Convenient & Safe Deck Barbequing

There is something about food grilled. It just tastes better. Take any old chunk of meat or vegetables for that matter. Give it some time over a flame, and the flavour is that much better. Bringing your barbeque unto your deck adds convenience in grilling. Barbeque placement on your deck is important for both enjoyment and safety. But what determines the best place on your deck for your barbeque?

There are two things critical to barbeque placement on your deck, convenience and clearance. Do these two things, and you will enjoy grilling all year long on your deck. Placing the barbeque within 10’ from the kitchen door, and its back facing the metal railing often meets both requirements.

Ideal Barbeque Deck
Ideal Barbeque Deck

Several points go into these two critical items. Making barbequing more convenient and safer on your deck. Which we will need to think through to ensure all goes well.

I will go over in more detail the ideal barbeque placement on a deck, but let’s start with a deck sketch to start our conversation. Then explaining what I like about the barbeque placement of the deck.

A 240 square foot deck divided into two tiers. The higher but smaller deck is situated by the patioOpens in a new tab. door leading to the kitchen. For easy food preparation and access while grillingOpens in a new tab. on the backyard deck. The deck raised two feet higher than the lower dining deck to allow smoke from the barbeque to safely blow over the heads of those enjoying the lower deck.

The larger lower deck is large enough for a table with chairs for six. A small distance from the barbeque, providing separation from heat and smoke of the grill but close enough to allow easy access to the grill. While also allowing the cook to be involved in the conversation around the table. Including everyone in enjoying the deck experience of fun and laughter in the sun.

Advantageous Deck Tiers

The relationship of height and location of the two decks allows for the convenient passing of food from one deck to the other. Not quite the same as a drive-thru window but think food stand or truck. High enough to interact with those on the lower deck but low enough to pass food down.

Protective Wind Wall Increasing Grilling Enjoyment

As an added feature to increase grilling enjoyment is a glass six-foot-high windscreen along the side of the higher barbeque deck. The windscreen has two functions. First and primarily to block gusting windOpens in a new tab. from blowing flames. Creating a comfortable and safe grilling area.

This wall of protection also helps to increase the grilling season. Blocking cold winds from cooling down the barbeque, increasing the barbeque season into late fall and even on warm winter days. Better dine inside on those days but doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy a flame-broiled steak. The full glass wall passively increasing the temperature of the deck on cooler days as the sun reflects off the glass.

Being a wall, not a roof, allows excellent ventilation of the barbeque. Removing smoke from the deck area, increasing deck comfort. As a side note, you should never barbeque under a roof without a chimney to remove smoke or CO levels can become dangerously high. A wall around the barbeque allows this important ventilation while sheltering you from the elements.

Non-combustible Wind Wall

The barbeque wind wall must be non-combustible material, reducing fire risk. Wood, composite and vinyl can easily become engulfed in flames if to close to the grill. It only takes a second to damage your deck and home. Glass provides complete protection from the wind and is non-combustible. The grill showed still have clearance from the glass to prevent smoke damage, but fire is not as big of a concern.

Glass privacy walls include the bonus of a view. Often are decks, especially a slightly raised deck, have an incredible view. Glass allows you to enjoy the view. Keep an eye on your kids playing in the yard while you are cooking supper. Or give a friendly wave to your neighbour out on their grill. If that’s to open for you, the glass can be obscured or blacken, increasing privacy while still limiting potential fire.

Aluminum Railing

Decks higher than 2’ (600mm) need a safety rail protecting from falls. The higher barbeque deck includes aluminum railing connected to the wind wall. Providing safety, preventing falling. A deck for grillingOpens in a new tab. should have a non-combustible aluminum railing. Reducing potential fire and allowing you to place the grill closer to the edge of the deck. Without a large clearance perimeter surrounding the barbeque. Increasing the amount of useable deck space.

I find even with the lower deck that a 3’ (0.9m) railing increases the use of the deck’s edges. Subconsciously we are all leery of falling and will provide a safe distance from potential drops. An open deck has a nice feel and is more economical, but we will naturally stay back from the edges, wanting to avoid falling. The railing gives us security and freedom to enjoy the entire deck area without a boundary around the perimeter.

