Introduction: Removable Counter Top for Grill, for Deck

Here is a project I did for Father's Day. It's pretty simple but useful. Short video in last step.

Step 1: Goal and Explanation of Design

Goal:
Create additional space to set plates, pans, etc.
Must be removable allowing it to be stored or hidden when not in use.
Must work throughout majority of deck.

Simple summary of resulting design:
Countertop is comprised of wood, with wooden “feet” on underside which fit snugly into pipe support frame.
Support frame 1)holds up countertop 2) uses countertop’s added weight and height to secure itself to deck railing 3) alone has adequate weight to remain in position on railing

Why:
This was a Father's day gift that turned out surprisingly well. Only half of my projects turn out to be functional, and only half of those then actually wind up being practical. In addition to occasional grilling during the week, my dad enthusiastically grills every Sunday when we go over for a family dinner.

I was thinking about how he often places large plates and trays holding or just emptied of food on the 2x4 deck railing, and they often sit there precariously balanced. There isn't any "counter" space around the grill area except a small spot on the grill itself. So I started thinking of how I could build something that could provide additional shelf/ counter space but also be removable when not in use. I also needed to be steady and reliably secure. The design I wound up using was probably the third or fourth basic reworking of a solution. The design is so simple that I doubt it is the first of it's kind. It is likely in production in some shape or form, but I don't like paying for things I think I can build, so I didn't bother to look.

The shelf/ counter is comprised of a wood platform which sits on and fits in a pipe skeleton support underneath. I didn't think to document it's construction as it was a bit rushed, and it's too much work to disassemble the pipe, so all of my images are from after completion, but it's relatively simple and I'll detail things. If you read all the way to here, I can assure you that you have enough time to do this project. It doesn't take too long unless you're coming up with it as you go, but hopefully my steps will help you avoid that.

Step 2: Design in Regard to Materials, Materials & Tools

(materials mentioned below will be in list form in last step if you want to skip explanation)

Design, influenced by materials:
I chose to use metal* (I'm pretty sure it's steel) pipe, galvanized when it was available, and non when it wasn't. I have found during a previous project that steel pipe is much more stout than I had supposed it to be, even in supporting serious amounts of weight in a post-lintel design (previous project was a free-standing pull-up bar). Another advantage is that there is a very large selection of different thicknesses and lengths of pipe, along with all of the needed joints and caps and such at my local Home Depot (I assume other stores carry it too, but don't know...). The selection is similar to my old lego mix box, which held all of my lego kits, normal and technic. I could always find a lego piece that fit what I wanted to do, and I have found the store's plumbing dept. provides in the same kind of way. There will be times when I can't find a piece that I think I need, but usually there's a workaround, or a design revision gives me a different option. My point is, the large selection helped me to avoid having to actually cut or weld pipe. I just figured out what pieces I wanted to put together, and did so, just like legos.

  • I did think about using wood, specifically 2x4s because they are easy to work and cheap. But I went with metal pipe due to it being less bulky but still strong enough.

Materials:
Pipe I chose 3/4inch (thickness) pipe after eyeballing 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch pipe. 1 inch would work as well I suppose, though you would have to make adjustments. 1/2 inch would likely be too slim considering this thing will support the counter and whatever items are placed on it.

Counter Top For the counter top I used treated deck floorboards because they would match the deck this was being made for, but the counter top really could be however you want it. My design required roughly 91 inches of the board, plus additional scrap wood for the footer. I used drywall screws because I was out of galvanized and money.

Non-skid tape, found in the paint dept, was used on the counter top, beverage disc, and counter top footer for leveling adjustments. This is the stuff on stairs to keep people from slipping, and is totally optional.

Tools Used
1) I used 2 pipe wrenches, plus I recommend having some type of pipe or board which you can slide onto the wrench handle, increasing the handle length, to increase torque when needed (you're going to need to screw these joints in tight!).
2) A grinder may be needed for adjustments depending on how the pipe winds up coming together.
3) A circ saw for cutting the counter top and footer boards
4) A drill for screwing the counter top together
5) A jig saw (hand saw would work too) for the wooden disc
6) Metal wood file
7) Power sander (sanding by hand would work too)

Step 3: Structure of the Pipe Support

I've made three parts diagrams which show how all the component pipes fit together to make up the different areas of the whole thing. In the image below, you can see how they all are oriented. Use the additional images, which are labeled by their corresponding diagram letter, to look at what makes up that area.

Step 4: Order of Construction

While the previous step details what makes up the pipe support, I wouldn't recommend putting it together in the diagram letter order. Follow the number order below which is similar to the diagrams, but not entirely.

1) construct 1
2) construct 2
3) connect 1 and 2 with the 3/4 x 8 inch pipe at 3; it's easier to torque these two together and two this joining pipe after you put together all of the joint pieces in 1 and 2
4) construct the arm
5) connect the 4 arm to the 3/4 to 1/2 reducer elbow at 5

Be sure all joints (anywhere pipe goes in) are very tight. The only joints you want loose are the joints on the arm which make it movable (highlighted by Image Notes on image below). If your joints are not tight enough, parts of the support which rely on not shifting or rotating will fail. The alternative (in case you don't have wrenches) would be to secure every pipe end in it's coupling by putting a bolt through the coupling and pipe.

