Using a charcoal grill on a wood deck presents some challenges and potential issues. It can be done, but you’ll need to follow some precautions and use common sense.
I’ve often been asked if it’s safe to grill on a wooden deck or patio. If you’re cooking on a gas grill, the risk is pretty minimal as long as you follow basic grill safety practices.
But if you’re using charcoal as fuel or smoking with wood, there are some additional concerns and you’ll need to be extra careful.
Read on to discover how to safely use a charcoal grill on a wood deck.
Keep Your Grill Away From Your House
It may seem obvious, but you should keep your grill a safe distance away from your house and that includes your deck and any other combustible materials. That means no grilling in the garage or close to a shed or tree branches.
If your grill is right up against your house, deck railings, or a tree they could light on fire. Even without a fire, the heat from the grill could cause significant damage. For example, extreme heat can warp vinyl siding or a metal gazebo frame.
Manufacturers typically recommend keeping your grill at least 2 to 4 feet from your house, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission goes even further and recommends at least 10 feet between your house or any building.
Use A Grill Mat
A sturdy fireproof grill mat will protect your deck from fire sparks or hot embers that could land on your deck and start a fire. It can also help protect your deck or patio from spills and splatters of grease or sauces.
Grill mats come in all shapes and sizes so you will have no trouble finding one that fits your needs. Just be sure to get one that is heavy enough to not get blown around in the wind.
You’ll also want to make sure your grill mat is fireproof. Let’s say you’re lighting up some charcoal using a chimney starter and as you go to pour it into the grill a piece bounces off the rim of the grill and onto your mat.
The hot charcoal might just melt right through a cheap, non-fireproof mat.
What good will that do you?
Keep Your Grill Clean
According to the National Fire Protection Association, about a third of all grill fires occur because the grill had not been cleaned.
A dirty grill is a grease fire waiting to happen. Make sure you clean your grill regularly and get rid of any caked on grease. You can also use a drip pan to catch a lot of the grease that would build up inside the grill and potentially ignite.
Keep A Fire Extinguisher Nearby
No matter how careful you are, there’s always the chance of something going wrong. Make sure you keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an emergency. Make sure it’s rated for use on grease fires, fully charged, and easily accessible. You don’t want to be scrambling around trying to find it when you really need it.
You can also use baking soda to smother a grease fire, at least a small one. Just be careful you grab the correct container. Similar looking powders like baking flour or sugar are actually combustible themselves. Toss either of those on a fire and you’ll only make matters worse.
Have A Hose Handy
You should never use water to put out a grease fire. Throwing water on a grease fire can cause the burning grease to splatter and spread the fire.
But if you’re using a charcoal grill on a wood deck, you might want to hose down the deck before lighting up the grill. If any stray embers or sparks do come in contact with the deck they’ll be less likely to ignite the dampened wood.
Be Aware Of The Weather
I’ve been known to grill in the rain or even light snow, but there are times when the weather is too extreme even for me.
Heavy winds are a big concern, especially when using a charcoal grill. Strong winds could blow hot embers all over the place or even knock the entire grill over. Spilling hot charcoal all over a wood deck would be an absolute disaster.
Don’t Leave The Grill Unattended
It’s never a good idea to leave an open fire unattended. The neighbor’s soccer ball, one of your kids, your dog, or a random deer could all come out of nowhere and bump the grill and knock it over.
Close All Vents When Finished Grilling
Once you’ve finished cooking, make sure you cover the grill and close all vents. This will cut off the supply of oxygen and smother the fire.
Leave the charcoal overnight before disposing of it. And even when you bag it up the next day keep it away from your house just in case there is still some smoldering ash that could potentially reignite.
It is perfectly safe to use a charcoal grill on a wood deck as long as you take the proper precautions and use common sense. Keep the grill away from your house and anything flammable and don’t leave it unattended. Have a fire extinguisher handy and be prepared to use it if needed.