While from the photo on the right you can see it came out very beautifully in the long run planning ahead wasn’t part of the agenda with this home owner’s project. I was brought in after the homeowners had had already had a local mason construct the basic BBQ island to figure out just what the owner could do in the way of an attractive interesting counter top.

No slabs of bluestone or soapstone or any of the numerous other suggestions they got from other remodelers went over well until they found me.

Their first requirement was they wanted to roughly match the colors of the new(ish) stone patio and island and no solid surface material would work for them and they didn’t want a concrete top either.

bbTo fabricate the top here’s what I started with and how I went about it.

The first thing I needed to do was build a frame of pressure treated lumber inside this island structure flush with the top in order to accept pressure treated plywood.

All my 2×4 framing was fastened to the interior of the frames using my Remington nail gun. I used a long 20′ 2×4 that I bent along the front of the curved wall by wedging straight pieces of 2×4 to the straight part of the wall where I fastened yet another piece.By slowly adding in straight pieces hammered into place with a small sledge hammer I was able to get the front piece bent as needed.

bbq_3Next was cutting and fastening two layers of 3/4″pressure treated plywood in to place. Everything was glued with a polyurethane glue (PL Premium) and screwed with coated deck screws….bbq w/ply topAfter the plywood was was secured in place I had to round the front side. I used a thin piece of lumber I cut so I could bend it to the radius the customer was happy with. I then cut it with my jig saw and then sanded it perfectly to my line with my belt sander at which point I was ready to thin-set and screw my cement boards to.

manao bbq tile work.1After my cement boards were set and solid I added my fiberglass tape to all seams, cut the front to the same rounded edge using a carbide blade in my jig saw and painted on a product know as RedGard a membrane that will help prevent water penetration into and beneath the substrate and help keep the tiles from cracking due to freeze thaw cycling.

The tiles my customers selected and ordered were custom handmade tiles made especially for exterior use and they chose a custom made border tiles as well.

manao bbq tile workThis was not going to be an easy tile installation considering this BBQ/kitchen island top was right in the sun and it was the hottest part of the summer with the sun baking down on the tiles making them so hot I could hardly touch them. This is no good for the setting up of the thin-set so I needed to bring some shade to the island. My customers allowed me to use the picnic table umbrella you see in the back ground. I just moved it as I went along.
It worked like a charm.

bbq tile counter top jobThe next step would be laying out my tiles.

This too was quite a feat being they wanted certain tiles to line up in areas that was quite the head scratcher for me but as you’ll see it came together beautifully.

So next was setting up my wet saw and getting down to business.


The plan was to start in the early A.M when the weather was coolest. Now with my tiles laid out I was able to draw my layout lines, remove the tiles and start mixing up my thin-set. One thing I needed to do with these custom made tiles was to lay them out on the ground to work out an aesthetically pleasing and balanced pattern making sure I didn’t place too many dark or too many light tiles together. I needed to spread out the different shades…something I’m always aware of with custom made tiles.

bbq tile counter top  sheet metal fabrication phasep1010003_2 As you can see with the border tiles they were made very inconsistently and I had a hard time deciding which tile to put where so I had the home owner help me make the choices to where they were happy.

In the end ”I” wasn’t happy with the way they sent those tiles to me but what can you do when you have to wait six weeks for an order to be made…and at about $50 per edge tile……

bbq tile counter top job border phaseAnd on the left was the best choice of the placement of the border tiles given the shades we were sent.

Over all the project came out absolutely gorgeous!!

The large over hang in the front curved section of the island top had me very concerned so we had 3/4″ steel L-brackets made up. I chiseled away the to pf the stone wall enough to keep the top of the brackets flush with the top of the stone wall and flush to the bottom of the counters bottom. All brackets I bolted deep into the back underside of the stone island. Every part of this project was quite the challenge..

After the top was grouted I used a “grout bag” to carefully fill between the edge tiles taking care not to get any of the grout into the intricate pattern of the edging.

After all the grout was cured I came back and gave all my work several coats of a premium sealer…and this was the project I left some very nice customers with.

The Finished Project: