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BBQ Island

Prerequisites for BBQ Island:

  • All utilities that the BBQ island will contain needs to be completed (e.g. electrical lines for outlets and lighting, gas lines, water lines,  ...)

I realize that the BBQ Island is not a part of the pool, but thats OK.  Its a part of my overall backyard plan and I wanted to document it like I'm doing with everything else.  I would have to honestly say that this phase of the project really had me stumped.  It was one of the reasons why there has been such a big delay from finishing up the pool.  I must have changed the design for the BBQ / Fireplace a bunch of  times before I finally decided what I wanted to do.  The problem is that the backyard is so small that when I collected my bids, most of the subs thought I was crazy to want to do a BBQ island, Fireplace, AND and Firepit.  They were probably right.



Original Plan

If you recall, the picture to the right show the original decking area and the proposed locations for the BBQ and Fireplace.  I didn't realize it until I started to do the deck bids, but this would not work.  For some reason, I just have a hard time conceptualizing just how much space something is going to take up on the deck until I can see it first hand.  I wanted patio furniture in the middle of the deck, but couldn't see from my drawing just how little room is left on the deck when the BBQ is turned facing the pool and away from the wall.  That was the first problem.  The second problem was that by having the Fireplace where its located on the drawing, the drainage would be very difficult to achieve.  The shape of the Fireplace would serve to retain water rather than channel it away from the deck.  This caused a lot of heartburn for the decking subs trying to come up with a way to achieve maximum drainage.  Also notice at this juncture, there was no thought of a Firepit.  

Plan "B"
So this led to my second revision.  The red lines represent where one of the decking subs wanted to put Deck-o-Drain.  Deck-o-Drain collects water from the deck and channels it towards the ends where it runs off the deck.  The new design was better in a couple of regards:

  • More space on the deck - The BBQ island was moved back to the wall where a lot more space would be opened up on the deck.  After measuring it, I found that a patio table with four chairs would actually fit in the center of the deck.  The trade-off was that the BBQ island had to shrink in size (no raised serving counter or side counter) and had to be turned around such that the person cooking had to face the wall rather than face the action in the pool area.
  • Drainage issues are drastically reduced - by moving the Fireplace off the deck and into the corner, this would allow the decking sub more options in designing the slope of the deck to insure water would be properly directed off the deck.  There would be no bulky structure on the deck itself getting in the way of drainage.

At this stage, I had also added a 30" Firepit in the middle of the deck.  I was over at Ray's (Gas sub) house and saw his Firepit and thought it was pretty cool.  You can see the hole in the center of the deck.  The idea was that I could use it in the winter and in the summer months, I could drop a flat circular lid on it and have the patio table sit on top of it.  It wouldn't take up any space that way and no one would be the wiser.  Still, this 2nd revision wasn't without problems of its own.  When I called in all the BBQ subs in to do bids, I found out that all of them thought that the space where I wanted the Fireplace was too small to do one.  One sub said that he had never built a fireplace that small and didn't know if he even had a flue that was small enough for the size of Fireplace he would have to build to make it fit into that corner.  As he sized it out, he estimated that it would have to extend a couple of feet onto the deck in order for it to be the right size.  He also mentioned that having a Firepit and Fireplace that close together would insure that people sitting between the two would be roasted to medium tenderness.  He said, "You know, it might be nice to just have a couple of trees back there instead."  Hmmph.  The second sub basically said the same thing.  At that point, I knew that I had to start looking at Plan C.

Plan "C"
After much deliberation, here is the final plan that I came up with.  The biggest change was that I had to get rid of the Fireplace and replace it with a row of seats.  It was tough getting rid of it, but later the subs came back and told me that it was more ornamental than anything anyways.  Usually, you don't get much heat from it because the opening is so small.  One of the subs said for his own fireplace at his house, he had to throw some kind of fire-proof board on top of his flue to maximize the amount of heat that would come from the front opening.  At that point, I was pretty convinced.  As a result of that big change, it meant that the gas run I put in for the fireplace was pretty much useless.  That's alright.  I think I might have paid about $100 for that small run.  One benefit of this change was this meant I could move the BBQ island up and have it centered better near the middle of the deck.  As a result of not being so squished near the equipment area, I changed the plan from a 9ft island to a 10ft island.  I decided to make a full-blown outdoor kitchen by adding a utility sink and a BBQ light to the BBQ and Wok/Side Burner, .  It would also have a GFCI protected outlet in case I needed it for some small appliances.