 Another option if you have a larger yard is to increase the size of the deck. The increased size provides the same usable area but with a safe buffer area around the deck. With composite decking having this increase deck area of a different colour not only increases the deck’s area but also enhances the look of the deck. The colour change also alerts you of the edge of the deck.

Barbeque Distance from House

A wood or charcoal barbeque should be ten feet (3m) away from the house. In this design, the barbeque is on the inside of ten feet but still far enough from the house to prevent damage to the house vinyl siding and smoke clearance. You don’t want the entire upstairs of your house becoming full of smoke from an open bedroom window. Placing the barbeque far enough away from the house prevents smoke from entering open windows.

Having gone over some of the details of an ideal Barbeque deck and dining area. Let’s dive into the details of Barbeque placement on a deck. Starting with deck size moving to location and clearance. Barbequing is wonderful on a deck, so let’s get to it.

Best Deck Size for Barbecuing

Barbequing on your deck is great both for flavour and convenience, but the size of your deck will affect your level of enjoyment. A small deck will increase fire risk and make you feel cramp. Too large of deck is a waste of space and money.

You have two options when building a deck for barbequing, either a separate grilling deck or an area to the side of the deck. Regardless of size, when barbequing on a deck, you need a dedicated space. An area dedicated to barbequing on the deck. Helping to keep others at a safe distance preventing burns and freedom in grilling. You don’t want tongs in one hand, flames engulfing the steak and asking Aunty Judy to move. Give yourself room to work.

The Average Size Deck needed for Barbequing

Most barbeques require at least a 7’0” x 7’0” deck. Additional space is required for a barbeque with thinner walls or heat shields, protecting combustible material around the barbeque. The Monarch 390, for example, requires 30” (762mm) clearance on all sides. A deck with wood railing needs to be 112” (2.9m) x88” (2.2m), to provide you with a 3’ space to work in front of the grill and clearance from the wood railing.

The same Monarch barbecue’s deck can be reduced to 52” (1.3m) x63” (1.6m) if the deck has an aluminum railing. The combustibility of the railing material makes a huge difference in deck size. In actuality with most railing being top mount, the deck will be at least 5’0” (1.5m) x6’0” (1.8m). But with the width of the Monarch being 52” wide, better a little bigger, proving some wiggle room between the barbeque and railing.

A Napoleon 500 only requiring 7” (180mm) clearance but still requires 66” (1.7m) for the actual unit. With aluminum railing around the deck and also a little wiggle room around the edges will work on a 6’x 6’ (1.8mx1.8m) deck.

Convenience of Access

Few things make barbequing more convenient than access. Access to the kitchen for preparation before and access to dinning after. Placing your barbeque on your deck for both is essential for barbequing. The convenience of access will directly translate directly into the amount of use and enjoyment of grilling. If convenient, you will grill often. If not, the spider webs will grow on the barbeque.

Access to Food Storage and Prep.

Few of us need an outdoor kitchen on our decks, but most of us can enjoy grilling from our decks. A door directly from the kitchen to the deck will increase barbequing astronomically. Being able to step outside without changing footwear to cook is amazing. This simple convenience will encourage grill use all year long. Not only increase the flavour but taking the heat and smells outside of the house.

Being able to walk between the deck and kitchen conveniently also helps with food preparation. Running water is critical in food preparation. Becoming keenly clear the moment our hands are dirty and we have nowhere to wash them. The same with food, a place to wash, cut, and marinate is invaluable.

Outdoor plumbing comes with risks and limitations, especially with decks in Calgary, where I have the pleasure of building decks. But easy access to the kitchen sink allows easy access without the extra risks of frozen pipes. Or the additional chore of draining all the pipes before winter.  

Refrigeration important and the fridge is in the kitchen. With the barbeque just outside the door on the deck, you can keep the food at the right temperature till your ready to grill. No need to pack everything out into the yard, but conveniently grabbing the meat out of the fridge on your way out to the deck.

Place the Barbeque in a Convenient Location both for Cooking and Eating.

Equally important is the relationship to your eating area, either the dining room table in the house or outside on the deck. Having your barbeque close to your dining area is as important as access to the kitchen. Making transferring of hot food unto waiting plates easy.

