How to Build a Brick Barbecue
Not many of us can resist the smell of a steak, hamburger, or even a hot dog grilling on an outdoor barbecue. It gets even better when that delicious scent is coming from a brick barbecue that you built yourself. A brick barbecue can be a beautiful addition to your yard. It's practical and great for entertaining. It encourages you to get outside more often, and when installed artfully and competently, a brick barbecue can dramatically increase the value and appeal of your home.
Here's a guide to building your own backyard brick barbecue.
Step 1 - Choose a Location
You'll want your barbecue to be relatively close to the house since you're going to be carrying all your food and utensils in and out. By keeping the distance between your kitchen and the grill as short as possible, you limit the chances of spills and mishaps during crowded backyard parties.
Also, figure out which way the wind usually blows. You want to put your barbecue in a spot where the smoke won't blow back into the chef's face or directly into the house.
Finally, you want to place it away from overhanging trees, fences, and buildings because of the potential fire hazard it poses and build it on relatively level ground for stability purposes.
Step 2 - Choose A Base
A brick barbecue is heavy, so it needs a solid base. Some large pavers laid on a bed of sand could potentially be an adequate base, but if you really want to make your barbecue secure and special, you need to prepare a real base for it.
Step 3 - Dig Out the Base
To create a solid base, dig down to a depth of 4 inches. Remove the surrounding dirt until you've cleared area that's about 4 feet long and 4 feet wide. Then, install 6-inch wooden forms along the inside of the hole.
Step 4 - Add Concrete
Use a concrete mix cement so that all you have to do is add water and mix it in a wheelbarrow. Pour in about 3 inches of cement, and then lay in three pieces of 3½ foot long rebar, positioning them them 12 inches apart from one another. Cover the rebar with another 3 inches of cement, and smooth the base.
The poured cement should now reach the height of the 6-inch forms from earlier.
Step 5 - Create Good Drainage
It's a good idea to build in a slight slope or grade to the base, approximately 1/2 inch from back to front, so that rainwater will run off the foundation. Now just let the base set up for 48 hours.
Step 6 - Buy Grill Components
While you are waiting for your cement to cure, go and buy your fire pan and barbecue grills. These components should be available at any barbecue store or home improvement store. It's important that you have these pieces before you begin building the rest of the barbecue in order to size things accordingly and make sure they'll fit where they're supposed to.
Step 7 - Design the Barbecue
There are a few things you need to take into consideration when designing your masterpiece. You want the cooking grills to be at a comfortable height, about 30 inches from the ground with the firebox 4 to 5 inches below that. For a brick barbecue, that distance equates to two brick courses below.
Because you're the one planning this entire build, make your life easier and more convenient by planning for a few shelves at least 16 inches wide for you to keep your cooking utensils and condiments close by when barbecuing.
Step 8 - Prep the Area
Lay out the first two courses of bricks dry, meaning you'll simply be placing them and not applying any mortar. This will help to get the barbecue placed correctly on the concrete pad. Draw a line around the bricks when you are happy with the positioning.
Since dry bricks will draw the moisture out of mortar before it has a chance to set up properly, spray your bricks with a hose.
The Brick Industry Association suggests you do this the day before you want to start laying the brick so that the moisture will be right inside the brick, but the brick surface will be dry.
Step 9 - Lay the First Course
Make your mortar by mixing 1 part Portland cement, 1/4 part hydrated lime, and 3 parts masonry sand. Mix in water until you get a consistency like soft mud.
Lay your first course of bricks in a row of mortar, making sure that the mortar stays inside your outline. Put 1/2 inch of mortar between adjacent bricks and make sure the first course is level.
Step 10 - Lay the Next Courses
Continue building up your barbecue walls by working up at the corners for 3 or 4 courses, and then filling in the walls between the corners. Lay a 1/2" mortar bed for each course and apply enough mortar to one end of each brick so the gap will also be 1/2". Set each brick onto the mortar bed and tap it into place with the handle of your trowel. Scrape excess mortar off the bricks as you work your way up the walls.
Step 11 - Tool the Joints
Every three or four courses, check that the courses are level and the walls are plumb. This is also a good time to tool, or "point," the joints. In other words, this is a good opportunity to compress and shape the mortar.
Use a short piece of pipe 5/8 inches or 3/4 inches in diameter and run it over the mortar joints both horizontally and vertically. This tooling will compress the mortar joints and give it an attractive concave shape.
Step 12 - Install the Fire Box and Grills
Once you've built the bricks up to the height where your design says the firebox should rest, insert three to four pieces of rebar in between the courses to hold the firebox and the cooking grills.
For the firebox, set it on the rebar and mortar it in place, but for the grills, only set them on the rebar, but leave them lose. This way, they can be lifted off for easy access of the box for cleaning and repairs.
Finish the top with a row of solid bricks, then stand back, and admire your new brick barbecue. Once the mortar dries, you'll be cooking on that beautiful new addition to your backyard.
A Note on Cutting Brick
Try to choose a pattern that minimizes the number of bricks you need to cut. However, no matter what pattern you come up with, you will have to cut some. You can rough cut bricks using a broad blade chisel and a hammer. Score around the brick and then give a sharp blow on the scored line, and the brick should split. If you need to make lots of cuts, you'd be well advised to rent a brick splitter or get a masonry blade for your power saw.
Because this project requires you do some heavy duty things, such as dig out a large section of land and purchase and handle a firebox and grills, you may need a permit to perform these tasks legally. Consult your local ordinances before setting out to work.