Come summer, Tony DiGangi of Wellesley, Mass., can invariably be found out on the deck, barbecuing steak and burgers for a crowd. "We entertain a lot, and our grill is the social hub," he says. So when This Old House asked readers to design their own Home Center Project, Tony let his inner grill master do the thinking.
He came up with a great idea for a place to store his cooking tools and set his platters of food—a cart assembled from wood planters and metal-wrapped plywood—and won the right to build his creation with TOH general contractor Tom Silva. With a few tweaks—hooks, hinges, and wheels—Tom turned Tony's idea into barbecue brilliance.
The pair built the handsome deck accessory for about $150, so now DiGangi can set aside the cooking clutter and put the emphasis back on the steaks. "I'm always trying to get the grill marks just right," he confesses.
How to Turn Planters Into a Grilling Station
Build with materials that perform well outside, such as exterior-grade plywood and galvanized sheet metal, hinges, and door pulls.
Step 1: Cut the top and sides
- Using a circular saw with a guide, cut two pieces of plywood for the top. Make the pieces 1 inch larger all around than the dimensions of one of the planter's sides.
- Stack the pieces. Using a drill/driver, fasten them together with 1-inch deck screws.
- Measure and cut two plywood pieces ¾ inch smaller than the planter's opening to make the two doors.
Step 2: Cut the metal covers
- Using tin snips, cut three pieces of sheet metal, each 3 inches larger than the top and two doors.
- Center each piece of plywood on the metal and trace it with a marker, extending the lines to the edge of the metal.
- Make a 45-degree relief cut at each corner. Measure ½-inch in from the sides of the corner and make two more cuts to remove the excess metal. Using needlenose pliers, fold the corners over and crease them flat.
Step 3: Wrap the plywood in metal
- Place the plywood top on the metal, aligning it with the marker outline. Clamp the wood and metal to your worktable together, letting one side hang over the edge of the table.
- Bend the metal up against the side of the plywood at the marker line.
Step 4: Crease the metal covers
- To get the sheet metal all the way around the plywood, use a wood block and hammer to bend it up and over the wood. Crease it so that it wraps tightly against the wood.
- Remove the clamps, and reposition the plywood and metal as you wrap each side.
- Hammer down any sharp edges. Wrap the doors in the same manner.
Step 5: Tack the Metal to the Top
- Using a hammer and nailset, make small dents in the metal at the folded-over edges of the wrapped top.
- Pin the metal to the plywood with nails 4d finishing nails.
Step 6: Finish the doors
- Cut two pieces of plywood 1 inch smaller than the doors.
- Using the drill/driver and 1-inch screws, fasten the pieces to the back of the doors to cover the cut-metal edges.
Step 7: Assemble the base
- Turn the planters on their side. Using a drill/driver and 2½-inch screws, drill pilot holes and then fasten them to each other through the rims.
- Center the metal-wrapped top over the planters and screw it on from underneath.
Step 8: Mount the doors
- Screw the strap hinges to the doors.
- Center a door in its opening and hold it in place with duct tape and shims. Screw the strap hinges to the planter's rim. Install cabinet catches on the inside of the door to hold it closed.
- Hang the other door in the same manner.
Step 9: Attach the hardware
- Using a drill/driver and 1-inch screws, secure the handles to the doors and the hooks to the sides of the cabinet.
- If your planters have a rim, fill the space on the bottom of the cart with a piece of plywood to create a large, flush surface. Shim the plywood if necessary.
- Attach locking casters—to ensure you're stand won't roll while you're working—no more than 1/2 inch in from each corner of the base. This placement will keep the cart's base wide enough to prevent tipping.