This summer had some great surprises in store for me. I started off the summer with my gas grill & smoker sheltered 8 months out of the year by a 10’x10’ (3 m) EZ-Up Shelter(left). This picture was taken on the day I put up a brand new for 2012 EZ-Up. I ended the summer with a Big Green Egg & a year round permanent 10’ x 10’ (3 m) grill gazebo (right).
So how did this grill gazebo come about? I have wanted a better and more permanent solution than the EZ-Up for years. The only problem was the prefab solutions were about half the size I need them to be. I needed a solution where I could put my grills on either side of a center aisle. This is where my 10’ x 10’ (3 m) EZ-Up comes in handy. I could fit both grills with a 4’ (1.25 m) aisle in between. In a pinch I could get away with 8’ x 8’ (2.5 m x 2.5 m) shelter, but 10’ x 10’ (3 m) allowed me some elbow room. Most of the prefab solutions were 5’ x 8’ (1.5 m x 2.5 m) to 5’ x 9’ (1.5 m x 2.75 m). The 5’ (1.5 m) dimension allowed enough room to cover a couple small to medium grills with a depth of around 2’ (0.6 m) leaving a 3’ (1 m) aisle to stand in. My problem is my grills were too long for 8’ or 9’ (2.5 m or 2.75 m) and I needed more than 5’ (1.5 m), because I needed to have a grill on the other side of the aisle. The prefab solutions were often very expensive and the shipping for them was often several hundred dollars. I looked at buying and joining two of several of the models, but in looking at the assembly instructions I saw no way of joining the two units together. I hoped to somehow join the roofs together to make one roof. I even considered buying two and keeping them separated which just seemed silly. Finally many of these units stated they were not meant for usage in the winter. Owners comments indicated otherwise, but if the unit failed in the winter, you were on your own. Speaking of owners comments, many of the pre-fab units had many complaints about their poor workmanship, difficult assembly, broken or missing parts etc. Hardly encouraging for something at the price levels we are talking about.
I had tried several times to get an architect (me) to design a grill gazebo. It was a bit of a tough assignment because I wanted to keep the price down, but at the same time I wanted it to look good where it would be going up in my yard. My neighbors and I would be seeing it every day and I wanted that to be a pleasant experience. The first couple times I tried to design a grill gazebo, I looked to make it in a natural wood that was good exposed to the elements. I priced it out in redwood or cedar and the price was zooming into the stratosphere before I had even got through pricing all of the main framing lumber. I was stunned how much so little lumber could cost. I tried looking at other materials besides wood, but that didn’t help much and added the complication that I might not be able to build it myself. So I had given up on the idea of designing my own gazebo.
We’ve been having a large amount of severe storms this summer with tropical downpours. The new EZ-Up wasn’t designed for this and wasn’t up to the task. In all fairness it was never designed for this. My new grill gazebo should allow me to grill in any weather. Now the only trick is the 20’ (6 m) walk to and from the house .
Fast forward to mid-August. We were having a series of severe thunderstorms over a several day period. My EZ-Up began collecting water in the corners. First it was one corner then another, then another. On my older EZ-Up I was able to take steps to solve this issue, but the redesign of this model made it impossible for me to correct the issue. Every time the water built up it, stretched the roof fabric out so the ponding got worse and worse over a very short period of time. A couple of days only. One night at 12:30 AM I awoke to the sound of a torrential downpour. The roof of the EZ-Up was straining under the weight of ponding water. I had to go out and try to push up the roof and force the water off of the roof. I got soaked in the process and the way the water was collecting I was faced with draining the roof every 30 minutes or so. If I didn’t remove the water the EZ-Up would probably collapse under the weight of all of that water. This in turn might take out one or more of my grills in the process. I was particularly worried about the BGE getting knocked over and the ceramic body breaking. So at 2:30 AM after 4 trips to the backyard to drain the roof and a night of rain expected I decided the EZ-Up must go. I managed to take it down by myself and got thoroughly soaked in the process.
The use of a box beam helped out with the aesthetics, strength & cost.
At 3:00 AM while I was in drying off, I decided to take one more crack at designing an affordable shelter. This time I would do it in pressure treated lumber. I needed to keep the level of detail down so it would be affordable. I wanted to use what detail I was including to help keep the price down and make the gazebo look good at the same time. One of the first such details was for the beams that would carry the roof rafters. One of the things that drove up the price before was the cost of some of the main framing members. This time around I decided to use a box beam. In stead of using 2 or 3-2x10s I would use 2-2x6s that went on either side of the main posts. I would fill the space in between the two 2-2x6 with a 2x4 on flat top and bottom. These 2x4 would be nailed to the 2x6 beams and it would form a box beam that was stronger but shallower than the 2x10s I would normally use. The connection at the post would be stronger doing it this way. I could also hold up the 2x4 at the bottom of the beam to give it a little visual interest.
