Introduction: Building a Competition BBQ Trailer or Food Vending Trailer
Sometimes in life you have to decide if you have more time or money when it comes to something you want. This was a time when my budget was low but my want and desire were great.
I had considered buying a trailer and could have finnance one, but I am a person that likes to do thing for themselves, be original, and stand out from the crowd. I think I was able to accomplish that with making the LBC BBQ Command Center.
Come with me and share my journey in making a Competition BBQ or Food Vending Trailer!
Step 1: Find a Good Trailer
I was able to search Craigslist in order to find a trailer that would work. I went with a 16 foot, double axle, 7,000lbs., wooden deck landscape trailer.
I looked for the following when buying my trailer:
- Good Axles
- Good Tires
- Fenders in good condition
- Decking in good condition
- Overall was it well taken care of
This trailers only problem was the decking needed replaced and the back gate was in rough shape. The price was right so I pulled the trigger.
Trailer Cost $800.00 + Decking replaced $100.00 = $900.00 so far
The original plan I had was for an open air trailer. So I replaced the decking with treated lumber and then stained it. This was a step that in retrospect, did not need to take place.
(since building I now would have chosen to go with a heavier duty trailer, but at the time this trailer fell into budget.)
Step 2: Framing Your Trailers Design
Once I was able to settle on a design, I framed it with 4x4's and 2x4's. The 4x4's were bolted to the floor of the trailer along with the side of the trailer. I used a sideways V-shape in the front to gain extra space for the sink area. I extended the back roof beyond the back of the trailer to create a roof for a porch. Along with making the left side of the trailer roof 3" higher than the right. I did this for two reasons. First was so water would not sit on the flat roof and second was so water when raining did not pour down into my serving window.
Framing cost $250.00 = $1,150.00 so far
Step 3: Building the Countertop, Hand Sink, and Dish Sink Area
One of the main reasons for me wanting a trailer to compete in was so I did not have to deal with the weather when washing the dishes. So this was an area I was eager to accomplish.
I used fence dog ear panels for the countertop. Thats right, I used treated lumber that was $1.00 per. I framed the counter out in 2x4's then covered with the dog ears, cut sink holes, sanded smooth, stained, and sealed. Making sure to fill in the gaps with wood putty.
Dog ear panels $5.00 + 2x4's $4.00 + Left over stain FREE + Polyurethane $8.00 =$17.00 / $1,167.00 so far
** make sure that you have cut the right size holes for the sink configuration that you use.
Step 4: Selecting a Sink(s)
I was able to go to my local thrift store and pick the sinks up for a great price. I payed $60.00 for both sinks. This was a great deal considering they both had working faucets, the hand sink has an extra tall faucet head, and they had come out of an old hospital so they were commercial grade and great shape.
Both Sinks $60.00 = $1,227.00 so far
Step 5: Plumbing for Sinks and Drainage
When starting the plumbing, I suggest that you first draw everything out on paper, then scale it to your project, to get measurements, and an inventory list for the PVC pipe and fitting you're going to need. If you are unsure of how to do the plumbing get help from a Pro to save you money in the long run.
I was able to complete mine without much trouble. For the intake I used a female garden hose coupling that had a female back that I attached to a male 1/2" PVC fitting and started the line to the inside of the trailer. I also added a couple extras. Like an extension up the front with a cut off valve and the idea to add a gravity feed water tank. I also put a cut off valve on the inside of the trailer on the main intake line to be able to control water pressure or to use as an emergency cut off valve.
For the discharge line, make sure you go with a larger size PVC pipe then your intake. It should be able to handle both sinks, if full, discharging at the same time. Make sure your discharge line is at a good angle and the fewer bends and turns as possible. This makes for a faster and cleaner discharge when using. I used 11/2" PVC pipe and I also put a cut off valve on the discharge line but on the outside of the trailer.
PVC pipe and fitting $85.00 = $1,312.00 so far
Step 6: Reinforcing the Nose of the Trailer
To make sure when traveling the highways that I had a secure and well built trailer, I reinforced the nose with particle board.
Make sure when reinforcing or building, that weight is or can be a factor.
** Be sure that the structure and items to be loaded, when in use, is LESS THAN, the Gross Max Weight Allowed for your trailer.
Particle Board $40.00 = $1,352.00 so far
Step 7: Adding the Metal Siding / Corrugated Metal Sheets
Adding the metal siding was fun but challenging until you get the hang of it. Get a good set of metal shears and use ONLY SELF TAPPING METAL SCREWS WITH RUBBER WASHERS. This will insure your trailer does not leak in the weather and is sealed tightly. And yes they cost more but in the long run will save your trailer and you some headaches.
