Cooking up tips in the outdoor kitchen industry

Photos: Outdoor Entertainment Concepts
Photos: Outdoor Entertainment Concepts
Built-in grills are one of Outdoor Entertainment Concepts’ most popular outdoor kitchen products. Photos: Outdoor Entertainment Concepts
Built-in grills are one of Outdoor Entertainment Concepts’ most popular outdoor kitchen products. Photos: Outdoor Entertainment Concepts

An outdoor kitchen expert shares some basics of tapping into this ever-popular field.

After years of frustration trying to source outdoor kitchen products, Carl Peterson quit his hardscaping business and started Outdoor Entertainment Concepts. The Hackettstown, N.J.,-based company is a “middle man” between product distributors and both contractors and outdoor kitchen retailers/dealers. Its goal it to make it easy for contractors and retailers to get the materials they need to build and install outdoor kitchens for their residential clients.

Founded more than 15 years ago, Outdoor Entertainment Concepts now offers nearly 200,000 products from 80 manufacturers. And Peterson now knows a thing or two about outdoor kitchens.

For starters, they’re a profit point for landscape contractors, Peterson says, but they also are more complicated to install than many other landscape offerings. That’s why education, safety and material knowledge are key.

First thing’s first

Education is the most important facet of the outdoor kitchen industry, says Peterson, who holds a handful of certifications and authorizations from the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute (ICPI) and National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA).

Photos: Outdoor Entertainment Concepts
Photos: Outdoor Entertainment Concepts

Outdoor Entertainment Concepts offers certification classes, including two levels of the NCMA segmental retaining wall installation program and the ICPI concrete paver installation program. Peterson also teaches individual outdoor kitchen installation classes for contractors and retailers/dealers.

“It all depends how much detail they want to get into,” Peterson says. “The classes are structured to what the dealer or contractor is looking for.”

Getting people to understand the parts of the outdoor kitchen industry and taking the time to learn them is one of Peterson’s biggest challenges.

“Some really don’t engulf themselves into what they have; they don’t invest the time,” Peterson says. “If they take the time to be trained, they will be more successful.”

In addition to training, Peterson pegs safety as a priority. Specifically, before starting to design or install an outdoor kitchen, he cautions contractors to always check local building codes. Different areas of the country have different codes and each project contains varying design and installation elements. Codes to look into include fire, plumbing and electrical codes.

Material know-how

Outdoor kitchen installations also require providers to understand a variety of products offerings. Freestanding and built-in grills, fireplaces, fire pits and wood-fired ovens are some of Outdoor Entertainment Concepts’ most popular outdoor kitchen products. Appliances include outdoor trash cans, cabinets and stainless-steel grills; construction materials include segmental retaining walls or block and mortar with countertop options like granite, natural stone or porcelain tile.

The variety and custom nature of the work makes a contractors’ education even more important, Peterson says.

“It is all custom work,” he says. “Any shape can be built, and the design limits are endless.”

Checking on codes

Outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and fire pits may be regulated by local ordinances or homeowner association rules. Additionally, some building departments require construction permits. It’s important to discuss specific details with your local building department. Here’s a checklist to consider, according to the “ICPI Advanced Residential Paver Technician Course” manual.

✓Are outdoor fireplaces or fire pits prohibited?
✓Can outdoor fireplaces or fire pits burn wood or only natural gas?
✓Are there restrictions on the free usage of outdoor fireplaces, fire pits or grills?
✓Are there plumbing code requirements if water and sanitary drain lines are installed in outdoor living areas?
✓Are building permits required?
✓Are there electrical code requirements for installing 110V service to an outdoor living area?
✓Are engineered drawings required?
✓What’s the minimum distance between top of chimney and any roof?
✓What’s the minimum distance between a fireplace or fire pit and any building, structure, property line, tree, hedge, fence, roadway, overhead wire
or other combustible article?

Offering outdoor kitchens?

Here are Carl Peterson’s top tips for contractors getting into this field.
➔ Before the installation, talk about practicing safety.
➔ Be familiar with all of your appliance lines, not just one.
➔ Know your fit and finishes, and be creative.

Photos: Outdoor Entertainment Concepts

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