Proximity to the dining guest includes you with the jokes and stories while grilling the food. The barbeque location saving you from running back and forth from grill to guest. A position where you can both enjoy your friends and the fire. You’re carefully tending to the burgers while still enjoying good company.

Adding Two steps of Separation from the Barbeque

Often, it’s a good idea to have the barbeque on a slightly raised deck from the dining areaOpens in a new tab.. There are a few reasons for this. Aesthetically the raised platform adds distinction to the deck, with both cooking and entertaining area.

Separating those around the table from the heat and smoke from the barbeque is increases their enjoyment. By raising the barbeque, a foot or two,  smoke will move over their heads without watering eyes. That silly bunny smoke things is fun as a kid but really not so much now.

The additional steps help to keep both kids and adults from accidentally touching the hot grill. Supper important with young kids underfoot, but even adults lose focus. A couple of steps up prevents accidentally touching off the hot grill. Slowing down kids playing on the deckOpens in a new tab., prevent a quick dash towards the barbeque. The steps slowing their ascent, giving you a few extra seconds to react before touching the hot panels.

 Barbeque Natural Gas Hook up

Many barbeques burn propane, but if you are fortunate to have a natural gas outlet on your deck, saving you from inconvenient trips to the gas station. I don’t know why it is, but I seem to run out of propane as my guests are arriving. And then the guy trained to fill propane is on break or something. It just takes a long time to get back to grilling. Natural gas outlet saves you from all this. The barbeque hooked up to an endless supply of fuel, but this limits your location. Keep this in mind when building your deck you will want to be close to the natural gas hook up.

Barbeque Clearance from Combustible

Keep the fire in the barbeque. Many things around your deck can burn at the temperature in your barbeque clearance is essential to prevent accidental fires. By designing your deck and barbeque area with a cooling down buffer zone, keeping the fire where it belongs, your barbeque. There are three main potential combustible materials around your deck and two potential fire-starting risks from your barbeque.

When in Doubt Give 10’ of Clearance

When I was a kid, we would clear dead brush around our place, creating a huge bonfire. The flames leaping into the air, twenty feet or more. The heat was intense. But we could safely stand around the fire, if we stayed back ten feet or more. 

The same is with your barbeque when in doubt keep all combustibles 10’ or more away from your barbeque. Fortunately, not all material ignites at the same temperature. Some material can be closer to your barbeque then other.

Also, materials proximity to your barbeque determines heat transfer. Notice your highly flammable propane tank is stored under the barbeque. Not only a convenient location but with heat rising, the propane also being protected by the heat shield on the underside of the barbeque. 

Barbeque Design Reducing Required Clearance.

Most barbeque manufacturers wisely design their barbeque to reduce fire risks, from plating and fire shields in the barbeque. Some barbeque will require as little as 7” of clearance from combustible to over 10’ depending on the design. Here is a quick guide for a few barbeque models to give you an idea of deck clearanceOpens in a new tab. required.

Barbeque Model Rear Clearance Side Clearance Vinyl or Glass
Napoleon Rogue 500Opens in a new tab. 20” (508mm) 7” (178mm) 24” (610mm)
Napoleon Rogue 425Opens in a new tab. 18” (460mm) 7” (180 mm) 24” (610mm)
Weber-3600Opens in a new tab. 18” (460mm) 18” (460mm)  
Weber E-310Opens in a new tab. 24” (600mm) 24” (600mm)  
Regal™ 490 ProOpens in a new tab. 30” (762mm) 30” (762mm)  
Monarch™ 390Opens in a new tab. 30” (762mm) 30” (762mm)  
NexGrill 4-BurnerOpens in a new tab. 24” (600mm) 24” (600mm)  
Kenmore Elite 600 Series Gas GrillOpens in a new tab. 24″ (600mm) 24″ (600mm)  

In short, most barbeques can be safely used within 3’ (0.9m) from walls and railing.

Quick Break Down of Combustible Material Around your Deck

The lower the melting or ignition point, the more clearance required. Here are some common materials around your deck and recommend clearance from open flames.

