How to Build a DIY Pizza Oven
If you’re an avid entertainer, or if you’re raising a pack of hungry wolf-children, a DIY outdoor pizza oven is a fantastic project that will last for years, provide countless hours of entertainment and meals, and add value to your home. A great example is the brick oven below built by a Chicago Brick Oven customer.
A sturdy and sound pizza oven isn’t exactly the simplest thing to build in the world, however. After all, History.com notes that it took the Italian Queen Margherita until 1889 to finally be impressed by the offerings of Naples’ first pizzeria. It must have been good since her name stuck.
The challenge of building a masonry pizza oven comes from the necessity of a consistent, yet very hot, source of flame, according to Giordano’s. Some enthusiasts even go to as much care as to import an oven from Naples, though that may be overdoing it.
A residential brick oven is a home addition that will pay for itself in no time in the form of a comforting fire hearth, delicious home-cooked meals, and an impressive showcase if you ever decide to sell your home. Constructing your own brick pizza oven isn’t an easy task, however. We get asked all the time how to build an indoor or outdoor brick oven.
Before setting out on the challenge, here’s a bit of a reference guide on the steps you need to take before breaking ground, and a short summary of what the construction process looks like.
What to consider when building a brick oven
Choosing the right location
Any information on how to build a brick oven would be incomplete if it didn’t include some consideration of location. After all, a brick pizza oven is a permanent fixture; it’s not an easy task to pick up a structure weighing hundreds of pounds and attached by concrete to the ground.
The task of finding the right place for your new brick pizza oven can be made simpler by considering a few factors. Who will be using it? Do you want it to be nearby the patio, so serving is easier, or maybe closer to another feature like a pond or garden? You should also think about the overall appearance of your oven, and how well it will fit into its surroundings like the color or material of your home.
Materials and time
Speaking of materials, you won’t know how to make a pizza oven outside if you don’t have an idea about which materials to pick up. Depending on the type of oven you are building, the most common materials include gravel, concrete, rebar, ceramic fiber blanket, high-temperature mortar, refractory fire brick or another masonry.
The tools you’ll need also include woodworking tools like a circular saw, basic construction tools like a spirit level and shovels, and those needed for concrete construction like a mobile mixer and some kind of straight level.
It’s important to remember that the actual construction process of a brick oven is very time-consuming. Even if you can afford to devote all of your time and energy to the project for a while, parts of the project involve curing concrete which takes days at a minimum. It’s also a realistic assumption that you can’t spend every day of the week working on the oven, so your time to build is limited as well.
The construction process
Once you’ve assembled your materials and made a plan to get working, don’t forget to apply for a permit in your jurisdiction if one is necessary. In some cases, your county or city may not have a category for a pizza oven; it’s not a common addition, after all. In these cases, a permit for an outdoor fireplace usually works fine.
Building the Base
When you’re ready to break ground, you’ll start with digging out a base for your concrete foundation. How deep this foundation is depends on a number of factors, including the area’s climate, and the softness of your soil.
It may be tempting to pour concrete directly into your dig, but a dreaded cracked foundation is best avoided by putting down a level layer of gravel and a grid of rebar before pouring. This will help keep your foundation intact for years, and able to support a heavy brick oven on top of it.
For more in-depth base information, check out our blog post on Building a Pizza Oven Base. After the foundation is set, you’ll be spending the remainder of your time adding bricks layer by layer.
Building the oven dome
You can finally start adding a domed oven to the top of your brick base. If you've never built a brick pizza oven from scratch before, this will be the most daunting task. If any part of this process goes wrong, the consequences could range from cracks in your oven, poor circulation resulting in undercooked or burnt pizza (and a lot of smoke in your yard), or worst of all: A collapsed oven.
It sounds like a lot…
To be honest, it definitely is. Handling the construction of a brick pizza oven with nobody to rely on but yourself and an internet guide may be a recipe for disaster; or at minimum, some disappointing pizza. Don’t let this discourage you from a pizza oven, though! There’s always...
Pizza Oven DIY Kits
Before jumping into a project like this, it might be a good idea to consider using an outdoor pizza oven kit that will come with the elements you need to build an oven capable of the steady, evenly convected blaze that an authentic pizza needs to let its flavor shine through.
