Can I use my Charcoal Grill on a Wooden Deck?

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I received an email from one of my readers recently and he was wondering about the safety of using a charcoal grill on a wooden deck.

Well, to be honest, apart from my water smoker which is also fired by charcoal, I always use my charcoal grills on my wooden deck. I even use my Brinkmann Trailmaster Limited Edition offset smoker on my deck. Since my smoker has a much larger footprint than my Weber Grills, I needed to purchase two deck protective mats for my smoker.

Click here to go directly to the Grill Mats for your deck.

But there are a few grilling safety tips that you should definitely follow when grilling with charcoal on any wooden deck.

1. Give Plenty of Distance from the Walls of your Home or Deck Railing

The first precaution that you should take is to ensure that your grill is safely away from the outside walls of your home. I use a Weber Rapidfire chimney starter that you can read about in this article and when I light it(since it is sitting in my grill), I try to move it about 2 feet away from the outside walls of my home. You can check your local fire code for how far you must keep a grill from the walls of your home but, in my opinion, if you give it a couple of feet that should be sufficient.

2. Be Vigilant Especially when the Charcoal is Lighting

I detail how to light a grill with a chimney starter in this post and there is one point when you should always be outside and next to your grill. That is when the flames from the chimney starter begin to shoot out of the top of the unit. As you can see from the article mentioned above, I place my chimney starter on the lower grate of my Weber Smokey Joe (detailed here) or my Weber One Touch (written about here). From my experience, this is the safest and most appropriate method for lighting a chimney starter. The best part is that once the charcoal is ready to pour, all you have to do is lift it up and pour it onto the bottom grate. You don’t have to move it which could result in hot charcoal from falling onto your wooden deck.

3. Ensure that you Shut the Top and Bottom Vents when Done Grilling

When I am done grilling I always make sure that I shut both the top and bottom vents of my charcoal grill. Since I re-use charcoal every time I grill, this will prevent the charcoal from burning out so that I can use some of the charcoal the next time I grill. Charcoal briquettes can be expensive so I try not to waste any charcoal if at all possible. Shutting the vents will also eliminate the air flow which should extinguish the burning process. This is the safest thing that you can do after you grill. While you are at it, give your cooking grate a quick swipe with your grill brush so that it is relatively clean the next time you grill.

4. Check the Ash Pan for Dangerous Ashes

Since the Weber grills that I own have an ash pan, I always check the pan after I am done grilling. I also have a spray bottle available at all time and usually spray any ashes that are left over just in case they get blown onto my deck or onto the ground below. It also makes sense to spray your deck just below the grill before, during, and/or after you grill just as a precaution. The way I look at it, it is better to be safe than sorry.

5. Always Protect your Hands

I recently wrote this article about my Weber Grill Gloves that I use every time I grill. Before you get yourself a nasty burn from your hot grill or charcoal, do consider investing in safety for your hands. I prefer gloves in lieu of mitts simply because I feel that I can control whatever I am holding easier with gloves. I always wear my grill gloves when I am lighting and handling my Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter as you can easily see in this article. Protect your hands when you grill or barbecue before you have an incident that you will regret!

6. Buy a Fire-Resistant Grill Mat

I’m waiting until I pick up my new offset smoker before investing in a grill mat since it will have to be big enough to accommodate the size of my smoker. Splatters are a big concern for people on a deck so a grill mat can really help with these issues. We just recently had our deck extended so that I can fit my future offset smoker so the wood underneath is new and it would be helpful to protect it from any splatters that could occur.

Here are some more grill mats to check out

(Click on any of the grill mat’s name for more details)

If you are at all concerned about using a charcoal grill on a wooden deck you just might want to invest in one of the grill mats above. I am all for anything that will make your grilling experience more enjoyable, safer, and protecting your deck for future years of happy grilling and barbecue!

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14 Comments

  • Wow. This is a great article and without ads that overwhelm the narrative. Thank you for this practical advice to my exact question. I would not have thought about closing the vents – that is good for a lot of reasons.

    Thank you for sharing your know-how!

    Reply
  • Hey Bob,

    Great post 🙂 We always have to put safety first at all times and I am glad you put this all together. Having some barbecue this weekend 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. Cheers!

    Reply
  • Great article! Thank you for sharing and answering my questions. I’m extremely concerned with fire safety as I live in a heavily wooded area and willbe grilling this Memorial weekend forthe fores first time on my new Weber. Of course I’m prepared with my chimney starter, my buddy swears by those.

    Reply
    • Hi,

      Thanks for your comment. I live in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and my house is also in a heavily wooded area surrounded by beautiful birch and maple trees. I purchased 2 grill mats to go under my grill to help with fire safety because I also have a smoker which is very long (needed 2 grill mats for the smoker). One tip that you should always remember is to shut both the top and bottom damper right after you are done with grilling (assuming you are grilling with charcoal). This will prevent any embers from escaping from the grill and you will also save charcoal that you can use the next time you grill. It cannot hurt to have a spray bottle nearby filled with water should any embers accidentally hit your deck.
      Don’t forget to check out my LifewithGrilling youTube channel as well and please subscribe!

      Enjoy!
      Bob

      Reply
  • This is a prefect blog for who wants to know about charcoal grill on a wooden deck. Thanks for sharing this information.

    Reply
  • Great article. We had a small fire on our wooden deck that easily traced back to a vent left open after cooking. Fortunately someone saw the flames flickering and good that darkness had fallen too, we scrabbled to extinguish this fire which had quickly spread and had we not noticed it, it would have been overwhelming in a few more minutes.
    This brought me to this site looking for solutions that others had come up with. We learned of grill mats that i regret not having known about earlier. And the closing of vents post cooking, we just figured out the hard way.
    This is all good advice that we will incorporate at once.

    Reply
    • Hi Dean,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I truly appreciate it. Sorry for the late response as I was on vacation in Maine in an oceanside cabin with poor internet capabilities. I would say grill mats are extremely important as they will catch falling embers but shutting the bottom vents has become second nature to me when I’m done grilling on my deck. If they are shut, no embers can even fall into the ash catcher. Also, oftentimes embers will fall into the ash pan while you are grilling so spraying those with water after you shut the vents is another fail-safe way to prevent a possible fire on your deck.

      I’m so glad you were able to catch your fire quick enough to have prevented more damage!

      Best,
      Bob

      Reply

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