When you're designing an indoor kitchen, your choice of countertop mainly comes down to cost, aesthetics, and ease of maintenance. However, outdoor kitchens are different — you need to consider whether or not your countertop can withstand the outside weather. Many countertops on the market are designed solely for indoor use and shouldn't be installed outdoors. Here's what an outdoor kitchen countertop will be exposed to and why many countertop materials simply won't hold up to the harsh environment of an outdoor kitchen.
Even if your outdoor kitchen is covered, your countertop will be exposed to much more sunlight compared to a countertop in an indoor kitchen.
Quartz countertops and crushed glass countertops are very durable and low-maintenance options for indoor use, but they don't stand up well to sunlight. Both of these countertops are made of small bits of quartz or crushed glass that are suspended in a strong resin. While sunlight won't harm the material inside the resin, UV rays will quickly cause the resin itself to degrade and discolor. After enough exposure to sunlight, the resin will begin to turn yellow and ruin the appearance of your countertops.
If you live in an area where temperatures regularly dip below freezing, you can remove tile countertops from your consideration. Tile countertops don't hold up well to freezing temperatures. The tiles begin to contract and pull away from the grout between the tiles, which damages the grout and can even cause the tiles themselves to crack.
Concrete countertops often suffer from the same problem in outdoor kitchens, as they can crack from repeated freeze and thaw cycles. You can use a concrete countertop in your outdoor kitchen, but it needs to be installed by an expert who includes expansion joints in the countertop and preferably reinforces it with rebar in order to reduce the chances of it cracking.
Hot Summer Days
Your outdoor kitchen countertop will also be exposed to more heat than an indoor countertop would be. On hot summer days, the outdoor temperature combines with the shining sun to heat up your countertop. This makes laminate countertops a poor choice, as they can't withstand much heat at all — the outer laminate will begin to peel away from the inner particle board core, resulting in a warped countertop.
Stainless steel is also a poor choice. While it's durable enough to withstand being used in an outdoor kitchen, stainless steel becomes very hot when it's exposed to direct sunlight — in fact, it often becomes too hot to comfortably touch.
Which Type of Countertop Is the Best for Outdoor Kitchens?
With so many countertops being unsuited to handle the outdoor environment, is there one that can actually withstand the elements?
Yes, and it's granite. Granite countertops resist temperature changes and aren't affected by sunlight. These natural stone countertops remain cool to the touch on hot summer days and won't freeze or crack during the winter. They're the perfect choice to resist the outdoor elements.
However, you'll need to make sure that your granite countertop is sealed regularly in order to avoid it being discolored by the rain. Natural stone countertops are slightly porous, and the sealant provides a barrier that prevents water from leaking into the countertop and discoloring it. While water won't damage the countertop, it will create noticeable stains.
Many natural stone countertop manufacturers sell granite countertops that are pre-sealed. Once the initial seal wears off, you'll need to seal it according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule. As long as you keep your granite countertop sealed, it'll hold up to anything that the outdoors can throw at it. When you're building your outdoor kitchen, make the right choice and have granite countertops installed.