Building Outdoor Cabinets

To help us visualize the kitchen's footprint, I laid out some rippings of wood on the deck. Next we made a story pole to lay out the locations of the cabinet sides and the appliances.

Because the cabinets would be outside and exposed to the weather, I sloped the bottoms 1/8 inch downward from the back to the front; that way, if any water got in, it would flow toward the front. I also cut the bottom pieces of the boxes about 1/8 inch short of the cabinet front so water would have a way to drain out.

Cutting a raised-panel design in the cabinet sides was a bit more involved. I used a Whiteside panel bit ( fitted with a bearing above the cutter and a template frame to guide the cut. Because of the depth of cut for the panel, I had to use 1 ¼-inch-thick material for the frame.

I attached a block of wood the same thickness as the template to one edge of the router base to help keep the router base riding flat on my template—sort of like training wheels for the router.

Working from one end to the other, I assembled the cabinet run section by section, first fitting each bottom piece, then adding the back, then the stretcher rails. For cabinet sides with double dadoes, I through-nailed the bottoms in place, then secured them with extra screws. The first part of the assembly was done with the cabinets on their backs, then I stood them up to screw in the back pieces.

The manufacturer specified that the grill cabinet hold at least 300 pounds, so I added a vertical divider in the center of the cabinet in the toe space and glued and screwed extra cleats to the cabinet side pieces.

When both runs of the kitchen were built, I matched them up in the corner and shimmed them to level. I screwed cleats to the deck boards, then screwed the cabinets to the cleats. The cabinets were also screwed to the deck posts.

To install the drawer boxes, I first attached the slides to the cabinet side, spacing them off the bottom with a 1/2-inch-thick temporary shim. (At first I forgot the front had to be raised up an extra ¼ inch since the cabinet bottom slopes up from front to back.)

After fitting the fronts, I routed them with the same panel profile used on the cabinet ends. I set the drawer fronts in place and shot a couple of 18-gauge brads through the fronts to hold them in place ...

... until I could use pocket screws to attach them permanently from the back side.

I wanted to dress up the back side of the cabinets, too. My solution was to rout vertical V-grooves into ¾-inch-thick Extira panels, using a straightedge and a trim router. To support the paneling at the outside corners, I added blocking. The crew that framed the deck did a great job keeping the posts plumb, so it didn't take much work to fit each panel between them.

We finished up the panels just as it was getting dark on the second day of hard work. Before I headed home, everything was ready for the painters, who would do some sanding to ease some of the sharp edges, then paint the interior and exterior of all the cabinets. The stone contractor would come next to finish the countertops.

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