HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


BBQ Smoke Etiquette

Hi Everyone,

I recently moved into a new apartment. I have a Big Green Egg BBQ and love to use it. I live in a townhouse style apartment with a small back patio. My neighbor's patio and living room is adjacent to mine and I am concerned about the amount of smoke that my BBQ is creating. The only location where my BBQ will fit is about 6ft from their living room door. My question is this: being that I live in an apartment, do I need to be concerned with my BBQ creating too much smoke and annoying the neighbors or should I just keep cooking on it until someone actually complains? Any advice you can offer about proper apartment BBQing etiquette would be very much appreciated! Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Invite the neighbors over for dinner and see what they have to say.

    1. As much as I love BBQ and the smell of it cooking, I don't want someone else's grill 6 feet away from my door. That is pretty darn close. My suggestion is to let him know when you are going to use it and perhaps invite him over for some or take a plate to him.

      1. i would also check your local fire codes....it may not be legal to have it so close to the building...
        before they do get annoyed and maybe report you....

        i also live in a apartment... the only grill we can have near or on our lanai is an electric one...

        the complex has gas grills we can use ...

        2 Replies
        1. re: srsone

          srsone is right on the mark. more and more places are prohibiting bbq/grilles except in designated locations in multi-family housing. in many places it is a violation of local laws and others simply a violation of the house rules. But the rules are often not just 'petty neighbors', but are required by the insurance carrier.

          Believe it or not I have seen people put bricks down on top of a wood deck, and then build a fire directly on the brick, not even in a metal pan. They were very skeptical that hot embers could settle down between the bricks and catch the deck on fire.

          1. re: srsone

            I agree - absolutely check your lease and local fire codes. I know it is against the North Carolina state fire code to have a grill on patios or decks of multifamily dwellings, or within a certain distance (10 feet, I think) from combustible material, including most landscaping materials. I have a feeling the same or similar applies in many places, if not by law then at least according to rental agreements.

          2. answer depends on how often they leave the door/windows open.

            1. I would certainly talk to the neighbors before they complain. If they have an open window or door and you are getting ready to light up, give them a warning. (And the suggestion to invite them over for a cookout are spot-on.)

              2 Replies
              1. re: pikawicca

                The fire issue is pretty neglible with a BGE - I say that because I have a Kamado, and we can put our hands on the outside of it without burning or even feeling very hot. But the smoke is another question. The birds eat from thier feeder thru it, and so do the hummingbirds, so it shouldn't be too bad for the neighbors, but that having been said, my son had neighbors who smoked cigarettes in the apt beneath him, and he had to keep his sliding door and windows closed as the smoke came right up into his apt, and he was allergic to it, always has been.
                I would talk to the neighbors, and perhaps cook them a pulled pork roast just for putting up with it.

                1. re: Nanzi

                  In our city, if there is a combustible substance used (wood/charcoal/gas) it can't be on a balcony, within 5 feet of a building or within 15 feet of an awning. So, even if the fire issue is negligible, it is still worth looking into the city's fire codes.

                  Still, I'd be pretty unhappy about someone bbqing that close to my door.... unless I got some of the spoils!

              2. We just grilled tonight & actually had a neighbor from the 3rd floor (of our garden style apartment) come down after we were done grilling & complaining that the smoke was going into his apartment. What did he want us to do if we weren't already done? Take the food off 1/2 cooked? We are non-smokers & CONSTANTLY have to put up with neighbors smoking on their patios/balcony's & having their cigarette smoke coming into our apartment so I really couldn't feel too bad for the guy. That is apartment living! If it bother's you so much buy a house on a giant lot with a fence so you never have to deal with neighbor's again!
                It was in the upper 90's here today-shut the windows & turn the air on & get over it cheapskate.

                11 Replies
                1. re: hairdoer01

                  ... you're the one being a git. sorry, but you don't do things that bother other people. You know that, or you woudln't kvetcha bout cigarette smoke.
                  3rd floor apartment? Do you pay $200 a month for air conditioning? I don't bloody think so! You have NO RIGHT to ask someone else to pay double your price for air conditioning, because all your heat RISES.

                  1. re: Chowrin

                    Smoker/BBQ grill smoke can still be a problem with the AC running. Our neighbors use their smoker all the time and something about the airflow between the houses pushes the smoke right into our AC system.

                    The first time it happened I freaked out and called 911 because the entire house smelled of burning wood.

                    We laugh about it now but it was pretty exciting when it happened.

                    I vote for inviting them over to dinner.

