Do you want to build an outdoor brick oven? If YES, here is a step by step guide on how to build a wood fire pizza oven in your backyard and how much it cost.
As the season gets hotter, people are beginning to enjoy the outdoors, and with summer in full swing, backyard cookery is adding to the experience. At home nothing beats the taste of cooking or baking with wood-fired flame. Wood-fire ovens are visceral, fun, and theatrical. These ovens cook in a way stove and barbecue can only dream about, and involve your guests and family in the cooking process.
Where is the Best Place to Build your Outdoor Oven?
In most urban landscapes, a typical oven can be a huge sacrifice due to limited space. A permanent structure can take up a 5’ x 5’ area and stand over 7 feet tall. Finding a method that allows you to construct an oven and disassemble it when not in use would be ideal for most people.
However, if you prefer a more permanent structure, like an adobe style oven – a domed structure complete with chimney – then this may still be a good place to start. You can learn a lot of cooking techniques and experiment with cooking different foods in the oven by starting with a wood fired oven quick build.
Note that with a little touch of creativity you really can get this built for under $100. This pizza oven can be built using reclaimed wood and other recycled materials. Even if you plan to go out to the local hardware store to find some supplies, you should be able to keep the total cost well under $500.
Factors to Consider When Designing a Wood Fired Pizza Oven in your Backyard
This oven is ideal for the beginner that wants to get a hang of building process. However, if you wish to construct a wood fired pizza oven, consider the following factors below.
- Personal Skill Level
First, you will have to honestly appraise your personal skill-level before embarking on this project. Although anyone can develop the skills needed to build oven overtime, but if you have never built anything by hand, you are better off learning the basic tutorials first before you start.
If you want to complete something more ambitious, consider enlisting a friend or relative with more experience that’s interested in helping and can point you in the right direction when problems arise.
- Space Requirements
There are mathematical considerations you will have to make. How much space do you have? Do you want the oven to be movable or in a fixed spot? Always ensure you answer all these questions before starting a build out. Oven plans designed for restaurants can have a total hearth surface area of between 1,900 – 2700 inches.
But it is advisable you measure the area you plan to build on to get a visual on what the build will look like first. Depending on where you live and if you have an HOA, you may need to seek a build permit before you start construction.
- General Cost
Note that the bigger the oven the more expensive the price. If this is your first oven build, have it in mind that you can assemble an oven for under $100 in total cost using reclaimed wood and other recycled materials. But if your plans are for restaurant or other commercial purposes the price can balloon up to $10,000 for construction.
Tools and Materials
Although you will need minimum tools and materials for this oven, but as you progress to more complex brick ovens you will require tools like a mallet hammer, fire bricks, fire clay, fire blankets, and other materials. The basic tools and materials you need include:
- About 30 bricks: at least 20 will need to be smooth and solid, with no recess (frog) or holes (perforations), to form your oven floor.
- 20 breeze blocks and 5kg tub of cement or twenty 120cm x 20cm x 20cm wooden beams, an electric drill and long wood screws
- Rubble and big stones
- 10-14 bags of builder’s sand (20kg each)
- 125-175kg clay
- Assorted glass bottles
- Chimney or plant pot (optional)
- Large bag (14 litres or 6kg) of wood shavings
- Tape measure
- Large heavy-duty plastic or tarpaulin sheet
- Plenty of water
- Old kitchen knife
- Heavy duty gloves
- 10 litre builder’s plastic bucket
- Wellington boots
- Lots of newspaper
How to Build a Wood Fired Pizza Oven in your Backyard in 7 Steps
Note that mixing the clay and sand will be the hardest, most time- consuming part of the building process. It is best to mix in batches as and when you need it. In terms of the first layer, you will need about three buckets of clay to six 10 litre buckets of sand. While for final shell, you will need four buckets of clay to eight of sand (ratio – 1:2 clay and sand).
Remember to do the mixing with your feet. Tip the sand onto a large plastic tarpaulin sheet, break the clay into thumb – size pieces and, wearing willies, tread the two together with a little water. This is called pudding. Note that the mixture is set when a tennis ball – size piece dropped from shoulder height holds together. If it splats, the mix is too wet; if it cracks, it is too dry.
- Construct the Plinth
The plinth is the foundation of your oven, so it has to be rock solid and capable. You can construct the plinth frame out of bricks, breeze blocks or wooden sleepers. First, you will have to clear the ground and dig a shallow trench 120cm x 120cm square.
If you build the frame from bricks, or breeze blocks, use cement. If you are using wood, screw the pieces together. What you need is a solid, square box approximately 1m high and 120cm square. After that, put a layer of rubble and stones in the centre, and then add a layer of sand and glass bottles.
Note that this will act as a heat sink, warming up, and then radiating heat back up through the oven. Finally, top with a layer of smooth, solid bricks to form the oven floor. Don’t forget that this is the surface you will cook on, so the bricks need to fit snugly together.
- Construct the Dome Mould
Here, make a mound of damp sand to form the clay around. Note that you will need about 120kg sand. Centre it on the plinth you have already built and gradually construct the dome up like a giant sand castle. Remember that it needs to be 80cm in diameter at the bottom and 40 – 45cm high. Continue checking it from above to make sure it is round. When it is finished, cover with wet newspaper to stop it drying out while you puddle the clay.
- Construct the First Oven Layer
Carefully roll handfuls of the puddle clay/sand mix into 20cm long, 10cm thick sausage shapes, then build them up in circles around the sand dome, beginning from the base (leave the newspaper on), until the dome is completely covered. Work the clay lengths into each other, and then smooth the outside with your hands. The layer should be about 7 – 10cm thick. Leave the clay to dry for 4 hours.
- Cut the Entrance
With a kitchen knife, carefully cut out an entrance to your oven. Note that it needs to be big enough to fit a roasting tray through it, but small enough to keep the heat in – about 30cm wide by 20cm high. After you must have cut the entrance, scoop out the sand inside (you can reuse it). Let the dome dry overnight. The next morning, light a small fire inside to help dry out the clay further.
- Construct the Brick Opening
Construct an arch to fit around the entrance using bricks and more sand/clay mix as mortar and to create the angle for the arch. Make sure to secure the arch to the clay dome with more clay mix. After that, cut a hole in the roof of the dome near where the arch joins the dome and build a clay collar to hold the chimney. You can use a plant pot as a chimney, buy one, or build up rings of clay to make one.
- The Insulation Layer
Carefully make 4 litres of slip (a mixture of clay and water with the consistency of cream). Stir in 14 litres/6kg wood shavings until well mixed. Slap the insulation layer onto the clay dome, then leave to dry for 2 hours.
- The Final Shell
This last stage will take about 2 hours. This is the same as the first oven layer, just slightly larger. Carefully mix the clay and sand together by pudding. Make sausage – shape bricks and press firmly together to cover the insulation layer until 7 – 10cm thick all over. Smooth the surface as in step 3. Once the finished oven has had a chance to dry out for a day or two (a week would be even better), clean out any remaining sand or debris… And you are ready to use.
To use this oven you will indeed need wood, and proper dried hardwood is best. Carefully light a pile of newspaper and small sticks of soft wood in the entrance under the chimney to start your fire.
Slowly build the fire by adding pieces of hardwood such as oak then, once it is going, move it towards the back of the oven – not too quickly, though, or it may go out. Immediately it starts roaring, add just enough wood to keep it ticking over. However, when not in use, protect the oven from damp with a well secured tarpaulin.