Category: Apartment Living article

Best Practices for Grilling in Small Spaces

Tips for safe cooking on a condo deck or patio.

Food always seems to taste better when it’s cooked and eaten outdoors – especially in the summer. Since grilling safely typically requires space, does that put it beyond the reach of condo owners who have a deck or patio instead of a backyard?

It depends. An average of 8,900 home grill fires are reported annually in the U.S., with 27 percent of structure fires starting on an exterior balcony or open porch.1

Therefore, if you are concerned about your grilling space, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Know the Law

Where, when and especially whether you’re allowed to grill is subject to local laws and regulations. Even in towns that permit grilling, your condo board, apartment complex or building association may restrict or ban it outright. So, before you even think about grilling, check the local fire code as well as your association’s bylaws.

Take It Outside

Condo buildings may provide communal outdoor charcoal grills for resident use. Common-space grilling can be an ideal option if you can’t safely use your deck or patio. Many parks and picnic grounds also provide grills for public use.


An average of 8,900 home grill fires are reported annually in the U.S., with 27 percent of structure fires starting on an exterior balcony or open porch.1


Be Space Smart

If you’re allowed to use your own grill, be cognizant that an errant flame or spark could quickly ignite an overhanging branch, eave, hanging plant, balcony rail or wooden house siding. If the space seems too tight to ensure adequate clearance and ventilation, don’t grill.

Think Small

A full-size grill might take up too much of a small space, increasing the risk of an accident if you cannot get away from it. Purchase a compact tabletop or camping grill.

Go Electric

As an alternative to a charcoal grill, which local fire code may limit or prohibit the use of in condo or apartment complexes, use an electric grill. There are few, if any, restrictions around electric grills, which produce no flare-ups and are safer. That said, make sure the cord is plugged into a grounded outlet and not in an area where someone can trip over it.

Know What You’re Doing

Before firing up a grill, review the user manual and follow all instructions and safety guidelines.

Keep It Clean

Hardened grease and fat can quickly catch fire, so it’s important to clean grills and the catch trays regularly.

Use Common Sense

The basic safety do’s and don’ts are the same for small and large spaces: Never leave an active grill unattended. Keep children and pets at least three feet away. Don’t squirt lighter fluid onto hot coals. Use long-handled utensils to avoid burns and splatters. And if you cook on a gas grill, make sure the propane tank is properly connected.


While your condo may have a small outdoor space, it might also have few storage options inside. Learn creative ways to organize your belongings in smaller places.


  • Home Fires Involving Grills Fact Sheet, National Fire Protection Association, 2016.

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