Many moons ago I began a journey.  This journey, like many others, began with these famous words “Honey, I’ve been thinking about…” and the rest is history.  So what was this journey?  This journey was a backyard brick pizza oven.  And I was going to build it.  What?!?  A pizza oven?  In my backyard?  And I am going to build it on my own? “If you build it, they will come” my wife says.  Ok, she didn’t really say that.  But as I pondered it, I began to realize.  A brick pizza oven in my backyard would be really cool.  Let’s find a way to make this happen.

If you have read many of my posts, you’ll notice common theme.  Rarely do I begin a project and know exactly what in the heck I am doing.  So, let’s forget the fact that I had never laid a single brick in my entire life.  Let’s also forget the fact that I had no idea what things like vermiculite (verma what?) and fireclay were.  I was determined to learn, build, and then enjoy a brick pizza oven.

Now that I am finished with this journey, I will show you each step of the way.  Hopefully I will inspire you to build your own.  Not only because it’s cool and something that you can take pride in.  But it’s something that gathers friends and family to create great memories together.

Here is the another angle of the pizza oven.

The brick pizza oven that I built in my backyard.  Every step to build it is shown below.

How Much Does It Cost?

When looking at a project such as this, one of the first questions that pop into your head is, “How much is this thing going to cost?”  90% of the entire pizza oven is just old fashioned masonry.  It’s bricks, firebricks, mortar, concrete, etc.  Fortunately, masonry isn’t extremely expensive.  The other 10% are the accessories like the chimney cap and drip edge and the tools that you need to build it with (if you don’t already have them).

After all was said and done, this brick oven cost <$2000.  Throughout this tutorial, I detail out the materials that you need and how much they cost.

One caveat: This assumes my time was free…

How Long Does it Take to Build The Pizza Oven?

To answer the question of how long it takes to build would be difficult.  This depends on how motivated you are, how much free time you have, if you can work in winter, etc.  For me, I built this oven over the course of about two years.  But I took the winters completely off.  And I have a full time job during the week.  So most of my work was on my free Saturday’s and Sunday’s.

If I took a wild guess, I would think this could be built in 1-2 months if you worked every day, 8-10 hours a day.   But who has the time to do that?

Step by Step: How to Build a Brick Oven

If you’ve made it this far, you are good with putting in some time and shelling out the money.  So let’s get started.  First step…The Foundation.

Prologue: Choosing the Oven Style

Part 1: The Foundation

Part 2: The Stand

Part 3: The Hearth

Part 4: Oven Floor

Part 5: The Indispensable Tool

Part 6: Building The Entry Arch

Part 7: Pizza Oven Dome Begins to Take Shape

Part 8: Wrapping up the Dome

Part 9: Choosing the Design – Our Top 10 Favorites

Part 10: Starting the Enclosure and Buttressing the Arch

Part 11: Building the Pizza Oven Chimney

Part 12: Going Shopping –  Buying the bricks and materials for the oven exterior

Part 13: Curing the Oven with Small Fires

Part 14: Making the Concrete Countertop

Part 15: Bricking the Oven Exterior – The Bottom Half

Part 16: Bricking the Oven Exterior – The Top Half

Part 17: Capping the Oven Chimney

Part 18: Insulating the Pizza Oven

Part 19: Putting on the Roof to the Pizza Oven

Part 20: It’s Finished! The Final Product

That’s it.  20 steps to a completed pizza oven in your backyard.  Good luck!   And if you have any questions or want clarity on anything, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer.

This is Part 20 of the 20 part series on building a brick oven.  To see more, visit The Ultimate Backyard Brick Oven Tutorial: How to Build Your Own.

Well hello there! Let’s get right to the point. The backyard pizza oven is complete!

Ok, that was kind of brief. It has been a long time coming for this post and I feel like I owe an explanation.  And there are also quite a few caveats that go along with that statement.  I’ll explain.

Why Did This Take So Long?

So first, I must explain why it has been 9 MONTHS!!! since I’ve last posted anything. I’ve received many of death threats demanding that I complete this series that I have started. Yea, so maybe not quite death threats. But I get it.  You read a story and right before the CLIMAX of an ending….crickets.  Well that’s not a very good author, now is it?  Many of you have been an eager beaver in trying to build your own pizza oven.  And I envy your passion. Unfortunately, I lost focus over the last few months.  See, there is now a little one of me running (well, crawling) around.  And it’s not really a little me because it is a girl.  I now have a little daughter.  And she is awesome!  And…takes up a lot of daddy’s time.  Get it?  Good.

