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Outdoor Grills

Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 24, 10 at 16:36

When I was a ute (youth) in the late 60's early 70's in suburban Boston, I recall that there were a lot of ruins of brick or stone outdoor grills. I can not recall anyone using any of these as they were relics of a past generation. I never saw a new one being built until the 21st century.

Could these that have been built at a frenzied pace also become abandoned relics? I'm trying to figure out why they were abandoned the first time around and whether this is a current fad or that we have actually experienced a lifestyle change. Any thoughts?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Outdoor Grills

My neighbor's grown children built a big brick outdoor grill and it's rarely used. It takes a lot of wood to heat it up and it occupies a large area of the yard, permanently. AND it's further from the house than the preferred grill which is propane-fueled and on wheels. People are grilling more than ever, and grill technology has caused the abandonment of the old brick ones. Can we come up with another use for them? Birdhouse bases? Rose and clematis supports? :)

Carol


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RE: Outdoor Grills

If your late 60's early 70's years had instead been early 50's to early 60's, you'd see where these ruins originally fit into the landscape.

On our new street in small town Wisconsin, every new home builder put in elaborate patios with retaining walls and built in grills - except us, since my father wanted none of that. I remember our neighbor Jack out there every weekend in the checked pants and striped shirt or checked shirt and striped pants (not to mention the ubiquitous bib apron) wielding all manner of bbq tools - all for a hotdog and a cast iron pan of beans.

But by the time we left small town Wisconsin in 1960, the grills had pretty much been abondoned as just another yard ornament. I'm sure the grates rusted out big time, wood ash, food drippings clogged up the works, and the heat and elements cracked the mortar, etc. And people bided their time until Weber's Smokey Joe showed up at Coast to Coast stores.

Much to my father's dismay, this lovely house which I now own had a built in behemoth in the patio retaining wall... Since beauty was obviously in the eye of the original builder - and this was back in the 30's already - it was quickly dismantled and the stone made use of elsewhere on the property.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

I remember when almost everyone had woodburning backyard fireplaces for grilling and used them frequently. Then two products appeared on the market; the Weber grill which could be set up anywhere and offered a better cooking method and took advantage of bagged charcoal for cooking. The Weber quickly became the outdoor grill of choice. Still is except now they are also manufacturing types for fancy outdoor kitchens. There has been a renewed interest in cooking and I would suspect that those in warmer climates will continue to use their outdoor kitchens. The fad may pass in the north. Much easier to pull that little Weber kettle up by the back door and grill.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

Lovely piece of nostalgia duluth doesn't this speak volumes

"I remember our neighbor Jack out there every weekend in the checked pants and striped shirt or checked shirt and striped pants (not to mention the ubiquitous bib apron) wielding all manner of bbq tools - all for a hotdog and a cast iron pan of beans."

Thanks for that.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 24, 10 at 18:40

I also think that placement had something to do with the death of the mid-century built in grills. My memories have them all some distance from the back door. Perhaps that was because they were wood fired and it was more of a hazard. People seem much more comfortable using gas by the back door (except my sister-in-law who had a visit from the fire dept. to put out the deck off of the kitchen this summer).

It was actually Marcinde's comment about the woman who thought she'd like a built-in in a remote area of the yard that brought on this memory. It gave me a vision of my friend's back yard and cleaning out the leaves from the old relic and finding a spotted salamander in the mess. It made me think about ruins of cultured stone and moss growing on stainless steel lids.

.... then there are the fire pits. Are they here to stay or will duluthinbloom's grandchildren tell stories about the neighbor with an eyebrow ring with his pants below his boxers stacking twigs in the backyard fire ring? I have more faith that the grills will last longer than the elaborate fire pits.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 24, 10 at 19:06

A California perspective once again, but outdoor bbq's and fire rings that actually burn wood, as well as indoor fireplaces that burn wood, can't even be legally used when we have air quality alerts. It must be especially distressing to homeowners that like a wood burning fireplace lit up on a cold fall/winter night, but a good portion of the time they are illegal to burn here, in the interests of keeping the air quality breathable.

Oudoor wood burning firepits are also heavy polluters. I do see the widened popularity of gas fed fire pits, which have become much more popular here in coastal California, as something that is both useful and beautiful in use. Much of the time they are used as both a functional warming element, and a decorative/sculptural element. The ones that are lined with rock and the flames come up do have a certain fascinating presence, as well as being less polluting than wood smoke, and effectively make our chilly summer nights(often around 55F here in a San Francisco's August night), a lot more comfortable to eat/lounge outdoors. I predict that the gas fired fire rings are here to stay, for those who need/want them, especially where you don't have warm summer nights, like here near the Pacific Ocean and SF Bay.

