Using a BBQ Smoker on your Balcony, watch out for these 10 things

grilled skewers

If you live in an apartment or are planning to live in one, then you may want to take a moment to read this article, especially if grilling food happens to be one of your favorite pass times.

Living in an apartment or condominium means having to live with quite a number of rules and the reason why these rules are in place is to keep everyone in that shared space safe and comfortable.

While it doesn’t give you the flexibility of living in a single attached house, it does help you avoid costly mortgage and home insurance fees that will give you headaches far worse than a migraine.

In 2004, residents of Seattle, WA took to the streets when a fire code banning grilling on apartment balconies was due to go into effect right before the Fourth of July.

The massive public outcry forced the Building Code Council to recant their decision to avoid being crucified by the public in the next election year.

While there is an obvious reason for concern about fire safety and grilling on apartment, balconies, the people felt that Seattle has more than enough fire safety and building codes to address these concerns and that the new law was completely unnecessary.

Also read: best BBQ Smoker books

Grilling Rules in Apartment and Condos

You’ll have to consider several factors if you plan to live in an apartment and also want to buy a smoker grill to smoke some meat on the balcony of your apartment.

First, there’s the state, city and county laws about fire and building safety and they vary from place to place.

You should know your local rules as this official from Carmel Indiana explains in this video:

Then you would have to negotiate to do BBQ in your apartment and sometimes you get lucky having a landlord who is not so strict about his tenants owning a BBQ smoker grill, but sometimes landlords are very particular about that stuff.

So go with the ones that have flexible policies about it in order for you to enjoy smoking meat regularly.

NFPA on Grilling Safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association, home grills cause roughly 9,600 home fires per year in America.

That’s more than 26 home fires per day in the hundreds of millions of houses across the United States!

It may seem a small number, but the NFPA takes this kind of matter very seriously as it has been proven in the past that even just a candlelight can burn down entire cities.

General Safety Rules for Using a BBQ Smoker in Your Apartment Balcony

an apartment balcony view

In order to ensure safety for you and your neighbors living in the apartment or condominium, we’ve come up with some rules that can help you prevent the fire from starting by being responsible with your grilling.

You may notice that some of these rules also mirror your landlord’s policies and in rare cases are also implemented by your local fire department.

Do check with your landlord and state and local building codes as well as fire safety to cross-reference with this list to make sure that you’re on the right track.

This way when you get the approval for grilling in your apartment, you will also know what type of grill to purchase that is allowed under the circumstances.

Below are some of the rules for grilling in your condo balcony:

