Building my BBQ Shack

 

For the longest time, I’ve been cooking in the good old Northern Ireland elements, with no real space to prepare food and cook. I had an old table that I used to set my ingredients on whilst I cooked but it was less than ideal. So enough was enough… it was high time I built a BBQ shack – somewhere that would shelter me while I cook in the winter months. Who am I kidding… it will shelter me in the summer months too.

So the big question was… what did I want the shack to be? Planning for something like this was crucial. I didn’t want to finish the shack and think… aw I wish I had done this differently. So here are some of the things I wanted:

1. It should have enough room to have 2 BBQ’s going at the same time. I have 7 BBQ’s but a shack to hold them all would be ridiculous. As long as there was somewhere to have two going at the same time.. I’d be golden.

2. Storage for the majority of my BBQ accessories. I was certain I’d need to move the shed that held all my BBQ accessories to fit the BBQ shack in so it was important that there was somewhere to store everything including charcoal, tools and other accessories.

3. Workspace… and lots of it! I wanted a decent sized work surface to prep food on. I was sick of prepping everything in the house and carrying it out to the BBQ. I’ve always enjoyed putting some music on and prepping while the coals lit up so this one was a must!

4. A set for my videos. This isn’t one that most of you will need to worry about but I wanted somewhere to shoot the videos for my channel. I had to setup the BBQ’s for every video and frankly.. it all looked a little janky so I wanted a space that could grow with the channel and be a backdrop for the videos.

5. It had to be light. I knew from the start that I wanted a clear roof or it would be too dark for photos and videos. I didn’t want to rely on artificial lighting so daylight was essential.

So as long as the BBQ shack ticked all those boxes… it’d be perfect! How hard could it be…

Location

So first and foremost, I had to decide where I was going to build the BBQ shack in the yard. Luckily ( or not so luckily) my yard is quite small so my options were limited. I had to move the shed to the side of the house to open up the yard. The best place for the BBQ shack was in the corner of the yard where the shed was but I rotated it 90 degrees to give me a better space in front of the shack for our garden furniture.

Yard before the BBQ Shack build started
My backyard before the work started
Area cleared for BBQ Shack
Shed removed from yard leaving a clear area for the shack

There were some old paving slabs under the shed that would need replaced to match the rest of the yard but apart from that, I was ready start building the frame

The Main Shack

The Frame

The BBQ shack is a timber frame structure. The front left upright is a 4×4 treated fence post which is concreted into the ground. The other 3 uprights are 4×2 treated timber which are attached to the existing fence and wall using thunderbolts. The overall footprint of the shack is 2.4m by 1.8m. I played around with different sizes and this is what I settled on. It was enough to allow a good sized work bench plus space for my BBQ’s – but it also didn’t take over the entire yard. 

The roof has a clearance at the front of 2.1m sloping to 1.8m at the back of the BBQ shack where the work bench is. The framing is 4×2 treated timber with 3×2 treated cross supports. Once the uprights and roof framing was in place, it was all sanded down to 120 grit sandpaper then painted with 2 coats of exterior paint to preserve it. All the woodwork for the BBQ shack is painted with masonry paint rather than timber paint. It’s a tip I picked up from a painter a few years back and timber stains etc are a real pain to use and also to get a good coverage with. Masonry paints are much easier to apply, they come in a wider variety of colours and still give a high level of protection.

The basic frame of the BBQ Shack
The basic frame of the shack, painted and ready for the roof.
Paving fixed in the BBQ Shack
Paving fixed and fence painted… ready for the roof

The roofing

Next up was to finally add the roofing to make the BBQ shack weather proof. As I wanted the roof to be clear, I only had two feasible options – I didn’t consider glass to be feasible as it would be expensive and I would most likely put a hammer through it trying to install it. The options were corrugated perspex roofing or polycarbonate roofing which is flat sheeting that has an air gap in the middle. I ultimately decided on the polycarbonate roofing for the following reasons:

  1. Good quality corrugated perspex is expensive – especially the completely clear sheets that do not have a blue tinge to them which would cast a colour in my videos.
  2. The polycarbonate sheeting has an air gap between the two layers which will help with condensation in the winter months. Condensation drips down the back of my neck in the winter wasn’t an inviting thought.
  3. The flat sheets of polycarbonate just look better than the corrugated sheeting. It’s also much easier to install and doesn’t cast any kind of shadow unlike the bumps in the corrugated sheeting.

So the sheets I decided on were 2.4m x 1m sheets of 10mm clear polycarbonate from B&Q. You can buy all the fixings and joiner rails from here too. The sheets were trimmed to size to leave an overhang at the back of the BBQ shack to let water run off. Once they were in place, I added a 6 inch fascia board around the sides to hide the edges of the sheeting.

Polycarbonate roofing on the BBQ Shack
Polycarbonate sheeting installed on roof

Cladding

As you can see from the photos, the two closed in sides of the BBQ shack were horrible and they didn’t go all the way to the roof. In order to stop rain blowing in I had to fill in the gaps above the wall and fence but more importantly, I couldn’t look at that wall every day so I decided to clad both the wall and the fence from floor to roof… but what to use?

