DIY An Affordable Grill Station For Your Backyard Using Cinder Blocks

Grills are often the centerpiece of alfresco dining. But alas, most are not designed to give you enough room or surface area for chopping salads, placing food on plates, or storing utensils. Even a simple burger meal can get awkward and messy as you move ingredients back and forth between the grill and the dining area. Grill stations address this lack of utility — they provide ample space for both cooking and storage, so you can treat your backyard as a full-fledged kitchen. There's one problem, though — a professionally made grill station can set you back thousands of dollars.

Enter the cinder block grill station. This rustic-looking, but sturdy, DIY backyard countertop consists of inexpensive and readily available materials, such as concrete blocks and stone pavers, and works just as well as its factory-made counterpart. You won't spend much to build this set up, since concrete blocks cost less than $3 at The Home Depot. It shouldn't take you long to build the station, either. Let's find out how!

How to design your cinder block grill station

At the very least, your cinder block grill station design should factor in the type and size of grill you have and the amount of countertop space you want. If you have a propane grill, the design can be straightforward — just set up the blocks around the barbecue and create a large enough flat cooking area. You can decide whether you want to take off any side shelves your grill might have — doing so will let you bring the station top flush with the grilling surface. Also, figure out where the propane tank will go. If it won't fit under the grill, you'll need to build the blocks around it, too.

If you intend to cook with firewood or charcoal, the station would need at least two levels — one to contain the flames, and another to hold the rack over it. In this case, three layers of cinder blocks topped with patio pavers would create a high-enough surface for the flames, and give you room to store things below. Meanwhile, you could build vertical block walls on three sides of this fire pit to enclose the flames and hold the grilling rack. You could also build a countertop flush with the grilling surface on either (or both) sides of the fire pit. Now, if you already have a basic charcoal grill, then the job becomes downright simple — all you need is a flat surface for the grill and cooking, so laying the blocks in a cuboid shape would suffice.

Basics of building a DIY grill station with cinder blocks

Once you've settled on the design, it's time to estimate your material quantities and get to work. Start by establishing how many blocks you'll need to construct the station walls. First, calculate the wall areas in square feet. Then, divide this number by 0.89 — the long side surface area of a standard 8 by 16-inch block. This number will give you a solid estimate for your block quantity. 

Next, find out how much material you'll need to build the cook top for your grill station. Stone pavers are a convenient choice — you can even get them to match the design of your concrete patio. You can quantify the right amount of pavers by dividing the planned countertop area by the area of a single stone — this value hinges on your chosen style. Even though these calculations will leave you with an accurate materials estimate, it doesn't hurt to buy 10-20% more blocks than needed. Getting a few extra blocks or pavers will make sure you're covered if you alter your design.

Now that you have the design and materials, building your grill station is the simplest part of the project. Just lay the blocks down in a running bond pattern — this configuration makes the block wall stable. You can forgo using mortar if you want, since the walls are short and don't serve as shelter. When the walls are done, just lay the pavers on top and set up the grill as needed.