Building a barbecue

With storage space and a work surface conveniently to hand, a permanent barbecue can be a complete outdoor kitchen.

If you eat out of doors regularly and have been making do with a simple barbecue trolley it is worth considering building a permanent barbecue in the garden or on a patio. Made of bricks or walling blocks, they can be left outside whatever the weather and, if carefully designed, can provide surfaces to work on and space to store fuel and utensils. Even seating units can be built in.

Choosing a site

A permanent barbecue must be sited on a firm base. You can either construct this for the purpose or make use of an existing patio or paved area, but don’t use a lawn. Choosing the exact location of a barbecue is important. Site it with the following points in mind: As near to the kitchen as possible, to cut down on the amount of carrying needed to set up and clear away a meal.

Near to a seating area, where your family and guests can eat.

Near to lighting.

In an area protected from the prevailing wind.

Away from main routes or paths through the garden.

This simple block-built barbecue caters for most of the demands of cooking outside. The paving slab at the side and coping stones around the edges create useful work surfaces. The gap underneath is a storage space for fuel.

Materials to use

Your choice of materials may be influenced by features already present in the garden – try to match these as closely as possible.

Bricks or reconstituted stone garden walling blocks are ideal. If you choose bricks, use facing bricks which are water and frost resistant (ordinary ‘commons’ would soon deteriorate in all but the most sheltered site).

A single paving slab makes a perfect work surface next to the grill area.

An advantage of using reconstituted stone blocks is that they can be joined using a special adhesive. Bricks, however, need to be fixed with mortar. Use the dry, ready-mixed kind, to which you simply add water. One 50kg (’l 101b) bag is enough to lay about 50 bricks. You will also need mortar if you are building a base of bricks or paving slabs.

Working out quantities

It you are designing your own barbecue, there are certain important points to take into account. The size of the grill and firetray will determine the dimensions of the cooking area. Whether you buy a ready-made DIY barbecue kit or use materials such as old cooker shelves, make sure you allow for them in the design. To avoid having to cut bricks or blocks, a gap could be left in the back wall if necessary.

Aim to design the barbecue so that it is an exact number of whole bricks or walling blocks in length and width. This reduces the amount of cutting that will be needed, and also makes it easier to work out how many bricks or blocks to buy.

Bricks come in a standard size. When calculating how many you need, use the nominal size -225x112x75mm (9×4’/2x3in) -which allows for a 10mm (Vsin)

This clever, compact design uses small blocks placed at right angles to act as supports for the grill and firetray. Some cutting of blocks is needed and mortar rather than adhesive has been used between the blocks.

Thick mortar joint between them.

Garden walling blocks are available in several sizes, depending on the make. The size we chose was 140mm (5/2in) high and 125mm (5in) deep (from front to back), and in two lengths – standard (380mm/15in) and twothirds (255mm/1Oin). All have at least one decorated face – at corners you need ‘quoin end’ blocks with two decorated faces.

Make a drawing showing the knout of each course of bricks or blocks so that you can estimate the number you will need to buy -get a few extra to allow lor breakages and for any cutting.

Preparing the site

If you don’t have a paved or concreted surface to work on, you must make a solid base. Provided the subsoil is firm and undisturbed, and your barbecue will be no more than about eight courses high, make a base by laying paving slabs on a mortar bed.

To lay paving slabs, clear an area large enough for the barbecue itself and to provide room for someone to stand on when they use it. I.ill any turf, level and compact the soil, and lay the slabs on blobs of mortar 25mm ( 1 in) thick as if laying a patio, (”heck the level and leave the mortar for 48 hours to harden.

Building the barbecue

Mark out the site of the barbecue exactly on the base, using a builder’s square (a 3:4:5 sided triangle) to ensure the corners are exactly at right angles, and begin spreading adhesive on the base, followed by the first course of building blocks.

As with building a brick wall, courses need to be laid in an alternating pattern to avoid joins lining up directly one on top of the other ami so forming a weakness in tlust metu re.

Continue building the barbecue, alternating the arrangement of blocks on each course, until you have reached the desired height.

At the position of the firetray and grill, drill holes in the blocks to lit wall anchors with bolts to provide a support.

Finally, our barbecue is finished oil with a 450mm (I.Sin) paving slab and 6()()mm (24in) long coping blocks – these need to be cut to the correct length with a club hammer and bolster chisel.

Maintaining the barbecue

Very little maintenance is needed lor a permanent brick or block barbecue, since the structure is completely weatherproof. I low-ever, you should take the firetray and grill indoors after use so that they don’t rust. If they have already rusted, treat them with a proprietary rust remover – but re-member to rinse the grill thoroughly before use.

Choosing alternatives

Our main barbecue design is just one of many possible options; with a little thought and planning it could be easily modified.

If you have a large family or intend to entertain on a lavish scale in the garden, you could enlarge the barbecue, so that the grill area and the work surface are both increased in si/.e, and add a seat/work surface on both sides.

It you are short of space, do away with the work surface and build a barbecue which just incorporates a grill and firetray.

Do away with collapsible seats and tables on the patio by building permanent seating and table units close to the site of the barbecue, in the same style of brick or block.

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