I built a charcoal BBQ some years ago and I hate how long it takes to fire up. I looked at new gas grills and thought I could just make one myself for a lot less. Here is the basics of how to convert one yourself. This could be applied to any charcoal grill, with a round fire ring a Webber could be converted as well.
This instructable is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be an instructional medium of any type. Nor is it intended to be an authority regarding safety or regulatory issues. It is not intended to be a guide for safety or security. This instructable is designed to introduce current and prospective users of propane to common issues in the use of propane and as an explanation of how propane tanks, LP/NG Gas parts, related appurtenances operate and what their purpose is. Using this site as a guide for diagnosing problems or attempting to fix propane related problems is, under no circumstance whatsoever advised or recommended. Only licensed propane companies and/or LP Gas plumbers are to diagnose and make repairs. This site assumes no liability as it is intended for educational and informational purposes only.
I do not endorse any particular safety procedure or policy but rather endorses the practice of overall safety and common sense regarding all aspects of propane/NG and its properties. This site is not intended for "do it yourself" consumers or as a guide for unlicensed propane plumbing activity. It is published solely as a resource for people seeking information about propane and to better understand the activities that licensed propane companies, installers and plumbers are engaged in.
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Step 1: Parts Needed
For Natural Gas:
1) 3/8 NG hose and a needle valve to adjust the flame size. I use brass 45deg flair fitting for the hose ends and the attachments at the BBQ and house.
2) Fire ring/bar. This is the distribution system that is below the grill for your gas. If you have the ability to weld and make rings you can make your own using a 1/2 weldable (not cast iron) coupler in the center, 5/8 thin wall tubing for the ring and drilling 3/32 holes every 1 1/2". The ring should 1/2 - 1/3 the size of your BBQ container diameter.
Stainless steel will prolong the life of the ring especially during the winter when you forget to cover your BBQ in the first rain. I've heard of people using copper too.
3) BBQ Fittings: A 1/2 NPT brass bulkhead coupler and 1 1/8 lock nut, or a 1/2 weldable steel coupler, Brass1/2 to 1/4 reducer, 1/4 street 90, neddle valve, 45 deg flare (for attaching the hose to)(not used in this build), brass 1/2 NPT nipple (to attach the the ring to the coupler welded to the container)(not used in this build).
4) House Fittings: all brass; 3/4 to 3/8 reducer, 3/8 street 90, 3/8 nipple, 3/8 ball valve, 3/8 to 45 deg flare for attaching hose to BBQ.
1) Regulator/hose 1-30 PSI (not a BBQ regulator, too small) and a needle valve to adjust the flame size. I use brass 45deg flair fitting for the hose ends and the attachment at the BBQ. BBQ propane tank. You will need a venturi if the propane flame is too smoky.
Alt.: Home Depot sells replacement BBQ parts. Buy the reg, hose, burner and install in your charcoal grill.
I've put together an affordable kit of the basic plumbing supplies you'll need to build a fire pit. This kit could be used to build a BBQ as well.
I offer several sizes of rings, stainless upgrades and fully auto systems for high end remote controlled fire pits.
Fire Pit Kit link
Step 2: Make a Hole
1) The fire ring/bar should be 4-8 from the grill. Closer will give you hot spots and farther will even out the heat. I chose 5 so I could have hot spots for the meat and veggies could cook slower on the sides.
2) Locate and mark the hole for the bulkhead fitting on the BBQ, then center punch. Make sure you are center punching with a hard object backing up the other side. if you don't your mark will be too light and you risk just making a big dent. Now using a hole saw on a drill, make a 1 1/8 hole. if you find the bit wandering off center go back and make a better center punch. Stainless steel is very hard and lots of pressure is need to get it started.
Step 3: Add the Plumbing
For this build I use a brass Bulkhead fitting & set nut. It fits snug in the hole and needed no additional sealant or welding. Use a wrench to make sure it's tight. Now thread the fire ring on one side and the 1/2 to 1/4 reducer, 1/4 street 90, needle valve, and 45 deg flare on the other. I used Teflon tape to seal.
Alternates methods of plumbing the gas though the container for thicker materials:
Bolt on flange - great for thick material. Make sure to use a high temp silicon sealer to make sure there are no leaks. see attached photo
Weldable couple r- The best solution, but you must be able to weld.
Now attach the hose/regulator using the 45 deg flare fitting on the end of your hose.
Step 4: Natural Gas Hook Up
When I built my house I made sure to leave a t so I could hook up "other things" later.
!st shut down your gas. Next I removed the plug and replaced it with a ball valve and a 3/8 45 deg flare fitting to attach to the hose.
Now hook up the hose.
Step 5: Propane Hookup
Propane (not used in this build)
Follow the instructions in steps 1-3. In step 3 complete the connection of the bulk head fitting to the fire ring/bar, then attach the Venturi shown below to the bulkhead fitting. A 1/2 F npt to 45 deg flare threads on to the venturi to attach the hose to. The 30 psi Regulator has the needle valve attached to it, but this could also be placed at the BBQ for easy reach to adjust the flame size.
The venturi introduces air to the gas and takes the soot away. The one I sell has an adjustment nut to fine tune to your BBQ.
I used Teflon tape to seal all the NPT fittings.
Step 6: Time to Cook
Zolie suggested we get out the fire hat in case we didn't do it right.
This is a match light set up and a long BBQ lighter is a must. It worked pretty good and is much easier then lighting briquet's.
I like some smoke in my food so I lined the bottom of the grill with several pieces of apple wood. You have to make sure it's not so close to the flame that it burns, but close enough to slowly smoke away. I also have an abundance of thyme that I spread over the grill top that gives me plenty of smoke and flavor.
Additions I might add are:
Push button lighter
thin sheet metal over the flame to spread out the heat more.
Meat to eat.
Link to my Fire kit site.