Start on one side at the front & top of the trailer. Make sure you ALWAYS wear gloves when handling the metal siding. When placing the first sheet of siding, make sure that it is 100% straight and lined up for you. Even being a slight bit off will cause trouble when adding future pieces with the alignment and making a good tight seal.
Corrugated Metal Siding $600.00 + Self Tapping Roof Screws $450.00 = $1,050.00 / $2,362.00 so far
** Buy good roofing screws and spend the money on them! This was my biggest cost surprise of the build and was not budgeted correctly for me.
Step 8: Cutting Out the Windows and Adding the Roof
WIth the measurements I used, I did not have to cut out the windows. I only needed to shorten a few pieces. Then cut the angles for the sides of the back porch along with adding the roof.
When adding the roof make sure not to bend, dent, or damage the panels as you place them in place. Also don't over tighten the screws. This will cause leaks if you do.
Step 9: Adding the Final Panels and Securing the Nose
Once you have completed both sides and the roof the next step is to end at the nose of the trailer with cutting a few special pieces. I also add extra screws to the nose to make a tight secure fit. Finally I add the box with door cover for the water intake.
Box with door cover $15.00 = $2,377.00 so far
Step 10: Start Adding Insulation
This is a good time to start by adding insulation to the front nose of the trailer. I used attic insulation so to be good and insulated in any season.
This is also a good time to start thinking about how you are going to run your electric wires, any cable, overhead lighting placement, along with wall outlet placement. Just like with the plumbing I suggest that you draw out everything first. Give some good hard thought on how you will be using the trailer, what equipment you might use, what the Amp draw will be, and where will everything go when in uses. Then make a decision on your placement of items.
Insulation $80.00 = $2,457.00 so far
Step 11: Securing the Roof for a Water Tight Seal
Once the trailer was covered with corrugated sheet metal, I used foil sealing tape on all the seams to make it watertight. For the top of the trailer I also used roofing tar sealant as a another protection step against water. Once I put the tape and tar in place, I then covered it with 4"x4" metal "L" roofing cap. They worked perfectly for the top and down the sides to the trailer.
Metal "L" $35.00 + Foil Tape $25.00 + Roofing tar sealant $35.00 = $95.00 / 2,552.00
Step 12: Starting on the Inside Build / Tables and Windows
First I made some solid windows out of 2x4's and metal siding. I attached them to the window frame with heavy duty galvanized hinges. I also put slide bolt locks on them for security when traveling and when not in use.
Next I built some tables and attached them to the walls with hinges. This allows me to close down the tables during traveling and adds more room for loading equipment. For table legs, I also put them on hinges, so when I pull the tables up to use, the legs fold down with gravity and are instantly in place. This saves time and space.
Solid Windows $85.00 + Hinges $45.00 + Tables $75.00 = $205.00 / $2,757.00 so far
Step 13: Adding Window Trimmings and Back Doors
Once the windows were in place I sealed them and added more "L" shaped metal trim around the outside frame. I also added the leftover foil tape, before inserting the trim, to all edges. Then I closed in the top, of the back, over the doors, with sheet metal and hung screen doors. Once the doors were in place I made the decision to cover them with sheet metal and make them more solid. I did the outside of the doors in sheet metal, the inside I covered in thin smooth plyboard, painted it with chalkboard paint, and filled the inside with more insulation.
Silicone Sealant $10.00 + Screen Doors $50.00 + Plyboard $25.00 + Chalkboard Paint $12.00
Sheet Metal $45.00 + Insulation $25.00 = $167.00 / $2,924.00 so far
Step 14: Adding Electricity / Running Wire, Circuit Breaker Box, & Outside Plug
WARNING WARNING!!! If you are not an electrician or know an electrician. Hire one! You can be injured or die from electric shock.
Also if you do not install electric properly, you run the risk of a fire hazard and / or electrical shock.
Be safe and not sorry an accident happened!
I have some knowledge, with running wire, but I also used a electricians friends advice throughout this step.
I started with a 4 circuit fuse box that I installed under the front countertop off to one side. I ran the main plug feed to the outside for electrical hookups to shore power or a generator (if using one). Then I put two of the circuits to a particular side of the trailer. I did this so if I was to pop a circuit breaker, only one side of the trailer would lose power. I used a third circuit breaker for a future AC unit if added, and the last circuit, I used for the outside porch plug and outside lighting. This created four zones for my trailer. I also added in GFI's to each breaker for more circuit overload protection. Make sure you label all wires and circuits for future repairs and service. Its also good to keep a diagram of your wiring, so to troubleshoot if a problem does occur.
