Block Smoker Build in MI

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Fire Starter
Original poster
Oct 16, 2012
Redford MI
Hi All,

So I have been Hot Smoking, BBQ;) for about 2.5 Years now.  I have outgrown my electric bullet smoker and my Smoke Hollow 4 in 1.  I do a lot of browsing on this forum but haven't posted much.  I had intentions on making one out of an old propane tank (as many do) but I have not the skills to do such.  So I thought I would make one out of Concrete block.  I come from an architectural background and have drawn it up in autocad and would like any feedback any members have.  below are some images i generated and splashed a bit of color on in photoshop.

This is a front elevation and a section through the smoker.  The dashed lines indicate the two cooking grates (expanded steel).  Please note that these blocks are your standard 8x8x16

You can click the image for a larger view.  The door on the side would be a door to access the fire.  The front grey doors, would either be one door, or two half doors.  


Dry Fit 8x8x16 (and a few half blocks)  concrete blocks.  I would put un faced batt (pink panther) insulation in the cores of these blocks while stacking.

The dark grey doors would be some sort of metal- i am not sure how what I will use for doors yet- If its a re-used object I will paint it with high-heat grill paint.

The header above the access doors would be 2- 2x8's wrapped in flashing.  The roof would be a small wood framed roof.   The roof structure would sit on the top course of brick- It would be a layer of sheet metal, painted high heat, 1/2" plywood then the roof studs (insulation between) a layer of plywood and shingles on the top.

The cook surface would be expanded steel sheets, 2'x4' per level.  Though I have not figured out where- I will have a water pan somewhere between the  fire and the first cooking grate.  

The light grey area infront of the smoker is a little shelf/workspace probably a 2x10 held up on two shelf brackets.

The exhaust pipe. 4" duct.  I will probably buy a galvanized elbow, but paint it with high heat paint inside and out- the rest of the duct out, i will paint if needed.   For any areas that I need to fill in, I will use some of the high heat spray foam.  Lastly I found chimney sealant to fill any seams with inside.

Since its cold up here in Michigan I won't be starting this project any earlier than mid-late march.  Preliminary pricing (not including the doors) is floating around $250 ish.

Thanks in advance for any assistance.  And of course as it gets built- I will post photos.

oh and it will be siting on a driveway slab.
BBQ bill, thanks for the layout- would you still reccomend that design for hot smoking?

@ themule69.  For hot smoking only-  BBQ-ing brisket, shoulder, ribs chicken, and hopefully turkeys ;)
I would say the design should be a direction to head.... not necessarily a destination.  You could move the fire box closer and make the opening into the cooking chamber alittle larger.  Just be sure to build it so you can control the air flow to the fire, the exhaust from the cooking chamber.  That's how you will control the temperature.   I sure hope this helps!  

I'm sure there are many people on here who have built an actual smokehouse already or could maybe help ya more than me... but I tried! 
BBQ bill, thanks for the layout- would you still reccomend that design for hot smoking?

@ themule69.  For hot smoking only-  BBQ-ing brisket, shoulder, ribs chicken, and hopefully turkeys ;)
You might also think about PMing WesW!  He built his own brick smoker and has a pic of it in his profile.  His seems to work very well and I think the fire is underneath the smoking chamber similar to your original design.

Send him a message I'm sure he's willing to help!


Here is what I built last summer.   I do not have plans for it.  I built it from a design in my head.   I started at the base size I wanted and worked my way up.

I posted as much detail as I could and took a lot of pictures.  If you have any questions you can post them on my build for other to learn from.  I will answer them.  I will say that a working knowledge of brick work is a big plus.   Its not hard to lay brick it just takes a lot of patience. 

Please read all the way through the thread.  I posted my honest thoughts and changes I would make if doing it again.   Once I figured out how it wanted to smoke, it smoked flawless.

Enjoy and please ask any questions you may have

Edit:   I have tons of pictures in my profile.   It there is something in the build that you would like to know and is not pictured, please ask.   I'll look through my puter folder and see if I have one.  
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Thank you Bill.   Its so easy a cave man can do it!   LOL     There's something about fire and smoke that makes really tasty smoked meat.    Once you get it warmed up, its just like cooking in your kitchen.   Except every time you open the door you get a face full of smoke.    No wait, that's like me using the kitchen oven.  :-)  Thanks again! 
Thanks Wes W for posting the photos.  Your smoker is a thing of beauty.  Do you light a fire in your bottom door there or is that controlled from the fireplace adjacent to it?  If your using charcoal how much would generally use to say smoke pork shoulder?
Hey Voltz,

The smoker is fired from the bottom.    I fire it with a full chimney of charcoal and lay split sticks on top of it.    It burns best with about 1"x 1 1/2"  splits of wood.     To bring it up to temp I usually build a pretty big fire with water pan removed, top damper wide open.  Once I get a good fire I start closing the top damper until I start getting a little smoke out the doors.  I let it warm up to  around 275 then put my water pan in with the hottest tap water I got.  At that point it will cool.  Bring it back up to temp and your ready to smoke.   My smoker is dampered probably 90%.   I can keep a good fire and control the heat.   The more your meat heats up the less fire you need.  By the end of a all day smoke, I'm usually using around 6 charcoal and a couple sticks.     For a all day smoke,  I might use  30 charcoal  and 15 sticks of wood.   Just depends on how its heating that day.    My water pan is usually boiling or simmering  for the last half of a all day smoke.   No matter what you build,   yours may heat differently.   You'll have to learn how it wants to smoke.

