One of many styles for building a barbecueCredit: Photo by Jane Gates

Nothing says summer like an outdoor barbecue. If you live in a warm-winter climate the barbecue can be used year round.

Outdoor cooking has come a long way in the last few decades from what it used to be. You can still find small, portable barbecues that can be rolled out for a quick grill. But these days backyards are being fitted with full, outdoor kitchens or built-in barbecues for people who have the space for them.

If you want to build a permanent barbecue area, there are a number of things in mind. Design it well into the overall garden space to create a successful landscape design. And plant it wisely so it functions safely and is both easy and fun to use.

Plan your cooking area close enough to the kitchen that is easy to access with your hands full. This is particularly important if you have not designed a water source in your outdoor space. If you do want water available, design in a sink and keep in mind the plumbing necessary for water inlets/outlets and drainage.

Make sure you locate your barbecue so flame and smoke is safely distanced from other hardscape (permanent) structures and objects, including planting material. If you have a roof on your cooking area, build in fans and vents to conduct smoke away.

When building your barbecue area, think of what kind of grill you want to include. It can be quite a project deciding on the design that will best fit your needs and budget; there are so many great choices. Plan out plenty of counter space for food preparation and serving. Then work in any areas for seating and think about how they will fit with the design of the barbecue area. Make sure to build in sufficient cabinet and storage space. And factor in the placement of any other appliances like an oven, smoker or refrigerator.

Choose stone or gravel flooring or another material that will be easy to clean from grease and spills. You will want to use building materials that are handsome to look at, yet easy to maintain since they will be outside and open to the effects of weather.

Consider recycled materials like re-purposed wood, stone or cement when building. Look for some of the interesting outdoor countertop materials like those using recycled glass. And keep your budget in mind as you go through the planning and building process. It is easy to get carried away with all the fun and exciting possibilities available for building a barbecue area in your backyard these days.