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Built in Grill DIY: Good Idea or Not? Expert Advice & 5 Ideas

By Jayme Muller

October 30, 2023

If you’ve got a freestanding grill that you’re particularly attached to…

You might be wondering how to incorporate it into an outdoor kitchen.

You already have a grill you love… So why spend the extra cash on a brand-new grill?

Seems logical.

But is it actually the best decision?

That’s what we’re here to parse out.

Because the reality is… A built in grill DIY project isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem.

built in grill DIY featured image

And being outdoor kitchen experts… We know all too well how complex the topic can be.

We’ve designed thousands (and installed hundreds) of custom outdoor kitchens.

Over the years… We’ve gained an intimate knowledge of how exactly a grill should be designed and installed into a BBQ island.

So with this experience in mind… Let’s get to it, shall we?

Quicklinks:

Not All Grills are Built-In

grill cart with side burner

First, we have to clarify some terms.

You’re interested in a built in grill DIY, right?

Well, not all grills actually meet the definition of “built-in”.

It’s sort of like how all squares are rectangles… But not all rectangles are squares.

All grills are, well, grills... But again, not all of them qualify as being truly built in.

So what’s the difference?

It really comes down to design.

Freestanding grills (like a Weber or Nexgrill) are designed to be on a cart. They are not meant to be modified or placed inside of a grill station.

In other words… This is the type of grill you own and are familiar with.

Whereas, built in grills are specifically designed to be installed into an island structure.

We know, this explanation seems way too obvious… But it’s true.

And understanding why these two types of grills exist is crucial.

So let’s get into some of the differences… And why a freestanding grill should never be fully built into an outdoor kitchen structure.

Ventilation is a Problem

Safety is the number one reason why you need a fully-fledged built-in grill for your outdoor kitchen.

Freestanding and built-in grills are not designed to ventilate in the same way.

Because a built-in grill will be surrounded by the island structure… Ventilation has to be designed in such a way that the structure will not obstruct airflow.

Naturally, freestanding grills don’t account for this… Because they’re not meant to be enclosed.

So, what’s the risk if you don’t heed this advice?

Well… You’re setting yourself up for the risk of a BBQ island fire, or even an explosion.

Excessive heat buildup can easily cause combustible materials to spark a flame… And unventilated gas buildup is just as likely to cause an island explosion. (Or exacerbate a fire.)

Point is, for the sake of safety… Just pony up the cash for a true built-in grill!

Modifications Void Your Warranty

If you needed some more convincing beyond safety… How about voiding your grill warranty?

When building a freestanding grill into an outdoor kitchen… You’re likely going to have to make some modifications.

This could involve cutting the legs off your grill… Or cutting it out of the cart itself. (If you can’t unscrew the grill unit.)

Either way, this modification is likely to void your warranty.

Which means if something goes wrong with your grill… You’re fully on the hook to fix it.

Longevity is Questionable

economy grill cart made with 430 stainless steel

And to add insult to injury… You’ll also have to deeply consider the longevity of your freestanding grill.

Since you’re going through the trouble of building a BBQ island… It follows that you would want this project to last a long time. Right?

What are we getting at?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of freestanding grills aren’t constructed to last a long time. Most warranties span to 1, 3, or if you’re lucky… 10 years. (A good built-in grill will have a lifetime warranty.)

Which means your existing grill is likely to peter out well before your island structure is starting to show signs of age.

And you’re thinking… “That’s not a big deal. I can just replace it, can’t I?”

Well…

Replacements are Dodgy

When you’re modifying a freestanding grill to build into a grill station… Replacements aren’t going to be straightforward 99% of the time.

Why?

In order to make your freestanding grill fit into the island structure… You will have to create a custom cutout.

And if the grill you originally purchased isn’t being manufactured anymore… You’ll have to start from scratch. (Or deal with an unsightly, non-functional hole.)

Opting for a built-in grill completely avoids this issue.

Built-in grills tend to have similar dimensions across brands. So even if your original grill is discontinued… You can purchase from another brand with the same dimensions.

Once again, springing for a built-in grill might not save you money upfront… But it will certainly save you time, stress, and headaches down the road.

...It Just Plain Doesn’t Look Right

This final point is up for debate… But prominent enough to be worth a mention.