Anguishing over the sub choice
Ok, now I was ready for the subs.  The first sub I talked to was from Valley Hardscapes.  The owner from Valley Hardscapes invited me over to a nearby subdivision that was about five minutes drive from my house to check out another job he was wrapping up to show me what he could do.  I brought along my digital camera and here's what I saw:


He did very nice work!  He said that one of the trademark features of his work was creating benches that had an angled back for better comfort.  I sat down at the fireplace seating to see for myself and he was right.  My back just sort of melted into the seat.  It was very comfortable.   After talking over a few things with him, I found out that he wanted $1800 for the BBQ island alone.  In addition, they wanted to charge me $3500 for the Fireplace.  He did great work, but whoa - that was a tad bit more than I wanted to spend.  He told me during our conversation that he lived in a $500K T.W. Lewis home.  Now I knew how he could afford to.

One thing that I REALLY liked when I was there was this cool looking Stainless Steel BBQ light that he was going to attach near the BBQ unit.  It kind of looked like some hi-tech microphone.  You can see it in the picture to the left.  It was a stainless steel "Bullet" light that attached directly into the countertop through some screws through a base mounting bracket.  I asked him about the light and he told me that it was a new product that Focus Landscape Lighting International recently came out with.  He said that he picked it up from Ewing Irrigation one day when he was there to pick up some other supplies.  He asked the guy if he had any flexible BBQ lights and he pulled out this thing.  He says that its about the 4th or 5th one he's installed so far and his customer's rave over it.  I liked it because it had a really contemporary design and it was stainless to boot.  I really like the stainless look.  I looked at the model number off the box and wrote down the info for the light in my notebook and went on my way.

The next sub that I talked to was actually a Tile sub.  His name was Mike.  I got his name from a neighbor who did his BBQ and Beehive when he was having his pool built.  I explained to Mike what I wanted and he said that he would cut me a deal.  He said that he would do the following work for $2000:

  • 9' BBQ island built out of solid 8" concrete block and includes choice of standard tile for counter top and stucco exterior.  In this he would cut the holes for the drop-in BBQ unit, the kitchen sink, and the wok unit I wanted.
  • 6' Bench seat built out of solid 8" concrete block with standard tile for the seating area, some tiled accent pieces, and exterior stucco.
  • Standard waterline Tile around the entire perimeter of the pool (95 feet).
  • Repair the pilasters needed for the new 8' RV gate to meet the fencing/barrier requirement prior to Pebble Tec.  (doesn't include the gate itself)

I had to ask him again to make sure I heard that right -  he would do the whole shooting match for $2000?  No way.  I couldn't believe it.  How was this possible?  Was he planning to build it out of sticks?  What's the deal?  I had talked to other BBQ subs and they bid it similar to the first sub, so I knew he was way under-pricing it.  Then I found out why:  He wasn't a licensed subcontractor.  No insurance.  No bond.  That means no 2 year warranty (enforced by the Registrar of Contractors).  He could go out of business at anytime and I couldn't do anything about. Yikes.

I anguished over the decision for a couple more days, and finally decided to do what I said from the beginning of this project I WASN'T going to do - hire an unlicensed subcontractor.  Don't try this at home - :)  I decided to do it for the following reasons:

  1. He wasn't doing anything structural with the pool.  Had this been anything that dealt with the structural integrity of the pool, all bets would be off.  All the stuff that he offered to do was cosmetic in nature.
  2. My neighbor used the same sub to do his BBQ and Fireplace and it turned out great.  In fact, thats how I came to know of them.  I wandered into his backyard during the construction of his own BBQ and Beehive Fireplace and asked them to come over and bid out my job.  The situation was a little different with my neighbor though.  He contracted with a pool builder, who subcontracted out the BBQ to him.  So effectively he was working under the pool contractor's license.
  3. He did my neighbor's BBQ 3 years ago, which meant that he was still in business.  In fact I found out that Mike ran two crews, so I knew they were busy with work.
  4. Mike currently does a lot of  work for a bunch of different valley pool builders including some large ones.  That means something when you can repeatedly earn the trust of multiple pool builders over time.
  5. $2000 is $2000.  What can I say?

