DIY Brick Pizza Oven Part 1: The Foundation

| Posted By: Brian | 10 Comments

This is Part 1 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.

It has been a long time coming, but the time to build our pizza oven on our patio has finally arrived.  Similar to so many other DIY projects, the beginning is definitely not the most glamorous part.  Instead, it is simply the foundation of the rest of the project.  Without a good foundation, the pizza oven couldn’t exist.

So I actually misled you (a little) in the beginning. We aren’t actually breaking ground on our pizza oven foundation right now. Remember last year when we built our patio?  We built the foundation to our pizza oven at the same time.  We had lots of extra help from some workers (Dad, friends, etc.) so it was a perfect time to put them to good use.  We pay friends with food and beer, we get manual labor in exchange.  Good deal for us? I think so!

Choosing the Size of the Foundation

The pizza oven that we are building is going to be a dome style Italian pizza oven that has internal diameter of 36″.  This is important because all components from foundation up needs to be the right size for the 36″ oven.

Based on the plans from both The Bread Builder’s book and the Forno Bravo plans, the size of this foundation needs to be about 70″ wide by 80″ deep.  This leaves some extra room on the outside of the block stand for finish materials.  Here is how it breaks down:   36″ internal oven diameter + 9″ oven firebrick + 12″ insulation = 57″.  That leaves about 6 inches on each side to put on finish materials.

Materials & Cost

Here is everything that we used to build the foundation:

  1. 80lb bags of Quickrete:  35 @ $3.60/bag = $126
  2. 1/2″ rebar, 10′ ft sections:  4 @ $5.20/pc = $21
  3. Stone base:  We bought a whole truckload (18 tons) for the patio, but this was probably 1 ton:  ~$30
  4. 8ft sections of 2×6 lumber for forms:  4 @ 5.70 = $23
  5. Wire remesh: This depends on how you find it.  Sometimes it comes in a big roll.  Other times you can find smaller sections.  ~$10
  6. Some spare bricks or pieces of concrete:  FREE

Total cost for the pizza oven foundation:  $210

Here are the tools that I used (of course, if you don’t have them there are always ways to improvise):

  1. Tamper for the stone base
  2. Wheelbarrow to mix concrete
  3. Shovel or hoe to mix concrete and shovel all of the gravel
  4. Sledge hammer or regular hammer to pound the stakes for the form

Breaking Ground on the Foundation

The foundation supports the entire pizza oven.  Therefore, it needs to be both stable and strong.  To make it stable, we built a base of compacted crushed stone about 12 in thick.  Yes, this was overkill (normally 3″ is enough), but we had to make it level with the patio.  Since our yard slopes slightly, one side of our patio needed a lot of stone underneath.  The purpose of the gravel is to prevent freeze/thaw from damaging the slab.

The pizza oven formed up on the corner of the patio

The pizza oven is going to be at the back corner of the patio. See how the yard slopes off as you get toward the pizza oven side? This is why we needed 12″ of stone underneath the foundation.

Pizza oven foundation with a compacted stone base

Here is a closeup of the future foundation that shows the stone base.

My dad is helping with staking the forms for the concrete foundation. It’s always good to have a helper that knows much more than you do.

On top of the compacted stone, we poured a concrete slab 5.5″ thick. This was pretty easily accomplished by building the form with 2×6 lumber.  The slab was 70″ wide by 80″ deep. To save you from trying to do the math, this took about 35 of 80lb bags of concrete. Thankfully, Mr. Doug was there to lend a hand with the mixing, pouring, and screeding.

Mixing the concrete for the brick oven foundation

Doug is mixing up the concrete and helping pour. Extra muscles is always helpful!

Rebar and wire mesh is an important part of the foundation to provide additional strength.  Two pieces of rebar were placed along the outside of all four edges.  One is 4″ from the outside edges and the other 8″ in from the edges.  A sheet of wire mesh was placed on top of the rebar across the whole pad. Little pieces of brick held the mesh and rebar halfway up the slab at about 2.5 inches high.

Pouring concrete for the pizza oven foundation

This shows all of the important pieces of the foundation. Stone base, 2×6 forms, rebar on edges, wire remesh, and screeding the concrete.

Now it’s ready to finish mixing and pouring in the concrete.  The good thing about the foundation is that it will never be seen.  Therefore, you don’t have to make it nice and pretty.  It’s a good thing, because mine was pretty darn ugly!  But, it will do it’s job.  At this point, that’s all that matters.  I’ll worry about cosmetics later.

Finished oven foundation

The concrete has had time to cure for a couple of days after being covered with a tarp to keep in the moisture. Like I said, it isn’t pretty, but it does the job!

Next up is building the stand for the pizza oven.

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10 Responses to “DIY Brick Pizza Oven Part 1: The Foundation”

  1. […] sheet of OSB:  1 @ $8.87 = $9 Total for hearth:  $183 Running total for foundation, stand, and hearth: […]

  2. […] moving on up in my brick pizza oven adventure.  Oven foundation?  Check.  Pizza oven stand and hearth?  Check.  Firebrick floor?  Check.  The time has now […]

  3. […] until now, everything has been very clear cut.  In order to build a pizza oven, you pour a foundation, build the base, pour the hearth, and build the dome.  If anyone ever builds a brick pizza oven, […]

  4. Joe says:

    If you live in a climate where frost is a issue (PA) how do you protect the foundation of the pizza oven?

    • Brian says:

      I live in Ohio, so frost is definitely an issue for me (in fact, I have about 8 inches of snow sitting on top of my oven right now). So in my research, I read about a couple of different methods.

      For my situation, I put down about 1 foot of stone beneath the foundation. I had to build up the foundation to make it level with my patio. This lets any water drain down to the ground and prevent freeze from being an issue.

      If you aren’t putting in that 12″ buildup of stone like I did, you can either use styrofoam insulation underneath of the concrete or dig a 6″ deep area, fill it with gravel, and cover it with plastic sheeting. Both methods should prevent any frost damage to the foundation.

  5. Fred Watkins says:

    Thank you for the very helpful info.
    I have 2 questions:

    1. Your outside detention for the oven is57″ but the slab is 70 y 80″

    2. I’m near Mansfield, oh. Can I come and see your oven?

    • Brian says:

      Hey Fred –

      1. That is correct. The reason that there seems to be “extra” room on the slab is because of the brick exterior. When the oven itself is complete, I need about 5 inches per wall for brick. After the brick is done, the oven will be right about to the edge of the slab.

      2. Sure, you’re welcome to come see my oven. I’ll email you and we’ll figure something out.

  6. Paulette Hansche says:

    I really found you by mistake, while I was searching on Bing for something else. I checked out your site and you do have some useful information on here. Just read a few other pages too. Keep up the wonderful work and thanks for sharing.

  7. Steve Gray says:

    Cool – looking for log bench ideas (I live on 40 acres in central AR) – really like your pizza oven. A project I need to consider. I like concrete, brick and block work anyway and have a ton of antique street bricks.

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