Homeowners Get Cooking with Outdoor Kitchens

(ARA) – Outdoor cooking areas are the hottest trend in residential landscape design, thanks in no small part to the versatility of segmental retaining wall systems (SRWs). They can range from a modest firepit to a full-blown outdoor kitchen that will rival the most lavish indoor cooking areas, complete with stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops and fully plumbed sinks.

Simple, Yet Stylish

For the do-it-yourselfer, an outdoor cooking area can be as simple as a paver patio framed with low, freestanding seat-walls and a firepit in the center, says Jim Christensen, landscape architect with Villa Landscapes in Oakdale, Minn.

“With a modest investment and a little sweat equity, homeowners can transform an unusable backyard space into a stylish entertainment area,” says Christensen. “Pairing an attractive paver patio with freestanding walls around the perimeter creates a cozy atmosphere for a firepit. I like Versa-Lok retaining wall systems because they’re available in a range of styles, colors and textures that complement the variety of paving stones on the market, giving you an array of design options. And they’re easily installed by do-it-yourselfers and landscape contractors alike.”

Solid Construction

Richard Ventola of Green Acres Inc. in Palisades Park, N.J., used the Versa-Lok Mosaic retaining wall system to construct an outdoor kitchen, complemented with concrete pavers in a matching color and texture.

“It’s the most popular part of the back yard,” says Ventola. “We built it completely out of Versa-Lok. The entire cooking island is made of solid retaining wall units.” Some of the blocks had to be cut to create spaces for the grill and food storage areas. The solid construction of the units made those modifications much easier than using hollow blocks, he notes.

The segmental retaining wall system is versatile as well as attractive.

“We do a tremendous amount of natural stone in our landscaping,” says Ventola, “but when I need the consistent size and shape of concrete blocks, the block closest-looking to natural stone is Versa-Lok.”

Kitchen-Wall Combo

Robert Daniels of Clearwater Swimming Pool Co. in Centre Hall, Penn., recently was faced with the challenge of installing an outdoor kitchen in a back yard with a steep slope and deep, three-tiered retaining walls. The yard was adjacent to woods, so Daniels selected Versa-Lok Mosaic for the tiered walls.

“You get more of the natural look with Mosaic, and set back in the woods, that complemented the environment.” Serpentine curves and stepped wall ends soften the appearance, and large beds of plantings separate the three tiers.

A paver patio was installed across the top of the first retaining wall tier to create a cooking and eating area. Built-in stairs connect this upper patio with the pool on the lower ground level.

Then, in a creative use of limited space, Daniels carved a kitchen area right into the middle retaining wall that includes a large gas grill, refrigerator and food preparation counter. The entire structure also was built with Versa-Lok Mosaic, so it’s indistinguishable from the wall itself.

“We had to make a couple of modifications to some blocks to get power and gas into the grill area, but with Versa-Lok, it was easy because they’re solid rather than hollow like some wall systems,” says Daniels.

Design Tips

Other things to consider when designing an outdoor kitchen include:

* Position the grill so prevailing breezes carry smoke away from where people congregate and eat.

* Use a solid segmental retaining wall system to achieve a natural look that’s also “bulletproof” from the elements, easily modified and virtually maintenance-free.

* Slope countertops and patios slightly so rainwater doesn’t pool on them.

* Make sure drainage issues are properly addressed, particularly where tiered spaces are used.

* Check with local utilities, building codes and manufacturers’ specifications before installing outdoor appliances.

For more information on how you can use segmental retaining walls to create outdoor cooking areas, contact Versa-Lok Retaining Wall Systems at (800) 770-4525, or visit www.versa-lok.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content