My initial thought was to use 6 inch fence boards mounted vertically to the wall and fence which would look good but they wouldn’t really add any character to the shack. I then had the idea of using old pallets to clad the walls. Pallets seem to be used for everything these days and I was able to get my hands on enough to do what I needed. The different wood sizes / colours would give it a rustic look but combined with the charcoal grey frame it would almost look industrial so the decision was made.

For any of you reading this thinking that pallets are the easy, cheap option – you might want to think again. They are certainly cheap – free if you look in the right places but they are far from easy. Stripping the boards off the pallets is a frustrating and time consuming task. I used this medieval looking contraption which was designed for this specific purpose and it was still hard work.

The tool I used to take the pallets apart
Stripping the pallet boards

If you are working our how many pallets you think you will need, take that final number and double it… if not triple! Depending on what pallets you use.. 20-30% of the boards on every pallet with crack or split rendering them unusable. Out of the 70-80% of boards remaining, only 50-60% of them might be straight enough to use. These figures are for good pallets and considering you only get about 10 boards off each pallet – it’s a long process. I was only getting 2-3 usable boards off some pallets which was a nightmare! Overall it took about 35 pallets to get the 150 or so boards I needed to finish the cladding and benches.

Once you have the boards off, you will need to de-nail them. I wanted to leave the nail heads in the boards as I felt it added to the character so I opted for cutting them at the backs of the boards. Smaller nails cut with a set of snips but any heavier nails had to be cut with a grinder.

I mounted some 1 inch batons to the wall and fence then set about cutting each pallet board to size. You could sand them before mounting them to the batons but I wanted them to look a little rough and ready so I left all the gnarly bits on. I pre-drilled pilot holes in each board and counter sunk the screw heads. This gave a tidier finish but also avoided the wood from splitting. I worked hard for those boards so I didn’t want to waste a single one haha. All in all it took me about 3 days to finish the cladding. I’m sure I could’ve cut corners to make it a little easier but I’m glad I didn’t. Using screws in place of panel pins held the boards more securely and has so far avoided any warping etc. For a grand total of £0, I’m over the moon with how it looks – the only cost to me was blood, sweat and tears… lots of tears!

So that was the main structure of the BBQ shack completed! It was now time to decide how I was going to fill it.

Working on the cladding for the BBQ shack
Back wall of cladding finished and working my way down the side

Workspace and Storage

The main work bench

As I mentioned above, one of the key things for me was to have a workbench to prepare food on. It would also be the main feature of the BBQ shack so it was the first thing I wanted to work on. I looked at a few different option to buy but nothing really fitted the way I wanted it to or it was too expensive so that only left one option… I was going to have to build something myself.

In preparation for the BBQ shack build, I had been gathering up off cuts of wood etc that I could use for framing / shelving etc so I set about weeding through the pile to look for usable wood. I had 4x 3 inch posts that would be perfect for legs and plenty of 3×2 and 4×2 lengths. I was sure I could put something together so I came up with a rough design. 

Storage was key so the original plan was to make a unit with two large cupboards at the bottom and two drawers but as I started to put the frame together I realised that the cupboards weren’t necessary and I would actually have more storage space with a shelf. So the plan was to make a bottom shelf that would hold my charcoal in plastic storage tubs. These are sealed tubs so they will keep my fuel / wood chunks dry. I would then have 2 large drawers at the top of the unit to hold my tools / probes etc

Building the unit was a lot of trial and error. I’m not a carpenter by any stretch of the imagination – I had a picture in my head of how I wanted the finished bench to look so I just started screwing bits of wood together until it started to resemble what was in my mind.

Here are the final dimensions of the frame:

Main Frame

Length: 160cm
Depth: 38cm
Height: 86cm

Drawers

Length: 70cm
Depth: 36cm
Height: 15cm

Bottom Shelf

Length: 145cm
Depth: 37cm
Mounted 5cm up from bottom of legs.

The entire frame was sanded and painted with the same paint used for the shack frame with the exception of the drawer fronts. I bought some stainless steel handles from IKEA to fit the drawers however I may end up changing these as they’re a little too light for the weight of the drawers.

Working on the main bench for the BBQ Shack
The basic frame for the bench before the drawers and bottom shelf were finished

Now the frame was finished I had to decide what I wanted as a work surface. My first thought was to use some heavy duty exterior plywood but it didn’t fit the look I was going for. In my mind, I had visions of a nice, chunky, solid wood worktop. If you haven’t noticed already, there’s a common theme running throughout this build. I had a tight budget to work with and a specific look I wanted which meant I had to get creative. This was definitely a scrapheap challenge at times but there is always a way.. you just have to spend a bit more time thinking about it.

If the pallets for the cladding were my first light bulb moment of this build then scaffolding boards were my second.

I priced buying new scaffolding boards and they were reasonable. I was able to get them for around £10 each from a local builders yard however they were a little too new looking so I asked if they had any old, used ones they would be willing to sell.