Exposed wood sheathing was one of the few luxuries I allowed myself. It looked better than CDX plywood, but it’s extra thickness helped hide the roofing nail ends & was more rigid allowing me to use less rafters by spacing them at 24” (0.66 m) o.c. as opposed to 16” (0.33 m) o.c. Bottom Line: the good looks were worth the cost.
The second detail I decided on was I wanted to see board sheathing on the underside of the roof. I didn’t want to see the back side of crappy looking 1/2” (1.25 cm) exterior plywood. Plus I didn’t want to see the nail heads poking through the plywood. So after looking around I decided to use 1x6 straight edged pressure treated lumber. Tongue in groove lumber is not readily available in pressure treated lumber. I was thinking I wanted a v-groove edge detail where the pieces met, but the only v-groove detail I found was in 5/4x6 pressure treated decking. The problem was the groove was at a 30 degree angle and not the 60 degree angle I was looking for. So the only affordable solution was to use plain 1x6 pressure treated boards. The boards would be held apart slightly at each joint to help the boards read better. Now the board cost more than plywood, but they gave me some visual appeal. Also using 3/4” (2 cm) thick boards instead of 1/2” (1.25 cm) plywood sheathing made the roof deck more rigid and allowed me to install the roof rafters at 24” (0,66 m) centers instead of the usual 16” (0.33 m) O.C.. This meant a few less rafters. The extra thickness of the board sheathing allowed the roofing nails to not show through.
The 4x4 corner brace looked better than the metal braces I could have used and it was a freebie in a way. I had to buy a 12’ (3.66 m) post for the main posts & the corner braces were made from the left over lumber when the main corner posts were cut to their actual length. Plus these braces helped cut down the effective span of the main box beams (left). The fan mold from the 4x4 posts looked nice, but also let me brace the gable end which I otherwise kept open for ventilation purposes (right).
I needed to brace the connection between the corner post and the roof. I could have used metal braces but you would see these and it wasn’t the look I wanted. So instead I went with 4x4 corner braces. They could be let into the box beam from the bottom and tied into the box beam on the sides. These braces also served to shorten the effective span of the box beam. So the solution to one problem served to help with another. I had to buy 12’ (3.66 m) posts and the lumber for the corner braces could be taken from the extra length cut off from the corner posts. The last little extra detail was at the gable end. I wanted to leave the gable ends open to help with venting the smoke. By not sheathing the gable end I was eliminating one of the means to prevent the framing from racking in heavy winds. So I did a fan mold out of 4x4 posts that added some visual interest to the gable end and helped cross brace the gable end. This was the extent of the detail I used in an effort to keep the material and construction details simple. There was no fascia trim or soffits. the rafter tails would be exposed and leaving off the fascia and soffit would help with the venting.
After I was done sketching this up by hand and working out some of the major details, I priced the lumber in pressure treated lumber. To my great surprise the lumber came in within reason. The details on this gazebo were simple enough that I could build it myself. Or more accurately I could build it myself with the assistance of one other person. Five years ago I would have asked my dad to help with the parts that required two people. Before i worried too much about how I would build it, I also needed to find out if there would be any problems with the town. I would need a building permit to do this work. I called the Building Inspector to discuss the project with him and to see if there were any issues I was unaware of that would impact the project. I specifically asked about the intended use as a wood structure to cover BBQ grills or a smoker. As I’d hoped, there was nothing to stop me from doing what I wanted to do. The more I thought about it the less I was worried about the aspect of making it in wood. After all people keep their grills on wood decks and there is far more danger of hot ash falling down onto the deck, than there is of ashes going upward and igniting the roof.
This is what turned this into reality. The G.C. doing other work in my house saw me playing with this on screen & asked about it. On thing led to another and the following week I had a grill gazebo.
I began modeling the grill gazebo on the computer. This would allow me to see accurate 3D views of what the finished gazebo would actually look like. I eventually would need to get a building permit, but the main point for me in modeling the gazebo was to work out the details. I could quickly turn the 3D model into a set of plans for permitting. Also I was going to redo my lumber list when the gazebo was drawn up to scale and I could have the software give me the true length of all the pieces. With the actual lengths available at the stores, such as 12’ (3.66 m) posts available at the lumber yard vs 10’ (3 m) actually needed, I found the price went up 10 percent, but it was still in the ballpark. While this was going on, I was having work done on the inside of the house. The G.C. and his workers were doing an excellent job. I was very impressed with his attention to detail and craftsmanship. This was true of the two other people working for him as well. One day I had a 3D view of the model pulled up on my laptop. I was spinning it around onscreen in 3D and Bruce, the G.C. asked me what I was doing. His initial interest was in the CAD software I was using to spin the gazebo around. But he also asked what the project was. When I told him it was a grill gazebo for me, he became more interested. He asked when I was going to build it. I told him it may never get off the computer screen because I needed to build it myself to keep it affordable. He mentioned he had just gotten a call that the job he was supposed to be starting on the following Monday was going to be put off for a week because some cabinets were shipped late. So he had a sudden hole in his schedule and could use the work. Also it would help him out because there was still some work on my house that would carry into that week. He could have all his guys there and they could work on my house or the grill gazebo as needed. At this point we were on very good terms and he appreciated the fact I’d been grilling his guys lunch every day. So I believed him when he said he would give me a good price. So it seemed like a Win-Win situation.