Vinyl, Greatest Chance of Burning

Not so much part of your deck but on your house. Many houses have vinyl siding. Vinyl melts super easy, requiring a high level of clearance. A barbeque cannot be touching or even close to vinyl, or it will melt. Vinyl siding can start to melt at 160-165°F [71-74°C]. It doesn’t take much to damage vinyl. When setting up your barbeque, keep it 10’ or more away from the vinyl siding on your house.

Unpredictable Tree branches and Leaves, High Fire Risk

The trouble with trees is not the ignition point but their unpredictability. Branches blowing in the wind can move from four feet way to touching the barbeque in seconds. All branches need to have a minimum of 10’ clearance from your barbeque, especially overhead branches. Smoke and sparks naturally shoot up, landing on anything above. A deck barbeque must have a not tree branches overhead. 

Composite Decking and Railing, Medium Fire Risk

The decking is only in danger from dripping grease fires, or an exploding amber from burning wood. Most composite deckingOpens in a new tab. will not burn or melt under a gas barbeque but are at risk with charcoal or wood-burning.

Trex will begin to soften at 176°F [80°C]Opens in a new tab., which is almost as low as vinyl, a barbeque mat can be a good idea. Protecting the decking form potential fire and grease damage. A simple mat underneath can raise the level of protection to 500° F. Click hereOpens in a new tab. for a link to Amazon to see an example. Just one more level of protection and peace of mind. Any it way easier to clean or replace then your decking.

The bigger concern is Composite or PVC railing, which can be easily damaged with heat radiating from your barbeque. Depending on the barbeque, shielding design will determine distance from composite railing, but more distance is required then wood or aluminum railing. 

Wood Cladding and Railing, Medium Fire Risk

The risk of a contained fire spreading down to the decking is rare, but wood siding on your house and railing is a different story. Keeping a safe distance from the wood railing or siding is critical. With a slightly higher combustion point, then vinyl your deck barbeque can be a little closer but still need clearance. Wood starting to blacken at 350°F [176°C], a common temperature for grilling. Make sure there is enough clearance between the wood and grill to cool down, preventing fires.

Aluminum Railing Requires the Least Clearance, Low Fire Risk

Of all the potential fires on your deck, the aluminum railing is the lowest. Aluminum has an ignition point of 1220°F [660.3°C].  At that temperature, call the fire department. You’re not grilling anymore. The paint can peel of railing at a lower temperature, but often you can have your barbeque a few inches away from aluminum railing without damaging. They are that heat resistant.

 Nothing Overhead Your Barbeque

Smoke and fires all go up. Heat Rises. Unless your barbeque is a built-in with a chimney nothing overhead. A barbeque should be placed on your deck with nothing but open skies above. Keep your barbeque away from overhanging roof eaves and porch rooves.

Pergola’s are a little more complicated. With their open rafter, smoke can safely dissipate through the rafters. The danger is from sparks landing on the rafters, starting an overhead fire. With a gas fire barbeque, the risks are low but should be avoided with charcoal or wood.

Leading us to our next consideration, the barbeque’s fuel source.

Clearance based on Barbeques Fuel Source.

Fire safety is about control. The more control over the fire you have, the lower the risk of uncontrolled fires. If the fire is contained, the only thing getting burnt is the “well-done” steaks. Some fuel sources are more likely to jump from the grill to the deck and walls, destroying your deck and house.

Every day in my house, a fire flares up and burns for hours at times. But it destroys nothing, because of the controlled fuel source and protective surroundings. Fires in furnaces are a good thing.

The more control over the flame size and heat intensity, the less clearance you need around your barbeque preventing fires.

High level of control                                                   High Potential for flare ups

   Electric——àNatural Gas/Propane——–àCharcoal Pellet——àWood

The more controlled barbeque fuel source, the closer items on the deck, can be to it. If you have a large deck with plenty of clearance, you can safely play with fire. On a smaller deck, you would be wise to use propane or natural gas barbeques requiring less clearance.

Keep it safe. Keep it flavour able. Keep it fun. Correctly placing your barbeque increases deck enjoyment, and that’s why we build decks. To be enjoyed.

Ryan Nickel

A Red Seal carpenter, passionate about building decks to be enjoyed.

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