Constructing an outdoor kitchen is a popular home upgrade that allows you to enjoy cooking and entertaining outdoors. But before you start designing your dream outdoor cooking space, an important structural decision must be made upfront – what kind of frame to build it on?
The foundation frame impacts crucial factors like durability, weather resistance, cost, and ease of installation. Two of the most common outdoor kitchen frame options are wood or metal. But each come with their own set of pros and cons.
Wood, particularly pressure-treated lumber like pine, is a very common choice for constructing the framework of an outdoor kitchen. Here’s an overview of how wood frames stack up:
One major advantage wood frames have over metal is upfront affordability. Pressure-treated pine is an inexpensive choice to build a sturdy underlying structure.
However, over time a wood frame may need more frequent replacement and maintenance work which drives costs up. So metal can provide better return on investment long-term.
Outdoor wood requires proper sealing and staining to prevent rot, warping, splitting or inviting termites. How often maintenance is needed depends on factors like:
- Climate conditions – wetter environments cause more wood damage
- Usage – heavy usage accelerates wear
- Quality of materials – higher grades last longer
- Installation – proper construction reduces structural issues
Without diligent maintenance of sealing, staining and painting every 1-3 years, wood frame damage is inevitable.
The expected lifespan of a wood frame is approximately 15 years with attentive preventative care and maintenance. Adding stainless steel corner braces can help maximize durability.
But inevitably moisture causes issues over time including:
- Insect damage
For wet regions, wood frame durability is more limited compared to metal. Custom weather protection elements are recommended if building in areas with heavy rain, snow or humidity.
The necessary tools, skills and effort to install wood frames varies greatly based on the scope of the project – but in most cases it is the more DIY-friendly option over metal. With proper planning, many homeowners can self-install a basic wood frame by:
- Following local building codes for outdoor structures
- Sourcing quality lumber and weatherproofing supplies
- Having necessary equipment like drills, saws, levels, etc.
- Building a secure structure to support cabinets, countertops, appliances, etc.
Alternatively, outdoor kitchen contractors can be hired to construct a custom wood frame per specifications.
Unprotected wood exposed to outdoor conditions like sun, rain, humidity and temperature fluctuations is compromised via:
- Growing mold
Quality lumber treatment and consistent sealing helps protect wood kitchen frameworks against moisture. Cedar and redwood naturally withstand humidity better than pine. But no wood is invincible to mother nature’s elements long-term.
A wider spectrum of stains allows wood frames to be customized to match other backyard decking or architectural features. Its natural warmth and artisan appeal pairs beautifully with stone or brick.
Unlike the industrial vibe of metal, wood grains and textures blend effortlessly for those desiring a cohesive look with the surrounding landscape design and architecture.
On the other end of the spectrum, metal offers superior durability and weather resistance. But lacks visually warmth and affordability upfront.
Metal frames have a greater upfront investment, especially stainless steel. But the long lifespan and lack of maintenance needed pencils out to save money over replacing wood frames.
|Pressure Treated Pine Wood
|$25 – $45 per square foot
|$45 – $65 per square foot
|$65 – $100 per square foot
On a 10 x 10 outdoor kitchen for example, that’s a $400 – $5500 difference between basic wood and high-end stainless frames.
Metal frames require virtually zero maintenance – no sealing, staining or painting required. At most, an annual clearing of debris around the frame with a garden hose.
In oceanfront or poolside placements, applying rust protection spray twice per year will keep a metal frame glittering beautifully. But upkeep is negligible compared to wood.
A well-built metal frame lasts a minimum of 20 years regardless of climate conditions or usage levels. Heavy-gauge stainless steel and galvanized steel constructions ensure exceptional structural integrity.
Metal outdoor kitchen frames outlast wood because they:
- Do not warp, crack or rot
- Are impervious to moisture damage
- Resist damage from bugs, rodents and wildlife
For ultimate longevity, opt for rust-resistant stainless steel frames with durable welded joints.
Cutting, welding and manipulating metal requires specific tools and skills best left to metalworking professionals in most cases. The steps to install a metal frame typically include:
- Welding pieces together for air-tight durable seams
- Using concrete anchors to securely bolt into slab or footing
- Leveling appropriately so doors, cabinets, etc. fit seamlessly
Precision is vital so the heavy-duty frame can reliably uphold whatever is built upon it – including people!
One place metal frames outshine wood is enduring sun, snow, wind and rain. Metal does not absorb moisture, expanding/contracting with temperatures like wood resulting in:
- No warping
- No rotting
- No loosening of joints
- No damage from precipitation or humidity
A properly treated wood frame resists weather fairly well. But untreated metal is unquestionably the most weather-impervious frame material for outdoor kitchen builders.
The customization capacity of metal frames largely centers around color. While wood can be stained in a limitless spectrum of hues, metal is restricted to basic options like:
For a warmer look, wood-imitating films can be applied onto metal. But the resulting aesthetic remains distinctly industrial modern versus wood’s organic visual quality.
Key Decision Factors
Evaluating which foundation framework performs best requires weighing your priorities across factors like:
- Budget – Wood saves money upfront. Metal costs more but outpaces wood long-term.
- Climate Conditions – Dry regions allow more wood frame versatility. Wet areas favor metal.
- Expected Lifespan – Metal lasts over 20 years. Wood lifespan is 10-15 years.
- Design Preferences – Wood has more aesthetic customizability for traditional, rustic styles.
- DIY Capabilities – Wood is more DIY-friendly. Metal usually requires hiring pros.
Additionally, usage expectations play a role. Wood works for light grilling. Heavy usage favors brawny metal frames.
Determining if a wood or metal frame is optimal for an outdoor kitchen comes down to appraising:
- Installation requirements
- Maintenance needs & capabilities
- Costs over the entire lifespan
- Design style preferences
- Regional weather patterns
Neither material is inherently “better” than the other. Choose wood for affordability and customization freedom. Opt for metal when durability trumps all else.
With an understanding of each frame material’s strengths and limitations, you can decide if your next outdoor cooking oasis should be built with metal or wood.