BUILDING YOUR OWN BRICK BARBECUE

Tools required :- Spade / shovel, spot board, bucket, bricklaying trowel, 150mm boat spirit level, 600mm spirit level (if you have one), lump hammer, bolster chisel, tape measure, plumb line (a length of string with a couple of nails attached), a piece of metal or rubber tube 20 – 25mm dia, soft hand brush.  

Building your own barbecue requires a bit of planning before you start. It needs to be built a safe distance away from anything that is flammable, and where the smoke won’t fill yours or your neighbours house. To get the dimensions for your brickwork you will need your grill set, this will determine the internal width of the brickwork. Place the grill on the ground and place the bricks around it in what will be their fixed position as shown in fig 1 below.

Dimensions for brickwork

Safety tip :- Use gloves when mixing / using cement as it can irritate and burn skin, use gloves  / safety goggles when handling / cutting bricks.

Make a note of the measurements allowing a little space for the grill rack and coals tray to be lifted out and removed for cleaning etc. If the ground is soft then you will need to dig out a small trench around 250 mm wide and 250 to 300mm deep, this can then be filled with concrete to form a foundation for your brickwork. Try to get the foundations as level as possible.

Once the concrete has hardened (this may take a couple of days) you can start to lay the first course of bricks, don’t make too much mortar as it may ‘go off’ before you have time to use it. A little tip here is to remember the ratio of sand and cement you mix so the mortar colour is uniformed throughout the brickwork, I would do a mix of 4 parts sand to 1 part cement, a little squirt of washing up liquid helps the spreading of the mortar. Butter (spread) each brick with some of the mortar on the bottom and on one end of each brick, try to guess-timate the same amount of mortar each time, you want to end up with a seam of mortar approximately 10mm deep across each course of brick.

Check the bricks are all level and square using a spirit level and tape measure. Build up the corners first up to the fifth course of brick overlapping the previous course each time, see fig 2, use a length of timber and the spirit level to check the level across the corners, take your time checking all levels both horizontally and vertically. When you are happy with the levels lay the rest of the bricks up to the fifth course, use a plumb line stretched across each course to give you a guide line for laying the bricks, you will have to use half bricks which you can cut using a bolster chisel and lump hammer and don’t forget those goggles. At this point I would strike all the mortar seams with a metal or rubber tube and using a soft brush remove any unwanted mortar to give your brickwork a more professional finish, see fig 3. Let the mortar set and then continue the following day.

Have a look at the basic bricklaying tips and advice post, which includes a helpful video on laying bricks.

Brickwork

Don't forget to strike the mortar joints !

 

Before you carry on decide what height is comfortable to use the coals tray and grill rack, at this height on the corresponding course of bricks you will have to lay three bricks each side inwards to support the coals tray and then three more each side one course up for the grill rack, see fig 4. When your brickwork is complete you could finish it off by cementing some ornamental coping stones on the top. Again don’t forget to strike the seams and clean off any unwanted mortar. Wait a day for the mortar to set then break out the beers, burgers and steaks.

Set brick height for coals tray and grill rack                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

You can of course build variations of this barbecue to suit yourself, check out the barbecue designs and ideas section,  maybe you want a stone worktop at one side or a double grill, now you can lay bricks the possibilities are endless, the main point I would make is to take your time and keep checking those levels.

Comments

  1. Louise says

    Hi i am just enquiring about how many bricks wroughly you would need to build a brick bbq?

    yours sincerely

    Miss.L.Hamon

  2. says

    Hi there,

    To build a medium size barbecue using a grill tray of approximately 20″ ( 500mm ) square, I would purchase around 170 bricks, this allows approx 12 per course of brick up to 13 courses high and a few spare for mishaps etc. The quantity of brick required really relies on the height and depth of your design, you can purchase bricks individually from a lot of DIY stores so if you ‘run out’ you can always pick up a few more, just check the store has a stock of the bricks you decide to use.
    DavesDIYTips.

  3. Paul says

    Hi Dave,

    In a long term preparation to building my own barbecue, I have several good quality “fire-bricks” salvaged from old night storage heaters and plan to use these as a base for the charcoals, instead of a metal tray. I plan to lay these on a 3ft x 2ft concrete paver at he correct height. Can you foresee any problems with this idea, please?

    Seondly I plan to construct a low retaining wall, again out of fire bricks, possibly to support cooking grids, around three sides of the cooking area and wonder if there needs to be a special mortar-mix, as these bricks may well become rather hot.

    Thankyou for any help and advice,

    Paul

  4. says

    Hi Paul,

    As far as I am aware, bricks from most storage heaters are made from thermal conductive materials to retain heat, whereas fire bricks are used in fire pits / fire places etc and will stand high temperatures from direct heat, i.e. hot coals. The bricks from the storage heater may crack with the direct heat from the coals, so it may be worth experimenting first before relying on them as a base for the coals.
    To ensure your retaining wall built from fire bricks is completely heat resistant you could use a heat refractive mortar, there is a company that sells heatproof mortar in 10 kg ready mixed tubs I came across on the internet :- FIREPLACE PRODUCTS LTD ( fireplaceproducts.info ), just click on fireplace products on their homepage to locate it.
    All the best Paul and I hope this helps you with your barbecue project.

    DavesDIYTips.

  5. James says

    Dave,
    Thanks for the design. Can’t wait to start.Two questions:
    1. Does your design use ordinary bricks or fire bricks?
    2. I’ve got plenty of old London bricks but I’m worried that these won’t be good enough for a job like this. On the other hand, they were fired when they were made so that should mean they can withstand hot temperatures, right?

    Hi James,
    The design can be used for ordinary or fire bricks, as you explained, bricks are fired at high temperatures so they should be fine to use, but if you are unsure about the quality of the London bricks you can always line the inside of your barbecue walls with fire bricks which can be purchased at around 1 1/4 inches (30mm) thick and held in place with a heat resistant mortar, don’t forget to add the fire brick plus mortar depth to your internal dimensions when you start your barbecue. You can always experiment by loose laying the London bricks around the coal tray placed on the ground, ignite the coals and see how the bricks react to the heat.
    Davesdiytips.

  6. David M says

    Hi, I built a similar pit a few years ago and plan on building another soon. I used regular brick for the bulk of the project, but lined it with fire brick and used high temp mortar. Even so, I still experienced cracking down the back wall of the pit which was in a standard U shape. I tried everything I could think of to keep it from happening, but the crack would increase and decrease in relation to the heat of the pit. Even so, it still cooked like a dream. In the next effort, I will use nothing but firebrick for the entire project and will “face” the outside with some decorative stone. The pit I built previously was large enough to allow me to cook enough food for over 50 people during my son’s party when he left for the Army. I am in no way to be considered a brick mason, so my pit looked ancient and was affectionately named “Stonehenge”!