2024’s Best Portable Charcoal Grills to BBQ On the Go

Don’t let the party crash and burn because of a big, clunky grill. With the best portable charcoal grill, you can take the smoke show on the road.

Best Overall

Weber 18-Inch Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill on a white background

Weber 18-Inch Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill

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Best Bang for the Buck

Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill on a white background

Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill

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Best Grill-Smoker Combo

Char-Griller Side Fire Box_Table Top Charcoal Grill on a white background

Char-Griller Side Fire Box/Table Top Charcoal Grill

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When it comes to preparing a meal over an open flame, nothing compares to the smoky flavor of good old-fashioned charcoal. With a portable charcoal grill, you can take that delicious food preparation wherever the party is with the help of its compact construction for easy transport. 

We researched and/or hands-on tested many of the best models on the market to assemble our list of top picks. Our top rated model was the Weber’s 18-inch Jumbo Joe, with excellent portability yet still roomy enough to provide 240 square inches of cooking space. Read on to discover some of the best portable charcoal grills on the market. 

  1. BEST OVERALL: Weber 18-Inch Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill
  3. BEST GRILL-SMOKER COMBO: Char-Griller Side Fire Box/Table Top Charcoal Grill
  4. BEST HIBACHI: Marsh Allen Cast Iron Hibachi Charcoal Grill
  5. BEST KAMADO: Kamado Joe Jr. Charcoal Grill With Cast Iron Stand
  6. BEST COMPACT: Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
  7. BEST FOLDING: Moclever Portable Charcoal Grill
  8. BEST KETTLE: Weber 14-Inch Smokey Joe Charcoal Grill
  9. BEST CART-STYLE: Weber 22-Inch Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
The Best Portable Charcoal Grills Option
Photo: amazon.com

How We Chose the Best Portable Charcoal Grills

For portable grilling, users need grills that are easy to transport but still provide enough grilling space to feed their group. These recommendations include a variety of portable charcoal grills that were thoroughly vetted and/or hands-on tested and can grill enough food for four to eight people. Each selection includes vents or dampers to help control the internal temperature, which is a key component of effective charcoal grilling.

We researched a number of styles from traditional kettle bowls to rectangles or open grill plates. Our favorite choices included styles that are easy to assemble and have varying weights based on the style of the grill. As a bonus, we added a combination smoker and grill for those who prefer to smoke their food no matter where they are.

Our Top Picks

It’s time to start grilling. The following list includes some of the top models on the market that Bob Vila staff hands-on tested or thoroughly researched to help streamline your search for the best portable charcoal grill. Each of the included top picks comes with a thorough list of pros and cons as well as notable product specs. 

Best Overall

Weber 18-Inch Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill

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Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 20.5 inches wide by 19.7 inches in diameter 
  • Weight: 21.5 pounds
  • Cooking area: 240 square inches 

Pros

  • Porcelain-coated steel lid and bowl keep the heat in for quick and effective cooking 
  • Portable and lightweight construction is perfect for camping and RVing; comes with a lid lock 
  • Cooks over 9 burgers at a time with a 240-square-inch cooking space 

Cons

  • Does not come with a temperature gauge; may not be ideal for some customers 

Like most Weber grills on the market, the Weber Jumbo Joe charcoal grill offers a combination of size and capability that’s hard to find in other kettle-style grills. A durable porcelain-coated steel lid and bowl will retain heat well at barbecue after barbecue. Dampers on the top and bottom offer extra temperature control. 

While the Weber Jumbo Joe charcoal grill holds up to nine burgers at a time, it measures 20 inches both wide and tall and weighs just 21.5 pounds. So, it’s easy to carry—especially with the lid lock engaged. While the base doesn’t fold, the Jumbo Joe small outdoor grill fits in most vehicles.

