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Grilling: 8 easy steps to your own barbecue

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Outdoor Kitchens and BBQ Areas Rustic style garden by Design Outdoors Limited Rustic
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Thinking of buying a bbq for the summer? Why not build one yourself!

If there is one thing a lot of South Africans love doing, it’s to stand around an open fire while socialising with friends. What makes this ritual even better is that, most of the time, there is a delectable dish (such as a piece of meat) being grilled on top of that open fire – and that is what we call a “braai”. 

So, seeing as summer is on its way and the holidays are just around the corner, we thought it most appropriate to assist you with building your very own braai at home. 

Remember that these instructions are only a simple guide. There are many other alternative methods to construct your own braai that will impress your friends. And if you’re not an avid DIYer, be sure to have a professional assist you (and always wear protective gear). 

Good luck!

1. Choose your design

Just like we don’t just approach bedroom design or building a chair out of pallets without a clear idea, so should you not jumpstart this project without a vision. Have a sketch or picture of the type of braai you want to have. This way, you will know specifically what you want, what kind of materials you’ll require and how much, etc. 

To make it easier on yourself, use a braai grill and table top as guides, which can help you determine the placement and size of the braai structure. Make sure to measure these appropriately.

2. Pick your location

Where are you going to construct that braai? On your back porch? In the middle of the garden? How far will it be from your house? Will it overlook the swimming pool? 

In addition to location specifics, you also need to be certain about measurements, not only for the braai itself, but also walking space around it in order to enjoy a practical layout afterwards.

3. Prepare your concrete slab

colonial  by The Braai Man, Colonial
The Braai Man

Clad your Braai in Stone

The Braai Man

Hardware stores excel in DIY project, so you’ll be able to get just about all your materials there. With your final design in hand and a precise location in mind, proceed to preparing the base. 

Cement, bricks, concrete, and even stones are tried-and-tested ways of building braais, as they can withstand the elements and a lot of weight. Start off by excavating the area to a depth of 200 mm. Make sure the ground is level. Add crushed stone to a height of about 75mm, and then compact and level the area again. 

Pour the concrete over this until the hole is filled to ground level. Compact the concrete to expel all air. Using a straight edge and wood float, smooth and level your concrete slab.

Allow for approximately 24 – 48 hours for the concrete to harden before continuing.

4. Dry-fitting the bricks

Lay the braai grill and tabletop in the spot that you measured in step 1. Let these guide you in laying out the first level of bricks. 

Place the bricks end to end around the braai grill’s perimeter and under the table top, leaving about 10 – 15 mm space between each brick for the mortar. Use a builder’s square to ensure the bricks are perfectly square at the corners. 

Mark the outline of the bricks to use as a guide while laying the bricks. 

Should your bricks not fit properly, use a cold chisel or brick bolster for cutting.

5. Laying the first course

Mix your mortar using cement, building sand, and water. The mixture should be of a mud-like density that spreads easily.

Check the level of the concrete slab before spreading the first layer of mortar – add more if you need to. Trowel a generous layer of mortar where the bricks will go, and press the bricks gently into the mortar. 

Apply a layer of mortar to one end of the next brick before butting it against the first and pressing it into the mortar. Remove excess mortar while you work. 

Continue with this until the first course has been laid around the marked base of the braai.

6. Laying the following courses

Apply mortar to the top of the previous course and continue until you have the height / size that you require. 

Be sure to use the straight edge and spirit level as often as possible to check that your braai is shaping into a straight and level structure.

7. Placing the braai grill

As you’ve measured your grill in the first step, you should have no problem placing it on the brick structure. The grilling area can be secured on the side with your staggered brick base anchored in the cement.

Place two pairs of brackets at different heights into the base, which will allow your grill to be placed at different levels. This is especially useful when it comes to different types of meat dishes.

​8. The finishing décor touches

The rest of the braai’s pretty touches are up to you. What colour will you paint it? Will you be adding some tile- or stone surfaces? Where will you keep the firewood/charcoal?

Happy braaing! 

As we’re getting into the do-it-yourself (and festive) spirit, let’s take a look at: 6 fun Christmas DIY projects.

What other tips do you have for constructing the perfect braai?
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