CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade


I had a buddy ask me about fixing up his smoker. It is the classic discussion of fixing what you have vs. buying a new one. He decided to have me fix it, so read more to check out how we upgraded his Char Broil Smoker!

The racks in his smoker were sagging badly and he was tired of scooping ashes out with an old dustpan (the classic smoker cleanout solution, and how I still clean mine out). So after some discussion we developed a plan of attack to upgrade his Char Broil smoker to not only save him some money, but extend the life of his smoker for many years to come.

First up, I had to go get some materials. The main part of this build will be with 3/4″ hole 9 gauge expanded steel.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Main smoker material: 4’x8′ sheet of expanded steel 3/4″ 9#

The 3/4″ hole 9# expanded metal is pretty much a standard BBQ grate material. I got it from a local metal supply store. In discussions with them, this is the thickest material that you can get with a small hole size and flat. The next size up goes to 1 1/2″ holes but doesn’t necessarily come thicker or flattened unless you can find a store that has it. When ordering you will also have the choice of standard or flattened. I used flattened on most of this project, but did opt for standard in the smoker box in hopes that it would last a little bit longer. Flattened is good for grilling surfaces because they are flat and can be scraped with a spatula.

Don’t want to buy a whole sheet or have no way to haul it? You can also buy pieces of expanded steel in various sizes from Amazon.

I put the steel up on top of two 4″x4″ boards so I can mark and cut the grates

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Put the sheet of expanded metal up on two blocks or a workbench then cut down the mark with a 4.5″ or 7″ grinder with cutoff wheel.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

After the initial cut on each grate section, I went down the cut line with the grinder to smooth out the sharp edges. Raw cut on left, smoothed cut on right.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

The grates cut to size

Another objective of the smoker upgrade was to make the front shelf deeper. He said there wasn’t enough room to put trays or pans on the shelf. Our new plan is to take the front shelf from ~8″ to ~12″ deep.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

The factory shelf was not deep enough to put trays on with the lid down.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

I took a hammer and some pliers to the thin factory grating on the shelf to get it out. Then removed the shelf from the smoker.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

After cutting a new piece of thicker expanded metal for the shelf, I tacked it onto the top of the frame. I then dug through my scrap bin to find some matching ~1″x~1″ square tubing to make the frame extend to the smoker.

Welder magnets work great to hold steel pieces together until you get a chance to weld them together. They are cheap, come in many sizes, and are very handy to have around the shop.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

A victory beer was needed after completing the shelf and welding it back on to the smoker. MMMmmm Boulevard…

Next task up was to reinforce the smoker grates so they last a long time. I am using 1/2″ by 1/2″ solid square stock as a frame for each grate. These things should last longer than the smoker body itself.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

After making sure the grates were the right size, I started marking and cutting the reinforcements.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Sometimes it is easier to mark them all at once, so I laid them out together.

FABRICATION TIP: I learned when marking pieces to cut. Mark a small X on the piece that you will not be using. Maybe it is just me, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I grabbed the wrong piece after cutting and wondered why it was too short/long. Once I started putting an X on the part I didn’t need it doesn’t happen anymore.

Now we can skip forward to pictures of the  smoker grates done. I must have been in the zone because I totally forgot to take in progress pictures. Not much to see though, it is just a grate reinforced on all 4 sides underneath with 1/2″ by 1/2″ solid square bar stock.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

New reinforced smoker grate and shelf done

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

New reinforced smoker grate and shelf done

Next up is an upgrade to the grilling coal area of the smoker. I had never seen it before, but this smoker came with a second coal grate up top for grilling. This rack was also thin and badly warped from heat.

While upgrading this upper grill briquette holder, my buddy wanted some way to empty out the ashes without having to scoop them out with an old dust pan. His idea actually worked out pretty well which was to put a rounded ash catcher under the grate so he could just pull out the whole rack and empty it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense yet, I took lots of pics:

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

I had already cut a lower grate for the grilling coals and set it into the smoker, but I needed a way to measure for the ash catcher. So I got out some TIG wire to help me.

