Outdoor Kitchen Grill Islands

grill island concrete form

Let me propose a question… What could be better than relaxing by the beautiful water garden pond or pondless waterfall you created with your bear hands. Yes, bear hands, because that’s how your hands feel after all that digging!

The answer is, relaxing by your beautiful water garden with a plate of delicious food that you prepared on your new outdoor kitchen grill island. And of course a nice cool beverage to go with it!

Yes, it’s time for yet another project to bring us closer to that at home getaway feel. This time we will be building a stone outdoor kitchen grill island with concrete counter tops.

Location is Key

As before, it’s important to select the right location. You don’t want to travel too far back and forth from your kitchen to your grill. It is also important to orient the entire project in such a way that it creates an inviting area for people to gather and enjoy the view of your water garden.

This is where I may have made a “mistake” in a selfish way. When I created my grill island, it is oriented so the one doing the cooking (ME) gets the best view of the waterfall, while the people at the bar only get to have a conversation with the grill master! But hey, what more could you want… I’m awesome!

When you plan out your project, just keep all that in mind. It’s things like that, that you don’t think of until after, when it’s too late.

When it comes to outdoor kitchen grill islands, you are only limited by your imagination. The island I built was a simple L formation. With a project like this you can always add to it in the future if you didn’t make it large enough or just want a bigger area for seating and entertaining.

Once you have decided on the location and the shape of your next masterpiece, measure it all out, and then use a can of spray paint to outline the foundation. It will be necessary to remove an area 8 inches wider than you plan the island to be.

For this project, my dimensions for my foundation were 16″ wide everywhere, which allows 4″ on either side of the 8″ wide blocks. The other 3 lengths being 32″ X 80″ X 88″

When doing your layout keep in mind the dimensions of the cinder blocks. The ones used were 8” x 8” x 16”. Make it easy on yourself and create a form that will accommodate these dimensions so you don’t have to cut any of the blocks.

Nothing Worthwhile Is Easy

Hopefully your hands and back have healed some since your last project. Now it’s time to break out you two best friends… your shovel, and your will and start digging again!  Remember it is important to know there are no underground utilities before you dig.  Always call before you dig.

You want to remove dirt until you are 12 inches from where the top of your foundation will be. In order to achieve this, you will need wooden stakes, a hammer, a level, and a string line. After you paint out your outline take one stake at the highest part of your site and pound It Into the ground. The top of this stake will be the top of your foundation.

Now pound another stake in around the perimeter. Now place your level on the first stake and pond the second stake in the ground until the top of both stakes are level. If your stakes are further apart than your level is long, rest your level on the straightest 2 X 4 you can find and use that span the gap.

Go around the entire perimeter and set a stake every 4 feet or so. This will ensure that you reach the proper depth. Now dig down until you are 12 below the top of your stakes. Be sure not to disturb the ground deeper than you plan on digging. Leaving this ground undisturbed will help stop your foundation from settling.

Use a hand tamper and compact the dirt on the bottom of your trench. If you are planning on having electricity in your island, now would be the time to put your conduit in place. Thinking ahead when doing a project like this will really pay off. Even if you don’t put electric out there immediately, at least you have an easy way to do it in the future.

Now That You’re Down…

Now fill the trench back up with 2” crusher run, the same kind of stone you would use to make a stone driveway. This will allow for proper draining beneath your island. Fill the trench to 6 inches below the top of your stakes. Use the hand tamper as you go to make sure everything is nice and tight.

It’s time to make your forms. This is sort of like a negative… remember when you had to wait to get your pictures developed, anyways the space inside the form you build will be your foundation. I used 2 x 4’s to build my form. The wood gave the foundation a clean edge and the ground acted as the lower part of the form.

When you make your form I recommend using screws. This way you can easily take it apart after it has cured. Be sure to screw it on the outside of the form because once you add the concrete you will not have access to the screws beneath the concrete.

Here is an example of the form I used:

Now take your form and level the whole thing. Pound in stakes next to it, once the top of the form is where you want it, screw your stake to the form to hold it all in place. Use your level to check from side to side and in line. This is one of the most important steps. Everything in this project is counting on your strong level foundation.

Figure out how many bags of concrete you will need for your project based on the calculations provided by the concrete manufacturer. Always be sure to buy a couple extra just in case.

Before you begin mixing concrete, you will want to reinforce the concrete with rigid wire mesh. Cut it so that it covers the trench. It does not’t have to go all the way to the edges. Using pieces of cut off wire as legs, prop the mesh above the driveway stone so it is suspended above it.

Mix It Up

Get out your trusty wheel barrow and begin mixing your concrete. It’s important to mix it thoroughly so the concrete will cure properly and not have weak spots. Begin to pour the concrete at one end of the trench and fill it to the top of your forms.

As you go, you will need another 2 x 4 and a helping hand. Place the board on the form, spanning over the freshly poured concrete and move it side to side in a sawing motion, while pulling it across the new slab. This will show where more concrete may need to be added. It’s OK if some spills over the edge. Making a mess is all part of the fun!

Keep adding concrete and leveling off the top until the entire foundation is poured. Once you’ve done this allow the concrete to set up a bit, then using a concrete float, go and smooth out the top. This step isn’t all that necessary for this particular project because all of it will be covered by the island.

Finishing concrete is definitely a skill I wish I had. But I figured this was a chance to practice and no one would be the wiser. Give it a shot and let out your inner mason! Full disclosure, prior to this project I had very minimal experience with any type of masonry. If I could do it … so can you!

So Far

Outdoor kitchen grill islands can give you that feeling you’re away while in the comfort of your own backyard. What we’ve created so far is a 6-inch thick floating concrete slab to begin building your outdoor kitchen. Although this is not a glamorous phase of the project it is the most important to get right.



  • AJ says:

    Hi there

    So I actually love this whole idea. Me and my wife have talked about doing something pretty similar to this, during this summer. That gives me some super great ideas. Wish it was more affordable, but cement is never going to be lol. Whats the average time it takes for you to complete something like this?

    • Jeff Klinger says:

      Good luck to you if you decide to start your project. The truth is that whole thing cost under $300.00. The rocks were given to me by my neighbor, and cinder blocks and concrete are not too expensive if you mix it all yourself. It is extremely labor intensive though. This particular project took me about 6 weeks. I didn’t work on it full time. Only on weekends and after work an hour here and there. Thanks for reading and if you do start a project and run into trouble, feel free to stop back. I will be happy to help!

  • huzefa says:

    you have explained the steps to build the watergarden in a very effective manner.
    very good article indeed..
    I will try this soon

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