But now I’m back.  Let’s proceed.

The Brick Pizza Oven Reveal

My last post showed how I put on the roof to the brick oven.  That was really the final piece of the pizza oven project.  After Lara put some prettiness into it with flower pots, we called it “finished”.  And here it is.  The big reveal…

The final view of our brick pizza oven on the patio.  And only the beginning of many great pizzas!

The final view of our brick pizza oven on the patio. And only the beginning of many great pizzas!

Pretty cool huh?  After lots of labor hours (I lost count.  Seriously), a year and a half (had to take winter’s off) and around $1600 in materials, we now have a homemade, DIY brick oven in our backyard that we will be making all kinds of foods in as we host our friends and family.   This was actually finished last summer, but (see above) I never got around to posting the final reveal.  So in an upcoming post, I’ll show you some of the goodness that we have made in it over the past year.

Here is the another angle of the pizza oven.

Same day.  Same time.  Just another angle of the pizza oven.

Did I say finished?

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to say that I am finished with something because there are always ways to improve it.  So while this pizza oven is completely finished and useable, there are still a couple of minor additions that I want to add.

  1. Oven Door.  This oven is great for things that need quick fairly quick cooking at high temperatures.  Think pizzas, roasts, etc.  But if we ever want to cook things at lower temperatures that need longer cooking times (like bread), we won’t be able to do that.  All of the heat will escape out of the chimney.  After firing it up, the oven is ~700 degrees and then cools down to 200 degrees in a few hours.  But bread needs to maintain consistent temperatures of around 300-400 degrees.  In order to maintain consistent temperatures, we need a door to trap in the heat.
  2. Storage Door.  The wood storage area below looks pretty cool as it is when loaded up with wood.  But some swinging doors made out of leftover barn wood from my chicken coop would also look cool.  And it would keep rain and little critters out of the wood stash.

So there you have it.  In upcoming posts, I’ll go into some more detail on operating the oven, random pizza oven detail, and some things that I would probably do differently now that I’ve had experience with it.

This is Part 19 of the 20 part series on building a brick oven.  To see more, visit The Ultimate Backyard Brick Oven Tutorial: How to Build Your Own.

We have reached the last major milestone of this backyard brick oven project:  The all important roof.  Throughout this whole project, I have dreaded…the roof.  Why?  The roof is what keeps out all of the rain and snow from the oven.  If you know water, you know that it finds it’s way through a lot of things.  Tiny cracks, holes, or seams are no match for water.

Why Water is a Problem

You may be wondering, what is wrong with water getting inside?  It’s just all masonry.  Bricks can get wet, right?  Yes, that is true.  But, there are three issues that I don’t want to deal with.

First, when water water gets inside, the bricks absorb the water.  Since water boils at <300 degrees, it would be very difficult for the oven to reach cooking temperature of >500 degrees until all of the moisture is gone.  Therefore, before you are able to cook, you have to let the fire drive off the moisture.  Of course, this adds time to the cooking process.

The second problem with all of the water soaked masonry is the difficulty in making a fire.  Since I have already made some fires in the oven, and I didn’t have a roof, I have started a fire after it had rained on the dome.  Let me tell you, it makes the beginning phases of fire building much more difficult.  Why?  It is kind of like making a fire in a steam room.  All of the water inside vaporizes, but it doesn’t have a good way to get out quickly.  Therefore, all of this steam smothers your fire in the beginning until it gets burning nice and hot.

Third reason that water is no good for a brick oven is the freeze/thaw cycles.  While I haven’t experienced this yet, I think it would be bad on the oven for water to get inside of the bricks/mortar and then freeze.  Have you ever seen a pothole on the road after a freeze/thaw?  Well, I don’t want a pothole in my oven.

The Roof Materials and Design

After thinking about quite a few options, I decided to go with a flat roof constructed from concrete board and covered with rubber EPDM roof.  The rubber will last a long time and keep water out, while the concrete board will provide a fireproof roof for the rubber roof to lay on.  Also, along the edges, I install drip edge.  This keeps the water away from the brick walls as much as possible.

Roofing Materials:

  1. (1) Rubber EPDM piece big enough to cover the roof
  2. (2) Concrete boards
  3. (3) 8ft drip edges
  4. Silicone and Roofing Cement
  5. Gasoline (just for cleaning the rubber roof)
  6. Aluminum flashing (Roll, step, and corner)
Here, you can see the aluminum roofing braces that I used to support the concrete board roof.

