Retrofitting slide-out caravan barbecues: is it a DIY or specialist job?
We asked two industry experts for their professional advice. The general consensus: it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Firstly, your caravan needs to have a suitable space to install the slide-out.
“Most caravans with a tunnel boot will have sufficient space for the slide-out to fit,” says Geoff McLean of Utow and Resort Caravans in Somerville, Vic.
If you’ve decided to go the DIY route, you’ll need to match the barbecue to the available space.
“You can buy slide-out barbecues with a slide mechanism supplied, or for the more adventurous DIY enthusiast, you can get slides and make up your own tray,” Geoff says.
“The method of mounting the barbecue slide must be strong and able to handle the vibrations of travel and the weight of the barbecue when it’s fully extended on the slide. Any holes drilled in the caravan must be fully sealed from water and dust. I would recommend you use a plumber who is not only qualified for the gas installation but one who is experienced in caravan installations. So, a competent and resourced DIYer could well retrofit a slide-out barbecue with professional assistance. But I would always recommend you get all the extras you would like installed by the manufacturer when buying a new van. If you already have a van and consider you have the skills, get the advice and assistance and have a go. But remember, measure twice and cut once!”
David Pester of Essential RV in Hastings, VIC, agrees that a slide-out barbecue retrofit is an advanced DIY job.
“Give consideration to the potential pitfalls, as once you cut a hole you’re committed,” says David, who advised the following approach…
1 – Select a feasible barbecue for the available space – installing the barbecue in a tunnel boot is easiest, if you don’t mind sacrificing the space.
Because you’re likely to fit the barbecue on the nearside, there are some compliance issues to be aware of. Current gas regulations prohibit the installation of a gas barbecue inside an annexe, as there must be adequate cross-ventilation.
2 – Consider if there are any electrical wires or plumbing within the van’s walls.
3 – If the installation requires you to cut a hole in the van’s cladding, then measure three times but cut only once.
4 – Use two or three-stage metal-slides and non-combustible, easy to clean material (such as galvanized sheeting) for the tray.
5 – If the installation has required you to fit a new locker door, seal it with double-sided foam tape or silicon.
6 – Fit a gas bayonet between a chassis rail or cross member. This must be done by a certified plumber/gas fitter.
To have your barbecue retrofitted professionally would cost about $500 on top of the cost of the barbecue, but it might be money well spent.
“There may be insurance implications if such a DIY project went horribly wrong,” David says. “It’s also at the high end of the DIY scale.”
Our advice: if you’re buying a new van, have your barbecue factory-fitted, as this will result in a much better finish. If you’re investigating the possibility of retrofitting a barbecue and you’re not highly confident in your DIY skills, give strong consideration to calling in the experts.
NB. A constant MUST is the requirement for all gas work to be only performed by a legally qualified plumber/gas fitter, and an appropriate certificate must be provided for the work.
Whether you’ve decided to have it professionally fitted, or you’re going to do it yourself, the fun part is finding that perfect barbecue. Here, we look at three options that could be just the ticket…
If the need for versatility is your benchmark for barbeque quality, then Caravan and Marine Barbeques’ Sizzler Deluxe 2 might be the thing for you. The Sizzler Deluxe 2 is a two-burner barbeque, which means the ability to cook the steak on a searing heat while braising the chops slowly with a little salt, pepper and a nice Shiraz. In case you want to cast your gourmet imagination a little further and try a roast, just sitting a lump of meat on the hotplate won’t work – you need a lid. The Sizzler has this sorted.
Out of the box, the Sizzler is ready to go as either a low-lid or high-lid model. This means you can pick a model suited to your available space and your cooking needs.
Although it comes with a non-stick hotplate, a non-stick Teflon-coated cast aluminium hotplate is an option. Caravan and Marine Barbeques also provides an optional cooking rack, making the Sizzler both an oven and a stovetop.
When it comes to cooking, the Sizzler’s twin burners are well sheltered from the wind in the cavity under the griller. What’s more, it boasts a useful heat output of 20000 BTU or around 21000 joules – hot stuff.
If you do take on a roast and want to check on it without lifting the lid, don’t panic. A heat resistant glass window in the lid has the problem covered – excuse the pun. There are installation options, too. These include a low profile slide, quick release straight slide, or a quick release swivel slide. The quick release slide makes it possible to remove the barbeque for use away from your caravan.
PRICE: Starting from about $440
High heat output
High lid option
TUCKERMAN RV EXPLORER
Sovereign BBQs produces cookers for a range of circumstances, from balcony to boat, caravan and camper trailer.
When it comes to camping, the Tuckerman RV Explorer is an interesting barbeque with a slimline profile. Don’t let its slim profile worry you, though, as you can cook a whole chook on this barbeque thanks to the optional roasting hood that can double as a pot in which to cook your stew, corned beef or chicken. The Tuckerman is light and in terms of installation, it uses Sovereign’s runner slide system. The barbeque comes equipped with either runners or fixed bracket pre-fitted.
Of course, every gourmet barbeque chef eventually has to face the clean up.
The removable non-stick plate, together with a removable full-width fat tray, makes for easy cleaning. Safety-wise, the Tuckerman RV Explorer has a piezo ignition together with thermocouple flame failure equipped. Both of these help keep cooking outdoors a lot easier and a little safer.
Build-wise, the Tuckerman is made of stainless steel and weighs in at just under only 13kg. On the downside, the Tuckerman has only a single U-shaped burner. While this delivers even heat, you get less heat control than you are potentially able to achieve with a twin-burner barbeque.
Themocouple flame failure.
For quality and versatility, the Sovereign Outback is worth considering. With the addition of suitable optional extras, this unit can work as a three-in-one barbecue, stovetop and oven. But before lighting the burner, it’s worth considering the construction. The Sovereign Outback is constructed with seamless welds and a double-skinned base compartment that inhibits heat transfer to the exterior of the barbecue. The entire unit is made of 3CR12 stainless steel which gives it a level of heat and corrosion resistance. According to the manufacturer, it is the same standard of steel used in bus and coach frames and chassis. If you’ve struggled barbecuing on a windy day, you’ll appreciate the Sovereign Outback’s baffled air intake, which reduces the potential for the gas flame to blow out in strong winds.
The barbecue plate features an over-sized splashback, making it harder to splatter your caravan’s cladding with hot fat. The wind guards on the side of the plate also help keep the fat from spattering everywhere. This barbecue is also easily detachable, so it can be used for a barbecue picnic on a day trip. The optional stand is therefore a worthwhile consideration. On the downside, the fact it runs on one straight burner potentially hampers an otherwise remarkable cooker, providing the chef with less control than a twin-burner unit might. Nonetheless, although a little pricey, this barbeque remains a worthwhile aftermarket improvement for your caravan and its set to make your outdoor adventures all the more delicious.
High grade stainless steel construction
Baffled air intake