Building Your Very Own BBQ When most people move into a house with a garden, one of the first things they think about is getting a barbecue. While some of us simply head off to our local ‘home and garden’ store, others are a little more ambitious, and decide to build a barbecue from scratch. This type of barbecue is usually built as a permanent fitting, as few people are sufficiently skilled in metalwork to go building their own mobile unit. Although building your own barbecue is not as straightforward as simply buying one, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think. Ultimately, it depends on how elaborate you want your barbecue to be – the simplest can be put together in an afternoon, and won’t cost you very much at all. The easiest way to build your own BBQ is to make a fire pit, although it takes up quite a bit of space, so you’ll need a big garden. Before starting, it’s probably best to check that your neighbours – and even the local council – don’t have any objections to your plans, or you could get into a spot of bother and may even have to get rid of it. As soon as you’ve got the all clear it’s time to pick a spot. Make sure you don’t build your barbecue near any fences, plants or any other flammable objects, and lave a few feet of clear space around it. If you want people to be able to sit around the fire, you’ll need five or six feet all the way round. The next step is to dig the hole, which should be about four foot wide and six inches deep. In the centre of the hole, use some of the spare dirt to build a circular ‘shelf’, which should be about two feet wide and three inches tall. After that’s done, it’s time to take some cement bricks, and build a wall around the pit. It should stand around one foot high – usually two layers of brick lying side on – with a gap of around two inches between each brick, which lets the air through. Don’t use rocks to build the wall, as some may contain water or air pockets, which can cause them to explode! After that, line the inside of the pit with quick-setting sand cement, and it’s nearly ready to go. The final piece of the jigsaw is a circular grill, large enough to rest on top of the brick wall, and you’re ready to start barbecuing! If you want to go for something a bit more special, you can build your own barbecue out of bricks and cement. Choose either charcoal or gas to power it, although bear in mind that the latter will be more expensive, and will usually require a lot of specialised equipment. It’s quite dangerous to go messing around with gas unless you know what you’re doing, so don’t try and hook it up to your household gas supply unless you have the required expertise! Of course, you can pay a technician to hook it up for you, but this means spending more money. If you fancy taking on an ambitious project like this, then you need to start by swotting up on masonry. You don’t need to be a building expert to make your own brickwork barbecue, but a little basic knowledge will prevent you from making any costly mistakes. You’ll need a few ready-made metal parts to complete the project – a grill at the very least, but you could also install a spit if you fancy a spot of rotisserie cooking on your BBQs.
The next thing to think about is design. Although you can go for something quite simple, it has to be able to withstand the elements, and should be easy to clean. If you’re going to install gas burners, you need to make sure that you can easily replace any faulty parts, without breaking through brickwork to get to them. Once you’ve decided on a design, pick a spot in your garden that is well ventilated. Somewhere a fair distance away from the house is a good idea, or you could end up getting smoke in the windows. Although you don’t have to be as careful as you do with an open fire pit, you should still avoid areas surrounded by shrubs, trees with overhanging branches, or anything else that looks flammable. In terms of simplicity, wood or charcoal barbecues are the easiest to build. The body of the barbecue should be brickwork, with a pit for the charcoal and a metal grate over the top. Building a back wall is a good idea, as you can then fit shelves and hooks for storing tongs, a stoker and other equipment. Also make sure you either build or buy some kind of cover, to protect the grill during autumn and winter. Gas barbecues are a little trickier, particularly if you’re intent on installing the burners and piping yourself. However, you can buy a ready made gas grill insert, that will either drop or slide into the brickwork – providing you leave enough space. This is a lot easier than trying to fit every last piece by yourself, and you’ll also be able to change it afterwards if it doesn’t work properly. Of course, you won’t know whether your project has been successful until you’re tucking into your first barbecued steak. But as long you do a bit of homework, plan ahead and don’t overstretch yourself, you should be okay. Well-designed and wellbuilt barbecues not only make for great summer parties, but can also be an attractive addition to your garden. Good luck!