Before you buy that giant grill, make sure you have the right surface to place it on. Here’s how to choose the best floor for your outdoor kitchen.
When you’re shooting high for a luxury outdoor kitchen, don’t forget to look down first — any stylish, long-lasting, comfortable outdoor room must start with an appropriate floor. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the right flooring material for your outdoor kitchen:
As with so many building projects, the adage “safety first” applies. “You should avoid glazed or porous tiles and stone since they can be slippery when wet,” says Sergio de Paula, president of Fogazzo Wood Fired Ovens and Barbecues, a company renowned for its outdoor kitchen designs.
Materials that meet the safety criteria include concrete, brick and natural stone. “Ceramic tile is also a popular choice that offers a variety of colors and finishes to choose from and, in most cases, is adequate in terms of slip resistance,” Sergio says.
After safety, consider your design needs and budget. “Because of its affordability and durability, concrete is still far and away the most popular outdoor flooring option,” Sergio says. “Stamping, coloring or a rock-salt finish are increasingly popular ways of improving the appearance of concrete to meet today’s design trends.”
Concrete is also a favorite with outdoor room designer Scott Cohen from The Green Scene, a landscape and construction firm. “On a modest budget, my favorite flooring choice is stamped or ‘impressed’ concrete,” says Scott. “It can be expertly colored and stained to mimic real stone. One of my favorite options is bar-tile trim stamps mixed with cobblestone or Ashlar Cut patterns.”
Concrete tiles are another option, wet-casts into molds that resemble hundreds of varieties of tile pavers. Sold through tile and specialty building material wholesale dealers, include variations of traditional mission and chateau pavers and replications of some surprisingly authentic-looking antique pavers. Its color pallet includes saturated, rich colors that can be quite effective in creating Spanish, Mexican, Italian or French rustic styles, or a Pacific or Caribbean island effect.
If your outdoor kitchen budget has a little more flexibility, Scott favors Old World tumbled pavers or authentic flagstone (available in a variety of colors and textures) over concrete applications. “I let the garden theme I’ve selected with a client guide which type of flooring will go best with the counter and kitchen accessories,” Scott says.
When you’ve already used stone or brick in other outdoor rooms or landscaping, it’s also important to choose an outdoor kitchen floor that either matches or complements the style of those features.
Here are some of Scott’s favorite style-flooring material matchups:
Contemporary: Slate or cast-concrete tiles designed to be outdoors, such as Cal-Ga-Crete or clean, washed concrete in integral colors
Tuscan: Tumbled pavers, unhoned travertine, deep-washed exposed aggregate or stone-texture stamped concrete
English/Traditional: Brick or darker flagstones, washed concrete or stamped cobblestone concrete
Tropical: Flagstone or faux rock, texture-stamped concrete
Old World: Repurposed brick, exposed aggregate, Windsor Cobblestone texture stamps, fleur-de-lis and grapevine borders
Placement and Maintenance
There’s also a knack to placing the flooring, says Scott: “I like to lay out outdoor living space into different rooms. To help enhance the feeling of being in a separate outdoor kitchen, I will often change up the flooring in that space or even add separate steps up or down.”
Scott also recommends using stamps such as vintage grapevine detail or fleur-de-lis patterns to create a frame around the outdoor kitchen space. “That can really help define the space in the same way an area rug does indoors,” he says.
For that matter, Scott says, you may want to consider one of the many area rugs designed specifically for outdoor use. “There are now a great variety of them and a lot of them are great-looking,” he says.
Appearance aside, take a couple of practical steps to make sure your outdoor floor lasts a long, long time, he says. “Be careful to select a stamp pattern that’s not too deep to drain or to allow you to set outdoor furniture level on top of it,” he says. “And be sure to apply a good-quality penetrating sealer around any floor that’s in the cooking or dining areas to protect your flooring from oil and wine spills.”
If you’re not installing an outdoor kitchen over an existing patio you’ll need to plan for paving underfoot. Like your indoor kitchen’s floor, this one will take a lot of abuse, foot traffic, dropped pots and food splatters. Plus sun, rain, wind and possibly snow or ice. So toughness is as important as are great looks. Here’s what to consider when evaluating the most popular paving options.
Natural stone paving can give your kitchen a look that’s at once elegant and natural. If you choose stone that occurs elsewhere in your landscaping, you’ll create an integrated effect as well. But stone can absorb oily stains, and it’s expensive. Your best budget bets are sandstone, limestone, slate and marble. Don’t assume that your local home center will have the best prices on stone. Check with stone yards.
It’s durable and versatile. Concrete can be colored, imprinted and finished for a wide range of looks, including that of natural stone. If you live in a cold climate, consider a formula with a base additive that will help the concrete withstand the freeze-thaw cycle without cracking.
Affordable and available in many different styles, tile can be an attractive choice for an outdoor kitchen floor. Choose between ceramic and porcelain tile, and pick frost-proof, unglazed product, and have your installer coat it with a penetrating sealer.
If you want porcelain, a “full body” tile is the best choice, since the color runs all the way through the tile, so chips and scratches show less. Tile must be installed on a flat surface or it’s prone to rocking and cracking. In cold climates, the freeze-thaw cycle can damage grout and tiles unless your installer has taken particular care.