As to the built-in outdoor grills with all the bells and whistles, I think they are mostly about status, and as there is less home equity available to pay for them, they will decline in popularity. A portable gas bbq and a pass through window with a bar/counter top and stools right at the house, can be just as functional at a hole lot less cost. Some people will heavily use the whole outdoor kitchen assemblage along with the obligate pool and jacuzzi, and others won't. I enjoy them when visiting friend's houses, but don't feel inclined to spend the money on one for my own backyard.


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Fortunately progressive air quality codes and compliances will stifle the building of heavy polluting outdoor wood burning firepits and masonry bbq's.

Here in my neck of the woods ( Northern California ) we have strict air quality laws that outlaw the building of wood burning appliances. If you want a fire pit and or a bbq and you want to use it any time you want then it needs to be fired by a source of non polluting clean energy, ie gas.

Eventually I think the rest of the country will come around to using non air polluting bbq's , interior + exterior fireplaces and fire pits.
There are already laws in place by the EPA when purchasing and installing a new fire burning appliance.
The American Lung Assc. is a strong lobbyist against wood burning appliances as well as other Spare the Air agencies.
Hopefully old wood burning firepits will find a new life as a raised planter box.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 24, 10 at 19:58

If an outdoor grill is not portable, you miss all the social opportunities for group grilling -- rolling your grill down the alley to the neighbor's back yard for Memorial Day, hauling it in the pickup to the beach for Fourth of July, rolling it out to the street for the neighborhood block party on Labor Day weekend, etc. Friends with the elaborate outdoor grills are stuck doing all the entertaining at home, and it's certain they are not used so often as one imagines at the outset.

We have a two-piece fired clay chiminea for warming the patio on cool nights, a simple idea with simple execution, and quite effective. Although we've had it for probably ten years, I can count on my fingers the number of times we've actually built a fire in it. This winter it is most often used as a perch by a resident mockingbird. With these experiences, it's clear there is no need for the permanent outdoor grill or fireplace installation.

Ever notice how these things are marketed? In the magazine or catalogue, the table is set with color coordinated dishes and linens, the hammock is there, the grill is ready, coals all aglow, cocktails fill the glasses, the perfect garden is in the background, and not a single person is in the photo. It's a fantasy, and you are supposed to insert yourself into the picture to complete the fantasy. (Oh, and don't forget your wallet.) ; ) For most of us, real life is slightly skewed from that fantasy -- fill in your own mental details!


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 24, 10 at 20:02

If an outdoor grill is not portable, you miss all the social opportunities for group grilling -- rolling your grill down the alley to the neighbor's back yard for Memorial Day, hauling it in the pickup to the beach for Fourth of July, rolling it out to the street for the neighborhood block party on Labor Day weekend, etc. Friends with the elaborate outdoor grills are stuck doing all the entertaining at home, and it's certain they are not used so often as one imagines at the outset.

We have a two-piece fired clay chiminea for warming the patio on cool nights, a simple idea with simple execution, and quite effective. Although we've had it for probably ten years, I can count on my fingers the number of times we've actually built a fire in it. This winter it is most often used as a perch by a resident mockingbird. With these experiences, it's clear there is no need for the permanent outdoor grill or fireplace installation.

Ever notice how these things are marketed? In the magazine or catalogue, the table is set with color coordinated dishes and linens, the hammock is there, the grill is ready, coals all aglow, cocktails fill the glasses, the perfect garden is in the background, and not a single person is in the photo. It's a fantasy, and you are supposed to insert yourself into the picture to complete the fantasy. (Oh, and don't forget your wallet.) ; ) For most of us, real life is slightly skewed from that fantasy -- fill in your own mental details!


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Funny, my first reaction was "better than indoors!". But seriously, around here, a good gas grill is the typical goal, not a fancy built-in grill. And firepits aren't fancy in my neighborhood, just functional, considering the amount of older trees that lose limbs over the winter! Considering we use ours about twice a year, I'm glad it was free! Otoh, our gas grill is definitely functional - esp on summer when we don't want to heat up the house. No big production - just quick good food.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 25, 10 at 7:05

I have to wonder if social pressure will be a problem for fire pits in the future. There just seems to be something wrong with driving a Prius and then having a gas or wood fire pit burning carbon fuels outside.

I just worked on the engineering end of a project that has three gas fired fire pits, two gas torches, and is on a seasonal project. It does stay warm here at night. I don't have a problem with that, but I am amused that the LA is LEED certified.


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It's funny that you mention cleaning the leaves out of one, laag. I grew up in a neighborhood in RI that was built in the 1950s, and several of my parents' neighbors had them... and the only time anyone went near them was fall cleanup season.

