Introduction: Building a Competition BBQ Trailer or Food Vending Trailer

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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)

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of Flooring

For the flooring I decided to go with horse stall mats. This was a great choice for several reasons.

  1. Horse stall mats are heavy duty and stand up to wear and tear.
  2. They were easy to install with just a few cuts to make them fit perfectly.
  3. They are easy to clean with soap and water
  4. 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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


lucanos (author)2015-08-16

Just looking at this Instructable, as one of my friends has spoken about making a food trailer/truck. Looking at your plumbing, am I right in assuming that there is no water tank in this build? It looks like your fresh water is expected to be supplied by a hose in the front left corner of the trailer, with waste water being dumped straight out and onto the ground in the same corner.

MechEngineerMike (author)2015-08-16

Wow $450 for self tapping screws... You probably used quite a few boxes of them anyway eh. Well the trailer looks great and you've clearly put a lot of work into it and this instructable so I voted! Good luck!

tgall67 (author)2015-08-09

"Great job!" on both your your instructable and your trailer. What I love about it is that you could have spent $15,000 to $???,??? having a custom built trailer designed and built to your specs, but instead you did it yourself and saved a great deal of money. In the end you have a high quality trailer which I am sure you will be able to get years of good use from this trailer . When you are ready to upgrade, you can sell it for at least what it cost in materials to build it, if not more and put this money towards building a new and improved one. A couple of questions for you: Did you ever consider using steel 2x4 studs in place of the wooden ones. They provide a highly stable structure while weighing a lot less then it's wooden counter parts? Did you consider designing pullouts to increase your floor space, in the event that you need to use the trailer to actual stay in during the competitions or is that overkill for your needs.

Once more great job! .

eslipak (author)tgall672015-08-13

I'm thinking about making my own motor home, but I'm in the initial steps. It would be so kind as to clarify ?. When you say 2x4: the measures are in inches or centimeters ?. Which the thickness of the wall? I agree that it is preferable to use metal. Thank you.

Moerdith (author)eslipak2015-08-16

2x4 is the rough cut measurements in inches, it is a standard board size in the US that after planing has actual measurements of 1.5"x3.5".
The wall thickness is a result of the broad width of the board (typically) Just make sure you are aware of the structural standards so that you don't over spend, or have a compromised structure. I believe for walls you want 16" on center between boards.

eslipak (author)Moerdith2015-08-16

Thanks for your answer. But i'm not looking for timber, i'm
asking for metal stud. English is not my mother language, so surely i'm
not being clear. Sorry. I do want to know the wall thickness of a 2x4
metal stud adequate for building of a motor home. Thanks also for the data.

rybitski (author)eslipak2015-08-13

2x4 is the nominal size, the actual measurement of that timber would be 1-1/2 inches x 3-1/2 inches.

eslipak (author)rybitski2015-08-14

Thanks for your fast response. But i'm not looking for timber, i'm asking for metal stud. English is not my mother language, so surely i'm not being clear. Sorry. I do want to know the wall thickness for a 2x4 metal stud adequate for building of a motor home. Thanks again.

cheyenne.ledyard (author)tgall672015-08-09

Thanks for looking my link over! With you questions, I felt more comfortable using wood over metal but if I was a welder, I would of went with metal studs. I had a lot of things that I did wanted to do but the trailer kind of made itself once I got going and I do stay overnight in the trailer. I fold down one table side and use a zero gravity chair.

tgall67 (author)cheyenne.ledyard2015-08-10

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I have to say your end product is very impressive. I am sure you are proud of what you accomplished, as you should be. Thanks for the responses.

cheyenne.ledyard (author)tgall672015-08-11

Sorry I was taking pics as I built but not everything got documented by photos

amberharding82 (author)2015-08-13

Great stuff!

Buddyman (author)2015-08-12

Super Nice Job !

marian.synter (author)2015-08-12

Building a Competition BBQ Trailer - a very interesting work that can be done relatively easily!

Ghostrider13 (author)2015-08-12

You can buy a 110 wire welder at Harbor Freight for $100. Get gloves and helmet, an angle grinder and a cut off tool e grinding discs and cutting discs. For around $200 you'll be welding in no time. Take a weekend to practice, watch this video too and you'll be building like crazy. I hope this helps

Ghostrider13 (author)2015-08-09

Nice work. Was hoping for close ups of the plumbing, hot water system and electrical, still, really nice work. Big congrats. Hope you win the competitions.

Sorry but not everything got photo documented. Thanks for viewing!

I understand. I'm afraid some people will attempt it and hurt themselves. You can't fix stupid you know.

