In general, designers suggest at least 12 inches of food prep and landing space on either side of the cooking surface. The most popular countertop materials are ceramic tile, natural stone, and concrete. Concrete counters, like those shown at right, must be sealed annually, and a hot pot or utensil can scorch them. Landscape architect J'Nell Bryson
of Charlotte, North Carolina, solves the latter problem by having the fabricator lay stainless-steel bars in the surface next to the grill for a built-in trivet. Ceramic tile will save you money, but, says Cunningham, be sure to use a latex grout formulated to expand and contract. "Otherwise, in a cold climate, the freeze-thaw cycle will have those tiles popping off after a few seasons." Bottom Line:
Plan on at least 2 feet of countertop by the grill.