Venting for BBQ Island Structures

by Ned Brennan

The popularity of outdoor kitchens has really surged over the past decade. People are getting more creative with their outdoor kitchen designs and unfortunately building regulations have not kept up with the latest trends. Though you may follow "guidelines" or tips on how to make your outdoor kitchen as safe as possible, there are always going to be hidden dangers. One of the most common errors we've seen is the lack of venting.

Why vent?

No matter the type of gas you're using - natural or propane - you are asking for trouble if your island structure is not sufficiently vented. Natural gas grills have the problem of gas rising and building up at the top of the structure. Though not as big a problem as propane, this can become dangerous if you turned your burner on and then got distracted and tried to ignite your grill after unburned gas has built up. Propane users have the same problem except instead of gas rising it will sink and collect at the bottom of the structure. If not vented properly, propane will accumulate and thus cause an explosion if you were to accidentally re-light your grill or have someone not familiar with your grill operating it.

What would cause gas to “build up” in my outdoor kitchen structure?

If you turn on a gas valve and do not ignite the gas, the gas will continue to flow out of the unlit burner and can accumulate in your structure. Also, we’ve seen rusted gas lines develop small pin holes that can allow gas to escape into the structure. We’ve also seen structures with sunken areas inside the structure for plumbing and the like that can allow for accumulated gas to “pool”.

How do I vent?

This depends on the type of gas you are using. For natural gas, we suggest venting high up in your structure so that the rising gas can escape. For propane gas, we suggest venting as low to the ground as possible so that the sinking propane gas can escape easily.

Many stores that carry your grill and outdoor kitchen supplies will carry vents for you to install. For example, we sell stainless steel vents that are compatible with any structure and are relatively inexpensive.

Can't I Just Build My Own Within the Structure?

You can. Many people try to use mesh to build a screen or leave "weep holes" in their island structure to enable the gas to escape. The problem with this is animals and insects will find these holes/self-made vents and build nests in them.

Bottom Line

Venting your outdoor island structure is mandatory and must be taken very seriously. Without doing so, you are not only putting yourself at risk but also anyone else that may be operating your grill or in the area. Remember: vent high/low(depending on your gas type) and vent often!