What our tester says: Tony Carrick, Bob Vila writer and product tester, notes in The Best Portable Grills that “with the lid in place, the Weber Jumbo Joe charcoal grill’s bulbous kettle shape created an ideal roasting environment for our kabobs. The vents on the lid and base do an excellent job of controlling oxygen flow into the cooking chamber, which allowed us to control temperature. The Jumbo Joe boasts some 240 square inches of cooking space, and it feels that large. We could easily have loaded a dozen patties onto its cooking surface and still had enough buffer between them to allow for flipping.” 

Get the Weber 18-inch portable charcoal grill at Amazon, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or BBQ Guys.

Best Bang For The Buck

Cuisinart Portable Charcoal Grill

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Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 14.5 inches wide by 15.2 inches in diameter
  • Weight: 5 pounds 
  • Cooking area: 150 square inches 

Pros

  • Durable enamel coating on the firebox provides excellent durability and long-term use
  • Easily portable for RVing and camping; 5-pound construction and locking lid 
  • Dual venting system allows the user to quickly adjust the temperature 
  • Comes with an ash catcher and chrome plating on the steel grate 

Cons

  • Small cooking area compared to other models on this list; may only hold up to 5 burgers at a time 

Barbecue masters on an apprentice’s budget will appreciate Cuisinart’s portable charcoal grill. One of the most portable options on the market, this compact grill measures just 15 inches wide and tall and weighs a scant 5 pounds. Because of its low price, most aspiring grillers can afford the investment.

Enamel coating on the firebox and ash catcher and chrome plating on the steel grate help prolong this grill’s lifespan. A dual venting system allows chefs to take control of this small grill’s temperature. Three locks keep the lid in place during pack-up and transport. 

What our tester says: Tony Carrick, Bob Vila writer and product tester, notes in our tested guide that “like other charcoal portable grills, the Cuisinart reached well above the required heat needed to sear meat. Our burger turned out juicy with plenty of charcoal-infused smoky flavor. That alone makes the Cuisinart a great ultralight budget-priced grill, despite its shortcomings, of which there are a few.”

Get the Cuisinart portable charcoal grill at Amazon, Lowe’s, Tractor Supply Co., The Home Depot, or BBQ Guys.

Best Grill-smoker Combo

Char-Griller Side Fire Box/Table Top Charcoal Grill

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Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 20 inches high by 21 inches wide by 18 inches deep 
  • Weight: 38 pounds 
  • Cooking area: 250 square inches 

Pros

  • Comes with a slide-out firebox and an EasyDump ash pan for filling and emptying
  • Dual dampers and 2-piece cast-iron grates allow for reliability and ease of use 
  • Can be used for Texas-style smoking; can act as a firebox attachment 
  • Durable construction is made with heavy-duty steel and cast iron 

Cons

  • Some users have reported that the paint in the exterior can chip or peel over time

Barrel-style grills tend to inspire amateur smokers, and the Char-Griller Side Fire Box charcoal grill will rise to the task. This grill features a heavy-duty steel body with cast-iron grates but measures just 20 inches high by 21 inches wide by 18 inches deep. A lightweight option for a barrel-style grill, it weighs in at 38 pounds.

A slide-out side firebox and EasyDump ash pan allows for loading and emptying charcoal or chips with ease. Two dampers help control airflow and contain smoke for that delicious smoky taste while the two-piece cast-iron grilling grates provide longevity. And, for those who already own full-size Char-Griller barrel grills, this unit can attach to the side to act as a firebox for Texas-style smoking. Plus, the product’s manual comes with a series of recipes for turkey, ham, chicken, venison, and more. 

Get the Char-Griller portable charcoal grill at Amazon.