Still not the best of reasons considering the down sides, especially the insurance liability.  You can flame me privately later if you want :)  Mike was a very engaging guy - very funny and liked to tell a lot of stories.  I told Mike that I was going to put his work on the Internet and make him a star.  I told him that he would get more referral work if he did a good job.  He seemed very intrigued by this.  I began to notice a trend with all the subs that I mentioned this to.  I'll cover that more in depth in the final "Lessons Learned" section when the pool is complete, but people seem to take things to the next level when they know they are performing for an audience and that people are watching.  The cool thing is that I'm the beneficiary.  He asked me if I knew how to put together a website.  He said that he's always wanted to do a website for his company.  I said, "Maybe we can work something out..."  hehe.

He invited me to go over to another client's home in the same neighborhood to check out his work there.  I asked if I could bring my camera along to take some pictures.  He said of course.  Here's what I saw when I got there.

Wow!  I got distracted immediately by the waterfall.  Check out that pool.  It had a full grotto in it.  Man, I was stunned.  And I didn't even get a picture when the homeowner turned on the waterfall for me.  There was actually three waterfalls on the pool.  The other two were smaller and were on either side of the grotto.  I didn't get a wide enough of a perspective to include them in the picture, but trust me, it was amazing.  The guy who did the waterfall was actually there at the time finishing up painting the BBQ and Fireplace that Mike did.  He said that the waterfall was all artificial - stamped concrete I think he said it was, but he had turned it into some kind of art form.  Very nice.  I asked him how much he charged for something like that and he said that it was roughly $10,000.  The homeowner was some IBM executive.  It looked like he was putting in close to $100K on his backyard alone.  As I peeled my eyes off the floor, I turned my attention to the reason why I had originally come.  I swung around to the pool deck and saw this:


Very nice - things were still wrapped in plastic as the painter wasn't quite done yet.  Mike said he did the complete works for this guy.  He also did some seats that I didn't get a picture of.  I really liked the color combination.  I talked to the guy who painted it and asked if he could do the same for me.  He said, "Sure, no problem."  I got his business card and we left.

What I was asking Mike to do was going to be much simpler than the work at this other client's house.  This client had almost half an acre lot.  He had some definite possibilities.  He could space things out however he wanted and just let it fly.  I definitely did not have that luxury.  In the end, I told Mike that I just wanted a no-frills BBQ that was functional.  He agreed that would be the best course of action given my situation.  It looks like we were all set.  He agreed to be there first thing Monday morning to start work with his crew.

Monday, October 21, 2002 - 9:33am

The crew arrived at the house just after 9:30am on Monday.  It seemed like they had a couple of pallets of 8 x 8 x 16 concrete block loaded on the back of their truck when they arrived.  They quickly unloaded both pallets of block along with the bags of Portland cement, sand, and mortar and quickly moved it to the back of the house.  They left the concrete making materials including the mixer near the backwash pit on the side of the house where they set up their mixing station and moved the rest of the materials near the pool equipment.

Measuring out the BBQ
The first thing Mike did was measure how far from the back edge of the house to start the 9 ft BBQ island run.  You can see that in the first picture below to the left.  He had one of his crew member hold a string from the back of the house to the wall so that he could measure how far away it would be.  Fortunately, the extra electrical outlet I had installed just barely cleared the left edge of the BBQ.  In the next picture, you can get a feel for how long the BBQ island is going to be and where all the utilities are going to be.  The gas line for the BBQ and Wok is dead center of the island.  Notice there's nothing for water yet.  Its kind of funny, but I actually decided on the fly the night before that I wanted a utility sink.  I asked Mike about it when he arrived and he said there was no problem.  He would just lay down a pipe for the main and a pipe for the return.  I would be responsible for the rest.  Okie-Doke.  The last picture shows the right edge of the BBQ better.  If you take a closer look, the gas line for the Fireplace that will never be is right to the side of the block.  It will just stick out there and be a part of the landscaping.  I'll probably end up hiding it behind a plant or something.


