DIY Network

How to Build a Backyard Bar

Create a swanky space with some cleaning, repurposing and a new slate countertop.

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Step 1: Prepare the Old Countertops

This old barbecue hadn't been used in years – and it showed. Attack the built-up dirt, grime, moss, spider nests and other debris to create a clean surface for the thinset mortar.

Step 2: Create Custom Openings

The old barbecue had openings for a grill and an ice well. However, these openings weren't the right size for the new accessories, and a tight fit is crucial. The crew measured and custom-cut the slate tile (Image 1) to create the correct openings (Image 2). They also filled in unwanted openings to create a more level tiling surface. Always wear safety glasses and use extreme caution when working with a tile saw or similar tools.

Step 3: Lay Tile

This project used slate tiles in different sizes that fit together in several patterns. Dry-fit the tiles before getting started to get the best look. To lay the tile, mix thinset tile adhesive according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then spread it on the barbecue surface with a notched trowel. Place the tile, wiggling it slightly to make sure it’s seated properly. Use tile spacers to ensure an even grout line between tiles. Make sure to let the tile adhesive dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Always wear safety glasses and a dust mask when mixing powdered tile adhesive or grout. Use caution when working with a drill or other power tools.

Step 4: Install Accessories

Once the tile adhesive has dried completely, install the cooler, blender base or other accessories. These simply drop into the custom holes. Use scrap lumber and bricks to build a support under the cooler so it wouldn’t put extra weight on the slate counter tiles. Also, add a drain line for the cooler and an extension cord for the built-in blender through the back of the bar.

Step 5: Grout the Tiles

Remove the plastic spacers, mix outdoor-grade tile grout according to the manufacturer's instructions, and grout all tile joints. Use a grout float to work the grout down into the tile joints, then wipe off the excess. Once the grout dries to a haze, wipe again with a wet sponge. Let this grout cure completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions before placing anything on the bar.

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