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      also..it might not matter if u invite them over and they are ok with it...

                      if it is against fire code..the fire marshal can give u a ticket and inform your building management/supervisor...and u may possibly be kicked out for going against your lease..
                      it all depends on the codes and laws and your lease....

                      but it still isnt nice to just fire it up and get smoke in their apt and/or ac system air intake..like cleo said...

                      1. re: cleobeach

                        Years ago, we lived on the 2nd floor of a 3 floor apartment in Brooklyn. Our downstairs neighbors would use their smoker a few times a summer, so we'd just close our windows. Our apartment would still smell like smoked fish for a day or so, but we didn't care at all. The fire department was called by another neighbor thinking the smoke was a fire.... the firemen weren't too upset about the false alarm, thankfully.

                        Now, I love the smell of grilling & smoking (the cooking kind). I love distinguishing between chicken, beef, & pork on the grill. Makes my mouth water just thinking of it!

                      2. re: Chowrin

                        Actually I am NOT asking him to pay "double my price" for air conditioning, just to stop whining . I don't complain when all my heat rises into his apartment in the winter because I chose to live on the first floor, so your point is rather pointless. I grill because my family & I enjoy it, not to bother people, just like my neighbor's enjoy smoking & don't do it to bother us, but it does none the less. All I am saying is I follow the rules of our complex & the fire department & if my once or twice weekly grilling bothers one neighbor once & a while I can live with that. I put up with people smoking cigarettes on their balconies many times a day every day and night that I choose not to use my "half price" air conditioning. I put up with their dangerous smoke more often than I ask them to put up with my smoke.

                        1. re: hairdoer01

                          yes ..but also its not illegal to smoke a cigarette on a balcony...

                          having an open fire/ gas grill is

                          they have a better reason to complain.....
                          not always right..but thats the way the rules are..

                          1. re: srsone

                            I would NEVER grill on my patio even if the complex or fire code allowed it. I grill in the yard 10 feet or more from the building as the complex mandates. So both activities are equally legal.

                          2. re: hairdoer01

                            you are introducing carcinogens into their house. a little "whining" is appropriate. It is a basic violation of common decency, as is smoking near enough to contaminate other people's homes.
                            just my opinion, mind. ymmv.

                        2. re: hairdoer01

                          The cigarette smoke and your grilling are separate issues. You can't use one to justify another. Also, if you're arguing that cigarette smoking is wrong, your grilling is just as wrong, maybe more so since your grilling smoke creates a larger, constant plume.

                          Thinking about apartment complexes, I'm surprised the complex allows grills on the balcony. The complexes that I've lived in prohibited grills for safety reasons.

                          1. re: dave_c

                            I am not trying to justify my grilling at all. I was pointing out there are things other neighbors do that bother me & I find ways to deal with them without whining to them about something they have every right to do. My complex does not allowing grilling on the patio as I told srsone. Personally, I would prefer to smell a grill for hours than a cigarette for any length of time, no matter how short. I also feel the dangers of being exposed to second hand smoke far outweighs the inconvenience of my grill.

                            1. re: hairdoer01

                              fwiw, i agree with you on this. grill smoke smells good. lighter fluid smells horrid though.

                        3. If people don't like or can't tolerate, other peoples activities, why do they live in such close proximity to others? Get a proper house and if you can't afford one in the area where you live move else where to somewhere you can afford. I simply can't imagine having to smell cigarette smoke on a daily basis but then if I had chosen to live in an appartment block that is what happens along with shouting, music, screaming and of course bbq smoke.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: davidne1

                            As many others have posted on this thread, BBQs on apartment patios/balconies are not just an issue of smoke and smells, there are very real fire dangers involved. Where I live it is against state fire code to have a grill within 10 feet of an apartment building. The same or similar applies in many other cities and states. For what's it's worth, more and more apartment complexes in my area are banning cigarette smoking outdoors around the complex due to fire danger - there have been several major apartment fires in recent years caused by cigarettes discarded in flower beds.

                            1. re: davidne1

                              Exactly what I was trying to say davidne1! Apartment living is not for intolerant people, there are many things you need to be tolerant about & move on or your going to be a miserable person.
                              @mpjmph I actually measured out 10 feet to make sure I was at least that far from the building when I first started grilling years ago. We always have smokers throwing their butts in the mulched flower beds. I always wonder what is going through their minds. It wood first of all & it's put their to look nice & really doesn't with a bunch of butts in it.

                            2. Its a matter of courtesy.

                              Notwithstanding codes rules fire hazards etc.-its like playing your stereo loud or your dog barking.
                              Be considerate about it and find a balance.

                              1. I'd be concerned about the other dwellers hanging half off their balcony starin' and droolin'.