Build a Grill House
Anyone who loves to BBQ, and lives in Canada, knows how short the season is. This project solves our cold weather problem and opens a host of entertaining opportunities.
While at my local spa dealer getting supplies for my hot tub, I noticed a building in the show room. Curiosity got the better of me and I discovered it was a grill house. They’re manufactured in Europe and sold here as a pre-fab kit. I immediately fell in love with the idea, but realized what they were offering was too small for my family needs. My solution was to design and build my own. What I ended up with was a great structure to spend some quality family time in. All told, the project totalled about $5000.
Before tackling this project I would strongly recommend you speak with your insurance provider. Though the grill I made is very safe, and my insurance company had absolutely no problems with this structure, you sure don’t want to get any surprises once the grill house is complete.
The entryway not only helps keep weather out, but it also welcomes visitors on their arrival. (Photo by Greg Fox)
The door keeps most of the wind out, and offers some insulation value. The grill in the interior adds a lot of warmth. A window in the door is a nice addition.
In the top half of this image is the inner trim piece that Golka used to cover the mating rafters. Below the trim piece is the angled bracket used for strengthening the corners, where the top plates meet.
Take a Load Off
Simple seats around the perimeter of the grill house are easy to make. Golka secured the supports at an angle so there was more foot room.
The windows are operable, though they generally stay closed during the winter. Like the doors, they aren’t exceptionally efficient, but they work well enough for this grill house.
Unless you’re an experienced metalworker you will want to hire a professional for this part of the build. Removable wood trays surround the grill.
I have become reasonably proficient with Sketchup through modeling my woodworking projects so it seemed like the logical choice. It’s possible to use pencil and paper, but you might eventually get fed up with all those eraser shavings. I really liked the look of the log-surfaced exterior wall the kit was offering, but knew this material wouldn’t be easy to source, so I opted for a framed and sheeted wall. I do segmented turning as a hobby so I’m comfortable with angles. I settled on an octagonal shape. If you’re confident in your engineering and construction skills you can adjust the overall shape of this project to look different, and possibly fit your lot better. After modelling the entire project in 3D it was time to start building.
Work from the ground, upwards
A good foundation is key to any build of this type. I chose pressure treated 4×4s for the outer ring and pressure treated 2×4s for the spider-web inner support. Patio stones were levelled around the perimeter, at the corners, and sand was used to assist with drainage. Once framed out, the floor was sheeted with 3/4″ spruce plywood. The walls are pretty straightforward; 2×6 bottom plate, 2×8 top plate and ripped 2×4s in half for simple stud walls. You could use full 2×4s for the studs, but I found once the 3/4″ pine was attached to both inner, and outer, face of the wall, having narrower studs worked a well with the bottom plate. The top plate gets an angled groove machined into the outside edge to receive the roof frames. The ends of each wall require the plates and studs to be mitered or beveled at 22.5°, so the sides of the octagon fit together nicely. By tilting your table saw blade to 22.5° and ripping a 2×4 down the center, you get both right and left bevelled pieces. This being a prototype build, I framed up all the wall sections before installing them. If I were to do another I would sheet the outside first. The wall panels were set on the 4×4 foundation and temporarily fastened with 3-1/2″ long wood screws. I used a couple of ratchet straps placed around the outside of the wall panels to draw them into one another. Measurements were taken at the diagonals of each corner and adjustments made to bring the walls into final alignment. I used the same 3-1/2″ long screw through the mitred 2×4s at each corner and bottom plates. Small, angled brackets cut from 2×6s were installed at each corner.
Sheeting the walls
The knotty pine was mitered at 22.5° on each end to achieve a tight fit at the corners. This is probably not necessary as the corners are covered with a trim board. The tongue and groove knotty pine boards are installed groove-down, working from the bottom. Once the walls are sheeted trim boards are mitred at 22.5° and fitted vertically at each corner. The top plate is supported with a gusset at each end. The gussets are cut from 2×6s and screwed into place through the wall boards and trim.
The roof panel frames are made from 2×4s. Just as with the walls, the outer stud on each side needs to be bevelled. The difference is that these corners are formed by compound mitres. By setting the saw blade to 15.5° you get both left and right again. These angles, coupled with the angle of the 2×4s at the top and bottom, form the compound angle required. Cross bracing was installed to stiffen the frames. For the same reasons as the walls, I chose to erect the roof frames unsheeted. The bottom edge of each frame was set into the groove in the top wall plate and tilted up. A 2×4 was positioned to temporarily support the frame, and screws were put through the 2×4 that sat in the groove into the wall plate. All roof frames were erected this way, working around the building and making any necessary adjustment to achieve a tight fit at the corners. Screws through the mitred corners at several locations on each frame, and into the wall plates, secure the roof.
Plywood eave panels were cut and installed at the lower edges of the roof frames. The roof was then sheeted with the same knotty pine 1x6s.
