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  • Writer's pictureLeslie James

Building a DIY Outdoor Kitchen

This particular project has been on my never-ending to do list for at least five years. While our gas grill and smoker were functional sitting on the side of our house, they didn't really look cohesive and my spouse always pulled the Big Green Egg into the middle of the patio area so it hard to fit a chair nearby.

Original grill layout before DIY outdoor kitchen was installed

The area near the stairs because a frequent drop zone for shovels, random art, and extra things that didn't have a home. An old cooler from my college days continued to get moved around the space since there was no room for it in the garage. 😬

This project might have continued to sit for another couple of years, except that we ended up salvaging a whole bunch of pressure treated wood and cedar for my kid's treehouse fort from our local Buy Nothing group, and had several pieces leftover, just sitting there, screaming to be used. Leftover piles of stuff are how most of my fun projects start! 😁

Here are the ten steps I followed to build my outdoor kitchen.

Step 1: Plan Out the Design

Several years ago I'd started pinning inspiration photos on Pinterest. I knew I wanted plenty of work surface, a fixed table for the Big Green Egg, a built-in grill, and a wooden cooler table.

Pinterest board ideas for DIY outdoor kitchen

Because most of the off-the-shelf "kitchen islands" were made of stone veneer, would necessitate buying a new grill, and would have to be set off the side of the house to accommodate the lid, I nixed those pretty quickly. I explored having a professional build something for me, but because we have an outside corner to work with, no one was interested in taking on the project.

So I did what any enterprising DIYer would do and started sketching out designs on graph paper.

Hand drawn plans for DIY outdoor kitchen on outside corner

I used the smoker table plans from Jen Woodhouse, and the cooler table plans from Fix This Build That as rough guidelines for the quantities of wood and types of cuts I'd need to make. I then eyeballed the dimensions necessary to wrap a wood table behind the functional free-standing grill that we already own.

Step 2: Price Out the Components

Early in the pandemic I'd priced out S4S (smooth 4 sides) and S1S2E (smooth 1 side, 2 edges) cedar from my local lumber yard and it was going to cost $800+ before labor so that initially put the brakes on things.

But now that I had that new source of reclaimed wood, I figured I should remeasure and see what I could do. I actively adjusted the measurements and wood counts in Jen Woodhouse's plans based on what I already had, and added in line items for the wood needed to wrap the grill make the cooler.

Modified cut list for DIY outdoor kitchen

I was glad that I took the time to price compare 8' vs 10' vs 12' boards based on my cut list. That saved me at least 10% and made it clear that I would need to borrow my mother-in-law's SUV. And don't you worry, my kid was still able to fit in the back for school pickup.

Leslie of Denver Squared with lumber for DIY outdoor kitchen

I did end up having to make two runs to the store to get some missing pieces, but all told I was able to complete this project for $250 in supplies (not counting tools).

Step 3: Cut Boards for Frame and Base to Length

Almost as soon as I started cutting boards, my trusty circular saw decided to die. Its bearings had finally had it. 😔 Thankfully a neighbor came to the rescue and let me borrow his fancy battery operated one until I was able to source a replacement.

Cutting the boards for the posts and the bottom frame made assembly much faster.

Cut wood to build DIY outdoor kitchen

I decided not to cut the boards for the upper tabletop because 1. my measurements sometimes need to be adjusted mid-project 2. I still wasn't exactly sure how my upper table top was going to come together at the outside corner -- miters? wedge shaped pieces rounding the corner?

Step 4: Assemble the Frame for the Kitchen

I'd never used a pocket jig before, but man, it's my new favorite tool. I splurged on this one from Kreg.

Kreg pocket screw jig used to build outdoor kitchen

With some exterior glue, speed clamps, and Kreg screws, I was able to put together most of the frame in a couple of hours.

Initial framing for big green egg grill table

Figuring out how to attach the two pieces and then flipping it into place by myself was the hardest part!

Framing for DIY cooler table on outside corner

Step 5: Dry Fit EVERYTHING Including Grills

I thought I'd accounted for enough height to allow my solo stove to slide under the cooler area (based on the height of the cooler base).

Framing for DIY outdoor kitchen

Unfortunately I did NOT consider the height of the 3.5" wide support. 🤦‍♀️ So my only word of advice is if you want to ensure that all of things you need to fit actually fit, measure over and over again during the frame assembly!

By re-measuring the Big Green Egg, I decided to skew the support framing forward a bit to give more room for the lid when open. I'd already accounted for extra table depth because we were putting the table all the way against the wall (you can see in Jen's photos that she has the table set off the wall to accomplish the same thing).

By dry fitting my gas grill, I also realized that I would need to buy some parts at the hardware store to reroute the ignition switch that was on a side burner I'd planned on removing.

