How to build a cinder block smoker

Whether it’s summer or winter, there’s always a good time for a barbeque. Cooking outdoors is a fun way to enjoy excellent food and spend quality time with family or peers. 

And since we often like to DIY easy and affordable stuff such as a grill or smoker

Here, I’ll share a simple method to build a cinder block smoker for those lovely BBQ moments in your comfort zone. 

But before we get into it, below are some basic things you may need to know first.

How to build a cinder block smoker

What are cinder blocks exactly?

Cinder blocks are part of the Concrete Masonry Unit (CMUs). These are rectangular and hollow standard-sized blocks used for various building processes.

 As the name suggests, Cinder blocks are made using concrete and cinder aggregates (like fly ash or bottom ash). They have many other common names such as breeze blocks(U.K), hollow blocks(Philippines), construction blocks ( New Zealand), etc.

Due to ash’s components in its content, cinder blocks are light but weaker than concrete blocks.

What kind of concrete do you use to fill cinder blocks?

Filling cinder blocks with concrete is an effective way to strengthen them. We can also use this method to help in fixing up cracks on the blocks.

Most of the time, we can fill cinder blocks with mortar (cement-based) or use concrete mixed with pea gravel. This is a simple yet good way to give your blocks extra strength, making them more useful for more extensive projects (often, people don’t use basic cinder blocks for big projects).


Is cinder blocks cheaper than concrete?

In most cases, yes, cinder blocks are generally cheaper than concrete.

This is because cinder blocks are not made of pure concrete and contain cinders(coal cinder, fly ash, etc.) in their aggregate. The addition of these cinders also makes the blocks much lighter than a concrete block.

But due to the difference in aggregates between cinder blocks and concrete blocks, the latter is often costlier, more robust, and even heavier.

The tensile strength of cinder blocks is low, and they are likely to bend, but these blocks have good resistance to heat. This is why people use it widely in making builds such as smokers.

How much does it cost to build a cinder block building?

We can estimate that cinder block buildings may be more affordable since we know the price differences between cinder blocks and regular concrete blocks.

Although these blocks may have slight variations, a cinder block’s average cost ranges from 1 to 2$. A general block with 8 x 8 x 16-inch dimensions could cost you about a dollar and a half. It’s also good to note that buying in bulk is often cheaper. For instance, if you buy 100 cinder blocks separately at 1.50$ each, you’d be paying  150$ versus buying 100 blocks in bulk at 100$ saves some money.

Based on the pricing and the estimate of your building project, the costs may vary too. 

An 8x15 foot wall made using cinder blocks costs roughly 1000$-1400$ (including masonry and other finishing). And for example, a building in a 750 square feet area with a decent amount of rooms might cost up to 30 grand.

The blocks alone aren’t the only measures for a building; factors such as workforce, masonry, additional construction items, etc., are vital considerations.

Are cinder block smokers costly?

It can highly depend on the size and additional lengths you go to, but building a cinder block smoker is relatively affordable.

On average, these blocks might cost 1-3 $ (subject to change), and along with items like the grill, a basic smoker may cost roughly 40$ (not a minimum). And if you want to go genuinely into the budget, you could use old cinder blocks and save costs on new ones.

And once you have all of that, it’s up to physical efforts to build your smoker.

How do you build a smoker from scratch?

 There are generally two styles for cinder block smokers where one relies on indirect heat (Offset), and the other uses direct heat(vertical) from the coal. 

Both of these methods are equally fine, and it almost always boils down to preference.

So to start,

•Find a clear area in your backyard or anywhere fitting where you want to build the smoker. Level the dirt and add sand if necessary.

•Layer the base while making room for ventilation and ensuring that all the blocks are at the same level. Check for any unwanted air gaps and remove it 

•Next, you layer up the blocks to build the firebox and keep one or two cinder blocks rotated to let it work as an air inlet. 

You can also adjust the airflow by using concrete slabs as covers for the vents.

•Add the cooking grate at a reasonable height and fix it with more blocks.

•For the cover, you could opt for metal sheets or use plywood sealed with heat shield insulators.

Adding some clay brick lining in the firebox can help protect the cinder blocks from excessive heat.

•In the case of indirect heat (offset smoker), you can build the firebox slightly aside from the cooking chamber. Just make sure to have it connected with proper vents. You can check out this video to get a visual of what you could aim to create.

Some precautions to follow

It isn’t too much work to build a smoker, but there are always some precautions needed in all things.

Check the base is leveled so that the blocks can stay in place and avoid tumbling down.

Another essential step is to avoid using coated metal bars or meshes because these coats might release unwanted toxins into your food.

Using steel rebars with no coating may be a great option.

And last but not least, make sure to build in an area that’s well ventilated with no risks of fire catching onto dry leaves or combustible items.