With summer in full swing, there's no doubt that your grill is working overtime. From burgers to BBQ chicken to vegetables like corn and asparagus, it's safe to say that everything tastes better when cooked over an open flame. And, while you've likely got your grilling techniques down to a science, it's time you perfected your grilling station.
Enter the grilling cart. No backyard BBQ setup is complete without one. A quality grilling cart serves as storage for your grill tools and accessories, a spot to prep and serve food, and, with a few fun accessories, you can even outfit it as a backyard bar. So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your DIY grilling cart with our step-by-step guide below.
Before You Begin
While we've laid out plans for a great grilling cart, we understand that everyone has different needs. So, these steps are written to be customizable. You alter the cart's height and length if you desire, and you can add an additional shelf depending on your storage needs.
Additionally, the cart is fully customizable to your needs, and we've provided some accessory inspiration to aid in the decision-making process. Even the finish can be customized to better suit your intended use for the cart. If you plan to make any changes to the original design, factor them in before buying materials.
This grilling cart is designed to be safe in a backyard setting that might include children and pets. While customization is encouraged, refrain from straying from the assembly instructions. Furthermore, should you intend to use the butcher block top for food prep and serving, pay close attention to the finishing and upkeep instructions, as not all finishes are food safe.
Equipment / Tools
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Measuring tape
- Drill bits
- Pocket hole jig kit
- 18-gauge brad nailer
- Trigger clamps
- Orbital sander
- Wood finishing supplies
- Painting supplies (optional)
Ice Chest Insert
- Measuring tape
- 1/2-inch drill bit
- Jigsaw wood blade
- Orbital sander
- 48-inch x 25-inch x 1-1/4-inch butcher block
- 1 4x4 x 10-foot pine board
- 3 2x4 x 8-foot pine board
- 4 1x2 x 8-foot furring strips
- 18-gauge brad nails
- Wood glue
- 2 4-inch casters
- 2 4-inch locking casters
- 10 1-inch x 1-inch L-brackets
- 20 1-inch wood screws
- 32 2-1/2-inch pocket hole screws
- 120-grit sandpaper
- 220-grit sandpaper
- Paint or stain and exterior sealant
- Food-safe butcher block oil (optional)
Ice Chest Insert
- 18-inch heavy-duty planter insert with lipped edge
- 120-grit sandpaper
- Wall-mounted bottle opener and hardware
- Grill tool hooks
- Wall-mounted bottle opener
- Hand towel rod
- Paper towel holder
How to Build a Grilling Cart
Follow along to learn how to build a grilling cart. Alter the length cuts to accommodate any planned customizations.
Cut the 4x4s into four legs each with a length of 30 inches. If you desire to make the grill cart slightly taller or shorter, you can increase or decrease this measurement as needed.
4x4s have an actual dimension of 3-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches. To give the legs a slimmer look, use a table saw rip each leg to a 3-inch by 3-inch square.
Cut Side Pieces
To create the horizontal side pieces, measure and cut the 2x4s into four 17-inch boards.
Assemble Side Pieces
Place two legs side by side spaced roughly 17 inches apart. To center the boards on the width of the legs, rip two pieces of scrap wood to a thickness of 1/2 inch and place the pieces alongside each leg to serve as spacers.
Place the upper and lower side pieces between the legs resting on top of the 1/2-inch spacers. Position the upper side piece flush against the top of the legs and the lower side piece 3/4 inch from the bottom of the legs.
Use wood glue and pockets screws to fasten the side pieces to the legs. Each side piece should have two equally spaced screws at each end.
Repeat on the second side.
Cut Front and Back Pieces
To create the horizontal front and back pieces, measure and cut the 2x4s into four 39-inch boards.
Connect the Sides
To assemble the frame, connect each side by attaching the front and back boards using the same method used to attach the side pieces. Lay the sides next to each other with the 1/2-inch spacers beside them, position the boards, and fasten with glue and pocket screws. Unlike the sides, the upper and lower boards on the front and back will both be flush with their respective ends of the legs.
The easiest way to complete assembly is to attach both upper and lower back pieces, then flip the entire frame over and attach the upper and lower front pieces.
