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Built-in Gas Grill

If you grill out much, attach an outdoor cooking center to your deck.

Converting a section of your deck to a cooking center requires intermediate carpentry and tiling skills and will take about three days. You might need to hire a contractor for some aspects of the job, but you'll love the finished product.

Materials and Tools:

measuring tape
1/2" plywood
3/4" pressure-treated plywood
2"x4" boards
1"x6" boards for rear skirting
2"x2" boards
2" and 2-1/2" galvanized screws
3" galvanized nails
hammer
drill, with drill bits and driver bits
jigsaw
circular saw
miter saw
level
framing square
chalk line
carpenter's pencil
multipurpose adhesive
utility knife
putty knife
cement board
notched trowel
grout float
exterior-grade ceramic tiles
tile cutter or wet saw
spacers
bull-nose tiles for front edge
sanded epoxy-based grout
rubber mallet
tile nippers
thin-set mortar
mastic
5-gallon bucket
concrete mixing tool
wire lathe
construction felt
stucco
gas tubing
gas grill
gas side-order cooker
work gloves
safety glasses

Steps:

1. Determine how wide you want your cooking center, and measure and cut 2" x 2" boards to that length. Attach the boards to the balusters (the vertical boards between the deck rails) directly beneath the top rail of the deck.

2. Attach a row of 1" x 6" boards to serve as rear skirting for the cooking center. The skirting will provide a backing for the grill framework and will hide the back of the grill for a more finished look.

3. Attach a 2" x 4" anchor board along the length of the skirting at a height that will be flush with the framing for the countertops.

4. Build frames out of 2" x 4" lumber for the left and right sides of the cooking area countertop as well as to support the sides and backs of the grill and side-order cooker. Set the frames in place, and use a framing square and level to be sure they're square and plumb. Then secure them with screws.

5. Install a roughed-in gas outlet for the grill and cooker.

6. Begin framing the adjacent countertops. Start by attaching 2" x 4" horizontal framing pieces, 16" on center, to the anchor attached to the skirt. Then attach a front 2" x 4" rail to the framing pieces.

7. Finish each end of the countertop framing by attaching a framing piece at a 45-degree angle.

8. Keep the front of the countertop frame level, and attach the leg supports, which consist of 2" x 4" boards that are cut to length and notched at the top to fit the front rail. Use four legs, side by side, for each corner.

9. Attach 1/2" plywood to the face and inside of the grill and side-order cook areas.

10. Measure the backsplash area and cut cement boards to fit. To cut cement board, which consists of cement mixed with fiberglass fibers, score it with a utility knife along a straight edge. Then lay a straight piece of lumber underneath the board and snap the board in two over it. Attach the cement board to the backsplash area using mastic or multipurpose adhesive and secure it with screws for additional support.

11. After the cement board backsplash is in place, use 2" galvanized screws to attach 3/4" pressure-treated plywood to the countertop.

12. Use multipurpose adhesive to attach cement board to the countertop area as well as the inside area for the grill and side-order cooker. Allow the cement board adhesive to cure overnight or for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

13. After the adhesive has cured, you can begin tiling the countertop and backsplash (be sure to use exterior-grade tile, which is freeze-thaw resistant). For an interesting look, try setting the backsplash tiles in a diamond pattern. To cut the tiles, you'll need a wet saw, a tile cutter or a tile nipper. Dry-fit the tiles before you begin installing them so you can determine the measurements that will allow you to minimize the amount of cutting needed.

14. Start by applying mastic adhesive to the backsplash with a notched trowel. Then set the tiles in place using spacers to help keep the grout lines straight. Use thin-set mortar, which is more water-resistant and durable than mastic, to set the tiles in place on the countertop.

15. When the countertop tiles are in place, attach bull-nose tiles along the front of the counter.

16. After attaching the countertop tiles, dry-fit the bull-nose tiles along the front of the countertop, and drive 2" screws beneath the tiles to support their weight as the thin-set mortar dries. Apply thin-set mortar to the backs of the tiles, and set them in place. Allow the mortar to cure and then take out the screws.

17. While you're waiting for the mortar to cure, you can begin applying the stucco to the front of the cooking center. Start by attaching construction felt to the front and then attaching wire lath, which holds the stucco in place and provides a finished edge for the corners. When the lath is in place, apply a base coat of stucco. After the base coat dries, you can apply a finish coat.

18. When the mastic and thin-set mortar have cured, you can begin applying the grout. Because this is an outdoor application, you should use a three-part sanded epoxy grout, which is stronger and more durable than standard grout. Keep in mind that the grout hardens quickly, so you should limit your work areas to 4' sections.

19. Mix the grout and use a grout float to spread it onto the tiles. Work the grout as deeply as possible into the grout lines. Use a heavy-duty scouring pad to remove excess grout as quickly as possible to prevent it from sticking to the surface of the tiles. Use a sponge to wipe up the remaining grout residue, and rinse the sponge frequently to prevent streaks.

20. Now that the tiles and stucco are finished, it's time to install the grill. Simply assemble the frame and set in place. Make sure it's both level and plumb; then secure it with screws. Next, set the bottom of the grill assembly into place and secure it with screws. Repeat the process for the side-order cooker. Finally, connect the gas line using flexible gas tubing.

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