No matter how hard you try… Putting a freestanding grill into an outdoor kitchen just won’t look quite right.

It’s obviously not meant for use inside an outdoor kitchen… And as a result, sticks out like a sore thumb.

And if you have other built-in appliances, you won’t be able to achieve a streamlined look.

Your refrigerator, drawers, and doors might match… But the grill doesn’t. (And everyone knows it.)

You might not be bothered by the inconsistencies. However, many homeowners are!

So keep this in mind if you prefer to have everything just so.

With all that said, let’s take a look at some built in grill DIY projects… And whether or not they’re a smart idea.

The Wild West of Built in Grill Ideas DIY

As you search for different guides on building a built-in grill… You’ll find that there are actually quite a few methods online.

But as we just explained, that’s generally not a good idea.

Are there ways you can build a freestanding grill into an outdoor kitchen… Without the consequences?

Let’s discuss.

Option 1: DIY Built in Gas Grill in Rolling Cart

built in grill on a rolling cart

Some homeowners will build a full-on rolling cart to put their freestanding grill into.

This will have a large cutout for your grill, possibly cutouts for other appliances… And provide you with some counter space.

Without looking at things too deeply… This approach seems to have some benefits.

The aesthetic will look a bit more cohesive than other options we’ll discuss… Plus, you’ll still have the mobility of a regular cart-style grill. (And you still have a place to store your propane tank.)

But there’s a lot of issues with this method.

In fact… It’s a textbook example of everything that’s wrong with a typical DIY built in grill project.

Con #1: Fully Enclosed Structure

For one, you’re fully enclosing your freestanding grill into a structure.

We’ve already explained the issues here… So we won’t beat the point to death.

However, it’s important to reiterate just how dangerous this decision is.

Your freestanding grill will not be able to ventilate as designed… Opening you up for the risk of a fire or explosion one day.

Con #2: Material Hazards

wood outdoor kitchen frame warping due to moisture exposure

Secondly, material choices are usually going to be problematic.

Some bloggers will make these islands with metal frames… Which is a better choice. (Although it will still rust or corrode over time.)

However, the average DIYer simply isn’t going to be equipped to work with metal.

Which leaves you with wood as your only option.

And that means you’ll be putting wood frames right up against a grill that can’t ventilate properly.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is.

That excessive heat generation significantly increases your risk of a fire… And even fire retardant pressure treated wood won’t save you there.

So for the sake of safety… You’re better off seeking other options.

Con #3: You’ll Likely Have to Modify Your Grill

man modifying grill cart

Still not convinced?

On top of what we just mentioned… You’ll likely have to modify your grill to make it fit in this island structure.

Which means that once you start hacking away… That freestanding grill warranty is probably null and void.

So is it really worth it?

The Verdict

Make no mistake. This type of project is not recommended.

But is there a workaround?

Well… Somewhat.

But it involves keeping your freestanding grill as-is.

The best alternative is to build a separate rolling island… Instead of trying to mash your freestanding grill into it.

You won’t mess with the warranty, materials won’t become a safety hazard… And your grill will be able to ventilate as normal.

Plus, you’ll still be able to benefit from added counter space and storage.

Is it really an outdoor kitchen? No. But it’s at least an option that won’t put your family at risk.

That said… There are some other options you may prefer.

Option 2: Adding Stone Structure to Freestanding Grill Cart

close up of stone outdoor kitchen

If you can’t live with the thought of using a separate rolling island with your grill… You might be enticed by the idea of bedazzling your existing freestanding grill.

Now, keep in mind… This grill island idea will only work if your grill has large shelves on each side.

So how does this project work, exactly?

Well, when finished… Your grill shelves will serve as the countertop.

So all you’re actually doing is building an island structure underneath the shelves. This structure is then finished with stone veneer, brick, stucco, or another finish.

This won’t obstruct your ventilation… But there’s still some issues to be had.

Con #1: Materials Could Still be an Issue

concrete blocks are hard to work with

While the ventilation of your grill won’t be directly obstructed… It’s still going to get quite hot.

And with the structure being directly attached to your grill… It’s possible these materials could get hot enough to combust. (Particularly if you’re using wood.)