Circuit Breaker Box $75.00 + Electrical wire $100.00 + Circuit boxes, Outlets, GFI's, & Outlet Covers $95.00 = $270.00 / $3,194.00 so far
Step 15: Adding Inside Wall Panels, Insulation, Cabinet, and Light Fixtures
This by far was some of the most time consuming work done on the trailer. Cutting, fitting, and screwing all the inside wall and roof panels was quite a job.
Start slow and take your time. Make sure all wires are in a good position not to be crimped or cut while installing your panels. I hung a wall cabinet to give me extra storage space. I then hung all the panels with leaving space or cutting holes for all light fixtures and wall outlets in predetermined spots. I then added insulation to the walls and ceiling for weather protection from the outside elements. Next I added a shelf over the sink area and put LED lighting under to light up countertop. I also used LED lights in the ceiling for a low voltage approach.
Sheet Metal $200.00 + Lighting Fixtures $160.00 + Storage Cabinet $85.00 + Over the Countertop Shelf $35.00 = $480.00 / $3674.00 so far
Step 16: Flooring
For the flooring I decided to go with horse stall mats. This was a great choice for several reasons.
- Horse stall mats are heavy duty and stand up to wear and tear.
- They were easy to install with just a few cuts to make them fit perfectly.
- They are easy to clean with soap and water
- They work as an anti fatigue mat while working and standing for long periods at a time
Before I installed the floor mats, I covered the subflooring with a tarp. This was used to insulate the floor from the elements outside and has worked very well.
With my choice at the beginning of the project to replace the flooring with pressure treated lumber, I am able to hose down the floor mats with a water hose without fear of damaging the subfloor. I clean the floors by jacking up the front of the trailer to create a downhill run for the water. I then clean and spray down the mats. The water runs out the back and everything is cleaned.
Horse Stall Mats $125.00 + Tarp $25.00 = $150.00 / $3824.00 so far
Step 17: Overhead Side Shelves
To bring in some storage I went with adjustable wire shelving. I installed the shelving over each of the side tables. Once installed I installed an eye hook on each side and ran an adjustable strap from end to end to secure the shelves contents upon traveling. I also installed a short wire shelf to store trays on top and hang pots on the bottom.
Wire shelving $75.00 + Eye Hooks $5.00 + Ratchet Straps $12.00 = $92.00 / $3,916.00 so far
Step 18: Replacing the Tailgate and Adding Stabilizing Jacks
The original tailgate was in rough shape and was way too short for what I wanted to use it for. I removed the old gate and had a metal fabricator make one to my specs. I wanted to use the gate for a back porch when set up at competitions, as well as a ramp into the trailer for loading and unloading, and as a locking security gate when placed in the up position for traveling or when being stored. I then added a garage door spring to the gate to counterbalance the weight for easier lifting. I also had my fabricator add stabilizing jacks to the four corners of the trailer. This added stability to the trailer when parked and in use.
New Fabricated Gate $300.00 + Garage Door Spring $35.00 + Stabilizing Jacks $125.00 = $460.00 / $4,376.00 so far
Step 19: Adding the Hot Water Heater
I order to be more comfortable I added a portable hot water heater to the outside front of the trailer. When doing the plumbing I left holes in the bottom front of the trailer to run both, to and from water lines. I placed the water heater outside the trailer as not to have any carbon monoxide poisoning from happening.
Hot Water Heater $135.00 = $4511.00 so far
Step 20: Adding A/C, Tv's, Weather Station, Work Cabinets, Knife Station and Surveillance System
So for the final touches and to make my trailer more like a home away from home, I add a few luxuries. First I add a portable A/C unit to cool down on hot summer days. I also added two TV monitors. One I use for my laptop screen. This allows me to watch movies and work on the internet. The second I use with the surveillance system I installed on the outside. I can watch my smoker as I work, watch movies, or try and catch a few winks of sleep during a competition. The weather system is great for an early warning system to rain as well as current conditions on the weather in real time. I used a tool chest for under the counter storage along with several plastic storage drawers.
A/C Unit $350.00 + Two TV's $250.00 + Surveillance System $200.00 + Weather Station $45.00 + Work Cabinets $130.00 + Knife Station 80.00 = $1,055.00 / $5,566.00
Step 21: Enjoying the Hard Work
At the end of the day I truly enjoyed creating my BBQ trailer. It took about 4 months to build working at 4 to 5 hours a day. I am sure there are somethings that I have left out, so if you have a question, about my build, please ask.
The biggest surprise in the build was by far the amount of screws that it took. That was also one of the most time consuming jobs besides hanging the inside panels.
Would I do it again?
I think I would. I really had a great time building it and now know something that I would do different and some things that I wouldn't do again.
Final Total is $5,566.00
This amount seems a bit low and I am sure there were thing I bought that I forgot to add in here so I would so a more realistic amount would be $6,000.00 to $7,000.00