Here, you can see the start of the roof.  I used aluminum metal studs as braces to support the concrete board roof.

One important design point to consider was the slope. In reality, a flat roof isn’t actually flat. If it were flat, water would tend to pool on top. Therefore, a flat roof needs to actually be sloped. The back of the roof needs to be an inch or two lower than the front. It still looks flat, but it is ever so slightly sloped to let water drain off of the back.

cement-board-roof

It took two pieces of concrete board for the roof. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to raise the seem in the middle up. It started to sag and water now runs to the middle.  Also, notice the back has a layer of bricks missing.  This is so that water can drain off of the back.

Tar and silicone

As I mentioned earlier, water finds its way into every little nook and cranny.  To seal of these gaps, I used roofing cement and silicone.  The cement was used around the masonry, while the silicone was used between the flashing/drip edges and rubber roof.

Roof Construction Begins

Now that we know which materials we are going to use (concrete board, rubber roof, roofing cement, and silicone), we get to start building.

The first step is to lay out the rubber roof and cut it to size.  I found it easy to lay the roof directly on top of the oven and trace the brick with a box cutter.  One tricky section is the chimney.  As you can see from the picture below, I decided to cut a seam along each corner so the rubber would fit over the chimney.  If I did it again (which I won’t for a long time I hope!), I would try to not cut this seam.  Instead, I would try to cut a square a little bit smaller than the chimney and see if the roof would “squeeze” over top of the chimney.  That would give a tighter fit and get rid of a couple of extra seams where water intrusion can occur.

After cutting out the roof, I decided to put down some aluminum flashing on the back drip edge section.  I thought that any additional protection from water couldn’t hurt.

The back of the roof has aluminum flashing as an extra step to keep the water out.

The back of the roof has aluminum flashing as an extra step to keep the water out.

The finished roof before putting down the drip edges and sealing it up.

The finished roof before putting down the drip edges and sealing it up.

After getting the roof laid out and cut to size, the next step is to seal out the water.  As mentioned earlier, we will be using roofing cement and silicone to seal out the water.  And since silicone wouldn’t seal very well when applied to a dirty roof, we’ll need to clean the roof.  No, you don’t need any special cleaning materials.  Gasoline will do the trick.

After cleaning the edges with a rag and gasoline, the silicone has been applied around all edges.

After cleaning the edges with a rag and gasoline, the silicone has been applied around all edges.

After applying silicone around the edges, it is time to install the drip edges.  On the side of the drip edge that will contact the brick wall, roofing cement should be applied.  This helps secure the drip edge and again helps keep out water.

Applying roofing cement to the wall side of the drip edge.

Applying roofing cement to the wall side of the drip edge before installing the drip edge onto the roof.

The last step in the roofing process is installing the step flashing and corner flashing around the base of the chimney.  While I didn’t get any pictures of this step, I didn’t do anything fancy.  I put the step flashing and corner flashing against the chimney and proceeded to silicone the heck out of the base (between the flashing and rubber) and go crazy with the roofing cement between the chimney wall and flashing.  Do you understand why I didn’t take a picture here?  Yes, I think there has to be a better way to flash a chimney.

Well this is the final step of the brick oven construction process.  It has been a long journey, but a great one where I learned a lot.  In the next post, I will show the final product.

Insulating the Pizza Oven

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This is Part 18 of the 20 part series on building a brick oven.  To see more, visit The Ultimate Backyard Brick Oven Tutorial: How to Build Your Own.

So far in the brick oven construction, we are to the point where it is functional.  Yes, we could make a fire inside and cook some pizza.  However, we are short an important step:  Insulating the Oven.   Without insulation, the oven takes longer to heat up since heat constantly escapes from the outside of the dome.  Also, the oven cools off quite quickly.  So, just like we need to insulate our homes to keep the heat from escaping in the winter, we need to insulate the brick oven from heat escaping whenever we fire it up.

The solution to our heat loss problem?  Obviously, it is insulation.  But what material are we going to use for the insulation?  I’ll give you a hint:  We’ve already used this material earlier in the project as an insulating layer below the oven floor.  If you guessed vermiculite, you’ve guessed right!  Except now, we are going to use a whole lot more than earlier.  Instead of the 2 bags that we used on the hearth, I ended up using 5 whole bags.

insulating-pizza-oven

I set out three of the five total bags of vermiculite that will be poured over the dome as an insulation layer.

