Installing an outdoor kitchen is the new hot-ticket item in modern home improvement. An outdoor kitchen is so much more than just a fantastic addition to one’s entertaining apparatus, it’s also a boon for property value, can save on air conditioning by not heating up the house to uncomfortable temperatures every mealtime, and allows one to enjoy cooking in the fresh air.
There are perhaps a dozen reasons for a homeowner to invest in an outdoor kitchen, but where does concrete come into the story? Concrete features heavily in the ideas and designs of many outdoor kitchens. It’s durable, abundant, and incredibly versatile, which means one can make grill surrounds, countertops, tables, bars, ice troughs and more parts of a dream outdoor kitchen.
There’s a problem, though. To do all of this with conventional concrete is prohibitive for a number of reasons, namely: its porous surface, cost, weight, and challenges in forming and pouring the concrete to create all these different items. When you factor in the manpower, labor, machinery, molding, and other added costs, it becomes an incredibly expensive proposition. In today’s blog, we want first to talk a bit more about why people should rethink using concrete for their outdoor kitchens, and then explain an alternative that better suits their needs — Semco.
Background: The Challenges of a Concrete Outdoor Kitchen
It’s easy to see the appeal of concrete for something like a kitchen, despite the obvious drawbacks. It’s certainly durable, it’s easy to clean, it has a raw and organic look that people find irresistible, and it’s an abundant material that no part of the country has any shortage of. The following drawbacks are worth noting, however:
1. Porous Surface
With any kind of outdoor installation, moisture resistance needs to be a top consideration. The trouble with concrete is that it is naturally porous, which means that you have to use sealers to protect all the surfaces in your outdoor kitchen. Without that, concrete easily absorbs moisture and fosters the growth of mildew, and is susceptible to staining, both of which will greatly diminish the effect (and hygiene) of your kitchen space.
Using concrete will likely add many thousands of dollars to the overall cost of the kitchen. Some might think that the added cost is like an extra investment, but that investment dissipates if the concrete isn’t also properly cared for after installation, which is quite easy to happen.
Any feature made of pure concrete will be incredibly heavy, making it very difficult or even impossible to safely move any of the kitchen items yourself. Added weight means you also need stronger support on your patio deck, which means you might have to invest in yet more concrete in order to have a surface that can carry the sheer mass of your new kitchen.
Concrete is deceptively simple to those who are unaware of how much work goes into molding and pouring it. If you want to make grill surrounds, countertops, tables, seating, bars and other things with concrete, then you need individual molds for each one, unless you just want plain blocks (which few do). More complexity adds to the overall expense.
Alternative to the Concrete Outdoor Kitchen: Semco
So, concrete is challenging for outdoor kitchens. That much is easy to prove, but what is the alternative if you really desire that raw, organic concrete look? One of the best solutions on the market right now is Semco. This micro-topping can be applied to virtually any substrate: stucco, plywood, foam, stone, and most other materials that would be great for making your outdoor kitchen more affordable and practical. It also comes in a variety of colors and finishes.
How Does Semco Work?
Let’s imagine you want to make outdoor furniture that has a concrete finish. You could take furniture made from plywood and coat the structure in Semco to create an outer concrete-like layer with the same raw, durable look but without the many problems of concrete that we have described above.
It can be applied directly with a trowel after cleaning and priming the surface. The layers of Semco cure to create a brilliant, consistent and non-porous concrete-like surface. The Semco can then be further waterproofed with the Semco Liquid Membrane if needed, or you can paint it to add some individual flair if that’s your desire.
The main thing to note when using Semco is that whatever structure is to receive a coating needs first to be properly glued, nailed and/or bolted together first in order to prevent unwanted expanding/contracting. Applying Semco to a finished structure ensures a coating with fewer or no seams, and that makes for a much higher-quality finish in the end.
Benefits of Semco in an Outdoor Kitchen
What makes Semco particularly good for outdoor kitchens? There are several key factors:
1. Temperature Resistance
Semco-coated surfaces can withstand high temperatures, so placing them in proximity to your grills and cooktops will present no challenge to this material. You might not feel the heat as much in an outdoor space, but the building materials surrounding your cooking hardware still do. Semco won’t let you down in this respect.
2. Create a More Integrated Look
If you use conventional concrete across your outdoor kitchen, the most likely result is that every part from grill surround to tabletop will look a bit different because concrete cures very inconsistently. Semco, on the other hand, cures very uniformly with the same color and texture. Therefore, you can apply it to your cooking areas, countertops, tables, furniture and even the patio deck to give the entire area a clean, integrated look — like a kitchen that has been designed with purpose!
3. Non-Porous, Stain, and Grease Resistant
Finally, even though you can further strengthen Semco’s non-porous state with waterproofing Liquid Membrane, most of the time you don’t need to. It can repel moisture, vapors and staining in ways that concrete simply cannot. What’s more, it won’t allow grease and other common kitchen residues to stain or discolor it, either. You can easily clean all your outdoor kitchen Semco-coated surfaces with pH-neutral soap and warm water; it’s really that simple.
The end result is a more stylish, practical, easy-to-clean, and still durable and well-protected outdoor kitchen.