Grills built under roofs are becoming more popular because it protects your barbecue from rain, birds flying overhead, and debris. However, what might seem like a worthwhile upgrade at first glance is actually a terrible idea.
Freestanding or inbuilt grills under any sort of roof or awning is a bad plan. What is the main reason you shouldn’t grill under a roof overhang?
The main reason you shouldn’t grill under a roof overhang is the fire hazard. Most modern homes have combustible materials within the roof, and that means placing an extreme heat source below is a risk that could lead to your house burning down. Even though you can’t always see exposed wood, there is still significant fire danger.
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Issues With Grilling Under Roof Overhang
Grilling under a roof overhang is problematic in several ways. In some areas, it’s banned, against the rules, or illegal. Meanwhile, regardless of where you live, it’s a bad idea.
Below I’ve detailed the top 8 issues with grilling under a roof overhang, including some surprising things you might not normally consider.
1 – Fire Hazard
Having a grill under a roof overhang is a fire hazard. Most grills come with information about how much clearance they need, but it only includes the sides and rear.
There is little to no published information to remind new grill owners that an overhang can be a problem too.
I couldn’t find anything about how high the clearance needs to be above the grill because it is assumed that when you grill outdoors, it will be in an open area with no roof.
For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission states that you should, “Never use a grill indoors due to carbon monoxide (CO) and fire hazards. And use the grill at least 10 feet away from your house or any building. Do not use the grill in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or under a surface that will burn.”
There’s no overhead clearance listed because it’s not considered safe to have anything flammable overhead at all.
2 – Smoke & Toxic Chemicals
Grills need more space than you might expect and proper airflow, not for the fire but to prevent a buildup of toxic chemicals.
Smoke is full of soot and carbon dioxide, among other chemicals, you should never inhale. You can quite literally put yourself in the hospital, and C02 inhalation is no joke.
As Own The Grill points out, “First and foremost, a grill needs to have… air space so it can properly ventilate. Without proper ventilation, you run the risk of gas, carbon monoxide, and/or smoke building up to dangerous levels near your grill. If buildup happens, the risk of flare-ups and dangerous grill fires can increase greatly.”
3 – Heat Damage
Fires aren’t the only thing heat causes. That additional temperature change will dry the roofing materials overhead, even in dry environments.
In this case, you won’t necessarily notice right away, but over time it can cause you to need replacements and repainting more often than necessary.
In short, it will cost a lot of money and time. If the house is rented, you may lose your deposit or have to pay damages when you move out.
4 – Local Laws
There is no single federal law regarding outdoor grill safety. This is most likely due to the differences in climate from one end of the country to another.
However, you can be charged with many things, including property damage and negligence, if you start a fire that damages someone else’s home or land.
I strongly recommend looking up the local fire ordinances where you live.
If you can’t find the information you are looking for easily, call the non-emergency number for your local fire department and ask them for the information or where to find it.
5 – HOA & Landlord Policies
Both landlords and Homeowners Associations have the right to make policies that affect the people.
Like it or not, you can lose your housing if you violate the terms. Even if you own a house when you live in an HOA-controlled area violating a policy about where you can place a grill could cost you your home.
6 – Building Code Violations
Outdoor grills are sometimes built into an external wall, outside buildings, or outdoor kitchen setup.
These types of construction are subject to the local building codes. A lack of firewalls, non-combustible materials like those found in most roof overhangs, and other building code violations can get you a hefty fine.
Moreover, you may also end up paying to have the grill destroyed and removed from your property.
7 – Roof Vents
Your roof overhang probably doesn’t have a roof vent. The only safe way to channel the heat and smoke from grills upward through any roof is to use an appropriate hood.
Installing a vent hood may solve one of your problems. However, most roof overhangs are still generally considered unsafe locations for grills.
8 – Sooty Mess
Regardless of rules, policies, or even ventilation issues, smoke rises and collects. Soot on your overhang is a mess.
Moreover, it’s hard to clean. The angle means you’ll need a ladder, power washer, or hose with sufficient power.
Any way you tackle it, you’ll have a wet, sooty mess and gravity to contend with. It’s better to pull the grill out from under any overhanging rooflines and avoid the issue altogether.
Helpful Tips To Know About Grilling Under Roof Overhang
There is no good enough reason to grill under a roof overhang. Placing a wood fire, propane, or coal grill below your awning or other roof spaces is an overall bad plan that will probably get your lunch cooked but at a significant expense.
Even if you get lucky and nothing wrong happens this time, it’s still not worth the risk.
Here are more helpful tips to know about grilling under a roof overhang.
- More than 300,000 houses per year have structural fires in the US alone. Even more alarmingly, those fires kill around 3000 people. Although only a few of these are caused by grill accidents, the fact remains that having an improperly placed grill can destroy your house or even kill you. Please put your grill at least 10 feet from any building or structure and never leave it unattended.
- There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ fire. It’s easy to assume the heat from a grill is all contained inside, especially when the lid is closed. However, the rising heat, chemicals, and soot can still cause a problem.
- At 700° F, wood, like the beams in your roof overhang, will catch fire immediately, but it doesn’t need to get that hot to take damage. Much lower temps, just 450° to 500° F, will cause charring and can lead to ignition in three or four hours. What that means in practical terms is that the wood inside your roof can char and ignite without ever touching a flame, and you won’t even know it at first.
- Most insurance companies will not cover damages if you cause them yourself. Having a grill too close to your home almost certainly counts as negligence, and you would be at fault, which means paying all damages out of pocket.
Some areas allow grilling underneath roof overhangs, and others do not.
However, it isn’t safer merely because it’s technically allowed. 300,000 or more house fires happen in the US each year, and some of those are caused by grills under roof awnings.
No one wants to be a statistic. The wood inside your roof can char and catch fire long before you notice any damage.
Even if you think it’s enough space, it’s still best to avoid having any grill within 10 feet of a building.