We recommend using a pizza oven kit to help you build your DIY pizza oven. By starting with a kit, you'll have the perfectly engineered oven dome for the final pizza oven’s design. Each kit will come with the exact instructions to build your oven so you can take the guesswork out of your DIY project.
When you are ready, there are several options to choose from at Patio and Pizza’s Oven Kit Collection page. We carry many oven kits in varying shapes and sizes, so finding one that suits your needs and budget won’t be a struggle!
Building kits for success
Avoiding unnecessary planning
Though we aren’t ones to make assumptions, it’s statistically likely you aren’t a tenth-generation Neapolitan mason; and that’s okay! An enthusiasm for DIY construction is enough to fuel your drive for this project, but a pizza oven’s design is the culmination of centuries’ worth of baking pies.
Building the entire thing yourself is a process fraught with potential pitfalls, since it entails constructing the vital dome oven top yourself, as generations of oven builders have done for centuries.
Finding a DIY kit that comes with exhaustive instructions, essential tools for the finished project, and most importantly, an oven base that’s modeled carefully after efficient and time-proven design for an optimal pizza oven setup will let you focus on building the oven, instead of how you might build the oven. That's how the CBO customer built the amazing pizza oven shown in this blog post.
Worry less about the final product
A DIY kit’s expert construction also confers the advantage of a finished product that won’t leave you wringing your hands in worry when you first fire it up. The combination of industry-approved design and skilled, deliberate craftsmanship are essential to the success of any project, but especially a pizza oven. Dome cracks, poor temperature management, or uneven heating are all potential issues that can befall a homemade oven, succinctly put by Pinkbird.
Kits also help you avoid making mistakes that can cost you both time, and money. Clear instructions and the correct building blocks for an oven come with the right kit and will be invaluable resources to keep you on track during the project. In other words, you won’t wash your hands after proclaiming victory only to find a brick missing when you light the firewood.
Choosing the right kit
Questions to ask yourself before starting this project should also include those about what you want your DIY pizza oven to look like when it’s finished. Depending on where you’d like to put your oven, whether or not you’d like to add artistic touches in the form of paints, stains, or tiles, and how large it should be, your decision on what the oven should look like can change.
The easiest method is to begin with an outdoor pizza oven kit, as DIY network points out. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of DIY pizza oven kits available in varying sizes, dome shapes, and support for varying kinds of masonry that can be used to build the roof and foundation of the oven. The right DIY kit should give you ample opportunity to tweak its superficial design to something that will look great, and more importantly, still cook great.
Wood or gas-fired?
The question of the century. Purists, like the industry experts at Chicago Brick Oven, will say that true pizza is cooked over a wood fire. That said, they also admit that a gas-fired oven has the advantages of maintaining the temperature inside the oven without constantly tending to a fire. This may be a valid concern if you’re attempting to be a party host with the most or are chasing down crazed children on the loose before dinnertime.
When it comes down to it, however, your decision won’t jeopardize the choices in DIY kits available to you. The wide variety of shapes and sizes that DIY pizza oven kits offer also extend to variations in gas or wood-fired designs that offer the same attention to detail, tradition, and enjoyable home use regardless of how it gets hot.
That being said, if you go with gas, try not to invite a Neopolitan over for your 4th of July party.
If a DIY project just isn't for you, don't fret because there is always another option!
Installing a prefabricated brick oven
A handmade, brick pizza oven can be installed with a fraction of the labor involved in building it yourself and comes with a fraction of potential pitfalls. Don't worry, you are definitely not cheating by not making on yourself! You’ll still need to site your new oven, build a sturdy foundation, and make customizations so that it will fit your home and yard.
When starting with an oven that was already built for you, you simply put it in place and build it in.
What Do You Need To Do Next?
If you’re ready to start a project that will let you, your family, and your dog spend countless hours outdoors cooking great food, then let us help you get the process started with one of our industry-standard DIY pizza oven kits. You’ll thank us when the kids stop asking for delivery.
Or, if you've decided a DIY project is too much, we also offer prefabricated, handmade pizza ovens. We have a large eclectic selection of ovens to match your taste, needs, and budget.
At the end of the process, you’ll have an awesome new centerpiece to your yard, delicious pizza, and a un-broken back.
As the Italians might say, benissimo!
Note: All CBO images were provided by Chicago Brick Ovens.
Helpful DIY Pizza Oven Links