Step 5: Counter Top / Shelf

As I mentioned earlier, I chose treated deck floor board (may not be actual retail name...) for this because it would match the flooring already on the deck, and since it's treated it would last quite a while. I didn't put space gaps between the boards because I could see smaller items being set on this that I wanted to keep them from falling through.

(detailed in third image)
For the footer, I wanted something heavy enough to act as a ballast and weigh the middle of the counter top down, plus drop deep enough through the pipe support to cause it to be difficult to tip the counter top if weight was applied unevenly. I chose scrap treated 2x6 segments for the feet (noted in image as A and B). These were remarkably heavy for their size. There is a short piece of treated 2x4 (noted in image as C) between the two to help connect them and maintain there distance apart which is important as they have to slide down between the pipe support bars.

I have one piece of 1x2 (actually .75x1.5 I think) butted up against the end of the 2x6s (noted in image as G). This piece sits on top of the 3/4 x 8 inch piece of cross pipe (better seen in fourth image) and is necessary to level out the counter top, as the pipe support by it's design slopes downward towards the front.

There are two more pieces of 1x2 out towards the ends of the counter top (noted in image as H and I). These are merely to help reinforce the three pieces and add some rigidness to the whole thing.

Order of construction:
1) measure and cut 2x6 pieces (A and B)
2) measure and cut piece of 2x4 to give desired distance (C) between outside faces of 2x6
3) screw three pieces together
4) cut counter top boards (mine were 30 inches long a piece) (D, E, F), round and sand ends
5) center board D on ABC piece, opposite end of C, and attach to A and B; test how it sits in pipe support
6) center board E on ABCD piece, compress D and E with a vice to get tight fight, and attach E to A and B; test again
7) center board F on ABCDE piece, compress F and DE with vice, and attach to A and B; test again
8) attach G to bottom of F by placing G, drilling pilot holes through into F, remove G, continue holes all the way through F, then attach with screws, with screwing down into countertop board
9) drimmel/ file off screw tips on G
10) attach H and I in same manner

Step 6: Finishing Up

Apply non-slip tape to top of countertop and disc flange (you'll have to cut out a circle for the flange).
Sand off top of counter top boards again.

That's it. Both pieces may seem heavy, but they should be light enough to be easily set up and taken down.

edit 06/21/08:
Someone's comment pointed out that I didn't clearly explain the point of the arm. Sorry about that. The arm was an afterthought. It's purpose is to be used as a beverage rest (the point of the non-slip tape) and as something to hang tongs on. It moves and "extends" so that it can be pulled over to be closer to the grill on the left, or back over to the counter top if that's where the user is standing (simply put, the arm is meant to be led in the direction and distance to where the user is standing, at least to its limit). I had additional pieces to make the arm have even more unfolding joints, but didn't have time to add them. There is a piece missing from the picture: a segment of 3 inch PVC pipe which rests on the wooden disc and is kept in place by the raised metal flange. It was meant to be included in the pictures but I forgot to bring it over when I brought the rest of it. With it in place, it goes from being a place to set a beverage to a more reliable place to set a beverage in, and 3 inches is wide enough to accommodate a beverage with an insulator. I'll be taking over the pvc this weekend and will post an image of it in use once I am there.

edit 06/23/08:
added an image of the cup-holder to this step
added additional video in step 7 that does a better job of showing the device being taken down

Pipe:
1/2 x close (2)
1/2 flange
1/2 90 degree elbow (3)
1/2 x 8 inch straight piece
1/2 x 10 inch straight piece
3/4 to 1/2 reducer 90 degree elbow
3/4 x close (4)
3/4 T (2)
3/4 90 degree elbow (6)
3/4 x 2 (2)
3/4 endcap
3/4 x 18 inch straight piece
3/4 x 8 inch straight piece

Wood:
I used over 91 inches of treated deck floor board. I also used by never measured (sorry) 2x6, 2x4, and 1x2.
Any type of scrap-wood for disc

Other:
Screws (galvanized if possible) 3 in
Non-slip tape
5 inched of 3 inch pvc pipe

Step 7: Video

Below is my dad giving it a test run with some hamburger and a corona (before I brought over the pvc holders shown in second image).

This was my first one of these online tuts, hopefully it's helpful to someone.

The down-loadable video shows it being taken down.

Comments

author
www.microbike.ie (author)2011-02-19

Good idea but you should reverse it. If the hooks were from underneath the railing instead on the top it would make the table many times stronger and sturdier. I gues you wanted to have the board flush with the railing so you mounted it the way you did, but is it strong enough...to lean on? Thank You!

author
aeneas shrike (author)2008-06-20

Sorry. Forgot to explain that. The arm is for your beverage and for hanging tongs from. The non-slip tape helps but to make it reliable in holding your drink, the 3 inch pvc pipe is meant to sit there. I just forgot to bring it with the rest of the thing, so the pictures don' t show it. I'll try to take a picture with the pvc piece being used this weekend and post it.

author
jnixon (author)2008-06-20

I don't really understand what the arm is for.

author
bumpus (author)2008-06-20

Cool!!, i might make this...hehe i cant wait

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