The Apartment Dwellers’ Barbecue Dream

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Officially, by the calendar, spring has sprung! It is time to get out, enjoy the weather and fire up those grills. That is, except for apartment dwellers who don’t get to enjoy this luxury because of lack of space on patios and balconies. Right? Not anymore–read on, grill masters!

First, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way. You should not barbecue where it is against your fire codes and your lease. When you do barbecue, you should use care and follow any manufacturer’s instructions, blah, blah. Right? OK. Basically, don’t break rules and don’t be stupid. Oh yeah, and don’t ever spray lighter fluid on a lit fire, the $10,000 from America’s Funniest Home Videos isn’t worth all your fellow tenants’ lawsuits against you, let alone the building owner and management. Enough said.

There are great new products for those with limited balcony space. Sagaform has come out with the Bucket Grill on A+R Store. It has a 10-inch cooking surface that is big enough for 6 hot dogs or 3 burgers and folds away for storage.

There is also the Bruce Barbecue (that isn’t on the market yet). Imagine a metal flower box that is covered with a grate and securely fastens to your balcony railing. And of course, the old standby, the Weber Smokey Joe for the classic small portable charcoal grill that can be used tabletop.

Now that you have your barbecue grill, all you need is a little ambiance for a pleasant outdoor cooking experience. You can greatly improve that small space on a very small budget. Note the amount of light your space gets–full sun, afternoon sun, or shade all day. Head to your home store or nursery to find plants labeled by light requirement and ease of care. Repotting your own plants into inexpensive planters that fit your style adds a lot to a small space. The number and type of plants you get depend on your style and needs. Remember that plants can be used to create dividers, hide bikes and create privacy also.

The great thing about your balcony is that it can be used as your own private mini-escape. It is outside of your apartment, away from the phone, TV and computer. Personalize it for your comfort. A folding chair with a foot rest, a bench with some weatherproof pillows, a full lounger, or a table and chairs can all serve different purposes for different preferences.

For post-dinner relaxation, bring an outside lamp for reading, or use candles (citronella for who are loved by mosquitoes) to enjoy a glass of wine and conversation after your barbecue. Whatever will help you unwind after the hard work of grilling.

While all of this may sound wonderful, you may be thinking of the expense as dollar signs pop into your head. Actually, this can be done quite inexpensively with a well-planned budget and some smart shopping. Also, you can start subtracting from that what you would have paid to go out in town to escape and wind down. You’ll have your own personal space to invite your friends over to your place (just be considerate of the neighbors–or invite them over!). Enjoy your balcony this spring. Cheers!

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4 Responses to “The Apartment Dwellers’ Barbecue Dream”

  1. May 07, 2008 at 11:53 pm, Guest said:

    I have a hard time finding the grill and fire requirements and code for Los Angeles.I am not sure if grills need to be 5 or 10 feet away from apartments. My neighbors keeps grilling right outide my door.


  2. May 16, 2008 at 1:47 pm, Guest said:

    they now have a george forman grill that is the size and functions the same way an outdoor grill does, it was at linens and things and cal also be used inside.


  3. July 09, 2009 at 12:32 am, Duane Rochester said:

    Does anyone know if there are ordinances in the City of Los Angeles governing the use of barbecue grills in apartment complexes?


  4. July 05, 2011 at 2:55 pm, Kevin said:

    Its not just a code for Los Angeles, its the international code. You would think a company like ApartmentRatings would know Apartment laws and regulations…..Get an electric grill for your patio and you will be fine.

    The 2006 International Fire Code, Section 308.3.1, Open-flame cooking devices states that
    “Charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices shall not be operated on combustible
    balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction. Exceptions include one- and two-family
    dwellings and where buildings, balconies and decks are protected by an automatic sprinkler
    system. … shall be unlawful to use charcoal burners or other open flame cooking devices on combustible
    balconies or within ten (10) feet of combustible construction of a multifamily residential


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