I Want a Larger Outdoor Cooking Area! Building a Stone Countertop to go with your BBQ Getting the most out of your summer involves spending time outdoors. What happens when you can't stand your outside space? Imagine relaxing on your patio with your very own bar and built-in barbeque. For this project, we wanted to update the patio by making a stone countertop that would enclose a mini fridge and an existing barbeque. The entire job cost roughly $1,500 and took about four days to complete. Building a stone wall is no easy task, but with patience and the right tools anything is possible! Click here to see the video on this project. Try to partner with a couple of friends, as some of the steps require some heavy lifting. We know this project might seem a bit intimidating at first, but the results will be something you'll be proud to show off for years to come.
Before you buy materials, plan out your wall according to your patio space. A rough sketch will help you when you go to the home improvement store. Also, if you don't have the tools listed above, you can probably rent them by the day. When purchasing the stone as well as the countertop, consider having the materials delivered. Most stores will do so and charge you by mileage. If this isn't an option for you, grab a few friends (especially one who owns a truck). The individual stones will be able to be moved a few at a time, but the limestone countertop could weigh in the 200 pound range. Because the stones will have to be staggered, you may want to have the home improvement store cut some of them, or you can do it yourself using a hacksaw. Some stone needs to be dampened before you lay it; so ask about this when purchasing.
Clear the area of any furniture, or anything you don't want to get dusty and dirty.
Jane Tip: If you are ever working around a gas line, conduit and wires or load-bearing walls, call a professional to have them relocated or capped before you rip them out.
Wearing protective eyewear and canvas or leather work gloves, begin to demolish the object (in this case, a fireplace) by placing the chipping hammer into the middle of the structure and at an angle pointed away from you. (You can also use a sledgehammer, but using a power tool is always faster and ironically, less dangerous as you limit flying debris!) Once you have the tool positioned where you want it, turn it on by pulling the trigger, letting the power and the weight of the tool do the work. It should penetrate through the brick with little effort. When you feel it go through, cut the power by releasing the trigger and pull out the tool out of the brick.
Repeat step 2 until your object is reduced to crumbling bits of brick or stone. Clear away all debris. Use a wheelbarrow to remove any of the heavier pieces.
As mentioned before, draw a sketch of where you want your countertop to go. If you are building it to enclose your barbeque or other appliance, measure it and account for a little extra wiggle room on the sides and on top, about 1 to 2 inches.
Building a sturdy wall involves reinforcing it with rebar. Rebar consists of long, thin metal poles that are available at any home improvement center.
To install the rebar, you will have to drill holes into the existing concrete. Change out the bit of the chipping hammer, transforming it instantly into a rotary hammer.
Mark the spot where the rebar should go. We left our slump stone on the concrete and drilled through it. (See picture) Using the rotary hammer, begin to drill through the concrete, about 3-4 inches deep.
Place the rebar in the ground and secure it in place with epoxy.
Once the epoxy has dried, begin to lay the stone. Mix the mortar in a wheel barrow or other large mixing container according to the manufacturer's instructions. The mortar will serve as the glue between stones, similar to concrete.
Jane Tip: The mortar is the correct consistency when it sticks to the trowel. You only have a small window of time before the mortar starts to harden, so don't mix too much all at once! Mix it in small batches.
Fill in any holes in the concrete with mortar. We filled in the space where the fireplace stood. (See picture)
Set the first course (think of a "course" as a row of stone) by using the trowel to spread mortar on the concrete. Start to lay the stone by placing through the rebar and onto the wet mortar.
Building a wall entails staggering the joints. This means that the stone has to alternate sizes on each course. (See picture)
Jane Tip: To ensure the course is even, use a level after laying each course. Tap the stone with the blunt end of the trowel to make the stones level. Also, make sure the stones are plumb vertically. We can't emphasize how important this is! Small mistakes at the bottom will look like huge disasters at the top, so take your time and get it right!
To add more courses, spread mortar on the existing stones as well as the ones that are going to go on top. Make sure that you have enough mortar on the stone so that it sticks, but not too much so that it spills over and onto the concrete. Some spill over is normal; simply scrape it away with the trowel.
Once the mortar has dried (check the manufacturer's instructions), you can lay the stone countertop upon the wall you have built. Scoop mortar onto the top of the bricks and with the help of a few friends, (it's heavy!) lift the stone countertop in place and place onto the wet mortar.
SAFETY CHECK!: Never lift a stone countertop on your own. Even if you might actually be physically capable, the chances of injury are simply too great to justify trying.
Ensure the countertop is level with a carpenter's level. Give it a few firm taps to secure it into place.
Fill in any spaces in the countertop with mortar applied with a squeeze bag. This looks like what a baker would use to decorate a cake. Smooth out the mortar and clean away any excess.
Now that your bar and barbeque are in place, invite the neighbors over to revere your efforts. Kick back with a drink and a barbequed burger (or chicken, or steak, or ribs)... you earned it.
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