Saiyam (author)2015-08-09

Outstanding work!

cheyenne.ledyard (author)Saiyam2015-08-12

Thanks so much!

esl401k (author)2015-08-09

Dude - you rock. This is an inspiration.

cheyenne.ledyard (author)esl401k2015-08-12

Thanks for viewing!

oakback (author)2015-08-10

Very nice. What did the final weight come out to be?

pnosko (author)oakback2015-08-11

I'm curious too. Did the author understand that the weight of the trailer itself has to be included in the gross weight? I think ensuring this would be the most difficult part of the build.

cheyenne.ledyard (author)pnosko2015-08-12

Sometimes you roll the dice, have faith, and cross your fingers! I always had the weight on my mind and did the math as I went, ruffly, but I was not sure it would pull correctly until I had most of it complete. I think the hardest part of this build was having the will, to do it in the first place. Once I started, everything fell into place!

cheyenne.ledyard (author)oakback2015-08-12

Not sure but pulls great at 65 to 68 mph!

steveastrouk (author)2015-08-11

Beautiful work. Incredibly detailed.

Well done


Cueball21 (author)2015-08-11

Thank you for sharing your build with us.

I, too, am a Carolina native but of the Tar Heel variety, from Raleigh. I have spent some memorable time on the Battery and at Folly Beach, but that was more than 50 years ago. Yes, I have sweet grass baskets purchased from roadside boiled peanut vendors and from the ladies at the Market. My wife was born in Asheville, BTW.

Here's wishing you much success in your BBQ competitions.

Thanks so much and I grew up on James Island so Folly was always a hang out! I lived 4 years in Asheville and it's a great place too!


terrence.chaplin.7 (author)2015-08-11

NICE BUILD! so, what was the final tow weight anyway! just curious? by the looks of the build. I do not know how you park that, but looks like that design, you could add some full length roll down awnings to keep the sun off the patrons and the metal sides of that thing! and a length of copper gutter to help divert the rainwater further , you could collect that in a barrel inside for dishes or any other water needs!

Great ideas, thanks, and it tows very well! I travel at 65 to 68 mph tops for Highway speed and have put close to 10,000 miles on it since I built it. As far as weight, not sure what it is, but I should go have it done just to know.

blanchae (author)2015-08-11

In kitchen's in Canada, it is common to have the receptacle's two outlets wired to separate breakers. So the top outlet is wired to a separate service then the bottom outlet.

I think you have some great ideas and yes I do uses as a awning but I like your idea as well!

faisalgts (author)2015-08-12


Thanks so much!

blanchae (author)2015-08-11

I was thinking that rather then the window opening up, it might be better to have two windows that swing to the left and right. Then the inside of the windows could be used as chalkboard menus.

On the other hand a window that swings up, provides an awning.

ibrent (author)2015-08-11

Well done! I just put a link to this over at Hopefully it'll inspire others!

cheyenne.ledyard (author)ibrent2015-08-11

Thanks so much!

Carleyy (author)2015-08-10

Awesome! This came out so great!

cheyenne.ledyard (author)Carleyy2015-08-11

Thanks for looking over

ChefJohn1955 (author)2015-08-09

While not wanting to "rain on your parade" one small thing you might find that the local Health Department would require you to have 3 sinks for the dishes (Wash, Rinse, Sanitise then AIr Dry your dishes). You could get around this, for now, by having a bus Tub and using that fr the Sanitiser ... measure the volume of the bus tub then work out the amount of your chosen sanitiser to get the correct concentration {tip have test strip available & use them} .. You might want to take a food safety/handling course - local Health Dept or community college and display your food handlers certificate on your trailer - ServSafe is a national thing. The warning is if the Health Department think you are in violation they will close you down. Sorry if I seem pedantic - I used to teach these classes.

Thanks John but I am well aware of laws and regulations here in SC where I live. Since the laws change from state to state and also county to county some might be stricter than others depending on where YOU live. This is a competition trailer and I don't vend from it, but compete form it! I am a caterer and am very aware of what is and is not allowed in food service and for safety. I added the food trailer into my heading to broaden the viewers minds as they read the article. I suggest that if you build one that you follow your guidelines and good luck!

r_anderson_c (author)2015-08-09

Awesome job!

We have the KY bbq fest coming up September 11-13 if you can make it. It sounds like your BBQ has great flavor. I'd love to try it.

Thanks so much for the invite and looking over my link, but my schedule is full at that time maybe next year!

About This Instructable




Bio: The BBQ Dream As we all do, I had a dream. This dream included rolling hills of pulled pork, with rivers filled with BBQ sauce ... More »
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