Easily build your own grill island with steel hardware. Our step-by-step guide will show you everything you need to know to plan, survey and set up your outdoor metal frame. Tracks, dimensions and construction techniques for the best lattice structure.
If you’ve temporarily felt like you’ve outgrown your existing indoor setup or outdoor grill kitchen, then planning your own outdoor grill might be the way to go.
Rather than shelling out thousands of dollars for outside help, you might consider the idea of doing it yourself and bringing your own DIY BBQ island ideas to life.
However, this is not as crazy as it sounds. Steel posts have helped thousands of grilling enthusiasts build their own custom structures. These act as easy-to-assemble frames to build your island’s skeleton and are easily purchased from physical stores and online retailers.
Planning and measurements
Not preparing and preparing to fail. Before you get carried away buying your parts or even fantasizing about your dream built-in grill , you need to plan your new setup properly.
This includes measuring the exact dimensions of your grilling area and what you plan to include in your grill. This can be additional features such as a sink, cabinets or drawers. Once you’ve decided on this, you should be able to get an idea of how much space you’ll need.
Many hardware stores and retailers provide complete measurement guides for all of their products, giving YOU the exact measurements you need.
Here are some amazing examples of BBQ island plans to help you get an idea of what to expect.
Whatever you decide, be sure to double and triple check your measurements. It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to find bugs at this stage, rather than discovering them when you’re done quickly.
Tools for the grill island
Many tools for this project will be similar to all others: for example spirit levels, hammer drill, screwdriver. However, there are some that are more specialized and specific to installing steel studs.
Steel bolts and rails
The main body of your structure consists of two key components: the cleats and the rails.
Although they have a different structure, it’s easiest to imagine that the tracks mainly make up the horizontal elements of the structure(they “track” along the ground), while the lugs work mainly vertically. .
You need to plan clearly for both to ensure you’re getting the right amount of each. Too few and your build will be weak, too many and it’s an indispensable cost.
As a rule of thumb, many people try to use 1 stud for every 12 inches of horizontal framing. This works well to form the walls of your island structure and helps provide good cover.
The most popular bolt shape is 25 gauge and is available at most good hardware or online retailers. They can be supplied individually or as part of a pre-made kit.
Lay composite panels
Using your plan as a guide, use a composite panel to shape the shape of your island. This has the practical benefit of guiding YOU through the build, but it also helps keep your entire structure level and stable and reduces damage to a metal frame.
Set the rails
Now it’s time to build.
The construction of our island begins with the lower tracks. The lower rails are larger than the main steel posts and can support a lot of weight, so they are perfect for forming the foundation of our island and providing a solid foundation on which to build the rest.
Lay the rails along the perimeter of the link to form the bottom of the frame. For the sides of your island, overlap the rails by about 6 inches. This should ensure your island remains stable.
You can connect your rails to the composite panels without drilling holes at each corner of the rails. Many cleat and rail kits come with holes for easy attachment, but if purchased separately, YOU may have to drill these holes yourself.
Level or plumb the first track
Proper adjustment of the lower rails will determine the success(or failure!) of the rest of the island. Also, take the time to make sure they’re straight and level once they’re in place.
You can use either a plumb bob, a laser level or a simple spirit level. If you’re looking to buy one of these, I highly recommend a laser level. They tend to be easier to use and much more efficient.
If you find that a spot on your bottom rail is uneven, you may need to clamp one end more tightly to the composite board.
Attach the dowels to the rails
Now it’s time to build vertically. The best approach here is to go section by section. So focus on one end of your frame to start installing cleats.
Insert your first stud into the rail, first orienting it so that the hole shape on its face is facing down. Position the end of the bolt on the rail so the edges of both are perpendicular.
Rotate the pin 90 degrees to fit the track with the pin face out and the tabs in. This should form a corner.
Use your C-clamps to hold the bolt in place and use your spirit level to make sure the bolt is straight vertically. Screw and lock the stud to form a corner with your track. Once you’ve bolted both sides and checked that the bolts are secure, remove the C-clamps. Repeat the process for the bolt on the other end of the rail.
Attached to the top rail
Now that we have the bottom and side pieces of our frame, we can attach the top rail. Twist the ends of the rivets very slightly to fit between the rail supports. Position the rail so that it forms a perfect corner on each side.
Use your C-clamp to clamp the rail onto the stud at one end. Be sure to use a spirit level or laser level before clamping on the other side to ensure the top rail is level. If not, you may need to readjust it on the loose end.
Once it IS straight, use your tape measure to compare the lengths of the bottom of the frame to the top. If there is a difference, YOU will need to readjust the way the bolts attach to the top rail.
After making sure the top rail is level and the top of the frame matches the length of the bottom, YOU use the C-Clamps to secure the other end of the rail. Screw in all four corners of the rail with your drill.
Watch out for your smallest rivets.
To give our island more structure and stability, we need to add an extra bolt to the frame. We do this with our absolute stud.
Using your tape measure, measure exactly half the horizontal distance across the frame and mark it. Do this for the bottom and top tracks. Simply insert your stud at an angle to fit between runway brides, then twist to hold in place. Line it up with your marks and secure with your clamps and drill to secure.
Build the structure
Now that you’ve completed the first part of the post frame, you can start building the rest. Make sure to do this carefully piece by piece, and always check that your island is level with a bubble level or laser level.
Configure the electrical cables
Feed the cables through the screw holes/drilled holes. It is recommended to line the holes with plastic bushings or cable ties. This will prevent the cables from being damaged by the sharp edges of the holes, especially if the cables rub against the edges.
Install panels and counters.
Ideally, you’d use concrete for this, but if you need something cheaper, plywood or wood paneling are also good options. Just keep in mind that they are not as weather resistant as concrete.