You may be wondering:  Why did I use 5 bags?  Good question!  Unlike the masonry dome, the insulation layer doesn’t absorb heat.  With masonry, you can actually have too much.  Think about it.  If you built a dome that was 3 bricks thick, it would require a fire at least 3 times as big (or burn it 3 times longer) to heat up the dome.  The reason?  The third row of bricks absorbs heat just like the first.  Therefore, with three times as much brick, three times as much heat will be absorbed before the oven reaches the desired 800-900 degree “white hot” stage.

Insulation, however, is a different story than masonry when it comes to heat retention.  Insulation doesn’t absorb heat.  Instead, it “traps” the heat.  Therefore, you can’t “over-insulate” an oven.  At some point, adding more insulation becomes pointless, but it doesn’t hurt the oven performance.  This is all a long winded way of saying:

The recommended insulation is 6 inches of vermiculite around the entire dome.

To meet the 6 inch insulation requirement, my oven required about five 4 cubic foot bags of vermiculite.

vermiculite-insulation-for-oven

The vermiculite is completely covering the oven for a good insulation layer.

 What would I do different?

Alright.  With every project, you always look back and think:  “Man, if only I would have …. (fill in the blank)”.  This insulation layer is a great example of this.  With the 5 bags of vermiculite that I bought, I ended up paying ~$75.  However, there is another product out there called an insulation blanket.  This blanket costs ~$150 for two of them.  So, for $75 more, you get a couple of noteworthy improvements.

  1. Better insulation
  2. Easier to get into oven for repairs later (if you happen to need to repair the oven)

Of course, is the extra $75 worth it for the these two advantages?  I’ll let you decide that.

This is Part 17 of the 20 part series on building a brick oven.  To see more, visit The Ultimate Backyard Brick Oven Tutorial: How to Build Your Own.

The top of the chimney is currently exposed brick.  As I mentioned in the last post on building the chimney, there is a gap between the brick and flue liner.  Therefore, to keep rain from going down the chimney, it needs a chimney cap.

Top of chimney before the concrete chimney cap is poured

You can see the top of the chimney and the gap that exists between the brick and flue liner. A chimney cap is needed to seal it off and keep the weather out.

Chimney Cap Materials

Ok, so we have to make a chimney cap.  But what should it be made out of?  While it seems like mortar might be a likely choice, mortar should be avoided.  Over time, the mortar would slowly fail due to low strength without any aggregate.  Therefore, the best choice for a chimney cap is concrete.  I used a single bag of Quikrete and it did the job admirably.

Bag of quikrete for the chimney cap

Here is the single bag of quikrete that I used on the chimney cap.

When mixing the concrete, it will need to be mixed at a pretty dry consistency.  It will have to support itself until it cures and not fall down into the chimney.  If it were mixed wetter, this wouldn’t be possible.

Preparing the Chimney for the Chimney Cap

We will be pouring the chimney cap directly onto the chimney.  Therefore, the chimney needs some prep work before this happens.  First, the concrete cannot be poured directly against the flue.  There needs to be an expansion gap since the flue will go through huge temperature fluctuations (and therefore will expand and contract).  This expansion gap will later be filled in with high temp silicone.  Second, the gap between the flue liner and the brick chimney needs to be covered so that the concrete doesn’t fall down into the chimney before it cures.  In the picture below, you can see how I handled both of these needs.

preparing the chimney for the cap

I wrapped the flue line with paper to create the expansion gap and lined the gap with cardboard to keep the wet concrete from falling down the chimney.

Pouring the Chimney Cap

Getting the concrete on top of the chimney is not a fancy process.  Put some concrete onto a shovel and dump it on the top of the chimney.  If there is a hard part in this whole process, it is forming the cap into the right shape.

Here is the chimney cap before I shaped the concrete into form. See how dry the concrete is? That is pretty important so that the concrete doesn't drip down the cracks of the chimney while it is wet.

Putting the concrete onto the chimney to create the cap

The concrete for the chimney cap is completely poured. Now it is time to shape it.

I have now smoothed the concrete into shape and created a slow taper towards the edges so that water will be shed away.

Here you can see how the concrete is slowly tapered away from the flue and down the chimney.


After the concrete for the cap cures, I will get rid of the paper and put silicone into the gap between the cap and the flue liner. And that is how I did the cap for the chimney. Next up: Insulating the oven and putting on the roof!

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