  1. Compliance with By-Laws of the Apartment Complex or Condominium – Before you decide to sign the lease for the apartment/condo unit that you’re interested to rent, check first with their by-laws and see if they allow grilling in the building. If they do, then that’s great! However, if they do not allow it, then try to negotiate and see if you can find a middle ground. If you’re successful with your negotiations, then you may proceed, but if their final answer is still a no, then it’s time to move on and hunt for new flats.
  2. Lease Restrictions – All lease contracts have restrictions in them, so check that one too and see if grilling in the apartment is included. If it is, then negotiate again and follow the procedure above.
  3. Adequate Ventilation – Your apartment or condo balcony must be at least 10 meters or more away from the nearest infrastructure, it must be open and well ventilated. It should not have any louvers, plastic curtains or similar weather or privacy barriers. If the balcony fails to meet these requirements, then you should avoid doing an barbecuing on it even if you’re able to convince the landlord to let you. It’s not safe.
  4. Acceptable Fuel Types – The fuel used in BBQ grills are charcoal (lumps and briquettes), wood chips and pellets, propane/butane gas, electric and infrared emitters. However, landlords and the state or local government will only allow gas, electric and infrared heat sources for you to use in your apartment balcony for doing BBQ. Unfortunately, charcoal and hardwood are considered too risky in confined spaces like apartments and condominiums.
  5. Gas Fuel Limitation – For LNGs and LPGs the maximum tolerable amount that you can use in your apartment/condo unit is only up to 9 kilograms and you are restricted to use up to only one tank or bottle. You’ll also be advised to store LPG tanks in the basement utility room of the building or outdoors and never inside your own apartment.
  6. Safe Distance from Flammable and Combustible Materials – Flammable and combustible materials such as timber walls, railings, furniture, privacy screens, electrical switches, power points, air conditioners, lights, bug zappers, etc. should be kept away from the grill at all times. Any open flame like decorative or citronella candles should also be placed at least 1.5 meters from the grill in order to avoid any accidental ignition or bursts.
  7. Check for Gas Leaks – Regularly check the propane tank as well as its other components and look for leaks. Using your own hand as a sensor for such things works very well as the compressed gas inside the LPG tank is cold and any leaks will be detected by your pain receptors under the layer of your skin. Once you’ve found the leak, then turn off the gas flow valve and call for a technician to have it replaced and have him check for further leaks to ensure safety in the apartment.
  8. Accessible Fire Extinguisher – Fire spreads quickly in confined spaces like your apartment or condo unit, therefore you’ll need to have a fire suppression system or a fire extinguisher ready all the time to choke out any fires that may come from it that could harm you and the building. Still, BBQ fires rarely cause harm provided you’re doing everything correctly; however, accidents do happen so it is best to be prepared always.
  9. Minimizing Cooking Smoke – You have to watch out for two things when you’re grilling on your apartment balcony and those are oil and grease. These things produce a lot of smoke when they are heated to a certain temperature and the meat your grill or smoke produces grease that goes into the grease tray underneath the grill. In some cases, you are required to spread oil on some foods to get the right kind of taste to it and again that too creates smoke. To minimize smoke from your grilling, always get rid of the grease in the grease tray and use as little oil as possible when cooking.
  10. Controlled Cleanup – Under no circumstances are you going to spray water on your grill to clean it up if you’re living in an apartment building. The water will splash down to your neighbor’s balcony and windows and will get you into a lot of trouble with them. They might even file a complaint against you to the landlord and have you forcibly kicked out. You can use wet rugs instead. It cleans thoroughly and it doesn’t bother the neighbors. The only thing that your neighbor will catch from your barbecuing is the sweet scent of burning meat caressing their noses and they’ll be happy about that for sure.

Recommended Small Grills if You Live in an Apartment or a Condo Unit

Check out our article about the best BBQ Smokers for some balcony smoker inspiration, and if your looking for a smaller set to liven up your appartment, then these are some excellent traditional grills to check out:

ModelReviewImage
Kamado Joe JuniorJust top of the line small grill. Very sturdy and has over 270 positive reviews here on Amazon to date. This would be my top choice when smoking in confined spaces like a balcony.Kamado balcony grill(view more images)
Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal GrillWeber is just the big brand name when it comes to small grills with it’s iconic round shape. It’s a great addition to any home and will always looks great and pretty traditional.Weber original kettle charcoal grill small(view more images)
Weber Genesis II E-210 Liquid Propane GrillAnother one from Weber and this time a less traditional look for them. This one gives you some more space to work with and it looks great on any balcony as you can see here.Weber liquid propane grill on a balcony(view more images)
Char-Broil Classic 280 2-Burner LPG Gas GrillA great grill with the nice addition of an extra side burner so you can cook something in a frying pan or cooking pan alongside your grilling instead of having to move between your kitchen and balcony for every different part of the meal.Charbroil classic grill(view more images)
Fuego Element F21C Carbon Steel Gas GrillThe Vesta’s Best Gas BBQ & Spark Design Award, this is quite a different look for your balcony. You either love it or hate it, but is does take up a lot less space to leave more room for your garden furniture and perhaps outdoor dinner table to enjoy it. It’s a very durable and sturdy Gas grill and perfect for outside weather conditions.Fuego Element Carbon Steel Gas Grill on your balcony(view more images)
George Foreman GFO3320GM Indoor/Outdoor Electric GrillThis is just the easiest to use and very affordable grill that let’s you cook on a lot of balcony’s where you won’t be able to use charcoal or a smoker because it’s electric. And you can even set it on your dinner table if you lack additional space.George Foreman grill(view more images)
Char-Broil TRU Infrared Electric Patio Bistro GrillThis char-broil is specifically designed for patio and balcony grilling so could be a great addition to your balcony furniture.Charbroil infrared grill for patio or balcony(view more images)

You can check out these electric BBQ smokers as well.