Is It Safe to Grill on a Wooden Deck?

by  Lauren Lockett-Summers
Last Updated: Mar 20, 2023
Is It Safe to Grill on a Wooden Deck?

Outdoor decks are the perfect place for alfresco dining, but is it safe to grill on a wooden deck?

Grilling on a wooden deck presents a fire risk. Sparks can come off of food onto the deck boards or rails, especially if it’s windy.

Luckily for grilling maestros, when you take proper precautions to protect a wood deck from the hazards of cooking, a fire is highly unlikely to break out.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 16,600 patients were admitted to emergency rooms with grill-related injuries between 2012 and 2016.

Wood decks are a popular location for grilling, and it’s common knowledge that wood and fire don’t mix.

If you own a wood deck and want to grill on your deck read the following tips.

Grilling on a deck

Grills come in many types and sizes, including charcoal grills, gas grills, natural gas grills, pellet grills, and propane grills. If these grills are on a wooden, composite, Trex, or covered deck, grilling can lead to an unexpected fire.

Fortunately, a few precautions can reduce the risk of fire, no matter what type of grill you use, so you can enjoy your outdoor grilling on your beautiful deck. Here’s how.

How to safely grill on a wooden deck

Grilling outdoors is one of the perks of nice weather. Look over these fire safety steps that can keep your home and your deck safe while you enjoy grilling on your charcoal, gas, or pellet grill.

1. Find a safe place for your grill

One of the crucial steps in preventing a fire when you’re grilling on an outdoor wood deck is placing the grill in a safe spot.

Avoid putting a grill against your deck railings or any nearby tree branches or shrubs that can catch a spark. You should also avoid keeping your grill against your home or any other combustible materials, especially if you’re grilling with a charcoal grill.

Storing a grill against a wall is perfectly safe when it’s not in use. When lit, however, a good rule from manufacturers is to make sure there isn’t anything within a 3-foot radius of your grill – plants included.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends more distance, however, with at least 10 feet between your grill and your home or another building.

2. Use a grill mat

A quality grill mat or heat shield can be a lifesaver if you’re concerned about fire hazards with outdoor grilling.

Grill mats are designed to protect patios from sparks and grease stains and come in all shapes and sizes to fit under virtually any grill.

This is especially important if you’re grilling on an outdoor composite deck, grilling on an outdoor trex deck, or grilling with a gas grill.

Sizing your grill mat is simple. Find one that is long enough to extend a few inches past your grill in every direction.

You should also look for heavy grill mats that won’t blow easily in the wind. A heavy, rubberized material is safe for most surfaces and cleans easily.

Bargain hunting is not a good idea when shopping for a grill mat because cheaper products won’t be as effective at shielding your deck.

Higher-quality grill mats and heat shields are worth the investment to protect your wooden deck, home, and grill.

For added protection, make sure your grill mat is fire resistant to prevent the spread of flames if an ember were to fall on it.

3. Keep flammable objects away

If a fire starts on your deck, it can have an easy path to your home with combustible materials.

Stored firewood near your deck, leaves and pine needles, some patio furniture, and carpets can all catch fire. Decor, such as paper lanterns or planters made of plastic or composite, are also a risk to have near your grill.

Other materials that may be stored near or under your deck, such as tools that use gasoline or propane tanks are also a concern.

It might seem like an obvious precaution to take before lighting up the grill, yet many people neglect to move their grills away from walls or other flammable objects when using them.

4. Have a fire extinguisher nearby

Grill with fire extinguisher and hamburger buns and patties

Even master grillers experience the occasional unruly grill flame. Make sure you always have a fire extinguisher handy or baking soda nearby to prevent the spread of flames.

Having a fire extinguisher handy is crucial when you’re grilling, especially if you’re grilling with a pellet grill or a gas grill.

In the event of a grease fire, baking soda is a common kitchen staple that can be sprinkled on the flames to put them out.

While this works in a pinch, it’s best to have a fire extinguisher on hand. Never use baking powder to put out a grease fire, as this can erupt into a fireball.

Because water only provides fuel for grease fires, the presence of these extinguishers is crucial to prevent severe damage. Class B, BC, or ABC fire extinguishers are necessary to put out a grease fire.

5. Keep weather in mind

Grilling on a rainy day on an uncovered patio is probably an activity you’d steer clear from, but you should also avoid grilling on days with high wind speeds – especially if you plan to use a charcoal grill.

While charcoal is safe inside your grill, high-speed winds can blow flaming charcoal onto your wooden deck and cause a serious fire that can quickly burn out of control.

6. Use two-zone cooking

Two zone cooking charcoal grill with bacon wrapped beef patties and and egg on top

Two-zone indirect cooking is an excellent way to avoid flare-ups while grilling. In this cooking method, grills are set up with “hot” and “cold” sides.

If a flare-up does occur, you can quickly move the meat to the “cool” side of the grill to prevent more fat from dripping on the charcoal and feeding the flame.

After moving the meat, place the lid back on your grill and wait for a few minutes until the flare-up subsides. This is a great way to prevent a big fire from growing out of control while grilling.

7. Clean Your Grill Regularly

Man cleaning grilling grates with a grilling brush

As with any cooking utensil, your grill requires regular cleaning to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Removing flammable grease buildup is also important because one of the leading causes of grill fires is the failure to clean them.

Your grill should be cleaned thoroughly at least once a year, but more often if you use it year round.

Minimize the amount of cleaning you’ll need to do by placing a drip or water pan under your food. This is especially important if you’re grilling fatty cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder or pork butt, that can build up and catch fire inside your grill.

The pan will catch a lot of the flammable grease that would otherwise build up in your grill. Having a drip pan also makes cleaning your grill quicker and easier.

8. Close vents when finished

When you have finished grilling and after removing all of your cooked food from the grill, close all air vents to suffocate lit charcoal and smother the fire.

If your grill has a sweeping system, use it once the grill has cooled.

Resist the urge to trash your ash until at least 24 hours after you’ve cooked to decrease the likelihood of a sporadic flare-up.

Get a metal container to dispose of your ash after emptying your grill. Once the fire is smothered, you can bag the ash and put it out for trash pickup.

9. Never leave your grill unattended

Over the grill mat with beef and tomato skewers

According to the National Fire Protection Association, one of the leading causes of fire for grills is leaving the grill unattended while cooking.

Grills take a while to heat up and cook, so many homeowners go in the house and come out to check on their grill and food, but this is a dangerous practice.

While you can pop into the kitchen to get utensils or condiments while grilling, it’s important not to leave your grill unattended for more than a minute or so – especially if you’re grilling with a gas grill.

Aside from the fact that grease can drip down into the grill and cause flares that lead to big fires, it’s easy for people to get burned. Unsupervised children and an unsupervised grill don’t mix.

Professional Deck Installation in Austin, TX

Enjoy weekend afternoons by the grill with your own custom deck from Austex Fence & Deck. We believe that nothing utilizes a backyard living space better than a well-built deck – perfect for entertaining, relaxing and grilling. For more than 30 years, we have provided Central Texas homes with high-quality decks to encourage outdoor living year-round.

Contact us online for your FREE project quote or call 512-258-5000 today.

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