One day, I was at Lowe’s picking up some household odds and ends with my family, when we walked by the grill section. I always looked but never touched when it came to these stainless steel outdoor monster kitchens, but this one had a yellow sign on it showing the normal price and then the clearance price. Let’s just say that the clearance price was well below 50% of the original price. Already assembled, it was a no-brainer. I got help putting it in the truck and help getting it out of of the truck and into my garage for the night. That night lasted about 4 months.
You see, this grill was supposed to replace our old, dying propane grill. Propane. That was the plan. While going over the manual for my newly acquired stainless “steal”, I found that it is a natural gas grill, not meant for propane. Did I mention that I didn’t have a gas line hookup at the back of the house? Did I mention that the grill weighs a ton and takes up a quarter of the garage? But did I mention it was a GREAT deal?
So I spent the next month or so figuring out a way to get a gas line to the backyard. Every cell in my body was telling me not to mess with something that could blow my entire house and family up. But normal people do this stuff all the time, why shouldn’t I be able to? I had to overcome my fear of messing with gas lines.
After extensive research, I was about to go the route of using galvanized steel piping and fittings, to tap into the gas at the meter and swing it around the house to the back yard, all buried and professional. That seemed like a lot of money and extra time just to get a grill running, so I put it off and even decided against it later.
I tried to find a natural gas to propane conversion kit for my grill. They exist, but require a bunch of swapping out of parts and drilling orifices larger and…yes, I said orifices…and even when I had an experienced person do the math and figure out if it was do-able on my particular grill, the answer was basically no. I would have to give up the two infrared grill elements, and that’s just silly. So, back to the natural gas dilemma.
I was starting to get a bit desperate. I had called around to a few grill stores to ask them about the propane conversion kits and none of them had ’em, but one guy, who seemed a bit eccentric, did offer up and alternative that ended up being what I decided to do. He mentioned that there is plastic tubing called Pex tubing that can be run using special compression fittings, right from the meter to wherever you need it. So below is the photo-essay that shows how it all came together. Having had countless conflicting opinions offered to me to solve this problem, I ended up having to piece together the bits of information I collected and make it happen myself. All this to save myself from exorbitant plumbing prices.
I started to buy the parts I would need: 60+ feet of 7/8″ OD (Outer Diameter) yellow Pex tubing. Apparently this stuff had to be ordered special by my local grill store. Look it up if you need some. I also learned from the “dude” at the grill store about various compression fittings and ways to tap the gas meter, none of which I properly documented on film to show here. I’ll see if I can post and update on it later. So, it looked like the ball was rolling now that I had my supplies. I was missing energy and motivation to begin actually digging. Then I remembered the most important step in installing a new gas line:
Do NOT skip this step: Get a friend to help you dig the trench! 😉
My friendly neighbor John took time out of his busy schedule on a hot day to help dig (and when I say help, I mean he did most of the work. He’s just faster at it than I am!). We decided to dig the trench the width of the shovel, making it easier to get the shovel into the trench. The depth we dug to was approx 12″. It helped to keep the clumps of dirt and grass nearby to make it easier to plop back into the ground afterwards.
My daughter Sarah, who likes to do yardwork in white clothing, was eager to help with the digging.
She used a spade to take care of the details of the trench, making sure the depth was maintained throughout. This is important, so the tubing doesn’t get crimped up in a roller coaster ride unnecessarily.
While digging at a great pace, we managed to find the internet/cable that runs to the house, but not until we thrust the sharp shovel right through it! Yes, we cut ourselves off from the rest of the world when we cut our cable line. (click for larger image)
Not to fear. I know how to create RF plug ends and had a couple of couplers lying around, so with supplies at hand, I was able to get the cable reconnected and taped up with electrical tape.
The final result is shown here.
Not too bad eh? The main thing is that the connection works! And it does, or this blog post wouldn’t make it very far.
The digging on the side of the house to the gas meter was then completed. Here’s a view looking from the fence to the meter with the tubing laid in it:
And from the opposite angle:
You can see that we gave ourselves plenty of leeway on the length of the tubing, just to be safe. It’s a few more bucks, but worth it. Also, note that the ends should be covered to keep dirt out until it’s time to make the connections. I used tape.
The parts that would have been really cool to document, I neglected to. I learned from John how to sweat joints on copper tubing with a propane blowtorch. If you told me a few months ago that I would be using a blowtorch to weld tubing that would feed gas to a grill on my property and NOT feel like my house is going to explode, I would have laughed in your face. But look, I did it. I needed help, and got it when I needed it, and that made it happen.
So the line installed and leak tested, I had the challenge before me to get the grill TO the backyard. This thing is heavy and has wheels. I have grass going all the way to the backyard, no pavement, and heavy things with small caster wheels do not roll in Texas grass. So I got some plywood and a helper. This is when it’s great to have kids to help you out, I tell ya. Here’s Seth giving me a hand with negotiating a turn in the backyard with the new grill. (These photos were taken by the other helper and son, Zack)
We basically used the same three pieces of plywood over and over to roll the grill to the back, over the grass. I guess that’s what a professional installer would be facing too, right? Or maybe they would have assembled it in the backyard in the first place? Well, I bought mine assembled, remember, so I was stuck.
So we plugged her in and turned her on and it has been working beautifully ever since. We turn the gas off at the meter tap when the grill is not in use for more than a day or so. Not sure if that’s necessary, but for now, I sleep a little better with it being like that. So here’s what it looks like plugged in.
I am now committed to doing a better job at maintaining my backyard so we can feel more comfortable grilling out there, heck maybe have guests over too! 🙂
And here it is with its grill cover on. There’s a lot of pollen in the air lately and I would not want to try to clean that off of this nice new grill. Nope.
I would like to build some sort of covering for this part of the backyard. It’s not very big. The cement slab is roughly 12′ x 14′ or so. Just enough to keep the direct sun and rain off of the backdoor and grill would be nice. But the damn HOA will have to stay away!
Update: It’s now May and I am finally getting around to finishing this blog entry. This pic is from yesterday, a good day, in my opinion. And just look at those veggies and pork steaks! Yum!
I started the day getting help from John, yet again, on replacing the actuators in my truck’s doors. They are the thingies that actually move the lock up and down when you flip the switch on the door armrest itself or the keychain remote entry. I didn’t have the patience or clean hands to document this procedure, but luckily this guy did. His photo essay made it possible for me to visualize what needed to be done. Then when I ran into problems, John was there to rescue me.
What a guy. Everyone needs a John in their neighborhood, for sure. The gas project saved us about $775. The door lock actuator replacements that we did on our own (I paid for parts only, at a cheap online place), saved us about $477. He said he’s going to help me replace the truck’s ball joints soon too, a saving s of about $1100!! Seriously, folks….it PAYS to learn how to do stuff out there! I plan on either taking an auto class or hanging out more with mechanics or John because, look at those numbers! That really does add up.
Thanks again, John!