Picking a Countertop for your Outdoor Kitchen

An outdoor kitchen enhances your ability to entertain family and friends for an outdoor dining experience. Due to the harsh elements of nature, not all countertop options are appropriate for your Outdoor Kitchen. Here are some countertop materials to consider, and some to avoid, for your outdoor kitchen.

Granite

Granite

Granite is considered by most to be the best choice for outdoor kitchen countertops for all-around ease-of-use, maintenance, color choices, and unmatched durability. This durable natural stone will hold up well to most anything that you or mother nature can throw at it. Granite does no etch, fade, discolor or lose its shine. It is not damaged by heat, and when properly sealed is resistant to stains, mold, and mildew.

From a maintenance standpoint, granite is a fantastic choice. Though sealants are recommended, it is also not an absolute “must.” Many varieties are dense enough that you don’t even need to apply a sealant. If you do stain a granite countertop, it can be removed with cleaners, or the sun and rain will often get rid of it over time. With normal clean-up, granite countertops will look great for years.

Because granite is available in a wide variety of color and pattern options, you are bound to find one that is perfect for you and your outdoor kitchen. For an outdoor kitchen surface that is cooler to the touch, choose a lighter color granite. A honed (sometimes referred to as “leathered”) finish rather that a polished finish may look more natural in an outdoor setting.

Soapstone

SoapstoneSoapstone is another natural material that can be used outdoor kitchen countertops. This dense material is highly resistant to heat and staining and colors should not fade. It should be noted that soapstone can be scratched easily, BUT scratches can be sanded out quite easily as well.

One downside is, when left unsealed on outdoor kitchens, soapstone should be treated periodically with a special mineral oil. When left unsealed or not oiled (neither of which are necessary for protection or maintenance), fingerprints, liquids and oils will darken the stone. These “stains” will eventually wash off, but the spots and splotches are an annoyance to many. Applying mineral oil will gives soapstone it’s attractive dark shine, but you have to apply it regularly to maintain that look.

One final consideration is the surface temperature of your outdoor kitchen. Being a dark stone, soapstone can get hotter to the touch than other light-colored materials.

Concrete

Concrete has become very trendy recently due to its wide use on many popular home makeover shows. Concrete provides a clean, yet rustic, appearance that lends well to outdoor settings. Additionally, concrete will undoubtedly withstand the outdoor elements, BUT it must be properly installed to avoid cracking. Proper installation required extensive framework and rebar support, resulting in one of the most expensive countertop options available. Even with proper framing and support, concrete can crack in heavy/extreme freeze-thaw cycles. Along with the potential for cracking, concrete will likely scratch and nick easier than most natural stone options, without an attractive option for fixing. Additionally, to avoid/prevent staining and discoloration of your concrete countertops, a sealant must be used regularly.

Tile

Tile

Many individuals like the idea of tile to create a tropical or Tuscan feel to their outdoor kitchen. In many ways, tile is a great choice for outdoor kitchen countertops, because outdoor-rated tiles have the same durability as stone slabs. Though a fantastic choice for warmer climates, tile is not a great choice for cooler areas,, as the grout can crack during freezing and thawing.

If you are willing to risk the cracked grout to achieve your desired look, there are a couple of important things to remember when tiling an outdoor kitchen countertop. Porcelain and granite tiles are more resistant to fading than ceramic tile. Grout can and will stain, so use a darker grout for best results outdoors. To minimize grout lines, consider using larger tiles.

Marble

MarbleMarble is durable and will last a long time, but it requires maintenance to keep it looking pristine. To start, consider marble with a honed finish because rain, snow, wind, and general weather will quickly wear away a shiny polished finish.

Acidic foods and drinks (like ketchup and pina coladas) will dull spots on the surface, called etching. Application of special sealants are required to control stains. Though stains and etching can be managed, removed or repaired, as a food prep surface you’ll be dealing with these spots a lot if you choose marble.

On the plus side, weather will also work for you by washing out stains and blending in etch marks, aging the marble naturally for an authentic “rustic” look. That said, is aged/rustic the look you want when selecting marble for your outdoor kitchen?

Slate and Other Natural Stones

Slate and other natural stones can be considered for outdoor kitchen countertops, but no two slates and stones are alike, and the performance characteristics can vary widely. While some can be very durable and dense, resisting staining and hard use, there are others that will stain, scratch and crack easily. Like soapstone, darker colored choices will result in a hot outdoor kitchen surface in direct sun. Many natural stone surfaces are very porous and will require yearly applications of stone sealant to prevent staining.

Quartz

Quartz is an engineered stone and is not recommended for outdoor kitchens. The colors can fade after prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.

Quartzite (MUCH different than Quartz)

Quartzite will make an excellent countertop for your outdoor kitchen. Quartzite has essentially the same qualities as granite. A quartzite countertop is hard and durable. It will last a long time with little fuss.

Porcelain Countertops & Ultra-Compact Surfaces

Porcelain is a low-maintenance of countertop that the sun won’t fade. These countertops won’t etch or stain and doesn’t need sealing. It is very scratch-resistant except to ceramic knives which may scratch. Chips and cracks can occur and repairs will be visible.

Dekton countertops, a new trendy choice, combines elements of porcelain, glass and quartz. Though the quartz does increase the durability, Dekton can still crack and chip. The addition of quartz may also increase Dekton’s potential to fade in an outdoor environment. Most importantly, because it is a new product, it is difficult to trust it’s warranty claims; in general, with any outdoor product, you should be weary of any warranty that is longer than the existence of the material.

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Thomas Welker

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