Are You Ready for a Built-In Grill?

If grilling is your passion and favorite pastime, do you think you're ready for a built-in grill? Here are some important points to consider.

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If you spend a big part of your leisure time wearing a BBQ apron with grilling tongs in hand, it might be time for a built-in grill. For many grilling aficionados, a built-in grill is the limousine of backyard grills — a showpiece for your outdoor living area, a pleasure to cook on and large enough to cook for a crowd.

In 2019, Americans spent nearly $1 billion on grills and grilling accessories. Most consumers want to see a BBQ grill before they buy. According to a pre-pandemic survey by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, 83 percent of grill shoppers buy in-store instead of online.

If you think you might be ready to upgrade from a portable grill to something more permanent, let’s examine whether a built-in grill is right for you. Note: If you belong to a Homeowners Association (HOA), determine first whether built-in grills are allowed where you live.

What Is a Built-In Grill?

Built-in grills are part of a fixed backyard structure usually made of masonry, wood cabinetry and a solid surface countertop. They can’t be removed without dismantling them. Built-in grills are often part of a larger outdoor kitchen, which may feature a sink, additional counter space, a bar or a peninsula for dining.

Just like portable grills, built-ins may be fueled by propane, natural gas, charcoal, wood or wood pellets.

Built-In Grill Pros and Cons

Here are the ways a built-in grill can enhance your backyard grilling game:

  • A backyard showpiece. “Built-in grills also have a much more pleasing aesthetic than ordinary grills and can improve home value,” says Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, an appliance repair and maintenance company. They’ll become a natural gathering spot any time you invite people over for a cookout.
  • Cooking for a crowd. Although small models are available, homeowners who invest in a built-in grill usually think big, and buy something with a larger cooking surface than a portable grill. “The sheer capacity of a large built-in grill makes it easy to whip up a round of burgers or steaks in no time,” says Shimek. This mammoth of a grill from Coyote, available at Walmart, has almost seven square feet of cooking area. That should keep any hungry crowd satisfied!
  • Easy backyard fun. Once your built-in grill is installed, the hard part is over. If you go with natural gas or propane fuel, firing up the grill is as simple as pushing a button. And when it’s part of a larger outdoor kitchen and entertainment area, fun, informal gatherings are easy to pull together. You also avoid heating up your indoor kitchen.
  • DIY-able. Creating a built-in grill can be a great customizable DIY project. You can even adapt a portable charcoal or pellet grill into a fixed grilling station or kitchen by building an alcove or niche to slide it into. It doesn’t have the same custom look, but it’s a less costly compromise. If you pursue this option with a gas grill not designed as a built-in, exercise extreme caution with gas hookups and airflow.

That’s the fun part. Here are some serious (less fun) points to consider before you start planning that built-in grill station:

  • Expense. Built-in grills are expensive. Small electric grills are the most cost effective. You should realistically expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,500 for a large built-in grill, and prices can go a lot higher. Factor in the cost of time, materials and labor if you hire a pro to build the grilling station, and you’ve got a pricey project on your hands.
  • Space. Unlike a portable grill which can be wheeled aside when not in use, a built-in grill is a permanent addition to your backyard. Built-ins are usually large grills in the first place — that’s part of their appeal — and adding a structure around them means you need even more room. That means giving up existing lawn or patio space. In a small backyard, a built-in grilling station may seem out of proportion. Don’t forget to check out these built-in grill ideas.
  • Safety. Expect adults, kids and moochy pets to gather around your grilling station. So grilling safety should be paramount, especially if you’ve got a natural gas or propane grill. Incorrect grill installation or an improperly ventilated grill can result in a potentially life-threatening fire or explosion. You’ll also want to check with your homeowner’s insurance company to determine if the new structure is covered under your existing policy, or if you need to add it for an additional cost.

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, lifestyle and home improvement writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work appears in The Washington Post, Travel + Leisure, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy and many other publications, and she is the author of several guidebooks. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together, they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, their tween daughter and their dogs. She covers a variety of topics for Family Handyman and is always ready to test out a new pizza oven or fire pit.