More in Outdoors
This example uses a steel frame kit to create the shape of the island. There are different styles to choose from, including some that accommodate a drop-in barbecue or refrigerator. This island is made up of three pieces that connect to create a wrap-around bartop with plenty of counter space. Assemble the frames with rivets and fit together like a piece. Once assembled, set the frames in place and make a mark in the dirt where each corner sits.
Dig holes at each corner on the frames. The holes should be deep enough to fit concrete pier blocks, which will become the foundation for the island. Place a pier block in each of the holes, using dry cement at the bottom to ensure that they're level (Image 1). Set the island frames on top of the pier blocks and drill them in place. For extra stability and drainage, mix cement and surround each pier block on all sides with it, sloping down to direct water away from the island (Image 2). This will keep water from pooling up around the pier blocks.
Cover the entire island with cement board. This will provide a sturdy base for the stucco, which you'll apply later. Cut pieces to fit over every exposed portion of the island, leaving a two-inch gap from the bottom of the island to the dirt. The cement board should never come in contact with water on the ground; it could rot. Attach the board by screwing it into the steel frames along all the edges of the island.
For the countertops we chose granite 1' x 1' tiles. Granite is a popular stone for indoor kitchens, but it's also perfect for the outdoors because it's sturdy and easy to clean. These tiles were pre-beveled on all sides so they can lay right next to each other without grout. This saves time on installation and gives a final look that's closer to a single slab of granite. Ahmed and the crew used bull-nosed tiles that were rounded off on the outside edges. First, lay out all of the tiles. Set a corner piece in place for a guide, giving it about a 1/8" overhang so the stucco will come right up to the edge of the tile. Snap a chalk line following the edge of the corner piece and line up the rest of the tiles against that. Pull measurements for the missing gaps so you can cut tiles to fit these holes. Use a wet saw to cut the tiles according to your measurements and set the new tiles out in the sun to dry. The adhesive won't stick to wet tiles. When ordering tile, always order at least 15 percent more than the measurements suggest to cover for cuts and breakage. Since granite is a natural stone, there can be slight differences in color from batch to batch. It's best to order all the tile at one time to keep colors consistent.
Use a strong tile adhesive to glue the tiles directly to the cement board. Once you complete sections of tile, weigh them down with something heavy — like bricks — until the adhesive sets.
Before any stucco is attached, install a "weep screed" — a piece of aluminum shaped like an "L" — along the bottom edge of the island. It provides a shelf for the stucco and also directs water away from the island to prevent rotting. Next, use screws to attach metal lath, a wire mesh, over all of the exposed cement board.
Prepare the stucco mix according to the directions and apply it quickly to the metal lath with a trowel. This project used one-coat stucco, which is easy to work with and quicker to apply than traditional stucco that takes two coats. Apply the stucco in an upward motion, pushing it into the lath and completely covering it. Don't overwork it. Instead, try to apply each scoop in one motion. After applying a large section of the stucco, mist the whole area to prevent it from curing too fast, which could cause it to crack. Covering the fresh stucco with plastic also helps slow down the curing process. If the stucco does crack, it's easy to repair with a product specifically meant for stucco crack repair; simply apply it with the same technique used with the stucco. Once the stucco has completely dried, paint as desired.
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