This article is about how to build an outdoor brick pizza oven. If you’ve ever dreamed about backing homemade pizzas in a traditional Italian style brick oven, then you have to check out our project. However, the high cost of materials and scarcity of qualified professionals in this area might make it seem as impossible. Fortunately, you can build the wood fired pizza oven by yourself, in your backyard in just a few weeks. This diy project has an average difficulty, as you should cut the bricks using a wet saw and construct the dome brick oven. Nevertheless, you will find building the brick dome easier, if you read this article and pay attention to our tips.
First of all, you should start the project by building the foundation and the base of the oven. This is not a difficult procedure, providing you use the right materials and choose the correct location in your backyard. Make sure you dig the footings at the right depth (according to the soil structure, they should be between 1-2′ / 0.3-0.6 m). In addition, you should reinforce the foundation with a rigid structure of steel bars.
There are many models of pizza ovens, but you should choose the one which suits best your needs and tastes. In this article we will show you how to build a traditional dome oven, which both looks incredibly good and helps the pizzas to bake evenly, but you can change the plans as to fit your tastes perfectly. If you like the idea, you could add a cooking stove and several cabinets and turn your construction in a real outdoor kitchen.
When building the brick oven dome, you have to glue the bricks together with clay mortar. Remember that is essential to use this mix of sand and clay, as a cement based mortar would crack at high temperatures. On the other hand, we recommend you to sink the bricks in water before laying them into position, otherwise they would suck the moisture from the mortar.
In order to build an outdoor pizza oven, you need the following:
- 200 regular bricks – BRICKS
- 70-100 concrete blocks – BLOCKS
- Cement, gravel, rebars – COUNTERTOP
- 2×6 wooden boards – FORM
- 15-20 refractory bricks ( 9 x 4 1/2 x 3 ” ) – FIRE BRICKS
- Fire clay and sharp sand – FIRE MORTAR
- Flagstone / soapstone – CLADDING
- Shards of glass – INSULATION
- Safety gloves and glasses
- Brick saw
- Power mixer
- Hammer, utility knife
- Measuring tape, framing square, pencil, T-square
- Bucket, trowel
- Wheelbarrow, shovel
- Buy or rent a power mixer to save you from a hard work
- Pay attention to concrete recipes as they are essential for a proper job
- Use a mix of sand and fire clay to glue the bricks together
- Two weeks
Building a brick oven
The pizza oven’s chimney can take different forms and shapes: on one hand you can construct it from bricks or you could buy a steel chimney. The first method looks a lot better and it is more efficient, while the steel chimney is easier to install. In addition, before building the outdoor pizza oven, you have to draw a detailed plan, in which to write down the dimensions and the needed materials. From our experience, it is hard to build the brick dome without knowing from the very first moment all the details regarding its construction.
Smart tip: Building an outdoor pizza oven is quite expensive if you hire qualified professionals (up to 5000 dollars), but you can still have a brick dome in your backyard if you are willing to do it by yourself (in this case it will cost you around 500-800 $). The labor represents almost 50% of the total cost, therefore you could save a great amount of money if you undertake the project by yourself.
How to build the base of the pizza oven
First of all, you have to build a sturdy foundation for the pizza oven. Therefore, you need to dig about 10-12” in the ground, using a shovel. Next, we recommend you to pour a 2” layer of gravel and compact it thoroughly.
Install a wooden form (using 2×6 slats secured with stakes) and a net of rebars. Prepare a small quantity of concrete and fill the form. Level the foundation, by pulling a straight edge along the sides of the form.
Let the concrete to dry out perfectly for at least 2 days, before building the base of the outdoor pizza oven. Therefore, you have to lay concrete blocks on the concrete slab and glue them together with cement based mortar. Use a spirit level to ensure the walls are perfectly plumb.
Smart tip: If you are an amateur handyman or you haven’t worked before with bricks, we recommend you to use string to guide you. Therefore place one blocks at the beginning and another at end of the course and tie a string to their exterior.
Next, you have to build the concrete countertop, which will support the cooking floor and the brick dome. The procedure is straight forward, as you need to build a wooden form from 2×4 slats (supported by 4×4 posts) and install a dense net of rebars. The countertop should be about 6” thick, but it depends on the weight of the oven.
Mix a small quantity of and fill the wooden form. As you can see in the image, you have to place spacers under the net of reinforcement bars, otherwise the concrete won’t be rigid enough to support the weight.