Making changes on the fly
As I eyed the area where the island was going to go, it still seemed kind of small.  With a BBQ, Wok side burner, a utility sink, a BBQ light and the outlet, it left little room for countertop space for plates and other utensils.  I asked Mike what it would be for another foot of island.  He said it would be $75/ft.  He said that if he did that, he would also have to add another access door for sure.  He said that with a 9ft island, trying to get away with a single access door was already going to be difficult, but adding another foot would almost certainly require it.  The access doors are there so that you can get to the gas devices and do the hookups.  But they also double for access paths to storage areas.  I asked how much more that would be, and he said it would be $80 to add another door, and that I would need to buy the door panel as a separate expense.  I told him lets do it.  It was a 30 second exchange as I stood there watching them.

That's one thing that's been nice about my whole pool building experience.  If I decide during the work that I want something changed, I can do it on the fly working with the sub directly.  He gives me a price on the spot and I say Yay or Nay.  Had I gone with a pool builder, it would have been much more difficult to do.  Most likely they would tell me it was too late to change anything.  Especially when the subs are at the house doing work.  Even if the pool builder's superintendent was there on the spot, he/she would most likely have to relay the request back to the main office, where someone in the sales department would have to look it up in the official price sheet give me the official marked up price.  That takes time and that's assuming everyone involved is available right at that moment.  And if they're not available, the sub is most likely not going to wait around until people are found.  They're on the clock.  Time is money.  If it wasn't specified upfront in the contract, its a pain to change things.  I was liking this GC thing more and more.

BTW, Mike had some real interesting stories to tell me about the cut-throat pricing agreements he's had to accept being an unlicensed sub for the pool builders that he's done work for (and he's done work for a lot of them, including BIG ones).  I won't tell those stories here out of respect for Mike, but if you want to email me privately, I can share the stories with you.  Its a fascinating look into the dog-eat-dog world of the construction industry and the big guys screwing the little guys because they can.

Anyways, back to the BBQ.  In the next series of pictures, you can see one of the crew guys moving some dirt away to extend the BBQ island another foot to the left.  This will give me more overall countertop space.  In the next picture, you can see Mike show me where the zero elevation point is as he points to it with his finger.  If you look at the enlarged version of that same picture, and follow the vertical line that starts where his finger is pointing (betw the two blocks) and follow it to the block above where the line ends, you will see a little black mark in the dead center of that block.  It may look like a piece of dust on your computer screen, but its actually a mark made by Mike to denote where the 12" raise spa deck level is going to be.  He just marked that spot to show me where the different elevations were located.  The BBQ itself would be at the same level as the pool deck which sits 4" above the zero bond beam level.  This pool deck would be 12" below the raised spa deck level.  In the last picture, you can see Mike measuring the depth of the island.  Its going to be about 32"-33" from where his thumb is marking the tape measure to the wall.


Pouring the Slab
Once everything was measured out, they started to place concrete block around the BBQ area to create the form which will hold the concrete footing/slab foundation in place.  They measured out the slab area one last time to make sure that they were giving me at least 10 ft of BBQ island space.


Before the actual footer/slab can be poured, one last thing needed to be done: putting in the pipes necessary for the utility sink.  Mike didn't have any extra PVC with him and I only had some 3/4" PVC.  Fortunately, there was a small section of 2" SCH 40 PVC laying on the ground left over by the plumbers or gas sub.  The section was only a few feet in length but just enough to do the job.  I would have liked to run over to Home Depot to pick up a 2" 90 degree elbow and bring it up with a short vertical section, but Mike didn't want to wait around.  He said he would leave enough working area so that I could do that later.  In the pictures below, you can see one of the crew guys cutting a section of 3/4" SCH 40 PVC that will be used to feed the sink from the main.  The second and third pictures show the two pipes together in the ground prior to pouring the slab.  When I bring the 3/4" PVC line up, I'm going to put on a ball valve so that I'll be able to shut it off/on right under the sink.  The 2" output pipe will head straight down into the ground after traveling a few feet from the BBQ island.  I'll dig a 3 ft or so deep hole and fill it with river rock so that the water has someplace to go.  This sink won't be used heavily, so that should be sufficient.  I'll mostly use it to wash my hands or rinse some vegetables off and other small things like that when we're cooking.