To get around this… It’s best to work with masonry materials like brick or concrete block.

Con #2: Doesn’t Look that Great

stone built around grill cart

If we’re being honest with ourselves… The results aren’t all that impressive from an aesthetic standpoint.

Yes, it makes the grill itself look slightly better… But you’re not fooling anyone into believing this is a full-fledged grill island.

If you’re not deterred by the look, that’s great!

But the reality is, most of us are looking for more professional results.

In which case… You might be better off forking over the cash for a full-on outdoor kitchen.

Con #3: Lots of Effort for Little Gain

Unfortunately, this outdoor kitchen island doesn’t offer any added functionality.

You’re not adding counter space… You’re not getting more storage… And you’re not getting any other appliances added.

So is it really worth all the effort?

You’re investing all this time and money into a grill cart that’s only going to last a few years anyway… Which seems like a lot of fuss for little benefit.

Is it going to hurt? No.

But if it were up to us, we’d just skip the project altogether.

The Verdict

Our previous statement pretty much sums it up!

Putting a stone or brick finish directly onto your grill might slightly improve the look… But it’s a huge time investment for little return.

If you really want to do it… Knock yourself out. (Just make sure you use non-combustible materials!)

Otherwise, keep reading for some more functional ideas.

Option 3: Built in Grill DIY Kamado Table

If you’ve got a kamado grill kicking around… These smokers are a great contender for a grill island cooking area.

Many kamado outdoor kitchen projects will involve setting it into a table… With a circular countertop cutout surrounding the kamado. (But this isn’t the only option.)

In some cases, this can actually be an excellent solution.

But you have to do it properly!

So let’s go over the missteps first.

Con #1: Unsafe if You’re Using Combustibles

kamado joe and combustible materials should not be together

We won’t belabor the point here… But we want to make sure you’re keeping it top of mind.

Combustible materials and your grill don’t mix!

So stay away from wood. This will make your kamado outdoor kitchen risky to use.

The alternative?

You can use metal if you’ve got the right tools… (And don’t care if the structure rusts or corrodes in a couple seasons.)

Or you can use masonry materials. Brick, stone, and concrete are all good options. (However, these require a high skill cap.)

An Easy outdoor kitchen solution

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Con #2: Countertop Cutout Could be Difficult to DIY

If you want your countertop to hug the kamado… This could be a tricky step to properly pull off.

Why?

For one, you’ll be limited to creating pour in place concrete countertops.

Which means… You’ll have to make sure you get your measurements exactly right.

If you’re confident and experienced, you might not have reason to be concerned.

But make no mistake… This task isn’t for beginners!

And the only other alternative is to hire a countertop fabricator… Which somewhat defeats the purpose of this being a DIY project.

re keeping it top of mind.

Combustible materials and your grill don’t mix!

So stay away from wood. This will make your kamado outdoor kitchen risky to use.

The alternative?

You can use metal if you’ve got the right tools… (And don’t care if the structure rusts or corrodes in a couple seasons.)

Or you can use masonry materials. Brick, stone, and concrete are all good options. (However, these require a high skill cap.)

The Verdict

small outdoor kitchen with kamado smoker

As long as you’re sticking with non-combustible materials… This BBQ grill island idea can be an excellent option.

And if you don’t want to make a special countertop cutout… You don’t have to limit yourself to this solution.

You can create a pedestal that sits lower than the rest of your island. Your kamado will be at a comfortable cooking height… And won’t require a crazy countertop.

Alternatively, some brands offer kamado sleeves (like Coyote Outdoor Living). These are metal inserts that you can set inside your island.

The kamado will nestle inside the sleeve… Making it a seamless addition to your island.

But what if you don’t own a kamado?

Option 4: Pellet Grill Table

This DIY outdoor kitchen idea is quite similar to our previous entry. The only difference is you’re working with a pellet grill over a kamado.

So if you’ve got a Traeger or Pit Boss lying around… This project will be appealing to you.

This project involves creating a recessed stand for your pellet grill… Directly connected to a counter height work surface.

And if done well… It could be a nice solution for your outdoor living space.

What’s the catch?

Con #1: Combustibles Can be a Problem

We know… We’re bringing this point up again.

It’s just that important!

