Can you use a grill on your apartment’s balcony?

American Grilling 101: How to grill the ultimate burger
In 2004, many Seattleites had a massive freakout when a fire code banning grilling on apartment balconies was due to go into effect right before the Fourth of July. Following a massive public outcry, the Building Code Council backed off and let them eat their barbecued meats. Whether or not you can grill on your apartment’s balcony has a lot to do with where you live, from the state to the city to your building. Even if you’re a Seattle resident, your condo could have its own set of laws forbidding grills.

Rules

Home grills cause an average of 8,800 fires a year, according to the National Fire Protection Association [PDF], though not just in apartments. Yet 29 percent of these fires started on an exterior balcony or open porch and 27 percent began on or in a courtyard, terrace, or patio. Gas grills were the biggest offenders, starting four out of five fires, compared to charcoal and other solid fuels.

In other words, it’s no surprise there are some rules about where you can use grills. The problem is that the rules are complicated. Not only are there National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines, but states have their own fire prevention guidelines, cities may have their own, and individual property management organizations have their own. This makes for a convoluted mess of various rules and recommendations. In places like Florida, for example, you can’t even store a grill on a balcony, much less use it. In common-sense New York, you can use gas grills and similar setups, as long as they’re placed a certain distance away from buildings, railings, and branches (10 feet is the typical requirement). In Philadelphia, you can even use charcoal grills in many situations — townhouse balconies included.

Long story short, the rules vary considerably from place to place. Your first step should be to take a look at the regulations in your state and city, and then look up the guidelines for your apartment complex, which are usually available online. See what is and is not allowed. You may find that you can only use a certain type of grill, or a certain size of grill.

You’ll also want to measure your balcony or patio to make sure there’s still enough room for you after you move the grill out there. Ensure you have enough clearance around the grill — especially if you’re tight and space and opt for what’s essentially a planter that hangs over your rail — and keep 10 feet away from the apartment walls, hanging plants, branches, and any flammable railings. Have a fire-extinguishing plan. Don’t drink and grill.

When using a grill, take the necessary safety steps here, too. Read the manual, don’t leave the grill unattended, and safely dispose of your charcoal (preferably after waiting a few days to ensure the fire is truly out).

Fuels

Lynx-Grills-30'-Freestanding-SmartGrill

Charcoal

Chances are, you probably won’t be able to use a charcoal grill on your apartment balcony. Because of the live coals and lengthy heating process, charcoal grills tend to be banned more frequently than gas grills, despite the statistics that show they’re often safer. Think twice about charcoal when in an apartment — it may feel cool, but it’s almost certainly against the rules. Note that this does include hibachis, which are rated the same as other charcoal grills no matter how modern they may look. That said, if your apartment does allow charcoal grills, hibachis can be a good choice.

Propane

Rules are generally more lax when it comes to propane grills, which you may be able to use on your balcony depending on local regulations. Propane heats immediately and is highly contained, but it’s not perfect. Mistakes can still happen, so it’s important to be careful and always practice safe storage and maintenance. Additionally, propane grills and tanks may be too large or unwieldy for some apartment situations. Look for tabletop or camping grills, which tend to be more compact than traditional models.

Electric

Electric grills are small, lightweight, and the safest of all grills. As such, electric models are more likely to be allowed on apartment balconies, and will likely fit in whatever space you’re working with. Just keep in mind that your food may cook a bit differently than on a traditional grill given the the change in heating elements.

Models to consider

George Foreman GGR50B Electric Grill ($90+)

George Foreman GGR50B Electric Grill Thumb

Of course a George Foreman is going to make it on the list! This 1,600-watt electric grill sits on pedestal for easy access, but you can also put it on a table if that works better. You can adjust the heat from low to high like a traditional grill, and the cooking surface is a solid, 240 square inches. The grate base also includes features like a sloped base that leads to a grease tray for simple cleanup. Moreover, you can set up and tear down this grill in just a few minutes, making it ideal for smaller living situations where space is at a premium.

Amazon Walmart

Weber Q Electric 2400 ($300)

Weber 55020001 Q2400 Electric Grill Thumb

This electric grill, though more expensive than George Foreman’s aforementioned offering, benefits from solid construction and a slightly larger grill space. It also comes with porcelain-covered grates, cast-aluminum framing, and a design that’s ready to cook right out of the box. If you aren’t planning on getting another grill for many years, this is a strong, apartment-friendly option, especially given the 1,560-watt heating element and 6-foot ground chord.

Amazon Home Depot

Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Smart Home

The best multicookers of 2019 for everything from sauteing to slow cooking

Find the best multicookers for your cooking ambitions. Whether you are just getting started in the kitchen or you've been cooking for years and want a device to make it easier, these are the best smart pots for you to choose from.
Smart Home

This Silicon Valley studio rents for $1,500 per month — to 2 cats

A man in San Jose, California, rents a studio apartment for $1,500 per month for a very important reason: So his daughter's two cats have a place to call their own. It may be the swankiest cat pad on the West Coast.
Deals

Amazon drops prices on Roomba robot vacuums by up to $150

Amazon is offering discounts on iRobot Roombas and other robot vacuums to help you get a leg-up on those chores. We've rounded up the best deals available now and put them all in one place.
Smart Home

Speed up cooking with one of the best pressure cookers on the market

Not all pressure cookers are created equally. You have to choose between stovetop cookers, multicookers, canners, and even microwave cookers. Our pressure cooking buyer's guide includes our picks for the best in each category.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Smart Home

This just in: Alexa can now deliver the news like a professional newscaster

The Amazon Alexa team has given Alexa a newscaster voice that improves the way she delivers the news and reads Wikipedia articles, making the smart assistant easier to understand.
Product Review

Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the simplest entry into a smarter doorway

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 may lack the style and sophistication of premium door-dingers, but few can match its simplicity and versatility. The device, available in both wired and wireless configurations, is easy to set up and adds instant…
Smart Home

Ring security camera catches man licking the doorbell for hours

A family in Salinas, California had their Ring camera capture something pretty unexpected: a man licking the doorbell outside of their home for more than three hours. The incident took place around 5:00 a.m.
Smart Home

GHSP makes a (back)splash with its touchscreen concept kitchen

One of the coolest concept kitchens from CES 2019 came from GHSP. It created a backsplash entirely made of touchscreens. That means the control panel for your kitchen is accessible no matter where you are.
Product Review

Kwikset Kevo Contemporary review

Tired of carrying around keys? Make keyless entry so easy that all you have to do is have your phone nearby to open the door. It’s a little pricey, but sleek lines and simple features make the Kwikset Kevo Contemporary a great choice for…
Smart Home

Airbnb says sorry to guest for how it dealt with undisclosed security camera

An Airbnb guest recently found a surveillance camera in his rental apartment that hadn't been properly disclosed in the listing. The firm admits its initial response to the guest's complaint was poor, but has since made amends.
Health & Fitness

In search of the fountain of youth, beauty companies turn to tech

Beauty tech is a fairly new concept, but at CES 2019, companies such as Olay, L’Oreal, and Neutrogena were fully embracing it with all kinds of gadgets that promise to give you glowing skin.