If you live in an apartment or condominium building, you may be wondering, “Are gas grills allowed on balconies?”
Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal answer to that question.
Regulations related to grilling on balconies vary from location to location.
The International Fire Code states that charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices shall not be operated on combustible balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction. Additionally, liquified-petroleum gas grills with more than a 2.5-pound water capacity shall follow the same restrictions. There are exceptions for one and two-family dwellings and balconies and decks protected by automatic sprinkler systems.
This code is typically the starting point as a minimum standard for safety for local regulations. However, state and local governments aren’t required to adopt these same standards.
The 2.5-pound water capacity referenced in the International Fire Code is equivalent to a 1-pound propane tank, so your typical gas grill isn’t allowed on a balcony according to the code without a sprinkler system.
So let’s dig into this topic a bit more and understand the reasoning behind these restrictions.
How Do I Know if Gas Grills are Allowed on My Balcony?
The first place to look for the answer is in your lease agreement or home owner’s association rules.
Most apartment and condominium complexes will explicitly state that using a gas or charcoal grill on your balcony is prohibited.
While unlikely, if they don’t have rules around the use of grills, the next place to check is with your local fire department or fire marshal’s office. The fire officials will be able to tell you what the local laws are related to grills on a balcony.
Are Gas Grills Allowed on Balconies Ever?
If your apartment or condominium building is constructed of concrete, including the balcony, gas grills may be permitted. However, even if you live in a concrete structure, it could still be prohibited by local rules.
Additionally, if your building has an automatic sprinkler system on the balconies, grilling may be allowed.
If a full-size gas grill isn’t allowed, you may be able to use a smaller, portable gas grill that uses a 1-pound propane tank. Or an electric grill.
Why Are Grills Prohibited from Balconies?
Nobody that uses a grill on a balcony intends for anything bad to happen. They just enjoy cooking their food on a grill.
However, fires do occur. And unfortunately, when a fire happens in an apartment or condominium building, you are putting other families’ safety at risk. Additionally, even if everyone gets out safely, they may not be able to return to their home if there was extensive damage.
If a grill fire gets out of control on a balcony, it can rapidly spread to living areas and other units. Additionally, even if a fire doesn’t occur, smoke can build up in your apartment or your neighbor’s before you realize it.
As you can see from the NFPA infographic below, there are over 10,000 home fires started by grills every year and almost as many burns.
And you may think your gas grill is safer than charcoal, but, as you can see, gas grills contribute to more fires than charcoal ones.
How to Safely Grill on a Balcony
Most of these precautions are advisable for any grilling that you do. However, if on a balcony, you should be extra vigilant because of the potential consequences.
1. Know Your Local Laws
Before you consider buying or using a grill on your balcony, find out if you are allowed to do so.
Check your lease agreement for any language related to grilling in or around your complex. And if your complex doesn’t have specific rules, contact the local fire department. They’ll know the local regulations around grill use and can provide additional safety tips.
2. Consider Alternative Locations
If you aren’t allowed to grill on your balcony, ask if there are specific locations where a grill can be used.
There may be a community grill, or you can work with your neighbors and community to establish one.
If you just like to grill occasionally, you could consider going to a local park with grills available or buying an indoor grill.
3. Use an Electric Grill or Portable Propane Grill
While some communities don’t allow the use of charcoal or gas grills on balconies, they may allow the use of an electric grill or portable propane grills that use 1-lb LP tanks.
While you may not get the smoky flavor you get with a traditional grill, it can still provide the atmosphere of a BBQ. And some electric grills can be used inside or outside, allowing you to grill when the weather is bad outside.
4. Keep Combustibles Away
Regardless of where you grill, you want to ensure there are no combustibles nearby that could catch fire.
Wooden decks, lawn furniture, and shrubs or low-hanging branches should be kept at a distance. Keeping your grill out of high traffic areas helps minimize people from getting burned inadvertently as well.
5. Check for Leaks on Gas Grills
If you are using a gas grill on a balcony, or anywhere, you should always check it for leaks. This check should be done after assembly and after breaking any connections on the gas line.
Propane is heavier than air, so if there is a leak, it can build up and lead to an explosion if ignited.
6. Never Leave Your Grill Unattended
A hot grill should never be left unattended.
According to the NFPA, 11-16% of home grill fires had equipment unattended as a leading contributing factor. Most grill flare-ups and other issues can be handled if someone is watching the grill. But if left alone, small problems can quickly become out of control.
If you need to step away, no matter how quickly you’ll return, ask someone to keep an eye on it.
7. Never Move a Hot Grill
Moving a hot grill can result in a fire if it tips over, but it can also result in severe burns during movement.
Always make sure your grill is in a safe place and can remain there until it cools off before moving it.
8. Keep Your Grill Clean
By not cleaning your grill regularly, grease can build up on the surfaces. The grease can liquify, vaporize, and ignite, resulting in a grease fire.
Regularly cleaning your grill and monitoring the interior surfaces helps minimize flare-ups and potential grease fires. Also, be sure to check the catch pan before starting your grill.
9. Dispose of Charcoal Properly
If you use a charcoal grill, ensure the coals have cooled completely before disposing of them. The coals can retain heat for an extended period of time and should be disposed of in a separate container away from combustibles.
10. Have a Fire Extinguisher
It is an excellent idea to have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen regardless. But if you plan on grilling on your balcony, it is essential to have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of an emergency.
So, Is It a Good Idea to Use a Gas Grill on a Balcony?
Using a gas grill on a balcony is safe, provided the appropriate safety precautions are taken. However, if it is against property rules or local regulations, it should not be done.
Remember, if you live in a multi-family residential complex, you are not only putting yourself in danger, but you are putting the lives and livelihood of others that live there in danger as well.
And if gas grills are allowed, here are our top picks for the best small gas grills.