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Palapa Tiki Hut W/Outdoor Kitchen - on a Budget

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To start out I have to warn you, this is a daunting task and thus, a really long instructable. The whole build took about 6 months worth of weekends, give or take a few. I will try to break it up into sections for those that just want a part of it. I did tons of research before I even picked up materials and there just isn't an all-encompassing, step by step, instruction manual that exists for this so I am going to take it upon myself to complete that task as well.

It is important to note that the plumbing and electrical already existed where I built this as there was a really old and gross hot tub there that I took apart with a chainsaw - that was kinda fun. If you do plan to run electrical and plumbing you should check with your city about any permits needed. Your city ordinance may also have height restrictions for the canopy. My hut is a few inches below the max and the sink drain was turned into a irrigation for the planters on the right side. That's probably not up to code but meh.

I made my fair share of mistakes on this and I most definitely cut some corners that will likely cause some anger from folks that know what they're doing but my goal here was not exactly to do everything by the book and more to do this for the lowest cost possible and also try to make it look like it isn't homemade. The costs i found online for Palapa hut kits were either cheap and flimsy or started at $5,000 - AND THAT'S JUST FOR THE HUT!! Outdoor kitchens can cost anywhere from $2-$15K and that's not including labor costs. My total cost for the palapa & outdoor kitchen (including beer tapper, 5 burner grill, and plumbed sink) was just shy of $2,000. Now that means i was thrifty and I will add those tips into this as well as links to specific materials used and some you should use instead of making the mistakes I did.

Random Tip: Make sure to wear the same pair of jeans for the length of the entire project. Just sayin - this is a messy job.

Step 1: Planning and Execution

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I spent a good month or two researching the different types and styles of roofing and outdoor kitchens until I was set on this one. I then spent some time deciding the length and width of the roof, calculating exact height and pitch it needed to be and marking out the wall where appliances would need to be. This is important for wrapping your head around all the different necessary measurements that need to take place. If I was a smarter man, I would have also removed the pavers where the cabinetry was going. I did, however, remove the pavers where the grill was going so that I could keep the casters on and lower the height of the counter to a reasonable level. So I got that going for me.

- There was an old hot tub up on that platform that I first needed to get rid of in order to have enough room. The only way I could think to get rid of it was to chop it into manageable pieces with a chainsaw and reciprocating saw and then carry it to the curb to be picked up by a recycling company. If you ever have to do that, where long-sleeved shirts and gloves. I did it without a shirt and it felt much like cooking bacon with your shirt off. And I had to spend some time picking tiny shards of plastic out of my arm. I never claimed to be a smart man.

- Then the whole deal fell into place when my queen palm tree decided to die and I had to cut it down. This time I wore a shirt. I used a chainsaw to cut it and a heavy duty ratchet strap clipped to a crowbar that i pounded into the ground to pull the tree and force it to fall where I wanted, which actually went swimmingly. After cutting it up I saved part of the trunk to try my hand in a tiki chainsaw carving which worked out well and I may add those instructions at a later date.

Recommended - Start the tiki hut first and build the cabinet frames around it.

What I did - Both at the same time. Well I started with the frames I guess.

To build the cabinet frames I used the measurements I drew out on the wall, the width I based off of the grill width and added 6" for the grill door movement i- came out to about 2 feet. A good height is anywhere from 34 1/2-36" (42" being bar height if you plan to add that). I went with 34 1/2 since that was the average and factoring in 1 1/2" in plywood, membrane, thinset and tile to get an even 36". I used chem and pressure treated lumber which should last quite awhile in AZ climate but I would still recommend metal studs since, no matter what the climate, wood likes to expand and contract and stucco does not. This was just the cheaper route to go and I have much more experience with wood framing than I do with metal.

Its important to note that at this time you should have the grill, fridge, and sink on site as these are not one size fits all types of things and you must adhere to the items that cannot be manipulated.

I built the cabinet frames as boxes with butt joints and made sure the top studs were as level as possible. 2 exterior screws per joint. The exact cuts i made for the vertical pieces are 25 1/2" (factor in that the studs are 2x4 when they rough sawn, after planing and pressure they are 1 1/2" by 3 1/2") - 3 1/2" x 2 for top and bottom provides the extra 7" to get to 34.5". The corner cabinet frames were two separate pieces that I leveled with sand and brick and then screwed them together.

I added cross support studs that were 12" on center for supporting the counter top which is a little overkill, you could do 16" centers.

Make sure to leave room for the sink installation.

Some of the frames I anchored to the wall to make sure they remained level. - Sorry I am really bad at remembering to document the work as I go.

M.J24 days ago
Hat's off to you!
What a huge endeavor, thanks for sharing!
misterxp13 days ago
Great job! thanks for sharing!
JavierL9016 days ago
What an involved and in-depth project! Nice work, it looks great, and very practical!
joeflips7 (author)  JavierL9014 days ago
Much appreciated, it took forever but worth it in the end
This is gorgeous! Love that roof and the countertops :)
joeflips7 (author)  jessyratfink18 days ago
Thank you!