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BBQs on balconies – is it okay?

Summer is coming soon and what’s the defining thing of British summertime?

Sceptically looking up at encroaching clouds. But what’s the second most defining thing? BBQs in the garden, of course! But not all of us have access to a garden. Those lucky enough to have a balcony on the property may be tempted to just have the BBQ out there, but there are a few things to consider before you do that.

What is your balcony made of?

First and most obvious, is your balcony made of wood? This should go without saying, of course, but if you’re planning to BBQ on a wooden balcony then you’re planning a potential disaster. BBQs produce heat and, more than likely, fire. Fire plus wood equals more fire. Too much fire, even.

What do the fire department say?

In 2013 the London Fire Brigade implored people to avoid balcony BBQs after a series of incidents in London. The fire brigade are – quite rightly – skeptical of BBQs in general. Dave Brown, Head of Operations, Prevention and Response at London Fire Brigade at the time said “Barbecues are fine as long as you take a few sensible steps, such as lighting them away from anything that could catch fire and never leaving them unattended.” They also point out it’s wise to have a bucket or water or sand nearby and never use petrol or paraffin.

Still, it could be worse for the London Fire Brigade. The US has so many incidents of fire due to people deep frying turkeys, there are various compilation videos of people causing fires online.

Is it even legal?

The good news is that legally you are permitted to have a BBQ on your balcony! Probably. The International Fire Code, who operate in America, states you cannot use charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices on combustible balconies (see above) or within 10 feet of combustible construction. This is nothing more than a guideline for us though since there are no specific legal requirements about having a barbecue on a balcony.

However, if you are in an apartment building the management have the right to make rules prohibiting BBQs on balconies for safety reasons. Always make sure you’ve checked with your management that it’s OK with them. If you’re renting the apartment then you’ll have to check with your landlord as well.

How should you go about having this BBQ, then?

If you’re still eager to have a BBQ on your balcony (once you have confirmed with your management/landlord), then it’s recommended you avoid charcoal BBQs and go for electric ones if possible. Alternatively, there are balcony-specific BBQ products available that can help you utilise your balcony space better.

For the most part it depends on your specific circumstances: the building you’re in, the floor you’re on, the size of your balcony etc. London Fire Brigade are pretty certain you should not be BBQing on balconies but they do have a Fire Safety Team to whom you can direct any questions about staying safe.

It’s also recommended that you don’t drink too much at a BBQ. I know that sounds like we’re giving you wings and telling you not to flap, but there is method to the madness. According to a study by MORE TH>N British people have caused £617 million worth of property damage due to being drunk while BBQing. To add to this, you would not usually be able to claim the damage from insurance on the grounds you weren’t taking reasonable care of your property.

BBQs are fun so we hope you can get your cook on this summer! But they’re probably not enough fun to justify the risk of a house fire, so be sure to be cautious and remember you can never be too safe.