Would you want to cook your dinner on this thing?
We didn’t want to, either.
That’s why Rita and I spent some time casually shopping for a new grill this spring. Our grill not only looked horrible, it worked pretty horrible, too. There was really no temperature control. It cooked everything on high regardless of the setting. I changed out the burner last summer, but it was starting to deteriorate already. The cooking grill surface had just about rusted through. The box itself had a hole in the bottom and was very rusty.
Most comparably-sized new grills were going for around $500.00. We really didn’t want to spend $500.00 on a new grill. We decided to go with something smaller. We don’t grill a ton of stuff all at once, so we thought a 2-burner grill would be fine for us. Here’s the one that seemed to meet our requirements, and we were about ready to buy it.
The internals seemed to be good quality, and that’s the part of grills that you have to really pay attention to. They all look shiny and beautiful on the outside. The inside is another story.
Many of the lower-cost grills have inferior burners. They are made of low quality metal and will start to rust and fall apart after one season. The grilling deck is also an issue. Many low cost grills have grill grates that are cheap metal coated with a thin layer of chrome that burns off. They look great in the showroom but quickly deteriorate. What compounds this problem is the lack of parts availability. The $300.00 dollar grill ends up being unusable after a few seasons because replacement parts just aren’t available.
This particular grill seemed to have better quality internals than many in its price point. Certainly nowhere near the quality of the American-made Weber grills but not bad. This was the route we were going to go.
Change of Plans
And then we stumbled on an old Weber grill at the Salvation Army store. The grill wasn’t much to look at but it was the same size as our current grill. I took the grill grate out and examined the burner parts closely to see how they looked. The burners were in great shape. There was a tiny bit of surface rust but they seemed to be perfectly functional. The mixing valve and other internals also looked great. There was a bit of surface rust on the frame and the wood parts needed a new coat of finish.
Even though we are all about fixing up old stuff it never occurred to us to fix up a grill. I just assumed that parts availability and cost would make it a losing proposition. This one made us pause and think about it, though. We liked the way we thought it could look if we fixed it up, and the price ($50) was good.
We didn’t buy it right away. The next day was a half off sale, so it’d be $25 if we waited. I was also concerned with parts availability. If I needed to get some new parts to get it going, would I be able to find them?
We did a bit of research on the grill to see if we could get parts and to find out what it was worth. We found a new version currently for sale at Home Depot:
After digging around online I found out that the Weber grills have used the same internals for the last 20 years or more. Any parts we needed could easily be found. The grill “shell” was essentially unchanged. The handle assembly is different but everything else is exactly the same as a 1990’s model. This means that parts are easily available. Many of the parts could be found online at Home Depot. The Weber website also had a feature that would allow you to identify your exact grill and order anything at all you needed.
This sold us on the idea. The parts we needed were expensive, but not nearly as expensive as buying a new grill. This one had already lived 20ish years or so and made it through fine. No reason it couldn’t last 20 more.
We decided to go right back and get the grill. We didn’t want to wait and take the chance of missing it just to save $25.00. I managed to wrestle it to the roof of my CRV and drove it home.
I used some Simple Green cleaner/degreaser and power-washed the grill. This did a nice job of giving it a good surface clean.
Once it dried I took it inside the garage and took it all apart. I wanted to be able to inspect the parts more closely and really get it clean. I also wanted to spray paint the box and frame. There were a couple of surface rust spots on the frame and the box itself was looking dull.
Once I got everything disassembled I was able to sand the painted surfaces and remove the rust from the frame. I scraped and cleaned up the caked on gunk on the inside and outside of the box to get it as clean as I could. This also allowed me to inspect everything to make sure it was in good working order.
For a 20-something year old grill it was in really good condition. The grill grates had started to deteriorate a bit so we decided we’d replace those. The ones on it were perfectly servicable, but they were enamel-coated cast iron. Some of the enamel had come off and there was a bit of surface rust. Not sure if these were the original ones?
Weber makes several different levels of quality in grill grates. The prices range from 20 something to 60 something bucks. We decided to go ahead and get good ones since we got the grill for cheap. The nice grates come in two material choices- stainless steel or cast iron. The cast iron is heavy and durable. It has great heating qualities and is probably the best cooking surface. The problem is that it requires more maintenance. If you don’t keep a good coat of oil on it you can get rust. Rita and I aren’t great at the maintenance thing so we decided to go with stainless steel. No rust and it’ll last forever.
Other than a new hose to connect the tank to the grill this was the only new part needed. We picked up a couple of cans of high temp spray paint at the Depot. It’s made especially for BBQ grills. I also got some outdoor wood stain in a cedar finish. It’s an oil based stain so it’ll penetrate the wood and offer good protection against water.
We decided not to paint the main hood because the paint was in great shape, and we knew the spray paint would never look as shiny-new as the original paint.
3 coats of paint and a couple of coats of stain on the wood parts and it was ready for re-assembly.
The grill is up on the deck and is working great. I’ve already burned some pork chops and burgers and overcooked some veggies!
This weekend we even got adventurous and grilled pizza:
So was this really a good deal?
We’ll do the math. Here’s the total cost breakdown:
- Grill- $50
- Grill grates- $58
- Paint- $14
- New tank hose- $15
- Total= $137
Like I said before, we’re all about fixing up old stuff when we can. I think this project was a great example of how that can really work out well. I like this grill way more than a new one, partly because of the work I did fixing it up. I appreciate it more.
It’s functionally perfect and works exactly like a 2012 model Weber that costs 5 times more. It’s way better quality than the new grill we were thinking about as well. There are certainly many things that just make better sense to buy new but this was not one of them.
Our kids all think we are crazy for always buying old stuff, but we know that old stuff we buy and fix up ourselves we’ll always love more than something bought new. This grill is no exception.
The process of fixing up and caring for old things is important to us. It’s as important as the things themselves. In a strange way the process makes me feel renewed as well. I think it’s always the case the the process of how you make a home is as important as the finished product. This one was about more than just saving money. In it’s own way it’s an expression of our values and how we intend to make our home.
It really is true that sometimes things are more than just things.
How about you?
Ever thrifted something you’d never thought about buying used before? What processes are important to you in making a home? We always enjoy hearing your thoughts in a comment. Hope you’ll share yours with us.