How to Build a Backyard BBQ Pit
Dad’s relationship with his grill is second to none—so why not strengthen that bond this Father’s Day? This year, up Dad’s grilling game with a backyard BBQ pit—the ultimate grill.
These grills were all the rage in the 1950s and fell out of style when flashier, smaller grills came along. But they’re making a comeback. They’re great for outdoor entertaining because they have more grilling space. They’re also weather resistant, don’t need to be stored and feel much more inviting than a stainless steel machine. In fact, they’re pretty easy to build, too, and cost less than a fancy gas grill.
The Anatomy of a BBQ Pit
Before we tell you how to build one, let’s quickly go over the BBQ pit anatomy:
- Firebox: Inner wall of BBQ lined with firebrick
- Grill Grate: This is where you place the meat so select with that’s rustproof, porcelain coated, cast iron or stainless steel
- Base: 3-4 inch pad for stability, usually made of concrete
- Solid Brick Walls (or material of choice): Encloses the pit for safety and is finished with header and stretcher borders
- Charcoal/Ash Pan: Solid metal sheet that holds fuel and catches ashes, 7-15 inches below cooking surface
Now that you know all the basic parts, let’s get into how to build one!
10 Step Guide to Building a BBQ Pit
1. Check Local Codes
BBQ pits involve an open flame. Not only should you see if you have enough space for a pit and the room to entertain, but check if your city has any codes regarding BBQ pits or open flames. And remember, keep it at least 10 feet from the nearest building, brush or combustible surface.
2. DIY or Pro
Now that you know if you can have one, you need to decide whether to DIY it or hire a pro. A 24” x 24” x 30” pit with 4 inch pad will run you around $ 500. It will require some heavy lifting and familiarity with bricklaying. If you’re looking for fancy masonry, look into hiring one of our pros!
Choose what material you’d like for your pit. Concrete blocks are the least expensive and natural stone will run you the biggest bottom line. We’ll use brick in our example, which is a good mid-level choice.
4. Pour Concrete
Now we can get into the build out. Account for the firebox, brick walls and room to stand when you measure out the size of your pit. Then, dig about 8 inches down and add 3 to 4 inches of pea gravel. Compact and level it, then pour cement to fill the rest. It will take about 24 to 48 hours to cure.
5. Dry Fit Material
Don’t jump into brick laying just yet. Make sure it will all fit by laying them out without mortar (leave a ½ inch gap to account for it). Mark the outlines to use as a guide. Lastly, hose all the bricks down about 30 minutes before you begin building to prevent them from soaking up too much moisture from the mortar and causing it to shrink.
6. First Course
Lay down the first course of brick on top of the mortar and make sure it is level.
7. 2nd and 3rd Course
Lay the next two layers, but only on the outside and rear walls. The front will be where you access the grill (you can lay up to two courses total here). And be sure to stagger the joints. Use a cold chisel or wet saw to cut the bricks to make them fit if necessary.
8. Continue the Courses
Continue laying your courses until you reach the desired height. When you begin the fourth course, you can turn some off the bricks so they jut out at every other one. This will give you options of where to put your charcoal and grate when you’re cooking.
9. Strike Joints
Once you lay your final course and the mortar has dried, strike the mortar joints with a jointer. This results in the desired indented look of mortar. Then, when the cement is almost completely cured, take a stiff brush and scrape off any excess mortar.
10. Get Cooking
You’re all done now! Easy enough. Now add your grate and charcoal and surprise Dad with a nice cut of meat to cook up on Father’s Day. Or better yet, deliver him grilled steak and eggs for breakfast in bed!
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