Time for a Cookout! Grilling and Homeowners Insurance Basics



Every year, millions of Americans safely enjoy outdoor barbecues, but accidents do happen. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 5,700 grill fires take place on residential property every year, causing an annual average of $37 million in damage, 100 injuries and 10 deaths. The majority of grill fires are caused by malfunctioning gas grills. In addition, thousands of people visit emergency rooms every year because they have burned themselves while barbecuing.

Homeowners Policy Coverage

In the rare instance of a grill fire spreading to your property, your homeowners insurance would provide financial protection as fire is a covered peril. A homeowners policy covers the following:

  • Damage to the house itself.
  • Damage to personal possessions such as lawn furniture.
  • Damage to insured structures on your property, such as a shed or gazebo.
  • Injuries to a guest, under the liability portion of the policy.

Keep in mind you’ll have to pay your deductible before your insurance kicks in, so if damage is minimal and your deductible is high, it may not make sense to file an insurance claim.

However, the best way to enjoy a summer of outdoor barbecues is to take steps to prevent accidents, including maintaining your grill and using it safely.

4 Tips for the Frugal Backyardsman


Patio accessories and maintenance can be costly. I’ve learned how to save money and maximize enjoyment both by understanding how to properly maintain the space, and applying a little know-how when things wear out.

So, let me offer some advice that may save you money and maximize your patio investment.

Approach staining your patio or deck as you would painting an inside room

You’d never paint a room in your home without cleaning, prepping and priming the walls. The same idea holds true with your patio or deck.

It always amazes me when I ask my neighbors why they’re staining their deck every year (and thus, spending extra money and time), and the answer is “because I have to.” What they’re really saying is the wood didn’t hold the stain from last year and now they have to restain.

Follow these three prep steps before you stain to break that annual cycle.

  1. Clean your deck or patio first with a good power washer. This will open up the fibers in the wood or thoroughly clean the concrete or stone on your patio.
  2. Follow up the cleaning with a quality soap scrub. Let the surface dry completely, then stain or seal. I recommend using a stiff bristled brush to help the stain or sealer really bond with the surface.
  3. Wait at least 24 hours to walk on it and you’re all set.

Proper preparation can help your stain and sealer last for three years or more.

Avoid deck furniture with oversized cushions

My wife and I learned a lesson about cushions the hard way. A few years ago, we bought beautiful “deep seating” furniture for our patio. It was well built and comfy. The cushions were beautiful, and as we found out, impossible to replace at a reasonable cost.

The chipmunks in our neighborhood apparently threw a rodent soiree in our backyard one evening and completely destroyed our cushions. We’ve spent two years looking for replacements, and have found only one company that makes them. They’re more expensive than the original furniture. Lesson learned.

Maximize your outdoor time with a good, big patio umbrella

The sun is hot. The shade is cooler. A big umbrella makes shade and increases the time you’ll want to be outside. Simple.

A couple years ago, we finally figured this out, and have been enjoying our patio more frequently ever since. I placed it so it would open up over our furniture and voilà! Instant relief from the sun.

We spent about $200 on our umbrella, but if you figure that we now use the patio twice as much, and the expected life span of the umbrella is five to 10 years, and the summer is five months long … it’s worth every penny.

Repair, rather than replace, your grill

It seems like every spring I find something new that’s wrong with my grill. One year it’s rusty grates. The next year, it’s a starter that won’t spark. The next year, the flame shields are full of holes. Every year I want to buy a new grill. Then, I remember that I’m looking at $500 for a good one.

A few years back I found grillpartssearch.com. I’ve been using it ever since, as it makes replacement parts easy to find and cheap. Replacing all the parts I mentioned above cost me a total of $52, and they should last at least five years. Give your grill a good cleaning every spring, replace any broken parts, and enjoy the summer.

Decking out your patio can be fun and lead to years of summer enjoyment. Following these few simple tips is a good start, but there are many more ways to deck out that patio on a budget.