All homeowners want to make the most out of their space. In that spirit, many are looking to their outdoor spaces, hoping to make them more functional for entertainment and relaxation. An outdoor kitchen is a perfect solution, and it can be an ideal place for hosting parties or spending quality time with the family. After all, kitchens are the heart of the home.

But what if you don’t know how to build an outdoor kitchen? Taking the kitchen outside requires special planning. You not only want to expand your outdoor space, but you want to create a space that attracts your guests and makes their visit memorable. It takes more than a new table and chairs to do the trick.

Luckily, with a little forethought, a summer of outdoor parties can be in your future. If you’re feeling handy and creative this summer, here are a few ways to get started on your DIY outdoor kitchen.

Start With the Barbecue

The barbecue is the cornerstone of outdoor cooking. For years, families have been lighting charcoals and throwing burgers and hot dogs on the grill. And the latest trends in outdoor cooking require a grill that can meet the demand. When picking a grill, you have to make three basic choices:

  • Gas or charcoal? Gas grills heat up more quickly and tend to be lower maintenance. But many purists swear by the flavor of charcoal, so determine how important flavor is to you.
  • Big or small? How big is your family? Do you prefer to host small dinner parties or huge get-togethers? Too much grill means higher installation costs and more maintenance — but you don’t want a bunch of hungry guests waiting for their food, either.
  • Pre-fab, semi-custom or fully customized? Pre-fab grills are obviously the most affordable and are often easier to install. But if you have a specific vision for your outdoor space, customization may be worth the higher price tag.

When you’re planning your outdoor space, don’t limit your vision to only the barbecue. Outdoor stoves allow you to do more of your cooking outside. Fire pits can be outfitted with rotisseries, and a brick oven is the perfect way to make traditional pizzas and breads. The more cooking options you have outside, the more you’ll be able to use your space.

Think About Food Preparation

Now that you can cook the food, how are you going to prepare it? No one wants to keep running inside to chop vegetables or wash their hands. Consider what you’ll need in order to do all of your preparation outside:

  • Start with a sink. If you have a sink installed outside, you can wash your food and clean up without abandoning the party. Plus, once a sink is installed, adding a wet bar is easy, so you can prepare drinks for your guests while the food is cooking.
  • Think counter space. You need counter space if you want to prepare your food outside. The most effective counter space is catered to your personal work preferences, so think about how you like to cook and plan your counters accordingly.
  • Don’t forget storage. You likely won’t need as much storage outside as you do inside. But it’s nice to be able to keep your outdoor cooking equipment and utensils where they are used.

Prepare for the Weather

Obviously, being outside is the biggest difference between an indoor and outdoor kitchen. At some point, your kitchen will have to brave the elements. To make sure your kitchen is designed with the natural elements in mind, follow some of these quick tips:

  • Use weatherproof materials. From your flooring to your cabinetry, everything has to be weatherproof. For your floors, remember that just a little drizzle can make floors slick. Picking a floor with texture can help with this. You can also consider stainless steel cabinetry. Not only does it resist rot, but you can also match it to your grill.
  • Consider sheltering your kitchen. Some sort of roof or awning can protect the majority of your kitchen from the rain. But it’s important to place your grill in the open. Barbecues create carbon monoxide, so you don’t want it to be trapped by any roofing.
  • Make it easy to clean. Remember, the elements will bring debris and dirt into your outdoor kitchen. You don’t want to spend as much time getting your kitchen ready as you do actually using it. If you pick materials that are easy to maintain, you won’t have to spend as much time cleaning.

Of course, every kitchen is an expression of your own tastes. The perfect kitchen is one that is perfect for you. But if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to get years of joy out of your functional and beautiful outdoor space.