As I mentioned in the previous blog post, I had the idea to make this outdoor kitchen about a year ago. I’ve had great success using file cabinets outdoors for many years now. What I had found from my previous experiments had been that file cabinets, if spray painted, don’t rust while in the southwestern outdoor elements. They hold up to the extreme UV rays and they are practically water tight. I’ve never seen water in my existing cabinets after a rain storm nor have I noticed any water damage after many years of storing items inside of them. To me, this was a good sign that your everyday file cabinets, the ones found in every office in America, and therefore every thrift store in America, could have a second life! And with outdoor kitchens being so desirable these days, I thought I must try this out. And in sticking with the re-use theme I decided to get as many recycled or reused materials as possible.
A few things to think about before diving into this project, do you want an outdoor kitchen or just an outdoor buffet table with storage, where will you put it and how big should it be? I love hosting parties in my backyard; I have a very small house but a large yard so most of my entertaining happens outdoors during the warmer seasons. I was constantly borrowing a table from a neighbor every time I threw a party so I knew I needed a more permanent surface next to my grill.
DIMENSIONS: This will vary based on your available space, location and material size. My outdoor table is 29 ½” wide, 80 ½” long and 35 ½” high. This size fit my space exactly and just happened to be the same size of the door I purchased from the Habitat for Humanity Re-store. 35 ½ “ high is the average kitchen counter height. I knew I wanted that height so I subtracted the file cabinet height and table top height from 35 ½” to get my castor height. My castors ended up being 4” tall.
Castors are not necessary, regular furniture feet could be used instead but I choose to use castors so I had the option of rolling the kitchen to a different location in my yard. I have many opportunities on my concrete patio to create a variety of spaces based on the type of party I have. For instance, I could host a beer tasting and set the outdoor kitchen up like a bar with stools. The castors allow me to keep my options open.
BASIC CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES: After you decide the size of your kitchen then you can finalize your purchases. Be sure to save your receipts in case something doesn’t work out.
1. Gather your materials together and lay them all next to each other so you can see the entire project.
2. Dry fit your materials together by arranging them to look like your outdoor kitchen. Space the file cabinets apart approximating the distance (anywhere from 24”-36” looks nice); put the door on top of the file cabinets. Locate the sink and facet on top of the table (you can turn the sink upside down if that helps it stay put). After you have all the items in place, counter top, brackets, towel holders, etc. step back from the project and think about how the spaces work based on how you will use the kitchen. I did this probably 5 times until I was satisfied with the way I wanted it. You can also use masking tape to mark out the locations of things and help you visualize the spaces. Be sure to think about where the file cabinets are located in relation to where you’ll need to cut out holes for the sink or drill holes for the countertop piece.
3. Prep the counter top. If using a wood door or wood counter top as shown here, apply a marine grade spar varnish to all surfaces of the wood. Apply per manufacturers recommendations; I typically do 20 coats with a brush to accommodate the intense UV rays we have here in the Southwest therefore lessoning maintenance time in the future.
4. Secure castors to the file cabinets. Dry fit again and finalize the location of everything. During this dry fit be sure to locate the outdoor kitchen in the final location to be sure everything lines up how you like. Pay particular attention to the sink and its location in reference to the water spigot for the supply and the nearest garden area to drain the used sink water into. (otherwise known as greywater) Check to make sure the length of the water supply lines and drainage lines are long enough to reach the appropriate location.
5. Cut the holes for the sink and faucet. For cutting a radius in wood use a jigsaw. It’s good practice to apply masking tape along the line you are about to cut. This gives you a guideline and prevents the wood from fraying as the cut is being made. Be sure to apply the spar varnish to all newly cut wood elements. This will prevent water damage.
6. Drill holes for towel racks, counter top brackets, etc. Always remember the saying, measure twice and cut once. This goes for not only cutting but drilling. Use the drill bit recommended for the type of material you are cutting for instance wood, metal, etc.
7. Secure the file cabinets to the counter top. Use L brackets with wood screws when attaching to the wood counter top and use machine screws with bolts when attaching it to the file cabinet.
8. Install all the plumbing fixtures and hoses. You could dry fit them all to be sure they work then do a final fit. When working with plumbing, be sure to use a water tight Teflon tape around all threads. This prevents leaking.
9. Invite friends over and enjoy your finished outdoor kitchen.
This project has been one of my most favorite DIY projects to date. Now I need to get a few more backyard parties in before temperatures drop!
Do you have an outdoor kitchen already? Drop a comment below and let me know what type of outdoor kitchen you want!