Outdoor Kitchen Design and Maintenance Tips For Madison Wisconsin

Designing an Outdoor Kitchen For Madisons Climate

Today a huge trend in home improvement, no matter where you call home, is creating a beautiful hardscape outdoor kitchen. Typically, when you see a television show like Fixer Upper featuring outdoor kitchens, they're being built in a warmer climate. But that doesn't mean that if you live in a place like Madison, Wisconsin you don't want one too!

We often get calls from customers looking to add a beautiful outdoor living space to their home here in Madison, and often that request includes a full outdoor kitchen. While we may not be able to enjoy them year round, with proper construction techniques, cold-weather designs, and regular maintenance, an outdoor kitchen can be a great addition to your Wisconsin home.

While the winter weather can be rough, with the proper materials and design and an understanding of how to protect your investment during the coldest winter months, you too can have a stunning outdoor kitchen! Let's look at the challenges, and we how overcome them here in beautiful Wisconsin!

Make it Custom!

This screened porch includes a grilling station, with a vent hood, for sheltered grilling available rain or shine.

In warmer climates, contractors typically use “outdoor kitchen kits” for their projects. These include a pre-ordered, pre-made frame, fiber cement board or stone veneer, prefab tile or granite countertops and all the other materials needed to construct the framework. Kits are shipped in pieces ready to be assembled by the contractor on site. These kits cost about half as much as a custom-built kitchen, which can make them an attractive option for homeowners, and if you live in the south they work just fine. But the fact is, they're not designed or built to stand up to the extreme winter weather in a place like Madison!

Here at Degnan Design Build Remodel, we work with homeowners to educate them to the realities of constructing a proper outdoor kitchen for our cold climate. It's important for the homeowner to understand the process and for us to understand their expectations. If the goal is to use the space for all four seasons, we need to keep that in mind when designing and placing the site. It can be done, but there is a cost involved. The homeowner should ask themselves:

• How often do you want to use the space?

• Do you have the budget, and is investing in the higher-end grills, cabinets, decking, stones and furniture needed to create a cold weather ready outdoor kitchen?

• Will it add value to your home at resale and is that a priority for you?

There are also challenges involved that we discuss together for example, bugs, and winterization needs (gas and electrical lines will need to be protected from weather, furniture will need to be stored.)

Finally, we discuss the importance of placement. If you're planning on grilling year round placing the kitchen close to your home, and sheltering the cooking area from harsh weather or flood zones all need to be determined before construction begins. It's also important to take into consideration privacy, and incorporating the design into your current landscaping.

It's All In The Build...

This outdoor kitchen grilling station uses stainless steel cabinetry inside a masonry enclosure, and a concrete countertop, for durability in Wisconsin’s wide range of seasonal temperatures.

When constructing a cold weather outdoor kitchen it's important to use the proper materials. Those outdoor kitchen kits use fiber cement board, and stone veneer which is not rated to hold up well under harsh conditions. We generally suggest using composite decking over wood, avoiding porous stones like limestone or travertine which can absorb moisture and crack, and are prone to staining.

Sealed granite and stainless steel are excellent materials choices. For cabinets consider marine grade high-density polyethylene (HDPE). HDPE is designed specifically to stand up to extreme heat and cold, direct exposure to rain, and snow. It will not split, crack, or fade and unlike wood, is completely water and stain resistant.

For the cooking surface, stainless steel is the best option for avoiding damage from harsh weather.

Here in Madison, we often suggest add-ons to make year round grilling not only possible, but enjoyable! Adding elements like outdoor heating lamps, a gas fireplace, a screened in area with glass inserts for the winter, pergolas, or even radiant heating (which can be expensive, but is worth it if you plan on true year-round use) are all additions that can keep you grilling all winter long!

Outdoor Kitchen Maintenance Tips

The truth is, you're probably going to have to shut down your outdoor kitchen during the harshest winter months, and maintenance is a key factor for keeping your outdoor kitchen properly functioning for many years in a cold climate. Taking these simple steps can help you to avoid costly repairs .

• Shut off any water running to your outdoor kitchen – ask your contractor to install an indoor shut off valve so it won't freeze.

• Drain all the water lines - including the sink, ice makers, refrigerators and kegerators. Leave the drain valves open.

• Don’t forget the waste line - water collects in the p-trap. RV antifreeze solution can be used to address this.

• Switch off the power – again if possible have your contractor install a dedicated interior circuit breaker.

• Thoroughly clean the grill, cabinets and refrigerator -  Wipe everything down with a good protective stainless steel polish.

• Don't cover refrigerators and ice makers - Moisture can get inside and damage the electrical.

• Remove ice trays and automatic ice maker bins - Wipe everything down.

• Close sink shot off valves, drain supply lines, completely remove faucets and store indoors -  and cover to prevent debris from getting in the basin.

• Seal your stone countertops before the winter season to prevent any damage to prevent leaf stains, or cracks and chips cause be expending moisture that enters the stone.

Creating a beautiful outdoor kitchen for your Madison home requires a little planning and some regular maintenance, but when properly designed and constructed it can provide you, your family and your friends with a wonderful gathering spot to make memories!

This article was updated by Abe Degnan on 1/23/19.

If you're consider installing an outdoor kitchen and you live in the greater Madison Wisconsin area, call the experts at Degnan Design Build Remodel. We understand the unique needs of our area and can help you to design your dream outdoor kitchen. Give us a call and let's discuss your project!