Building the pizza oven’s cooking floor
The very first thing you should do is to draw a circle on the base of the future pizza oven. Consequently, you should decide where you want to be the center of the oven, and mark it with a pencil. Next, fix a nail or a screw on the mark and tie a string to it.
The length of the string will be equal to the radius of the circle – in our case it is 17”/45 cm. At he end of the string you should attach a pencil, as to be able to draw the circle, making sure the center stays fix throughout the procedure.
Next, cut small pieces of bricks (1.5”x5” / 4 cm x 12 cm) and install them around the round circle, as to define a shape similar to the one you can see in the image. In order to fix the bricks, you could use a regular mortar.
Remember that this will be the outer perimeter of the pizza oven and not the interior one.
Smart tip: If you use shards of glass under the cooking floor, the heat will last longer inside the pizza oven.
After you have placed the glass, you should cover it with a thick layer of fine sand, as to prepare the bed for installing the fire bricks. Next, lay down the refractory bricks leaving between them about 1/2” or 1 cm.
You can notice in the image, that you have to cut the bricks as to be as close as possible to the circular shape underneath them. In order to cut the bricks, you should use a brick saw, just remember to use a respiratory mask and safety glasses.
The next step is to fill the gaps between the refractory bricks using a mix of fine sand, fire clay and water, in the following proportion: 4 parts of fine sand, 6 parts of fire clay and enough water to get a mix with the consistency of butter.
Smart tip: It is essential to use the right mix of mortar, as if you add a lower proportion of sand, the clay will crack after it dries out.
Next, we have to complete the base of the pizza oven, by installing a flagstone counter-top. Consequently, you have to fasten wooden boards on all sides of the platform, as to create a form. Remember to use a level, to check if the wooden boards are level.
Prepare mortar for the flagstones using the following recipe: 3 parts fine sand, 3 parts cement and 2 parts of gravel. When installing the flagstones, use a mallet and a spirit level to make them level.
The space between the flagstones should be as small as possible, so pay attention to this detail, otherwise your countertop will look bad, even after you fill the gaps. You should wait several days until the mortar has dried out, until you can begin building the brick pizza oven. Fill the gaps between the flagstones with colored mortar, to enhance the pattern of the counter-top.
Smart tip: Before installing the flagstone, you could make several tries as to find the most beautiful pattern.
Building the outdoor pizza oven
Before beginning to lay down the bricks, you should draw another circle on the cooking floor, in the same manner as described before. In order to fix the bricks, you should mix fire clay, fine sand and water, in the following proportions: 4 parts of fine sand, 6 parts of fire clay and water.
Smart tip: Cut the bricks in half, as to describe a nice circle. The first layer of bricks should be perfectly parallel with the oven’s floor, as you can easily notice in the image.
The second layer of bricks must be lain, in the same manner. Just use fire clay and fine sand to glue the brick together. The cut side of the bricks must be positioned outwards or lateral of the rows.
Smart tip: Use a sponge to clean the clay off the bricks, after installing them. In this way you will get a beautiful looking brick pizza oven. After the mortar hardens, it would be difficult to remove it off the bricks.
Remember that the next row of bricks must be centered on the gap between the bricks of the previous layer. In this manner, an old masonry techniques, you construct a strong pizza oven, which will last many years, as to enjoy home made pizzas.
Smart tip: Use plastic gloves when laying out the bricks, as to protect your skin. Work with great care and good judgement, to obtain a professional result.
In this image you can see the brick pizza oven, from a different angle. You should be able to notice the way in which the brick rows are constructed. In addition, you should notice the rectangular hole, placed at the entrance of the pizza oven. It has a very important role, as you should pull the embers there, after the wood has burned.
Remember that you have to clean the mortar off the bricks, at least on the interior face of the pizza oven, otherwise the residues would fall off on the food.
Clean the inward oriented faces of the bricks, using water and a sponge. This aspect is important, as after the clay mix will dry, it would be more difficult to remove it from the bricks. Pay attention to this step, making sure you don’t move the bricks from position.
Work patiently and attentively, as if you hurry you increase the chances of doing something wrong. Pay attention to our tips, as this project is pretty difficult for unexperienced diyers.
We have already said that our project contains also an outdoor stove, so you can see it in the right side of the image. However, the chimney will have two channels: one for the outdoor pizza oven and one for the cooking stove. Next, it is time to start building the chimney base, as shown in the image.
