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Essential Tips for Setting Up a Safe Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor cooking safety

Outdoor cooking and equipment have evolved into equipment that is more complex than the charcoal grill I grew up with. As the equipment type, fuels used and size and scope of the installation have grown, there is a need for better understanding of the risks presented and how to control the hazards.

Fuel Types and related hazards are the first consideration for outdoor cooking

Fuels can be broadly grouped into two classes, Gas fire equipment and solid fuel equipment. Both types generate carbon monoxide (CO) and should only be used in an outside environment or in properly ventilated areas with an appropriate chimney or vent system.


Gas fired equipment is supplied with LP (propane) or natural gas. Both are flammable gases with the major difference being that LP is heavier than air and will accumulate in low lying areas while natural gas is lighter than air and more easily dissipates. Natural gas can be trapped by structure and accumulate in this fashion.


Both types of gas are ready to ignite with a low energy spark or ignition source. This makes then easy to use and also easy to create a fire hazard.


Since LP gas is often supplied in portable containers, there are guidelines around storage and maximum quantity allowed in a building. Natural gas is piped into the building and all gas fittings and piping should be installed by a qualified gas fitter.


Solid fuels can be charcoal, wood pellets, or wood in log form.


These fuels are not inherently dangerous and require a significant energy source to ignite. The most prominent hazard is the generation of ash products that must be safely removed. Hot ashes that are improperly disposed of are the source of many structure fires.


A less common fuel is electric powered equipment. The hazard from the heating is the same with the other fuels, but there is an added exposure to electrocution and short circuits that must be considered.

Equipment Purchasing

Outdoor cooking equipment has a wide range of products and price ranges. When you are looking to buy equipment the first question should be if that equipment has a UL listing for the type of equipment being purchased.


Outdoor Cooking Gas Appliances — should have a listing that indicates compliance with ANSI Z21.58. This voluntary standard has safety provisions to address the hazards pres4ented by the use of a flammable gas as fuel.

Outdoor Decorative Gas Appliances — (AKA Fire pits) have their own standard for safety, ANSO Z21.97. Equipment that complies with this standard can be identified with a UL listing for this device.

Charcoal Equipment — does not have its own ANSI standard, but there are portions of the ANSI Z21.58 standard that can be applied to charcoal grills.

Wood Pellet Grills — have heat and ash hazard as well as electrical hazards and mechanical hazards related to the pellet delivery auger. There is a recently issued UL standard that addresses this type of equipment. UL 2728A  These requirements apply to forced or natural draft, automatic feed, pellet fuel-burning cooking appliances rated 120 V or less for residential use and 250 V or less for commercial use.

Electric Barbeques — are another popular option for outdoor chefs. IEC 60335-2-78 Ed. 2.2 b:2019, Household and similar electrical appliances - Safety - Part 2-78: Particular requirements for outdoor barbecues, deals with the safety of electric outdoor barbeques with a rated voltage being not more than 250V. Beyond this standard for the devices, there are National Electric Code (NEC) rules on proper power supply, ground fault protection and wiring specifications that should be followed by a qualified electrician making the installation.

Installation of equipment

All of the equipment has specific installation requirements that should be followed. They are found in the owner manual or installation documentation from the manufacturer. It is best practice to review this before you buy to ensure that you can accommodate the installation requirements. There may be permits required for gas piping, plumbing and electrical connections for your new kitchen. Be sure to secure these permits and the associated inspection reports.


The proper clearance of combustibles is found in the installation guidelines for every product. These distances can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer of the same equipment. Combustibles are exterior building surfaces, flooring under the appliance and vegetation near the equipment.


In addition to clearance to combustibles there can be clearance requirements for gas meters, electrical meters, and electrical panels.


Locations related to ventilation can be specific to distance from windows and any fresh air intake for your HVAC system to prevent carbon monoxide from entering the building.

Maintenance and use

All outdoor cooking and fuel burning equipment requires routine maintenance to function properly. Some equipment is not appropriate for use in rain or snow. Others have wind speed limitations to prevent the flame from being influenced by the wind.


If you are in a multifamily occupancy, verify that use of open flame cooking appliances is permitted. Many homeowners’ association restrict the use of this equipment as a fire safety measure. Most multi story, multi family structures have restrictions on use of these devices as well as limitations on LP fuel quantity permitted in the building.

In areas subject to freezing temperatures, be sure to properly winterize any part of your kitchen subject to freezing damage. Be sure the water connection to the building is via a frost proof connection.

Insurance considerations

If you have added an outdoor kitchen to your property, have you added the values to your policy? Most valuation tools would not catch this addition and you could be faced with claim handling difficulty if a large value has not been included in your policy.


Being sure that your equipment meets the appropriate standards, the installation and maintenance and use are consistent with the manufacturer’s information will offer you protection against claims related to negligence in the event of a claim. Compliance also reduces the chance an insurer can deny coverage based on a poor installation or poor-quality equipment that presented an unknown or uncontrolled hazard.

The Driehaus Difference

We enjoy a good barbeque as much as anyone and some of our staff are surprisingly good pitmasters. We also consider ourselves to have advanced skills in controlling risk and helping our clients make the most of their outdoor spaces. We ask that you call us at 513-977-6860 or contact us via our website for any questions or assistance. We want to be your insurance provider.







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