Proper Use and Location of Grills and Other Cooking Equipment
By Kristin Bigda, 20-May-2024
NFPA Technical Services Engineer Valerie Ziavras contributed to an update of this blog, which was originally published in 2019.

Are you responsible for enforcing the Fire Code in apartment buildings where residents want to use grills? Have you been faced with landlords or condo associations who are seeking education on the risk of grills and cooking appliances? Do you see office buildings with grills on patio areas located too close to the building? Why does a Fire Code care about the occupant use of grills?

NFPA 1, Fire Code, provides limitations for the use of grills, hibachi, and similar devices used for cooking and heating to ensure both the safety of occupants and protection of property.

Location and Storage
For other than one- and two-family dwellings, outdoor cooking appliances, heating appliances, or appliances used for similar purposes, such as grills and hibachis, are not to be used or kindled on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 ft (3 m) of any structure. This keeps the ignition source a safe distance from the structure, such as an apartment building or dormitory.

In addition, these appliances cannot be stored on balconies. When grills are stored on balconies, there is a high chance they will be used there as well. However, listed equipment permanently installed in accordance with its listing, applicable codes, and manufacturer’s instructions is permitted.

Electric Grills
With regard to the application and enforcement of this provision in NFPA 1, a question NFPA® staff often receives is whether electric grills are also subject to these requirements. The answer is it depends. In 2006, the Code read as follows:

10.11.7 For other than one- and two-family dwellings, no hibachi, gas-fired grill, charcoal grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose, shall be used or kindled on any balcony or under any overhanging portion or within 10 ft (3 m) of any structure. Listed electric ranges, grills, or similar electrical apparatus shall be permitted.

But the underlined sentence was removed in the 2009 edition of NFPA 1 and all subsequent editions.

Further modifications were made for the 2024 edition of NFPA 1, and now electrically powered cooking appliances listed and labeled in accordance with UL 1026, Standard for Household Electric Cooking and Food Serving Appliances, are permitted in residential occupancies that are protected throughout by a sprinkler system or that are of Type I or Type II construction. The appliances must be operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. They are permitted to be stored or used on a balcony, under an overhanging portion of a structure, or within 10 ft (3 m) of any structure.

However, appliances that are intended for outdoor use are not permitted to be used in any enclosed space and must be at least 24 in. (610 mm) from the building and combustibles, unless otherwise permitted by the manufacturer’s instructions.

Educating the Public
We understand the challenges you may face in your role as a fire inspector when enforcing this provision. The inspection of every balcony of every multifamily dwelling is an impractical enforcement task. Compliance through public education is more readily achievable. As an AHJ, you can provide written notification of these requirements to condominium associations, property management agencies, and others who are affected. When the potential danger posed by grills is understood, voluntary compliance is easier to obtain. Landlords can also include these restrictions in leases to ensure that tenants are aware of the restrictions.

NFPA also offers safe grilling tips and other resources for grilling safety on this webpage. Here you will find a safe grilling tip sheet, grilling statistics infographic, a video with grilling safety tips, and also a video to show how to check your gas grill for leaks—all important information for consumers and enforcers alike.

Who says grilling is only for the summer? If you grill year-round, you should stay safe year-round. Click here for more information on grill safety from NFPA