For years I have wanted to build an outdoor grill island to give us space for entertainment, while not going too overboard in the New England climate where we will only get 4-5 months of use a year. The thing about Grill Island is that there is no real standard, although a few companies do sell precast islands. You can hire someone to take care of the whole thing for you which can be expensive or go the do it yourself route like I did. If you prefer the later, here is a quick cheat sheet on how to tackle the process. A big thanks to Bill Burke at Stevens Burke for all his help.
1) Pick Your Grill: We decided to go with Weber’s S-660 Built-in Grill, which is actually a slide in model, making installation and repairs much easier. For more about this choice, please Read the Review.
2) Pick Your Accessories: If you are going to do access doors, appliances, etc. it is best to order them first and/or get the exact measurements and specifications for anything that will go into the wall or the countertop. We decided just to go with access doors and a door/drawer combo unit which we ordered from Shopper’s Choice. They are a great resource for everything grilling related and I found their service team to be very helpful. They are also one of the few companies that posts the rough opening specs online which is very helpful for planning
3) Design: Once you have all the measurements for the grill and accessories, sketch out the design. Doing an image search on Google for “Grill Islands” will give you a lot of ideas. If you aren’t good with technical drawings, it’s probably a good idea to pay for an hour of an architect or interior designer’s name time as an accurate drawing is really necessary for framing. Once you have the measurements, tape them out on the group and make sure that you are happy with them. Remember to add 2-3 inches to the exterior for veneer stone and to measure your interior grill box for the finished dimensions with the cement board which is usually ½ inch. Included in our design was a higher bar side opposite grill with an overhang. However, this required having custom made steel supports to support the granite overhang which ran across the top post and it was only 6 inches and the overhand was 12 inches (pictures below) . So if it’s something you want to do, just keep in mind you made need these extra supports and they aren’t stock when you are dealing with steel as oppose to wood in a kitchen.
4) The Frame: You can build your frame fours ways; a wood frame, a steel frame, a cement block frame or out of the finished stone. The last way is the hardest and most expensive by far. Most people choose to use steel or Pressure Treated (PT) lumber for the frame and then cover it with cement board. Many people choose steel because it is fireproof and lighter. We chose to use a unique PT product which was acutely fire rated. Our friends at Sterrit Lumber are one of the few places to sell this product. We then covered the entire frame (including top) and the grill box with waterproof clement board (Durock), which is also fire rated. We hired a framer to do this so that it was done properly. Don’t forget that the stone will add about 2-3 inches of depth from the rough frame when you are doing the placement of your doors and the grill box. Also, you can choose if you want to build a concrete pad to support the frame. The advantage is better level and waterproofing at the bottom as you can have the pad sit an inch above the patio level. If the patio is not built yet, you might as well do the pad, but it’s also fine to sit the frame right on the existing patio so long as the bottom is PT, steel or cement. It’s not going to move.
5) Stone: Most grill islands are finished with a stone veneer. You can use something more consistent such as Cultured Stone which has that Panera Bread look. We choose a tumbled stone to match our stone walls and a nearby window well. Your mason should use a wire mesh that attaches to the cement board.
6) Counter: It’s best to use a solid stone based surface that does not have a ton of resin and can handle the elements. Remember, it’s also going to be hard to keep clean. For this reason, we went with honed granite with a natural look to it so that when it’s covered with dust or pollen it’s not as noticeable as if the surface was shiny. Darker colors will also get very hot when the sun is shining. Also, when sizing for the counter overhang, make sure to remember that mesh, mortal backing and stone will add about 2-3 inches to the sides all around so keep that in mind when figuring out the overhang. It’s probably best to have the template done after all the stone is complete. Also, make sure to radius any exposed corners. Plan to seal the granite once in the spring and once in the fall.
Prepping for Stone
Finished with Granite