Should BBQs be allowed on apartment balconies? He Said/She Said

Should BBQs be allowed on apartment balconies? He Said/She Said
Should BBQs be allowed on apartment balconies? He Said/She Said

If Australia Day was any guide amid the slightly smokey inner city haze, it appears the high rise housing trend comes accompanied by socialising around the balcony barbecue; whether it's kids in from the far flung suburbs, or their empty nester parents who've downsized.

But should BBQs be allowed apartment balconies? Our commentators Jonathan Chancellor and Margie Blok throw some thoughts into the fiery argument.

jc-silhouette-5HE SAID: NO

Definitely not – I think barbecues should be confined to backyards and public parks which have barbecues with 20 cent operational coin slots. Perhaps, at most, balcony barbecuing could be a privilege limited to penthouse dwellers, but even then only on strong windy days.

If you live in an apartment and hanker for a barbecue, then go to a public park, such as Sydney’s Centennial Park or beachside Bronte Park, and use the public barbecues provided. Or buy a house and install one in the backyard. 

Call me a wowser, but I think using barbecues on apartment balconies is unacceptable and asking for trouble in more ways than one.

For starters, there’s the issue of smoke blowing inside neighbouring apartments and disturbing their enjoyment. Of course, this smoke often is accompanied by pungent cooking odours of sizzling sausages, charred steak, garlicky marinades and burnt bacon.

It's not on for blow-in apartment dwellers to inflict barbecue smoke and cooking smells on other residents who are possibly dieting at the time; or simly prefer their interiors to be odourless; or indeed have apartments gently scented with perfumed candles.

Aside from smoke and smell issues, barbecues pose a potential fire hazard in apartment complexes where balconies are typically not fitted with a water tap or fire sprinklers. Naked flames and gas cylinders on balconies of multi-storey buildings are a danger.  

While some people may purport barbecues are safe, if you don’t clean barbecues properly, then piled up grease can cause a fire to start quite easily. The van Haandel restaurateurs who recently took over Guillaume’s premises in the Opera House saw their heritage Melbourne outlet, The Stokehouse, burn to the ground earlier this month.

In other parts of the world, including many cities in the US, barbecues are not allowed on apartment balconies. It makes sense to ban them here in Australia as well.

mb-silhouette-4SHE SAID: PERHAPS

I’m not as hardline as Jonathan on this issue. When it comes to barbecues and apartments, the size of a balcony is a consideration, as is the design of a building. Some buildings have balconies suited to barbecues, others don’t.

On a recent visit to Attica, a new boutique complex at Erskineville in Sydney’s inner west, I was impressed with the design of a large 92 square metre one-bedder with a spacious timber-decked terrace with plenty of space for outdoor furniture, a garden tap and a gas bayonet for a barbecue. In this case, the apartment was designed specifically to accommodate an outdoor barbecue.

But with older style or cheap apartment buildings, balconies can be small balconies and not suited to barbecues. Many of these buildings have by-laws prohibiting the use of barbecues on balconies, though enforcement appears to be an issue.

Some modern buildings have by-laws banning the use of barbecues including The Hyde, the Stockland developed 35-storey luxury residential 2010 tower overlooking Sydney’s Hyde Park. At The Hyde, occupants are not allowed barbecues on their balconies (or wintergardens), but they can use the building’s communal barbecue facilities, providing a time is reserved and a cleaning fee is paid in advance.

In high density Sydney and Melbourne, barbecues are popular with residents living in luxury modern buildings, where many balconies are large and airy. To maintain barbecue harmony within such buildings, respect for other residents is essential. Be mindful that smoke and smells can affect your neighbours, and when cooking on a barbecue, keep the lid closed.

I agree with Jonathan about safety issues surrounding barbecues on balconies, for barbecues can cause hazardous fires.

Last July at Vancouver in Canada, a barbecue on the balcony of a second floor apartment started a fire which spread along the outside of the building and collapsed the entire roof onto the fourth floor causing extensive damage to the structure and damage to 52 units.

Since that fire, the use of barbecues on balconies of apartment buildings has come under scrutiny, and the local Fire & Emergency Services recommends use of propane barbeques or other such appliances be restricted from balconies that do not have sprinklers or where combustible exterior construction exists. 

Preventative measures, responsibility, common sense and cleanliness are essential when using barbecues, be these on a balcony or in a backyard. It’s essential to keep a barbecue’s drip tray clean and not let excess oil build up which could result in a fat fire.

Barbecue gas bottles can be hazardous too. When not stored or maintained correctly, gas bottles can explode. On Christmas Day, at Shell Cove near Wollongong, a 62-year-old man was burned after a horror explosion. Police were told the man had been making preparations for his family’s Christmas lunch when the explosion occurred in a gas bottle connected to a barbecue.

And a word of warning to committed balcony barbecuers who are looking buy an apartment. Be mindful many buildings have strict rules regarding the use and storage of gas barbecues on balconies, so be sure to check the by-laws of a complex before signing a contract or investing in a new BBQ.

 If you’re time poor or can’t be bothered cleaning and maintaining your barbecue, then employ someone else to do it. A range of services are available including The BBQ Man in Perth and Melbourne and BBQ Rescue in Sydney.


Photo: BBQ smoke wafts from a Sydney apartment balcony.



Community Discussion

Be the first one to comment on this article
What would you like to say about this project?