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The backyard is a wonderful place to hang out with friends, host parties, and just plain relax. And you’ve gotta stay hydrated, right? What better way to store your tall frosty beverages than in a stylish and functional cooler cart? We’ll be talking about building a cooler cart for your own backyard sanctuary. In addition to hiding the cooler, this design also includes:
- a small counter space (for tea pitchers, etc.)
- built-in drainage for the cooler
- an extra storage compartment
- holders for paper towels. Because… kids.
The idea for this project came from two items that I found for free on craigslist. The first was a cooler with broken hinges, which was perfect because we won’t be using them anyway. The second was a broken homemade grill cart. The previous owner said they made it to fit a Big Green Egg or similar grill. It had good bones and could just use some tightening to be structurally sound.
Because I used a pre-existing cart, I won’t be providing exact measurements for this project. Rather, I will be focusing more on the process and considerations that went into its design. If you plan to build the cart yourself, I would suggest reading through these steps in Part 1 before you start to build. The pictures and some of the ideas may save you some headaches later on.
Step 1 – Prep the cart
This part isn’t really necessary if you’re building your cart from scratch, but I removed all of the parts that made up the top of the cart, since we will be replacing that anyway. I set aside some of the larger pieces to be used later.
After removing the front and back skirt boards, I noticed that the side boards stuck out a little past the cart’s legs. I marked where the edges should be, removed the boards, and cut them to size. Safety tip: If you have screws sticking out like the picture below, make sure to remove them before cutting the board!
After cutting, before I reinstalled the boards, I drilled a large, shallow hole so the head of the carriage bolts would be inset below the surface of the board. This is so we can install the siding boards over it later.
Step 2 – Determine the shelf height
We want the cooler box to sit flush with the top of the cart counter. I placed the cooler – without the lid – on the shelf and a scrap piece of 1-by lumber on top of the side, to represent the thickness of the counter. The cooler was exactly one inch higher than the top edge of the scrap, so the shelf would need to be lowered by that much.
I removed the shelf from the sides and drilled new mounting holes one inch lower (on center), in both sides. Again, I drilled out a shallow hole so the bolts will be slightly inset.
After reattaching the shelf, the cooler was flush with the scrap piece.
Step 3 – Prep for siding
The siding needs a flat surface to attach to, so I added a couple of 1x6s to pad out the legs to be flush with the horizontal boards. If building your cart from scratch, you will want to take this into account.
That’s it for the structure of the cooler cart! Hopefully this should give you an idea of what you’ll need to start the build. Two main points to keep in mind: install the shelf so the cooler will be flush with the top counter, and make sure the sides are nice and flat to attach the siding. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!
Join me in the next parts where we’ll finish building a cooler cart by adding the drainage, siding and hardware.