Veer away from wood and other combustible materials (PVC, composite decking) for this project… And you’ll be good to go.

And again, we’ll put in a good word for masonry materials. Concrete, brick, and stone will last you many years when done skillfully.

Con #2: Might Require Grill Modification

Depending on the pellet grill you have… It may have to be modified for placement on the recessed stand.

Older Traegers, for example, might require you to cut the legs off.

Your pellet grill might already be out of warranty at this point anyway… But cutting metal is still a big deal, and it’s all too easy to injure yourself.

So if you’re going to spring for this idea… Stick with a pellet grill that allows you to safely unscrew the legs.

The Verdict

pellet grill rta outdoor kitchen

Just like the kamado built-in BBQ island… This pellet grill island could be a worthwhile pursuit.

As long as you use non-combustible materials and the right pellet grill… There aren’t any issues here in relation to safety.

You can also easily modify this layout to include storage for pellets and other necessities for your grill area.

Now, before we wrap up… There’s one final idea to look at.

Option 5: Grill Between Two Islands

Last but not least… You could slide your gas grill cart between two islands.

While it’s true you won’t achieve that true “built-in” look… This home improvement project can work well, depending on the circumstances.

Some homeowners will make “islands” out of cinder blocks, and use patio stones for the countertops.

Others will create fully finished BBQ islands with a space in-between them for your grill.

So let’s get to the facts about this outdoor kitchen design.

Con #1: Not the Prettiest Option

built in grill cart

We’d be lying to ourselves if we said this option looks professional and luxurious.

It’s not going to offer a cohesive look… Which definitely loses some points on that count.

But we have to admit, some materials look better than others.

If you’re just using plain cinder blocks… The finish will not be appealing.

But if you spring for granite countertops and a stone finish… You’ll get a better result. (For a ton more effort.)

Con #2: Can be Unsafe, Depending on What You’re Using

Graphic showing that cinderblock isnt flammable

Just like with several of the other ideas we’ve discussed… You can construct it safely, or unsafely.

It all comes down to materials.

Surprise, surprise… Combustible materials are once again off the table here.

Cinder blocks may not look pretty… But they’re a safe bet for this project.

And if you’re willing to put in the effort… You could mortar on a stone or brick veneer to level-up the aesthetics.

Con #3: Might not Work for a Future Grill

Eventually, your freestanding grill will have to be retired.

And if you can’t buy a replacement model… There’s a chance your new grill won’t fit into the gap you created.

Which puts you in an awkward position.

You’re stuck with this random gap in the middle of your island… And your new grill just has to stand off to the side.

If you do end up opting for plain cinder blocks that aren’t mortared together… You could rearrange the structure fairly easily.

Either way, it’s a risk!

The Verdict

grill cart with two islands on either side

Using cinder blocks to slide your grill between could be a nice temporary option… Or a stone veneer option could be a nice compromise.

Either way, this could be a nice project if you’re not quite ready for a full outdoor kitchen.

But if you truly want all of the benefits a real outdoor grill island can provide…

How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen That’s Made to Last

mike pyle modern large u shaped outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and bar seating

There’s such a thing as a DIY grill station without compromise.

It’s called an RTA outdoor kitchen.

In short:

You get a polished look…

Premium, 304 stainless steel built-in appliances from Coyote… (Like charcoal grills, natural gas grills, pizza ovens, griddles, and so much more.)

Plenty of ventilation and safe design…

And the satisfaction of a DIY project without the stress.

Our high performance concrete composite panels are more than just non-combustible.

They’re warrantied for a lifetime… And come with the finish fully incorporated into the panel.

Which means no finishing work!

But it also means a stunning, cohesive aesthetic across the board. Stacked stone, modern stone, modern concrete, plank, weathered wood, and reclaimed brick finishes are all within your grasp.

With RTA, you also avoid the runaround and frustration a DIY project can bring.

We provide you with clear information, step-by-step guidance, and dedicated support the day of your installation.

So you can feel 100% confident that this is a project you can pull off… And enjoy every second of it.

Ready to get a taste of what your DIY built in outdoor grill could look like?

Head on over to our free online design tool… And start creating your outdoor kitchen plans!

From there, we’ll surely be in touch.

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