I had left the top wall plate spanning the door opening in place. This made this wall section rigid until the roof was installed. After trimming the top plate flush with the doorway studs, side walls laminated from 2×6s were installed. Be sure the material is fairly dry before gluing and sizing it. I used 3/4″ plywood to form the peaked entryway roof. I installed 2×2s and sheeted the entry with the knotty pine. Because summer was waning I decided to shingle the building at this stage. I used IKO Architectural shingles. The roof pitch is quite steep so great care must be taken. Use scaffolding so as not to over-reach.
I made the door from a lamination of eight 2×4s. I used a pocket hole drill jig to drill holes part way through the 2×4s so I could screw as well as glue them together. Again, ensure the 2×4s are fairly dry before using them here. The window opening in the door was cut into the core after it was glued up. I had a local glazier make up the glass for my windows. They were made from two 1/8″ thick panes and a 1/4″ spacer to produce a 1/2″ thick dual pane window. The window in the door is a hexagon shape. I cut the hole 1/2″ smaller than the glass all around and routed a dado into the edge of the opening to accept the glass. A framework made up of 2″ wide boards was brad-nailed over the glass to sandwich it in place on the door.
After measuring the finished door, and subtracting from the opening, I cut equal width strips of 2×4s to center the door and leave a 1/8″ gap all around. With the jamb and door installed I cut strips of knotty pine that would cover the sides of the 2×6 entry wall and jamb and protrude 1/2″ into the opening. This formed a stop for the door as well as a sealing surface. The hinges were dadoed into the door and jamb, the door hung, and the latch set installed.
The interior walls were covered with knotty pine much the same way as the outside. To trim out the wall corners I tilted the blade on my table saw 24° and ran a 3″ wide x 3/4″ thick spruce board on edge through both ways to form a pie-shaped profile. This was fit into each corner and nailed in place with brads. I used 10 ft. long 1×4 spruce boards to cap the joints where the roof panels met. Until this point I hadn’t decided on a floor covering. Since I had enough knotty pine left, and my wife gave her blessing, I went for it. Ceramic tile was used to create an octagon pad in the center of the room under the grill. It was necessary to shim the tile with 1/2″ plywood to bring it to the same height as the 3/4″ thick knotty pine. The plywood base and knotty pine boards brought the floor to the same elevation as the 2×6 wall plates, which make sweeping out the grill house a breeze – just open the door and out it goes. No dust pan required.
Ample seating area is created with benches placed around the walls. I used 2×6 spruce for these. Supports were made by creating triangular shapes from three pieces of 2×4. These were fastened to the wall via screws. If you use vertical supports you will likely find them interfering with your feet while the grill house is in use. Three sections of 2×6, mitered at 22.5° at each end and spaced with 1/2″ gaps, screwed to the supports form the bench section. I repeated this on all but the entry walls. My wife covered 2″ thick foam cut to match the pie-shaped bench section with cloth material. This completed the seating. The covers are removable for cleaning.
My plan called for awning style windows in four of the walls. Having gone this far on the do-it-yourself path, I figured “why not?” Using spruce material I made the outer frames with half lap joints at the corners. These were made to fit flush with the 3″ thick walls. I also made 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ inner frames, with mitred corners, from spruce lumber. Similar to the door, a dado was cut on the inside edge of this frame to accept the glass. A 2″ wide frame cut from the knotty pine was used to hold the glass in the dado.
The grill itself was the final major task of this build. I had a local shop make up the smoke hood and two funnel-shaped weather guards from 22-gauge galvanized sheet metal. Being a welder by trade, I tackled the rest myself. The firebox was created by welding stainless steel sections around an octagon base plate of the same material. The base plate was perforated with 1/4″ holes to allow air in and ash out. The rest of the construction was from carbon steel material. Flattened expanded metal was used for the screen and grilling surfaces. The skirting was bent from 16-gauge sheet metal. All other material was purchased at a local hardware store: angle iron, round bar and flat bar. The 12″ diameter flue was made by joining two sections of 6″ dia. black stove pipe. These sections are available at most hardware stores and, after flattening, somewhat snap together. There are eight removable table trays positioned around the grill. These were made by gluing two knotty pine boards together and screwing two 3/4″ angle iron clips to the underside of each.
I keep a fire extinguisher nearby at all times, but thankfully have never had to use it. Better safe than sorry though. And the last bit of advice I have regarding the fire is to never leave it unattended.
The finish used on the outside was Olympic Natural Cedar stain. The total time for this project was in the neighbourhood of 150 man-hours. This was a great little project to enhance both the backyard and our social life. The grill house has already been the setting for many family gatherings as well as a place to enjoy the company of friends with a glass of wine all while sitting around campfire. If you’ve never BBQed over a wood fire you have to try it. The flavour is incredible, especially if you throw a few chunks of mesquite on the fire.
Mike Golka - [email protected]
Mike is a construction superintendent with a passion for segmented wood turning. With the addition of this grill house, his shop is no longer the only place to find him.