FABRICATION TIP: When you need to measure an oddly shaped object, it can be done by using another flexible object like TIG filler rod or string. String works great to measure the outside of objects by wrapping the string around the object then taking the string off and measuring it’s length with a tape measure. For this project, I used a piece of Tig filler rod and bent it to the contour of the inside of the smoker. I could then mark the wire or cut it to length then flatten it out and measure it with a tape measure.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Tig wire bent to the contour of the inside of the smoker.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Removed from the smoker and flattened out so I could measure the length I would need.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Marked out the length and width of the ash catcher on a piece of 18 gauge steel so I could cut it out with my grinder.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Grilling grate laid on top of the ash catcher which is currently flat.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

I tried my best to bend the 18 gauge by hand over a 4″x4″x2′ board until I came up with this. I’m glad I didn’t get anything thicker because I’m not sure I could have bent it without some kind of press brake. You can also see I welded reinforcement bars to the grating.

The reinforcement bars I ended up putting on top of the grate because it saved me a lot of time in not having to notch out the ash catcher.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

After tacking one side on, I grabbed my favorite Pony bar clamps and a couple 2×4’s to help bend the ash catcher the rest of the way.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Once I bent the ash catcher up enough to meet the other side, I went ahead and tack welded down each side. After tack welding I was able to take off the clamps and finish welding the tray.

If you haven’t heard of them before, the Pony brand of pipe clamps are AWESOME. You can buy the clamps themselves for pretty cheap then buy whatever length of black pipe that you want them to be and assemble them together. Need a 5′ long clamp? no biggie, just buy a longer piece of pipe.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Finally, welded and installed grill grate with ash catcher. This smoker has a cool feature with brackets on the side so you can raise and lower the grate depending on the heat you need. This is set at the highest setting.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

This is set at a lower setting. When done grilling the grate can be removed with the handles then the ashes can be disposed of. No dustpan shenanigans required.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Our final objectives on this upgrade are to make a new smoker charcoal grate and some kind of ash removal method. We had discussed an ash tray similar to the grilling apparatus above, but it would have been harder to do because the smoker part has a smaller door where the whole tray wouldn’t have been able to come out.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

The first order of business was to cut a new charcoal grate. This grating is also 3/4″ hole 9 gauge but is not flattened. I thought it might last a little longer in the smoker box and don’t have to worry about trying to scrape a piece of meat off of something that isn’t flat.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

in lieu of making a removable tray, I decided to make an ash scraper instead. So after some pondering, I welded two rails inside of the smoker box and cut one side out of two small pieces of square tubing for the slides.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

I attached the slides to another piece of tubing and made a handle out of the 1/2″ solid stock.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Next, I took some flat steel and bent it to the contour of the inside of the smoker box. Then welded it to my slider device.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Cut a flat piece of 18 gauge and welded it onto my scraper.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

View from the other side…

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Now I have a removable ash scraper for the charcoal ashes.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

It can be inserted by turning it sideways then sliding the brackets onto the rails.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Once inside, it can always reside inside the box even when in use.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Once done smoking and cooled off, the scraper can be pulled towards the door to pull the ashes out into a bucket.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Bingo, ashes removed…

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Close up of the rack for the smoker box coals. Extra reinforcement in the middle where the fire will be.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Ash scraper and new charcoal grate installed in smoker box and ready to use.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

New grill grating, ash catcher, and grill shelf also ready to use.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

What the completed smoker looked like before delivering it back to my friend.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

Pictures of the newly rebuilt smoker in a coat of primer on the outside with greased grates on the inside for rust protection.

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

When he sends me pictures of the final product painted black, I will be sure to update this post.

As promised, pictures of it finished and in use:

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

CharBroil DIY Smoker Rack Upgrade

MMMMmmmm…. Looks good.

I hope this post has inspired you to consider using your talents to rebuild what you have instead of just going and buying new stuff all the time. Not only will it improve your DIY skills, it can also save you money.

You don’t need to use all the the topics discussed above, just pick out what you need, figure out what works, and get to it! Good luck.