Best Hibachi

Marsh Allen Cast Iron Hibachi Charcoal Grill

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Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 3.4 inches high by 18 inches wide by 10 inches deep 
  • Weight: 18 pounds 
  • Cooking area: 181 square inches 

Pros

  • Wooden handles on the cooking instruments and the grill itself keep the unit portable and the user’s hands safe
  • Efficient construction requires very little charcoal for even and effective cooking 
  • Durable cast-iron and porcelain-coated steel construction provides durability

Cons

  • Smaller cooking surface compared to some of the other grills on this list 
  • Does not provide a lot of clearance between the cooking space and a tabletop surface; may cause burns or damage 

Those interested in an easy-to-use and effective hibachi grill can rely on this model from Marsh Allen. This small charcoal grill comes with dual multiposition cooking grids of 9 inches wide by 15 inches long and over 181 square inches of cooking area, which is about enough space for six burgers. It also has porcelain-coated steel wire grates for long-term use and durability.

This cast-iron hibachi grill also has a compact construction of 3.4 inches high by 18 inches wide by 10 inches deep, which makes it easy to transport in most vehicles. The compact construction requires very little charcoal for even and effective cooking, providing more efficiency than other reputable models. Finally, this tabletop charcoal grill comes with wooden handles for portability and to prevent any heat from reaching the user’s hands. 

What our tester says: Tony Carrick, Bob Vila writer and product tester, notes in The Best Charcoal Grills that “the Marsh Allen hibachi grill may be small, but it feels well made. The grates at the base are heavy cast iron, giving it a sturdy feel. It also can get surprisingly hot. It only took a handful of hardwood charcoal to create ample heat for searing a burger patty. It also did surprisingly well with our grilled chicken kabob. With its three height positions, it was easy to make adjustments to achieve either a sear or a lower cooking temperature. And, since the grates can be set to different heights, we could create two, albeit small, cooking zones.” 

Get the Marsh Allen portable charcoal grill at Ace Hardware, Walmart, or BBQ Guys.

Best Kamado

Kamado Joe Jr. Charcoal Grill With Cast Iron Stand

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Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 27.5 inches high by 20 inches in diameter
  • Weight: 77.2 pounds
  • Cooking area: 151 square inches 

Pros

  • Comes with a bottom-mounted slide damper and a top-mounted cast-iron damper for temperature control
  • Built-in temperature gauge in the lid allows for user-friendliness and control 
  • Comes with thick, heat-resistant walls to protect the user from heat 

Cons

  • Heavyweight construction may be inconvenient for some users 

Kamado-style grills bring ultimate flexibility and capability to the charcoal grilling game. Kamado Joe Jr. excels at taking that show on the road. This portable barbecue grill measures just about 20 inches wide and 27.5 inches tall and includes a 13.5-inch stainless steel cooking grate. At a hefty 77.2 pounds, Joe Jr. requires two people to carry it from the car to the party with its sturdy handles.

The Kamado Joe Jr. portable charcoal grill features a bottom-mounted slide damper and a top-mounted cast-iron damper to control the airflow and temperature within its thick, heat-resistant walls. With the built-in temperature gauge in the lid, backyard gourmets can dial in the perfect temp for meats, veggies, and other grillables. 

Get the Kamado Joe Jr. portable charcoal grill at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart

Best Compact

Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill

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Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 15 inches high by 19.5 inches wide by 11.5 inches deep 
  • Weight: 14.5 pounds 
  • Cooking area: 160 square inches 

Pros

  • Comes with a porcelain-enameled lid and base and plated steel cooking grate to allow for heat retention and effective cooking 
  • Locking lid and dampers allow for ease of use and control over the cooking process 
  • Foldable legs provide clearance between the cooking space and the tabletop/ground 
  • Compact and ergonomic construction is easy to use and transport 

Cons

  • Some users have reported that the handles can get hot to the touch 

Whether it’s a road trip, grilling around the campsite, or partying in the parking lot before the game, Weber’s Go-Anywhere charcoal grill can handle it. This portable camping grill measures 15 inches high by 19.5 inches wide by 11.5 inches deep. Folding wire legs keep it at a safe distance from the tabletop. The lid locks in place, and the grill closes up to roughly the same size as a standard tool box. 