I turned the 3D model on my computer into a set of plans for pricing & permitting.
On Friday he took a set of the plans with him and on Sunday morning he called me back with a price. I will admit to a bit of sticker shock when he gave me the price. I had figured on 2 plus days and his estimate was based on 4 plus days. Bruce was willing to do it as a not to exceed price. If it took 4 plus days or longer I would pay the maximum price he quoted me. If it was less time, he would adjust the price down to suit the time it actually did take. I decided I wasn’t going to get a better opportunity to get this work done. I also knew these were the guys I’d want to build it for me. So I used the rest of my Apple dividend money from August to help pay for this and I OKed the work. I made sure Bruce knew I valued his work and if he felt it would take 4 days then I trusted him. Plus he was willing to adjust the price down if he was wrong. My initial hesitancy was from trying to figure out where to get the extra money.
As soon as I saw the work involved digging the footings with all of the roots & rocks I was very glad I wasn’t doing the work myself. I also appreciated the attention to detail, such as rounding over and easing the edges on all of the 4x4 posts.
So bright and early Monday morning work began on my grill gazebo. Right from the start I knew two things: I was so glad I wasn’t doing this myself and so glad Bruce’s company was doing it for me. When they laid out the 4 concrete piers that served as the foundation one of the 4 bushes growing at the end of my driveway had to go. I’d wanted to replace all of these bushes for a long time, but I wasn’t eager to try to dig up the roots. When Bruce asked me if I wanted them to take out all 4 bushes, I happily said yes. After watching Mike dig out the bushes and dig the four foundation piers I never thought twice about doing it myself. A week later when I planted new bushes and I had to dig in that same area, I was thankful again that someone else had done all of the digging for the grill gazebo. Every day I was soooo glad I had Bruce and his guys doing the work. After all of these years being an architect I can recognize a good crew when I see one. The guys seemed like were going out of the way to make this thing great for me. Part of it was their professionalism, but I also think it was a way of showing their gratitude for my making them lunch the last two weeks and now the upcoming week as well. They took all kinds of steps to square up the framing and keep it square with cross bracing throughout the project. They erected staging to help speed the construction process and give them the best access to work on it. They took all of the 4x4 lumber and rounded over the edges with a router and a roundover bit. Not only does this avoid splinters, it makes the corners look nicer. I intentionally left this off my plans to help keep the price down, but Bruce wanted to do it because it was the best way to do it. Bruce handpicked all of the lumber himself to get the cleanest looking, straightest pieces. I appreciated this attention to detail because all of the lumber on this project would be exposed to view.
The gazebo is done. Jay, Bruce & Mike are posing in front of the completed grill gazebo. All that was left was to move the 3 grills back into their new home.
To cut to the chase it did take the 4 plus days Bruce has estimated and not the 2 plus days I originally figured on. I told Bruce on the 3rd day I was wrong and could see his estimate was very accurate. When I received the bill on the last day it was less than the amount we discussed and I felt it was fair as did he. I wrote him a check and took a picture of him and his crew in front of the finished grill gazebo. His guys Jay & Mike were taking pictures of it too on their cell phones. I think they enjoyed working on it too, because it was a little different from their typical work. Two days later I planted some evergreen bushes to act as visual screening for the grills which will probably be the last work I do until the spring. I do want to add some power and lighting to the grill gazebo, but I need to wait until the money tree grows some new leaves. Also I want to do it in a way that doesn’t detract from the look of the gazebo.
Every time I leave the house or drive up to the house I can’t believe the grill gazebo is real. I am so very happy about it and the state of grilling around here. I have a new Big Green Egg that I am using far more often than any grill I’ve owned. I now have a year round shelter that is attractive, vents well and won’t have to be taken down for the Winter. It is like Christmas has come twice in a month. A little added bonus is this is the only thing I’ve designed for me, as opposed to someone else. If you are interested in seeing some more pictures of the actual construction, use the link below to visit the new Photo Entry for the grill gazebo.
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