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  • Writer's pictureStruan Bourquin

How to Build a DIY Custom Built-in Barbecue (Braai)

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

This DIY BBQ is easier to make than you think if you have the right tools. There is nothing more satisfying than barbecuing on a grill that you made yourself. A custom build allows you to add features like a coal drawer which slides out for easy cleaning and an area to keep food warm after grilling.

Built-In barbecue

When we moved into our previous home, the patio had a chimney stack with a cavity for a built-in BBQ but there was no actual BBQ fitted. To buy one would cost far more than the raw steel required to make one. As mentioned in a previous article, buying a welding machine was a game changer for me as it took DIY to another level. So I thought I would give it a go.


This took me a single afternoon to weld together, it was really quick and easy! Reminder, I have no formal welding training, just good ol' Youtube as my online tutor. Below you'll find some simple drawings and my Youtube video of how I put it together.


Pro Tip - Order steel plate pre-cut to size


This is a real game-changer. You'll save hours trying to cut dead-straight parts out of a single sheet of steel using regular DIY machinery like an angle grinder. Find a steel merchant online that can pre-cut everything you need based on your cutting list. Trust me, you'll thank me later!


Step #1 - Get your measurement just right


Below is a basic drawing I made to ensure I got the measurements correct for each of the pieces of steel that I would need.

Built-in barbecue plans: front

Built-in barbecue plans: side

Start by measuring the cavity that you have, or at least plan to build. I would suggest you have the structure in place before you start measuring out your cutting list. It's also important to find a suitable mesh grill/grate that will fit within the cavity, but still be wide enough to sit on the grill shelves.


Leave Room for Insulation

To ensure your fireplace doesn't end up cracking the brickwork surrounding it, you'll need to leave a gap on both sides and at the back which you'll fill with insulation. This will also leave some room for error should measurements not be 100% accurate.


In the front view, (A) is the grilling cavity, the short lines left send right would end up being angle iron to set the desired height for the grill surface.


(B) this is simply a flat piece of sheet metal to prevent the opening from being too big and to neaten up the look.


(C) is the coal drawer that would contain the fire and collect the ash. This would just sit on another length of angle iron on either side and could be slid out to easily dump out the ash.

(D) is a nice addition that not many store-bought BBQs like this will have, a warming area directly beneath the coal drawer to keep cooked items warm while you continue to grill additional items. Nothing fancy, just an open space between the coal drawer and the base.


(E) is flat bar which would create a frame for the BBQ, wide enough to conceal the insulation spaces on either side and also gives the BBQ a nice, neat finish. (F) represents the sides (x2), (G) the back and (H) the base.


Built-in barbecue plans: all pieces
Above: this is the total cutting list for the steel metal, surprisingly, only 9 pieces in total. C(a) and C(b) are the back and sides of the coal drawer. What is missing from the above diagram is the bas of the coal drawer which was cut from a separate sheet. This of course also excludes the Angle iron and flat bar used for the shelves and frame.

Step #2 - Dry-Fit your Built-In Barbecue


Once you receive your pre-cut steel (or have cut it to size yourself) you should ensure that the sheets you'll be using for the sides, back and base all fit into the cavity. If you have a few areas that need to be trimmed/ground down to ensure it fits, now is the time to do it. It'll be very difficult to do once the whole thing is welded together.



Step #3 - The Fun Part: Get Out the Welder!


The tools I used were my MIG-welder and a cut-off saw to cut the angle iron and flat bar to length. Ensure you use safety equipment at all times such as eye protection, gloves and a welding apron.


  • Start by welding the sides to the base using welding magnets to ensure you get a 90º angle. I had the base for mine cut to the width of the cavity, but spaced the sides 35mm inwards from the edges to allow room for the insulation to sit between the sides and the brickwork.

  • Then weld (B) across the top to provide rigidity to the structure.

  • Weld in the shelfs: Start by flipping it onto it side. Your first shelf should be in place to support the warming area. If you choose not to have a warming area, your coal drawer should still not sit directly on the base as the heat will likely cause damage to any concrete/brickwork below.

  • Use one of the sides of the coal drawer C(b) as a spacer between the first shelf which will hold the drawer and what will be the lowest grill surface shelf. Ensure that nothing is too tight or you won't be able to slide the coal drawer in and out easily. The continue to weld in the remaining grill shelves. I had a total of 4 grilling levels which was plenty, and welded them right up against each other.

  • Do another fitting. Now that you have most of the welding done, make sure it fits! Then check that the flat bar you have will create a wide enough frame that not only covers up the insulation gaps, but also looks good.

  • Then weld the components of the coal drawer together: front, back and sides. Use two piece of flat bar across the front to allow air to flow freely to the coals. I also eventually added in a piece of expanded metal welded to four short legs to raise the coals of the base of the drawer to create even better airflow. I welded a piece of flat bar vertically across the two horizontal pieces down to the base for extra rigidity and the hacked together a handle for the drawer using two pieces of narrower flat bar scraps and 100mm length of 20mm wooden dowel rod.

  • Lie the BBQ on its back and weld the flat bar frame to the front using welding magnets to ensure they are 90º. Then grind down the visible welds to create a seemly frame. Te be honest, I felt like I should have gone with a slightly wider flat bar, but it still looks really good.

  • Ideally, do one last fitting to check it fits well before painting.


Step #4 - Finishing Touches


Don't forget the paint and insulation:

  • Paint the interior and exterior with fireproof paint which will not only protect it from the heat, but the rain as well should any come down the chimney so be sure to paint it all over.

  • Tape sheets of glass fibre insulation (the stuff you put in your ceiling) to the sides and back of the BBQ or to the cavity as I did. Then slide in your finished masterpiece!

You now have a fully usable BBQ, all you have to do now fire it up!


It Really Was Easier Than It Seems


Nine pre-cut pieces of sheet metal, a few lengths of angle iron and flat bar and a single afternoon was all it took me to put this together. It of course may take an hour or two to design it but that's part of the fun.

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