If your just not happy with a basic Weber or Performer and have a few weekends and couple $$ to spare, come along for a fun ride with wood, metal, tile & brick.
Step 1: Treat the Wood and Assemble the Frame
Before doing anything, I sat down on a sunny Saturday morning and stained all my wood. Waited a good 3-4 days then applied a nice coat of Thompson's Water Seal.
Determining the size of the cook top space will define the frame size. I'm using a full sized 22.5" Weber kettle and needed to keep 4" of clearance and wanted 22" of prep space so the overall cook top dimensions ended up being 48" x 30"
I used 48" (R) & 30" (F) 4"x4" smooth redwood for the uprights and lower ties, 30" (sides) and 48' (F/R) 30" 4"x6" smooth redwood for the top frame & 56" 1"x6" rough redwood for the bottom slats. All help together with 6" x 3/8" lag bolts & washers countersunk 1/2" with a 1.25" wood bit.
Starting with the rear uprights drill pilot holes and begin to assemble the lower side supports, then attach the 1" x 6" slats with 3" wood screws to make the lower base stable enough to stand upright. The upper ties might require help from somebody to hold into place while you drill the pilot holes and screw in the lag bolts. Or use your knee and some angle braces like I did and prepare to be very tired.
Step 2: Build Internal Frame
Since I will be using mosaic tile for the surface I needed to build a frame for the 1/2" plywood and 1/2" Hardi backer tile board. Knowing that the tile is 1/4" I recessed the internal frame (2"x4" plywood) 1.25" below the top of the frame. Using 3" deck screws secure the frame to the table. Remember, keep it LEVEL!
Step 3: Plywood Sub Surface & Heat Shield
Remember, HEAT is woods worst enemy. The cutout in the 1/2" ply is 3.5" larger in diameter than the hole we will cut for the Weber to give it some "breathing room.". Secure into the sub frame with 1" wood screws. Using an 8"x6' roll of 22 ga. aluminum flashing secure it to the inside of the cutout with 1" wood screws, pre-punched into the flashing. Yeah, the flashing I bought was stainless on one side & copper on the other!
Note: If the plywood doesn't fit exactly use a plane or sandpaper to shave down the high spots, then gently tap into the frame using a hammer and piece of wood.
Step 4: Cut the Hardi Backer Tile Board
I wish I had a better picture of the Hardi Backer cut and installation, this pic is is a post install, pre-handle cut trial run of the BBQ with some nice Chimmichuri marinated Flank Steak.
Most important thing to remember, Hardi Backer doesn't like to be cut on a smooth round edge. I could have used a router but opted for my jigsaw equipped with a rough tooth blade. Drill a large enough pilot hole to fit the blade into and start to cut. Expect to burn through two blades and wear breathing protection, concrete dust sucks. Because this cut must be PRECISELY the size of the Weber kettle, measure 5X, cut once and V E R R Y S L O W L Y... It's better to be a bit on the small or snug size than make the cut too large...like I did. But there's a fix for that. Secure onto the wood sub frame & plywood deck with 1" wood screws.
Note: If the section of Hardi backer is too large you can either use a course file, router or metal sanding bit on a drill to shave it down in order to fit into the frame. Gently tap it with a hammer and piece of wood to nudge it into place.
Step 5: Tile & Brick
Time to switch trades and do some tile work. As much as I would have loved to have gone down to my local kitchen & bath store and had them build a nice one piece granite slab table top it was going to be $250-350+ more than tile. That and I like doing tile work.
To keep things clean I used a thin 1/4" trim piece around the entire table. Using both tile cement on the bottom and wood glue on their sides facing the wood. This just made for cleaner grout work in the tile and wood contact area. Lay the tile out over the prep area and cut the tile sheets to make a clean fit. Then arrange the tile sheets around the cutout and cut the tiles to approximate the closest fit to the circle. This is the really tricky part, doing the trim around the kettle but by using tile nippers you can trim/cut the tiles to almost create a perfect circle. A little grinding with a Dremel will finish it off. After that a combination of smoothing tile cement and then grout with your fingers around the inside will create that perfectly smooth fit. Grout & seal.For the black brick backsplash (say that three times fast) measure length of the rear desk and divide by your brick length. I needed to cut a pair of bricks in half to make the fit, a quick way to cut bricks is to set them on a soft surface (rubber mat, towel, etc.) score the brick several times with a large screwdriver and with a series of firm, steady hammer blows begin to chisel all the way down the score until the brick breaks. Spray paint to your desired color. I used a tube of concrete advesive between the bricks and BBQ deck to secure them together.
Step 6: Kettle Handle Cutting, Insulation & Trim Ring Support
Now it's time to void the Weber warranty. pretty simple, use a Dremel or hacksaw and cut off the handles. You will also need to remove the legs as well.
Because the lip of the Weber kettle will now be almost flush with the table top we need to raise it enough so that the lid will fit snugly. Remember how I said earlier measure 5X, cut once...my cut was 1/16" too large. I would have used a section of 1/4" copper tubing secured to the kettle to raise it enough but needed to use 3/8" to properly seal the enclosure as well as elevate the kettle. I flattened the ends of copper, pre-drilled a pair of holes in the kettle and tubing & secured it to the rear of the kettle with a pair of small metal screws. Drill a series of small holes every 6" or so into the copper tubing to allow any excess heat to escape.
To further insulate the kettles heat from the rest of the table I put a double wrap of auto exhaust tape (available at most auto parts stores) around the top of the kettle and tucked them into the copper tubing to secure.
Step 7: Lid & Towell Rack & Finishing Touches
Most newer Webers come with a nice little hook inside the lid which is meant to hang on the side of the kettle. I needed to recreate this and quickly realized that most every towel rack, toilet paper holder, etc. are only 3" deep and to make this work you'll need a minimum of 4.5" It just so happened that I had a pair of 6" "L" brackets, some spare 1/4" smooth steel rod and some compression caps in my garage. A pair of leftover 3/8" lag bolts & washers secured it to the sides. Otherwise, feel free to improvise!
From here it's all personal taste. I firmly believe that every BBQ requires utensils needed for a proper cookout. Also BBQing makes you thirsty, so a properly placed bottle opener and cap-catcher/utility pail is key. And come to think of it..who likes silver/stainless steel? I don't. So I painted anything that isn't wood, tile or a BBQ black. Finally, the cheap stainless steel BBQ grate that Weber gives you, just doesn't quite cut it for something like this. Google "cast iron Weber grate", or just check these guys out, http://www.cast-iron-grate.com, give them your credit card and install something of substance!
Step 8: All Because of This...
Three years ago I saw THIS on the internet. It seemed cool but I had a nice gas BBQ at the time, and who wanted to go through all that work just for a nice grilled steak?
So I took some liberties with the accessories, color scheme and black bricks. In any case the whole project took three full weekends with a few spare hours here & there and the cost breakdown is something like this.
Weber BBQ - $165
All wood & cement board - $205
Tile supplies, tools & accessories - $225
Bricks - $FREE!!!
Miscellaneous parts, tools etc. - $175
TOTAL - $770
Step 9: Tools & Materials You Will Need
Hack saw (or Dremel, if you have one)
Socket wrench set
Assorted clamps, vice, etc.
Short & long level
Wood stain/sealer & brushes
3/8" tile spade
Grout trowl & sponges