I’m glad I asked as they had some old boards that they couldn’t use any more as the ends had started to rot. I knew this didn’t matter to me as I was cutting the ends to size anyway. I asked how much they wanted for them and he said I could have them!! Result!

So the worktop is made up of 2 scaffolding boards fixed together with pocket screws. I pressure washed them to get all the dirt and grime off then sanded them – starting with an 80 grit sand paper and working my way down to 320 grit. As you can see from the photos, the boards are dinged up and have chunks missing but this is exactly what I wanted. I gave the boards 2 coats of oil to darken them slightly so they matched the pallet board cladding. The final dimensions of the work top are 167cm long by 44cm deep.

The finished bench in the BBQ shack ready for paint
Scaffolding boards cut to size and mounted to the bench

I have to say I’m really happy with how the bench turned out. It’s the perfect size for the shack, it’s solid and as the main feature it looks great! The only things I had to buy for the it were the drawer handles (£7 each) and the oil for the work tops (£15) – everything else was made from off-cuts of wood I had gathered up. I would’ve struggled to buy a similar bench for less that £200 so all in all, I’m happy!

The finished bench for the BBq Shack
The finished workbench with storage boxes for charcoal etc

The front work bench

I still needed more storage so I decided to make a smaller bench to sit at the front of the shack. Commence scrap heap challenge number 2!

The frame for this smaller bench was an old garden table I used to set things on in my old BBQ area. I removed the table top and boxed in 3 sides of it using pallet boards. The frame was painted with the same grey paint from the shack frame. I made a work top using the same scaffolding boards from the main work bench and presto – it gave me a handy little work bench with storage for my chimney starters and smaller BBQ’s etc.

The table frame to make the smaller bench in the BBQ Shack
Old table frame with table top removed
The completed second bench for the BBQ shack
Finished workbench with sides enclosed and worktop installed

Shelving

The last bit of storage to sort out was shelving on the walls. This would give me somewhere to keep jars of rub, tools, chopping boards and any other random bits and bobs I had. I made up some brackets using 3 x 1 1/2 inch timber and painted them grey. Then cut the shelves from the remaining scaffolding boards I had. Finally I mounted a rail under one of the shelves to hang tool hooks from so they were always to hand when I needed them.

Shelving in the BBQ Shack
larger shelf along side wall of the shack
Shelving in the BBQ Shack
Two smaller shelves above main work bench

As I use the shack more I will learn what additional storage I need. There is still plenty of wall space for more shelving / hanging storage.

Lighting and Electrics

The next thing to sort out was power and lighting.

DISCLAIMER: I carried out all the electrical work myself however I do not recommend you do this unless you are 100% certain you know what you are doing. You’ve put all this effort into building a new shack so don’t go blowing yourself up before you ever get a chance to use it!

I already had mains power run to the backyard so it was just a case of modifying the existing cabling to suit my needs. I wired in a double exterior socket to give me power in the BBQ shack for rotisseries etc.

I was a little unsure on what lighting to choose. In the end I opted for 2x spotlights that I hardwired into a switch beside the socket. I have wired them through a junction box so I can re-visit lighting at a later stage as I’m sure I’ll want to add more to it. The two spotlights cover the main work area but there’s room for more to light the entire shack.

Lighting for the BBQ shack
Two spotlights mounted above the work area
Power in the BBQ Shack
Double socket and light switch installed at the workbench

The Sign

The crowning glory of the BBQ shack is the ‘Barbechoo’ sign. Now this isn’t something that everyone will need or even want but as this is also a set for my videos I wanted my logo in there somewhere. Once again, I didn’t want to order something and just hang it up. I had built the entire shack with my own hands so I wasn’t going to change that now.

I’m not sure where the design came from.. I suppose it was easy to make from wood and it fitted the look of the shack. The boards were cut and fixed together using batons at the back. I used the same grey paint used for the shack framework however it was watered down to turn it into a wash. I bought tester pots of teal and orange paint for the coloured strips.

Once all the paint was dry, I sketched on my logo (as best I could) and painted it in. All in all I think it looks pretty cool but we’ll call it version one. I’d love to get the text cut out of wood properly and mounted to the back board or I might turn my hand to some pyrography (make sure you read that properly!! haha) and burn the letters into the wood but that can wait.

My handmade sign in the BBQ Shack
Finished sign mounted on the wall

The Finished BBQ Shack

The Finished BBQ Shack
The finished BBQ shack

So there it is… I won’t say it’s the finished BBQ shack as I’m not sure a BBQ shack is ever really finished but it’s up and running and I’m happy with how it’s looking. Over time I’ll add bits an pieces to it but for now I’m just enjoying cooking out of the elements. It’s already made a difference and I’m glad I decided to build it. The plan now is to get some cool BBQ related props for the shelves and add some more lighting. 

In episode 01 of the vlog on my channel I showed you around the BBQ shack. I’ve added it below if you want to check it out

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