Grillers can throttle airflow with the dampers to control the temperature of this mini charcoal grill. The porcelain-enameled lid and base will stand up to many barbecue seasons. A plated-steel cooking grate handles up to six burgers at once.

What our tester says: Tony Carrick, Bob Vila writer and product tester, notes in our tested guide that “despite its compact size, the Go-Anywhere grill performs quite well. Its 160 square inches of cooking surface is larger than average for portable grills and offers enough space to fit six burgers or several kabobs. Its small size also means we needed very little charcoal to fill the grill. The grate is close to the hot coals, making searing easy. The design creates plenty of airflow to keep the coals hot while at the same time giving the user multiple ways to control the grill’s internal temperature when the lid is on.”

Get the Weber Go-Anywhere portable charcoal grill at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or BBQ Guys.

Best Folding

Moclever Portable Charcoal Grill

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Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 18 inches high by 17 inches wide by 11 inches deep (open); 18 inches high by 17 inches wide by 1.2 inches deep (folded) 
  • Weight: 5.23 pounds 
  • Cooking area: 187 square inches 

Pros

  • Lightweight, foldable construction is compact enough to store in small spaces or in vehicles easily 
  • Durable stainless steel and iron construction can withstand temperatures of up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Provides 187 square inches of space for cooking up to 8 burgers at a time 
  • Integrated vents allow for fresh air and combustion for effective cooking 

Cons

  • Some users have reported that the exterior paint on the construction peeled after some time 
  • May not be as durable as some comparable options on the market 

When it comes to convenience and easy transport, a folding grill like Moclever’s portable charcoal grill is hard to beat. This portable coal BBQ grill folds completely flat and weighs just 5.23 pounds. To set it up, simply open the top like a book, unfold the side panels, and place the two stainless steel grates inside, one for the charcoal and the other for cooking. 

The Moclever’s cooking surface measures 17 inches wide by 11 inches deep, which provides 187 square inches of room for up to eight burgers at a time. Vents underneath the charcoal grate draw in fresh air for optimal combustion and heat of up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get the Moclever portable charcoal grill at Amazon.

Best Kettle

Weber 14-Inch Smokey Joe Charcoal Grill

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Product Specs

  • Dimensions: 17 inches high by 14.2 inches wide by 14.5 inches deep 
  • Weight: 10 pounds 
  • Cooking area: 147 square inches 

Pros

  • 10-pound compact construction is made with porcelain enamel, steel, and glass-reinforced nylon 
  • Comes with 2 aluminum dampers, an ash catcher, and a reinforced handle 
  • Affordable construction compared to other models on the market

Cons

  • Some users have reported that the handle is located too close to the damper; gloves may be required 

Kettle charcoal grills are among the most compact and effective options on the market for grilling steaks, burgers, chicken, and more, and this model from Weber is no different. This 10-pound portable charcoal BBQ grill comes with a porcelain-enameled lid that will retain heat and resist rusting and peeling, two aluminum dampers for temperature control, and an ash catcher for cleanliness. The 147-square-inch cooking area is capable of holding six burgers at a time. 

The cooking grate of this Weber Smokey Joe charcoal grill is made with plated steel for consistency and longevity while the heavy-duty fuel grate withstands high heat. The lid on the portable charcoal grill also has a glass-reinforced nylon handle to protect the user’s hands. 

Get the Weber 14-inch portable charcoal grill at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Walmart, or BBQ Guys.

Best Cart-style

Weber 22-Inch Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill

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Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 44.1 inches high by 48 inches wide by 30 inches deep 
  • Weight: 96 pounds
  • Cooking area: 363 square inches 

Pros

  • The porcelain-enameled lid comes with a built-in thermometer; can be stored in a tuckaway holder
  • Large cooking surface compared to other charcoal grills on this list; holds up to 13 burgers at a time 
  • Comes with multiple useful features and attachments for user-friendliness 

Cons

  • Larger construction compared to other options; may not fit in all vehicles 

Household barbecues and neighborhood block parties require a portable grill that can take on a lot of cooking while being easy to maneuver. For these events, we recommend the Weber Performer Deluxe charcoal grill. This 22-inch model is made with a push-button Touch-N-Go gas ignition, a hinged cooking grate, char baskets, a CharBin storage container for charcoal, and a One-Touch cleaning system for user convenience. 