The fireplace is just for decoration and my warming pleasure.

Fatty going in.  I was a little warm so I let the doors open a bit.   Not much of a fire once up to temp.  You don't want it to go out though,  that's why I feed it charcoal a little at a time.  You can sorta see how big my splits of wood are. 

If there's something you don't understand our have a question about, please ask

Great shots Wes and excellent explanations of the operations of your unit!

Wish I could afford to put one of those in the back yard.

Wow, i find it amazing that once thats up to temp it requires that LITTLE charcoal-  my smoke hollow-4 in 1 would require twice that to get close to temp;)  

A general question about the block i posted here;  Should i coat the inside (block) with oil or just let it be and it will built up a coating as I smoke the meat?

Other interesting bit- I was looking at some backwoods, smokers online-  apparantly Mine is within about 6" in width and 3" in depth of being a whole hog capacity;)  
Hey Volt,

I would highly recommend lining it with firebrick.  They will hold the heat a whole lot better and last longer then just block.  

You don't want to do anything to the inside once complete.  Once you get to smoking, it will coat itself.   Something to keep in mind is, once you finish the masonry work, you need to let the mortar cure for at least 30-40 days.   If you build a fire to quick, the heat will crack the joints.  

I'd love to see yours once built.  It sounds like it will be an awesome smoker.     If I were doing mine over, I would have make it a little bigger. 

On a cold day, (20F) it can take mine up to 1 1/2hrs to come up to temp.  I fire it with a full chimney of charcoal and several sticks of wood.  Once  up to temp, you just maintain. Once the brick get warm, they help keep it warm.  You can open the doors at will and not lose any major heat.   It will take several smokes to figure out how it wants  to work.  I can  run 4 all day smokes off one 20lb bag of charcoal.  Basically  once up to temp,  I use the charcoal more to keep the fire from going out and heat with the wood. 

I'd love to be able to smoke a whole hog.  I think that's just awesome!

Here is the inside of mine after my first smoke

Here it is  6 months later

I think I answered your questions.   If you need more info or have other questions,  don't be afraid to ask.

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cov, moorning and welcome....   I have built a smoker like you are thinking of doing....

Mine was 40 x 48" inside and 10' inside height, poured in place concrete roof with eye bolts for hanging.....  It was 3 sided block with a wooden insulated metal sheathed door ... the door fit flush with the blocks.... that allowed for full width shelves that slid in easily on steel flat bar inserted into the joints every 8"...  very easy access to the shelves and food... shelves were 40 x 24"...

exterior fire box made from a steel drum... 

It was a very functional smoker....  exterior heat source and heat control is very important when smoking...  dampers at the top and bottom of the smoker walls allowed for air flow that was adjustable from the exterior of the smoker...

It had one major drawback.... thermal mass of all the block, made for an extended warm up, and it consumed a lot of wood....  undesirable for short smokes or when a small amount of food was to be smoked.....  also, the walls condensed moisture and it would "rain" inside the smoker most of the time...  normally I smoked 100 #'s of salmon at one time.....  

After that experience, I would never build another concrete smoker....    

Just my thoughts on my experiences...        Dave 
Raining Inside the smoker-  was this just for regular use or say only during the humid summer?  Thanks for the heads up, that is not a problem I would have seen coming.

For the record. I intend on initally dry fitting all the block together- and sealing (with fireplace sealer) as necessary.  I have two reasons for dry-fitting.  The first being that in my town (suburb of detroit)  an 'accessory structure' such as a shed, needs to be on a slab with a rat wall.  I intend on putting this on my driveway slab which has no rat wall.  so i may have to move it- if an inspector ever sees it, or some neighbor rats me out.  Secondly I am confident the dry fit will hold itself together and depending on the blocks i end up getting i don't think there will be much of an airgap between blocks-

but I won't figure out some of that till I get it built--- :)
About the "raining"....   the blocks were always colder than the surrounding environment...  moisture from the combustion process and humidity contributed to the "rain"....  along with moisture in the food... .I lived in the NW Corner of Washington at the time... could have had something to do with it.....  If I wanted to get the blocks warm, it would take 24 hours of burning wood to do that...  The fire, being exterior, was designed for smoke and not heat...   

With the codes you have to deal with, building a mobile smoker might be an option worth looking into....

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