Measuring gas line size to replace ignitor on grill

This also allowed me to start thinking through how I wanted the outside corner of the upper tabletop to work.

Laying out DIY tabletop for Big Green Egg table and outdoor kitchen

Step 6: Build Kitchen Tabletops

I assembled the base tabletop but placing boards individually and attaching with glue and screws. Jen Woodhouse did not fill the screw holes on her table (that was some creative photography 🙄) but I decided I wanted a more finished look so I followed up each screw hole with wood putty.

Cut out for big green egg in outdoor kitchen

I then started piecing together the gas grill and right side of the BGE tabletop with pocket screws (for strength).

Using pocket screws to build tabletop for DIY outdoor kitchen

And I built the cooler tabletop, which is constructed a bit differently than the other sides to keep all outside edges smooth.

DIY cooler tabletop for outdoor kitchen

Midway through assembly I had to run back to the store for more wood since my original plans didn't account for cladding the cooler. I picked up an extra 1"x6" (same brand, same SKU) from a different store to finish out the tabletop and installed the pieces with glue and screws to the frame.

It wasn't until I was cutting my final trim piece for the outside edge that I noticed that Home Depot had MISMILLED the wood...this new 1"X6" was 5.75" wide instead of the standard 5.5" everywhere else.

Measuring mismilled lumber from big box store

The glue had set and a quick pry attempt started to splinter the wood. So was left having to strategically rip down my outside trim board to account for a 0.5" from one side of the BGE to the other. It took me two attempts to get the slope right. 😤

It was already hard enough finding usable lumber from a big box store -- most is warped, unevenly planed, or twisted -- but being mismilled as well sent me over the edge. I was especially peeved that they wouldn't even refund my money on that lumber because I'd cut the board (so they were clearly going to continue selling the off-sized boards to other folks). Lesson learned: always use your local lumber yard whenever you can.

Step 7: Clad Cooler and Install Cooler Tabletop

After cutting the cladding pieces, I put my kid to work sanding the rough edges on the 1"x4"s (the only pieces sold with a rough side).

Child sanding wood for DIY outdoor kitchen

Then I built a cooler box, similar to the plans laid out by Fix This Build That. Basically my "box" is just a box that sits on the existing table, as opposed to a free-standing cooler with legs. Corner squares came in handy to keep the whole thing true when attaching the fourth side.

I then dry fit the box onto my table base and realized that the cladding had shifted the placement of my cooler by an inch to the left! 😰

Thankfully I hadn't installed the cooler tabletop so I disassembled the fourth side of the box and installed the three-sided box instead. This allowed me to maintain the desired alignment before attaching the fourth wall to the existing 4"x4" framing and installing the tabletop.

Inside of DIY cooler table box

A vinyl tube with a clamp on the inside and some irrigation stoppers on the outside provided a simpler solution for draining the cooler than the recommended PVC / faucet setup.

Drain line for wooden cooler table

Step 8: Cut Boards with a Jig Saw

I am not as confident with a jig saw as my husband so I recruited him to cut down my tabletop corner overhang (so I could install the final trim board on the edge) and the circle for our Big Green Egg.

Using jig saw to cut hole for big green egg table

Getting the angles right gave me extra anxiety but we made it work.

Trim edge for DIY outdoor kitchen table

Unfortunately the mismilled tabletop boards caused me to over rip the board width, which then left me with insufficient overhang on my corner posts. So while all of the corners on my tabletop line up perfectly, the outside boards should have been another 1" wider to cover the top of the posts. *Sigh*

Step 9: Build and Install Cooler Lid Box

I did this last because I didn't follow the instructions exactly on this either. I decided I wasn't going to rip any more wood, so instead used the 1"x4" boards in their entirety to build a frame and cleats, and then installed 1"x4" boards directly to the top of the frame and filled the screw holes with putty. It made the lid extra tall, but it kept the tight seal on the lid itself.

Once the cooler lid framing was complete, I attached the lid with zinc hinges and a handle on the front.

DIY cooler table completed and ready for sealing

Step 10: Waterproof the Wood

I sanded down all of the putty areas, which left me with some uneven base color.

Sanded down putty on outdoor kitchen tabletop

I had purchased with a clear sealer since I liked the existing color of the stained, pressure treated wood but I was concerned that those sanding spots would show up. Thankfully the waterproofer evened out the color and I'm ecstatic with the results.

Final DIY outdoor kitchen with cooler table and big green egg table

Now all we need is the next college football game, and we'll bust out the TV and have some friends over for a cookout!


Taking on your own DIY projects with salvaged materials? Tag @denversquared on Instagram! I'd love to see the results.

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