After the PVC was done, we were ready to start the footer/slab.  Some of the crew guys started to work the mixer and wheelbarrow while another worked the slab.  Here are some pictures of them pouring and shaping the slab.


The slab itself is anywhere from 4" - 6" thick.  It only takes about half an hour to an hour or so before they will be ready to start laying the block.  In the picture to the right, one of the crew members holds up the GFI outlet to show approximately where it will be located on the backsplash once the island is built up.  The flex tubing that the electricians left behind was about 4ft in length - more than ample to get just about anywhere on the island.


You can see in the first picture below how they buried the PVC pipes under the block form.  Mike placed a small bucket right over the pipes inside the island.  After the concrete was poured, it left a nice hole in the slab that would allow me to work with the pipes and add the 90 degree elbows.  The smaller 3/4" PVC will feed the faucet from the main water line.  The larger 2" PVC is for the drainage.  The area just to the left of the island in the first picture is where I'm planning to dig a 3ft deep hole and fill it with large river rock.  The drain pipe will feed into that pit to receive the water from the sink.  That depth should be enough to allow the water from the sink to drain away and soak into the earth.  Actually, had I did the job right, I would have used the black ABS piping rather than PVC.  The black ABS piping is rated for kitchen sinks where its more resistant to harsh chemicals and anything you want to throw at it, but I don't plan on really putting much down this BBQ island sink other than clean water.  PVC would suffice nicely.


Starting on the seating
While a couple of the crew members worked on the BBQ footer, Mike started to set up the form for the footer for the bench seats that would curve around the other side of the BBQ island.  The seat would be placed in the location where the Fireplace was going to originally be located. The guys set up a small section of 6" flexboard form and secured it with some #4 steel bars.


The seats would look similar to the one shown earlier from Valley Hardscapes, just without the fireplace in the middle.  When Mike first met with me, he brought along a little album that had pictures of some of his work.  I noticed that all his bench seats were the straight 90 degree variety for the bench backs.  Not very comfortable.  I told Mike that I really liked the curved/angled seat that I saw from the other sub, and Mike said that it wasn't a problem.  He normally didn't make his seats like that, but that he could do it for no extra charge.  He would do it similar to the picture to the right.

He said one thing to keep in mind was that in order to get the angled seat back, the bench would be extra deep.  And given that my deck was relatively small and cramped as it was, it would require that the seats encroach onto the deck by about 16 inches or so.  That would eat up a lot of real estate.  From my earlier deck picture, you'll notice that with a circular deck with a 9ft radius, that would leave me only about 12 inches of space from the deck's edge to the property line. Not very much spare room.  In any event, I knew I needed to compromise some deck space if I was going to get some comfortable seats.  So that's what we decided on.

Here are some pictures of the finished footer for the seats.  Unbeknownst to me at this time, this bench would turn out to be the biggest blunder so far in the whole project.  Can you guess what it is from the pictures?  I didn't notice it until later.  It was actually due to miscommunication, but so far, up until this point, things had gone pretty smoothly.  I'll discuss the issue more in depth a little later.

One thing I noticed about Mike right away was that he was a no-nonsense kind of a guy when it came to his job.  He wasn't one that liked to be bothered by a lot of deviation to what was agreed upon.  I don't blame him in a way.  When we first started discussing the specifics of the BBQ, I told him that I wanted a island for a BBQ and a Wok/Side Burner.  He asked me if I had picked them out yet.  I told him I was planning to go to BBQs Galore to pick them out.  He said that the guys were going to be forming the countertop later on that afternoon, so I needed to decide how big the holes was going to be for the BBQ, Wok, and utility sink by then. I also told him that I wanted to add a light to the BBQ and the only way I could do that was to tap into the GFCI outlet.  He said he could work it out. 