Once the frame is assembled, turn it upright with the bottom of the legs on the work surface.
Cut Shelf Strips
The lower shelf will consist of 1x2 furring strips spanning the distance between the front and back horizontal pieces. To span the full 39 inches, cut 1x2s into 16 pieces measuring 22 inches in length. Because a 1x2s actual width is 1-1/2 inches, each strip will be spaced 1-inch apart.
15 1-inch gaps plus 16 1-1/2-inch strips will cover exactly 39 inches. The outside frame pieces are slightly elevated to serve as the outside edges of the shelf.
Attach Shelf Strips
To attach the strips, start at one end of the 39-inch boards. Apply glue to each side of the joint, place the strip on the frame with its side tightly against the legs, and attach using an 18-gauge brad nail. Continue attaching each strip 1 inch from the previous strip until you reach the other legs, then wipe away any excess glue.
Build Secondary Shelf (optional)
Depending on your storage needs, a second shelf can be added anywhere between the bottom shelf and the top of the frame. Simply follow the same method of attaching four more frame pieces and furring strips.
Attach Butcher Block Top
To attach the butcher block top, place the top upside down on a work surface. Turn the frame upside down and place it on top of the butcher block piece. Space the four corners until they're equidistant from the edges of the butcher block.
Attach the top to the frame using L-brackets and 1-inch wood screws. Use a drill bit slightly thinner than your screw to drill pilot holes at each place you want a screw, being careful not to drill through the top of the butcher block or through the frame. An easy way to do this is by putting a piece of tape 1-inch from the end of your drill bit.
While the cart is still upside down, attach the casters to the leg. Use a measuring tape and pencil to find and mark the center of each leg, then drill pilot holes using a bit slightly thinner than the caster hardware. Screw the casters tightly into each leg with the locking casters positioned at the front of the cart.
Sand All Surfaces
Sand all wood surfaces first using 120-grit sandpaper, then following with 220-grit.
Your grilling cart's base can be finished by either painting it with exterior paint or staining it and sealing it with a clear sealant such as exterior-grade polyurethane or spar varnish. The butcher block top can be stained and sealed using the same method unless you plan to use it for food prep. In that case, leave the top unstained and apply food-safe butcher block oil.
Whichever finish option you choose, closely follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper application.
Avoid prepping raw meat on a wood food-prep surface.
How to Turn Your Grilling Cart Into a Backyard Bar
Follow these steps to create a bar-top ice chest to hold chilled beverages. By using a planter insert, the ice chest can easily be removed for cleaning.
Trace Planter Insert on Butcher Block
Position the planter insert on top of the butcher block where you wish to have the ice chest. Use a tape measure to ensure it's equidistant from each side. Trace the insert using a pencil.
If your planter insert is tapered, measure the length and width just beneath the lip and add the additional size to your traced lines on the butcher block.
Drill Starter Holes
On the inside of each corner you traced, drill a hole using a 1/2-inch drill bit.
Cut Out Butcher Block
Use a jigsaw to cut out the butcher block material between the traced lines.
Sand the Rough Edges
Use an orbital sander to remove any splinters and rough edges, as well as smooth out the cuts from the jigsaw.
Slide Planter Insert Into Place
Slide the planter insert in to ensure fitment and remove more material if necessary.
Attach Bottle Opener
Screw a wall-mount bottle opener to the front leg closest to the ice chest.
How to Accessorize Your Grilling Cart
There are plenty of fun ways to accessorize your grill cart. Add a bottle opener, hooks for your grill tools, a paper towel holder to the side, a hand towel rod to the side for hanging hand towels and accessories, and anything else you can think of. You can even cut a hole in the butcher block and place a garbage can on the shelf beneath it.
How to Care for a Grilling Cart
Necessary upkeep for your grilling cart depends on how you finished it. If you painted or stained and sealed the base, simply wipe it clean as needed and re-coat when necessary. If you sealed the top, do the same. If you applied food-safe butcher block oil to the top, wipe it clean after every use and apply mineral oil to the surface. Allow the mineral oil to penetrate the wood before wiping it off.