Gas grill installation: mistakes mean missed steaks
Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | July 6, 2015
Nothing says "Summer's here!" like firing up the outdoor grill. Is this the year you finally get that natural gas grill or outdoor kitchen? Wouldn't it be nice to free yourself from the heat of cooking indoors?
Outdoor cooking comes in all shapes and sizes, from a little charcoal hibachi on the back stoop to a full-on culinary compound big enough to accommodate a catering crew. Typically, only your yard size, budget, and local ordinances limit your desires. Don't let the following mistakes trip up your plans to install the ultimate backyard barbeque.
Challenges to installing: What's at steak? Er, stake
You may think an overcooked sirloin or, if you're a vegetarian, an eggplant burnt beyond recognition spells disaster, but a gas explosion or an electrical fire could be a lot more catastrophic. Worst case scenarios and bad puns aside, be aware of and avoid these mistakes when buying and installing a gas grill.
- Choosing the wrong grill for your needs. How much can you afford to spend; what type of cooking do you plan to do; and what size grill fits your space? Have answers to these questions when you shop for a grill. You may want a $3,000 grill, but if that's most of your budget and you have pay for installation and either build or retrofit your entire outdoor kitchen, you may not get to do any cooking this year. A natural gas grill with a direct hook-up to your home's gas line is easy to use -- no heavy propane tanks to refill and haul back home -- but requires a bigger flame than propane. Natural gas is affordable to use but a bit more costly to install than other options. Of course, if your area lacks natural gas service, you have to choose a charcoal, propane, or electric outdoor grill. For new outdoor kitchens, determine before you shop how much space you have for your grill or kitchen set up. For outdoor kitchen retrofits, you may be limited by the footprint of the grill you're replacing. Consider cooking grates, too: cast iron retains heat well but rusts. Ceramic coated grates are easy to clean but can chip after a while.
- Forgetting to check local permitting requirements and codes. If you are installing a new gas line for the grill, your locale may require a permit. Failure to obtain a permit where necessary may result in fines, but that's not why you should get one. Permits may be required for certain projects because they need to be inspected to make sure they comply with building codes. Projects that fail to meet codes could be potentially hazardous to you, your property, your neighbors, and the environment, especially when it comes to something that could explode. Code restrictions can dictate how far gas lines must be from structures or other utilities under your property, or how deep the lines must be buried. On the other hand, you may luck out and find that your locale allows you to install a quick connect shut-off valve at the house, to which you hook up a hose that you connect only as needed to a grill designed or retrofitted to accept it. If you live in a community that has a homeowners' association (HOA), your plans for certain types of grills may be subject to the HOA's Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CCR). If you're not sure whether you're governed by any of these regulations, be sure to check first.
- Not calling your gas company or a licensed plumber to do the gas connections. In addition to permitting and code restrictions from your community, your gas company in all likelihood prefers if you call them to turn gas off and back on unless there is an immediate emergency. If you are running a new gas line from your house to the grill, you may need to turn off the gas to the whole house. Gas connections require special pipes, valves, tools, and supplies. If you're setting up a separate line or a quick-connect shut-off valve where none existed before, call a licensed plumber to do the work
- Not making sure everything lines up properly. Homeowners who have successfully installed a gas grill by themselves suggest that you double check to make sure everything lines up properly so there won't be kinks in the gas lines. Follow the instructions that come with the grill. Be especially careful with measurements if you're installing the grill or any components in a frame, and that everything is square and level. You don't want to have to re-cut the holes for the gas line or end up with the weight of the barbeque -- and it will be heavy -- resting on its skirt, which is not designed to support it.
- Pretending the food tastes great when it doesn't. Last but not least, before buying or installing a natural gas grill, find out from others in your vicinity whether they are pleased with the taste of food prepared on their gas grills. In some places the type of odorant added to natural gas - so you can smell leaks - sometimes imparts an unpleasant taste to food cooked on a natural gas grill. If that's the case, get a propane, charcoal, or even an electric grill designed for outdoor use.
Photo credit to Kevin Irby