Smart tip: If you want just a simple oven, build the chimney above the entrance of the dome. Therefore, the smoke will come out directly trough the chimney, without having to build a channel.
Starting with the third row of bricks, you should lay them tilted toward inside of the brick dome. Consequently, you should make sure the bricks are aligned with the previous layers, and add more clay mix, as to be able to tilt them.
Work with patience, and verify often if the shape of the brick pizza oven is symmetric, as to prevent any mistake. If you aren’t sure about this aspect, we strongly suggest you to take a break of a few days, to clear your mind before continuing the oven.
Building pizza oven’s entrance
Next, add another two layers of bricks in the same manner described above. You should notice, that the walls of the oven’s entrance are shaped perfectly plumb.
Make sure the inside joints are clogged with clay mix, otherwise the pizza oven won’t be able to maintain the heat inside for a long time. If you have built your dome up to this stage, it means that you are very close to finishing your pizza oven in a professional manner.
You should make a support for the entrance arch from a polystyrene board. Next, cut the bricks and place them over the support, leaving an equal space between them.
As the arch will float, we have to use a stronger mortar than fire clay mixed with sand. Consequently, it would be better to use cement based mortar: 3 parts cement, 5 parts fine sand and water. Secure the bricks into position and then use a clean sponge with water, to clean the mortar.
Remember that you have to leave the arch support into position for several days, until the mortar dries out completely.
Till we can continue building the pizza oven, we can construct the chimney. As you can see in the picture, we will install inside the chimney a metal sheet oven, which will be heated by the smoke coming from the stove. We will show you in another article how to build the outdoor stove; until then, we have to build the base of the chimney for the pizza oven (in the right of the arch).
After the mortar holding the entrance arch has dried out, we can continue building the pizza oven, by adding the other layers of bricks. Consequently, the dome should look similar to the one you can see in the picture.
In the left side of the image, you can notice the hole through witch the smoke will exit the pizza oven, as in the right you should see top of the oven, where we have to install the cornerstone, as to complete the dome.
Continue constructing the wood fired pizza oven, by building the sides of the channel driving the smoke to the main chimney. Make sure the bricks are secured properly with cement based mortar, as they have to resist over time.
Smart tip: Building a brick chimney is a more complex job than buying a steel chimney, but it is more efficient and better looking as compared to a steel chimney. Eventually your effort will pay off, so be confident on your skills.
After installing the top bricks, in order to finish the dome, the wood fired pizza oven looks like this. In the image, you can notice that the oven hasn’t been yet covered with any protective insulation. Nevertheless, you should cover the oven with vermiculite mortar, to make it durable.
You can see the exit hole for the smoke, which is placed above the entrance arch. In order to verify if you have build the outdoor oven correctly, you could make a small fire and see if the smoke will exit the dome through the intended place.
Next, clear the dust and any other residues placed inside the smoke channel, by using a brush. This is important, as in time the soot and the mortar residues might even clog the chimney and damage it irreversibly.
Therefore, take this step seriously and clean thoroughly the channel to prevent any problem. Then, verify the chimney before installing the top of the smoke channel, to see if there are residues left or forgotten tools.
Last but not least, we finished the smoke channel by installing the missing bricks. In order to secure them, we used fire clay mixed with fine sand and water, in the following proportions: 4 parts of fine sand, 6 parts of fire clay and water, as to get a compound with the consistency of cream.
The outdoor wood fired pizza oven is now almost completed, just make sure there are no gaps where the smoke might get out.
Use a clean sponge and water, to clean the surface of clay residues, as after the mortar dries out, this operation would be almost impossible.
Smart tip: Leave the clay mix to dry out properly, before making a fire inside the pizza oven. Usually, this takes about one week, but it varies according to the weather and climate conditions, specific to your location.
This project is a complex one, but it will pay off the investment to the last penny, when you cook the first pizza in it. Choosing the right bricks for the job is essential for your project, even though they might cost more than low quality products.
Smart tip: You should clean all your tools as well as the location of your new outdoor kitchen with a wood fired pizza oven. You can see the rest of the project in the other parts of this complex project. Nevertheless, you could build just the brick oven, without the stove and the concrete cabinets.
Thank you for reading our article on how to build an outdoor pizza oven and we recommend you to check out the rest of our outdoor projects. Please share our projects with your friends, by using the social media widgets.