I think the newer outdoor kitchens are quite a bit more functional. They have countertops based on indoor kitchen workspace dimensions (24" deep, 36" high), and there are a bazillion options for fridges, side burners, coolers, etc.

That said, it seems to me that the clients who have the nicest outdoor kitchens can afford them because they're never home to use them. My Grillmaster Bob clients, who have a social sphere based around the neighbors and would love a better setting for grilling, aren't going to pay the price. So to answer the original question, depends. The ones I sold in Phoenix, for under $5K complete, are likely getting a ton of use. But I see a lot of $40K+ outdoor kitchens with cobwebs on the grill covers and mouse nests in front of the infra-red cook panels.


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Andrew,
I have to agree, there is something very moronic about building a LEED certified project and having a wood burning fireplace in it.

This is what I think about it : 2 LEED points (steps) a head but 7 LEED points (steps) backwards.
Much of it is just feel good greenwashing.
The intention is good but there are a lot of flaws and some erroneous thought processes.

Within the last year I've been attending a lot of seminars, meetings and roundtable discussions about the LEED certification and it has left me with a cynical point of perspective on the many of the sections.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 25, 10 at 17:40

I don't think the project is even going for LEED certification and they are all gas fired. I just find it sort of amusing that a lot of people hold out their LEED credentials, yet do not always practice what they preach.

All cynacism aside, I respect the fact that thes folks are capable of designing to a crtain performance standard and want to let people know they have that capability. I also understand that very few projects have LEED as a goal, and being certified to do something does not mean that everything you do has to be to that standard (at least I don't think that is a LEED requirement). I just could not help beeing amused at the same time.


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I inherited my fathers lime green 1974 weber grill it is still in great shape and we get a good chuckle from everyone who sees it. With that said maybe think in terms of a grill patio. A built in fireplace can double or triple for cooking, grilling and smoking. Also it could be just a nice place to entertain. There are ways to create seating and storage. If planned well maintenance would be easy and not so time consuming. Spring prep and fall clean up should not be all time consuming. Your tools should already be there.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by tibs 5/6 OH (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 26, 10 at 6:28

We had neighbors who inherited the bick monster built it bbq's. The were built in the 50's and abandoned in the 60's. Moms hated them because all the kids wanted to climb on them and use them as forts and we might get hurt you know. I remember when the one family took theirs down. Theirs had a permanent natural gas supply. they replaced it with a simple gas grill. They used it year around. In Ohio. I still remember their teen age boy grilling at all hours of the day, standing in the snow in shorts and a tee and his dads boots.


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I've seen some of those old-fashioned brick barbecues recycled as planters with the surfaces used to stage container plants. A few years back one stop on the Austin Pond Society's annual tour even converted a brick grill into a pond with a liner and recirculating pump.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 27, 10 at 7:27

My question is whether we will see many of the new ones that have been built in the last ten years used as planter boxes instead or in ruins in the back yard fifteen years down the road. Will history repeat itself, in other words?


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I suspect that will be the case... Around here you see a fair number of abandoned 1980s/1990s vintage hot tubs - their heyday didn't last too long.


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Some, such as this fire pit are being converted into planters
From Container Plantings


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RE: Outdoor Grills

Now that's lovely. However, the almost monolithic relics wouldn't convert so easily. The structures referred to in laag's original post tend to become the iconic fireplace and chimney stack you see still standing long after the house has burned down or rotted away.

Don't you think the nature of leisure undergoes as many changes over time as the toys that fill leisure time? If HGTV is to be believed, the basement (man-cave just sticks in my craw) complete with every piece of electronic equipment will probably supplant good old outdoor fun anyway.


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RE: Outdoor Grills

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 27, 10 at 18:02

I love it!

Honestly, I think all of these things are good and usefull. It is just human nature to want to identify with a lifestyle that seems cool and exciting, but sometimes it just is not who we are and the outdoor kitchen, or the hot tub, or the fire pit, or the treadmill never really got used the way we had dreamed they wpould. BUT, some people actually live lifestyles where these things are used regularly.

Some people, maybe only a few, will actually change their lifestyles because of these things.

Our Deviant-deziner can be inspired by anything. Its all how you look at it. .... I just might be inspired to get me one of them portable fire pits now.


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I am having multiple grill stations put in my back patio. We are really excited for a really large family get together! Thanks for the information everyone!


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It's not just the grill, it's the fuel. I have three grills - weber propane, weber charcoal and weber smoker.

The wonder of propane is that it adds some steam (combustion by-product) as it cooks. Great for chicken, pork. Tenderizes as it cooks.

Beef I usually don't want to add steam, so on the charcoal it goes. The smoker is for ribs, but I usually add a can of tap water to the smoker anyway. Make some steam.


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