Us Brits do love a barbecue! Rain or shine, when the summer is officially here, we get out there with our tongs and burn a banger or two. But for some, it’s become a bit of an art form. And surely the pinnacle of barbecue prowess is to have your own brick BBQ?

As far as DIY building projects go, this is a good one to start with. So we’ve given a few tips below to help you build your own brick BBQ.

To build a brick BBQ you will need:

  • A barbecue grill kit
  • Bricks
  • Fast-drying cement
  • A board/base for holding your cement
  • Mortar
  • Trowel
  • Spirit level
  • Chisel/wet saw to cut bricks
  • Paving slab (optional for table top)

Step 1) Pick a suitable location

This will depend on your garden, but things to think about include:

  • How close you are to the house – close enough to fetch food, not so close all the smoke blows inside
  • How close you are to a seating area – nice to chat to your guests whilst you cook, but you don’t want to cook them!
  • How close you are to sheds, fences and other flammable items – give them a bit of space
  • The route to your BBQ – do you have a path, or stepping stones to save you wearing away your grass as you walk backwards and forwards
  • Where is going to get the sun/shade – depending on the time of day you’re likely to be cooking and whether you’re a sun-worshipper or not!
  • The prevailing wind direction – it’s nice to avoid sending smoke all over your neighbour’s washing if you can help it!

Step 2) Build your base

Use the metal grill from your grill kit as a guide to determine the rough size of your barbecue. Remember to account for the thickness of the walls – walls one brick thick should be fine. It’s also sensible to think at this time about the space you’ll need to stand in front of the BBQ to cook at it and ensure you base is large enough to accommodate you as well.

If you’re feeling fancy, you might want to allow space for a small preparation area next to your barbecue. Simply extend the back wall further and add another adjacent wall to a size that will support a paving slab, so your overall base is an E shape with the central wall supporting both the BBQ and the table.

If you don’t already have an area of sturdy patio suitable for building on, you’ll have to lay some slabs or pour a concrete base.

If you’re pouring a base, clear any grass and debris away and dig to a depth of around 250mm. Compact the ground. Mix fast-drying cement (look on the bag for instructions) and pour in your space until the hole is filled to ground level. Allow the cement to dry for 24-28 hours. 

Step 3) Lay out the profile

Lay your bricks on the ground around your grill, without using mortar, to confirm the size and position of your BBQ. Lay the bricks end to end around the outside of your concrete slab, leaving a 10mm gap between each brick to allow for the mortar. Mark the outline of the bricks to use as a guide.

Step 4) Prepare your materials

It’s a good idea to hose down your bricks about 30 minutes before you’re going to use them to prevent them soaking up excess moisture from your mortar.

Follow the on-pack instructions to mix your mortar.

Step 5) Lay your first course

Trowel a generous layer of mortar along the line you marked on your concrete base where the bricks will sit. Lay the first brick by pressing it gently into the mortar. It’s a good idea to start in one of the corners. “Butter” the end of the next brick before butting it against the first and pressing into the mortar, and continue with the next brick. Scrape up any excess mortar as you go to keep things neat.

Once you’ve completed the first course (remember to leave the front open!), check that it is square and level, and has space for your grill. You can adjust any bricks by using your trowel handle to tap them into place. 

Step 6) Build up your layers

Apply a layer of mortar to the top of the previous course and lay the next layer of bricks by pressing gently into the mortar, making sure to stagger the joints. You may need to cut some bricks using a cold chisel or wet saw to make it fit properly. Use your spirit level to keep checking that your BBQ is square as you build.

Continue layering until you reach the height you want the tray for your charcoal. For most people this will be between seven and nine brick courses.

At this height, you will need to turn some of the bricks so they jut out into the barbecue. These will serve as the ledge to support your grate. You will need to use the same method to create a ledge for your grill. You may want to do this for several alternate layers so you have a few different heights for cooking at various heat intensities.

Make sure the top course is laid with solid bricks. You could add some ornamental coping stones if you really want to look posh. If you are incorporating a side table, you can either use the same method of jutting bricks to create a ledge for your slab, or simply cement your paving slab to the top of your walls to the side of the main BBQ.

Step 7) Finishing touches

To create a professional finish, use a jointer on the mortar before it’s set to create the familiar concave joints. Once it’s almost dry, use a stiff brush to remove any remaining bits of stray mortar.

Allow everything to dry for at least 48 hours before cooking anything. If rain is expected, cover your BBQ whilst it’s drying to prevent mortar being washed out of the joints.

Bring on the burgers!