Riding with Mike
He said that he needed to stop at BBQs Galore to pick up something for another client and asked if I wanted to come along.  I said, "sure" since I needed to get the hole sizes.  As we drove to the BBQs Galore store 20 minutes away, I got a chance to ask him a lot of questions.  The thing I was wondering the most was why he didn't want to just get his license.  He said that he had been tossing that around for a long time, but when he had the money (for the training and the exam) he didn't have the time, and when he had the time, he didn't have the money.  He said that now, he had already paid for the classes and the exam, but he didn't have time to do it.  I told him that it should be considered an investment.  Investing time now would have HUGE dividends later as he could command twice as much for each job than he was making now.  I told him what the other sub bid out my job for, and he wasn't at all surprised.  He said that he realizes that he could only command about half of what licensed subcontractors charge and that it was solely because no one really wants to take a chance with unlicensed subcontractors.  He told me not to worry though.  He said that he would fully warranty ALL his work for 2 years just like any licensed contractor.  He mentioned that for my neighbor, he had to come back to take care of a few minor things and that he fully wanted to honor that.  I objected and said, "But you had to do that since you were working under a pool builder's license at that time and he was liable for problems.  With me, there is no such arrangement."  He laughed and told me not to worry.  He said that if there were problems, he would come back to fix it and no questions asked.  On the way there, he also gave me a glimpse of the treatment he gets from pool builders who are constantly trying to low-ball him on prices even though he already charges only half of what other subs with charge.  This was something that really made him upset and I could tell by his colorful choice of adjectives that this was not a favorite subject of his.  I just encouraged him to just get his license no matter what it took him since he was effectively taking a loss of income on each job that he took.

When we finally got to BBQs Galore, I saw a nice 3-burner Stainless Steel BBQ by Turbo that looked pretty decent.  It had the Rotisserie and back burner.  I asked the sales rep about the cut-out size.  He gave me a sheet with all the numbers and I handed it to Mike.  I did the same with the Wok/Side Burner and we were now in business.  Mike told me he was going to drop me back off at the house and go on to another job site.  He would be available for any questions, but he was going to leave my job in the hands of his experienced crew.  When he reached my house, I thanked him for the ride, and got out.  He reminded me that his guys needed to know the size of the sink before 1PM or so because they were going to be forming the counter about that time.  As soon as I told him I would be looking for my sink during lunch, he raced off towards his other job.

Looking for the kitchen sink
I immediately jumped into my car and raced off towards Home Depot in search of my utility sink. I knew the guys would be measuring the counter for the holes in less than an hour so I had to get the sink fast.  When I got to Home Depot, I noticed that while they had a couple of nice 21 gauge steel utility sinks, they didn't have any faucets that were made for the 2-hole sink that both had.  I raced to the Great Indoors which was fortunately close by, but left as soon as I saw that the cheapest sink they had started at $100 and went up to $300 ... just for a lousy utility sink.  I only had one last place to look: Lowe's.  Fortunately, there was a Lowe's near the Great Indoors.  When I got to the section for sinks, I asked the sales guy about a sink for a BBQ island.  He said that he had just the thing and took me to show it to me.  Perfect - the sink he showed me included the faucet and the drain/strainer with it, and it was only $44 for _everything_.  Pretty cool.  When I got back home, I saw that the guys had made huge progress.  This is what I saw when I went around to the back:


I got slightly alarmed when I saw that they had already set the GFCI outlet.  I had told Mike I wanted to tap into the load side of the outlet so that I could power the BBQ light, but it appeared that the outlet was close to being completely set in concrete if not already.  I quickly dialed his cell and told him of the dilemma.  I asked if they could stop the work on the outlet, while continuing other parts of the BBQ while I wired up the electrical for the light.  He said that he couldn't just stop work on the BBQ and that it would cost him to stop work all of a sudden. I asked about the outlet and he said that there were other ways to work the issue without having to stop work.  He said that he was almost finished working with the client at the other job site and would be back over soon to talk over the outlet issue.

You can see how the outlet was already set by masonry blocks and mortar.  None of the flex tubing was exposed so I didn't know how he was planning to work the issue.  I asked the guys if they could stop work on the outlet until Mike arrived, but their English wasn't that good.  And since my Spanish sucks, that didn't help matters any.  However, sensing my concern, I think they got the idea, and started to work on the bench seats.