It has a porcelain-enameled lid with a thermometer for heat retention that can be kept in a tuckaway lid holder while in use. Need more? This option also has a grated shelf under the grill for storing grilling accessories and a 363-square-inch cooking surface that holds over 13 burgers at once. Though it is heavier at 96 pounds, it comes with two caster wheels and two all-weather rubber-molded wheels for easy maneuvering around a driveway or yard. 

Get the Weber 22-inch portable charcoal grill at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing a Portable Charcoal Grill

A charcoal portable grill or easily transported tabletop grill can make you a star at the next barbecue. But when deciding which is the best portable charcoal grill for your next outdoor event, you’ll want to consider a few things, such as the type and size of grill you need, among a few other key factors. This section outlines key shopping considerations before grabbing your grilling tool set.

Type

The best portable charcoal grills come in many shapes and styles. The ideal choice for you depends on how you plan to use it. Here are the types of grills you may see as you shop:

  • Kettle grills have the classic dome shape with the round, removable lid. Basic and inexpensive, these grills do a good job on steaks, burgers, dogs, and basic barbecue fare.
  • Barrel grills, when turned on their side, look like a barrel. In fact, many professional BBQ masters use actual metal barrels. They offer lots of cooking area, and they hold a lot of charcoal for long-lasting barbecue and smoke sessions.
  • Kamado grills bring the latest and greatest in charcoal grill technology. These oblong or egg-shaped grills have thick walls that retain and distribute heat evenly. Kamados make great grills for steaks, chicken, burgers, dogs, pizzas, and breads.
  • Hibachi grills might conjure up visions of a Japanese chef cooking at your table, but the flat-top griddle they typically use is not actually a hibachi. True hibachis (called shichirin in Japan) are large, uncovered open-grated tabletop charcoal grills with a large cooking surface.

Material

A grill’s construction materials help determine the price point. Inexpensive grills may employ thin painted steel, while more expensive models bring in sleek stainless steel or other thicker steels. Inexpensive steel doesn’t last as long as stainless (though a porcelain coating can help), but it’s usually light and portable. Stainless and heavy-gauge steels last longer and retain heat better.

Grill grate materials vary, too. The options range from inexpensive steel to higher-end stainless steel or cast-iron grates. Cast iron and stainless steel last longer, and they’re easier to clean, though cast iron needs a thin coat of oil to keep from rusting.

Dimensions and Weight

Size and weight are key to portability. A grill that’s too large or heavy to transport won’t do much good unless the party is in your own backyard. 

As far as size goes, it’s best to choose a grill large enough to cook your average meal but compact enough to fit in a vehicle. In a large truck or SUV, a larger grill might be doable. For transport in a small car, a portable grill should be no larger than 20 or so inches from side to side and top to bottom.

An inexpensive grill made from lower-grade materials might weigh just a few pounds. In fact, some weigh less than a bag of charcoal. Those made with better materials might weigh 20 to 30 pounds, which is still relatively easy to transport.

Egg or kamado-type grills have to be heavy, as they have thicker walls for retaining the heat. Even a small one can weigh up to 75 pounds, but they’re usually worth lugging to the party.

Cooking Area and Surface

Charcoal grills create a lot of heat, and that heat has to escape upward to cook the meat or veggies on the grill. For that reason, all charcoal grills have open grates that let the heat rise and equalize as well as possible inside the grill. These grills are made to hold anywhere from five to 13 burgers at a time, with most surface areas ranging from 150 to 363 square inches. 

