high point of the rib — using 2-inch washer-head screws. Install the ridge cap as shown in Figure 2.

Countertops

Just as with an indoor kitchen, you can choose from tons of countertop options — with the exception of wood, which, unless properly protected, will take a beating in an outdoor environment. We elected to use a 3/4 -inch plywood base topped with 1/2-inch cement board with the top and edges covered in tile.

Engineered stone, granite, synthetic, and stainless steel tops are other options that would fare well outdoors. Whichever product you use for your countertops, make certain to support the top with 4×4 angle braces as shown in Figure 2. Also, plan ahead regarding your sink and cooktop so you have plenty of unobstructed space for installing those.

Then, you’re ready to start cooking.


Accessorize Your Outdoor Kitchen

We provide plans for the basic structure, but beyond that, there are dozens of ways to personalize your outdoor kitchen. Here are a few:

Screen it in. If you want to keep insects and critters — well, most of them — out of your kitchen, yet still keep an open feel, you’ll need to screen in the open areas. You can narrow and lower the door openings and install a pair of simple 36-inch-wide storm doors, available at most home centers. You can even use screen doors in the horizontal position to close in the open side walls, though that’ll involve creating smaller openings as well. You can also build or buy screens to fill in the open side wall areas as they’re constructed here.

Add a sink. You can add a sink to your countertop so you can wash your produce, hands, and other surfaces. This can be as simple as running a “drinking-water-safe” garden hose from your house spigot to your sink, or as complex as burying pipes for both hot and cold water and connecting them to your primary water system. If you opt for the simple hose route, always flush standing water out of the hose before using it. If you use the sink sparingly, you can catch the wastewater in a 5-gallon bucket. For more advanced systems, break out the shovel, plumbing tools, and checkbook.

Add a cooktop. You can easily add a two-burner propane cooktop for boiling water and for food preparation. Make certain it’s rated for outdoor use, and position it in a way to minimize fire risks.


Spike Carlsen is the author of The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects (Storey Publishing) and five other DIY books. His newest book, A Walk Around the Block (Harper One), will be available October 20, 2020.