They neatly started arranging a set of 8" x 8" x 16" concrete block around an arc and stretched it from one end of the BBQ and curved it around until it hit the wall.  After that was done, they started on the second layer.  You can see the two layers in the picture below in the middle.


When I came back out, I noticed that they went even further with the outlet on the BBQ.  By this time, they had pretty much enshrouded the outlet completely in concrete. Where was Mike?  I called him up again and let him know what was going on.  He reassured me that everything was going to be fine and to just let the guys continue to work.


Mike called up one of the guys from his cell phone.  I didn't know what he said, but afterwards, I saw one of the guys pull the flex tube from behind the BBQ and leave it exposed.  Ahhh.  Ok, I see now, he was going to just leave a part of the run exposed so that I could tap into it from there.  This wasn't the best solution as I would have like to put the light on GFCI protection (load side of the outlet), but it would have to do.


At this point, they were already starting to form the countertop.  I noticed that the way they did their countertops was lay steel rebar across the opening on the top, place the thinnest 4" masonry block across it, then fill in the gaps with concrete.  Only small sections then needed to be filled with concrete.  In those sections, he placed a small plywood board across some rebar rods, then fill it with concrete.  I know this way was the more economical way to go, but I wasn't going to complain.  Not with what he was charging me for the work.  I've seen other subs put a form around the whole thing, put a sheet of plywood on top, and pour a solid 4" slab of concrete.  That kind of countertop slab was definitely more durable and robust, but hey, what the hay - I'm not planning to sit an elephant on the counter.


I didn't buy the utility sink a moment too soon, because at this point, they took the sink and formed the opening for it by laying it right into the island and building right around it.  You can see some pictures of it above.

At this point they had pretty much wrapped up the countertop and finished putting in all the holes.  Next, they started to apply the base coat (scratch coat) on the outer surface of the BBQ.  This would be the foundational coat for the final coat that they would texture tomorrow.  One of the guys told me that the coating was nothing more than a mixture of mortar, portland cement, and sand.  It was mixed to a very thin fluid consistency, kind of like toothpaste.  Here you see some pictures of the finished coating.  They would let this dry overnight before coming back to apply the finish coat and texture along with putting in the 4" backsplash on top of the BBQ back against the wall.


If you look at the middle picture above, you'll notice that they pulled the electrical flex tubing out just enough so that I would have access to it.  You can see it through the hole near the back of the BBQ wall.  I would now have to cut through the tubing and tap into the line for the BBQ light.  Not a big deal, but I would have to pick up a few more parts at Home Depot to make it happen.  Mike told me that they were going to let the thing dry overnight, then apply the finish coat, then texture it the following day.  They would also finish up the bench seat tomorrow as well.  

As I looked towards the bench seats again, I noticed that they had only laid down two rows of 8x8x16 block.  I asked Mike, "I thought I was going to get 16" of sitting space alone.  Where is the seat back going to go?"  Mike stared at it for awhile before realizing his mistake.  There was an extra section of block missing.  We talked it through a little more and I suggested that he could just add an extra row of 8x8x16 block sideways in the front to get it.  He said, "No, then it may be susceptible to cracking since we would be putting it on a different foundation.  He said that he would move it tomorrow and fix it then.  I didn't realize it at the time, but our understanding at this point was still not in sync.  There would be yet another incident the next day.  It all goes to show that communication is so vital.  Sometimes, you have to just put it down on paper before you get your point across.

That pretty much wrapped up a hectic day of BBQ building and buzzing around town looking for BBQ items.  And I still wasn't done.  I wanted to clean out the area where the PVC pipes were laid to insure that it wouldn't be difficult to work with later.  I wanted to do before the guys started work the next morning.  After they had left at 5pm or so, I went back outside and chipped around the pipes where a bunch of concrete had fallen.  I dug around the pipes for some clearance and decided to just add the 90 degree elbows since I was already working down there.


I could have done it later, since there was ample room for me to work down there, but I wanted to chip away a lot of the excess concrete that had fallen into the hole while it was still fresh and easy to remove.  Since I was down there already, I decided to just put the elbows on at the same time and seal them up.  And that puts a wrap on the first day for the BBQ.  Tomorrow, we'll be re-doing the bench seats and texturing the BBQ.


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