Many of the best portable charcoal grills feature stainless steel grates and it’s for several good reasons. First, long-lasting stainless steel helps to ensure a portable grill doesn’t become a throwaway after a season or two. Second, lighter than cast iron, stainless steel makes these grills easier to transport. Finally, easy-to-clean stainless steel makes cleanup quick before the grill goes back in the trunk.

Heat Output and Control

On a charcoal grill, heat control means adjusting the amount of charcoal and throttling back airflow. Many of the best charcoal grills have air dampers that grill masters can open or close to control the amount of oxygen-rich fresh air that flows into the burning coals. More oxygen means a hotter fire, but the charcoal won’t last as long. It’s best to leave the damper wide open when starting the grill and then cut it back to a lower airflow to make the charcoal last longer.

Ventilation

Dampers do more than just control the airflow through the grill. Beyond throttling back the temperature, the top damper, or vent, controls the smoke, which can have a big impact on the taste of the food.

Most people who prefer charcoal grilling enjoy it for its smoky flavor. For those folks, closing the dampers one-half or three-quarters of the way will retain smoke (though do remember it also will cut back on oxygen and lower the temp). For those who prefer a less smoky flavor, leaving the top damper completely open will lighten up the bold, smoky flavor. 

In the end, charcoal grilling is a balancing act between airflow, temperature, and flavor, so don’t be afraid to experiment. 

Additional Features

On the surface, charcoal grills seem like simple cooking devices. But many include features to make them easier to use and transport. Folding or collapsible stands, for example, make for easier transport and take up very little room in a vehicle. Most grills have ash catchers attached underneath to catch burned coals, but some are easier to remove and empty than others. Hinged grates allow backyard chefs to add charcoal to the fire without removing the grate. Chimney starters offer a faster way to get a base of coals lit—a real benefit when it comes to charcoal grilling.

FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about portable charcoal grills. Be sure to check for an answer to your question listed below.

Q. Does charcoal add flavor? 

Yes, cooking with charcoal does add flavor to food. As the food heats up and drips onto the scorching coals, it combusts and creates the vapors and smoky flavor that make charcoal-grilled food so tasty.

Q. How much charcoal do you put in a portable grill? 

Many factors go into this, but a good rule of thumb is to use about 30 briquettes of charcoal for small or portable grills. However, users will want to rely on the user manual of their model to ensure they’re adding enough charcoal. 

Q. Is the smoke from charcoal dangerous? 

Breathing in any byproduct of combustion isn’t healthy for you, and burning charcoal does also emit carbon monoxide. But as long as you stay out of the smoke and grill outside, there’s very little risk.

Q. Can a portable charcoal grill fit in a car?

Most portable charcoal grills on the market are compact enough to fit in a car’s trunk or backseat or in an RV’s storage compartment. However, always use caution when placing a grill inside a car as some parts may still be hot after use. 

Q. How do you use a small portable charcoal grill? 

Using a small portable charcoal grill is no different from a larger unit. Simply place the briquettes on the lower grate (or in the bottom of the grill, depending on the model), use a small amount of lighter fluid on the briquettes, open the vents, and light the charcoal with a match. Allow all the briquettes to light and ash over before cooking.

Q. How do you dispose of charcoal after grilling?

Hot coals from a grill should be left to cool for 24 to 48 hours before emptying to prevent injuries or unwanted burning. When cooled, the coals should be removed with a scoop or poured into aluminum foil and placed in a trash bin. However, charcoal ash can also be used as a fertilizer for plants and lawns or in compost. 

Q. How often do you need to clean a charcoal grill?

Truth be told, you should be cleaning your charcoal grill, or any grill, every time you’re finished with it. This will keep fats and oils from burning into the grates and adding unwanted flavors. Use a grill brush to scrub the grates until they’re clean.

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Tom Scalisi

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Tom Scalisi is a freelance writer, author, and blogger with a passion for building. Whether it’s a DIY project or an entire website, Tom loves creating something from the ground up, stepping back, and admiring a job well done.

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