Building your own wood oven can seem like a very rewarding Do It Yourself project. We can see the appeal!
You produce something that looks fantastic. Something that brings a hint of tradition to your property with the potential to produce gourmet pizzas and breads. Your family and friends will all be very impressed… you get great food whenever you want it! Sounds perfect…. While it can be a fantastic and successful experience, it is not without its challenges – be warned!
To help you out, we detail six common mistakes that people make when building a wood oven Once you know these mistakes, you can look at ways to avoid them
6 Mistakes to avoid when building your wood oven
Choosing the wrong site
There are several key things you need to consider when selecting the site. The heat and the smoke are two of the most important. Choose a well ventilated area (or an area where an exhaust fan at the top doesn’t send smoke into your home).
Consider neighbors windows and washing lines, proximity to dwellings, and general wind directions. Also recognize that they are very hot. Make sure that you leave enough space around the oven so that you don’t melt anything and adhere to any local council or building regulations. Also ensure you are able to comfortably operate the oven with the door open. Seems obvious we know but a lot of people get this wrong.
The height of the wood oven from the floor
Measure the height of the oven opening relative to the floor where you will be standing when operating the oven 1.2m to 1.4m will generally suit most people. You will want to be able to comfortably stand without crouching and be able to see the back bottom corner of the oven where the floor meets the back wall of the oven If you need to bend to see that point, it’s too low.
Again this seems obvious but it is hard to change if you get wrong. It also means you won’t spend a lot of time bending down trying to pull your food out of the wood oven — which isn’t a lot of fun. So measure this before you start building.
Remember the foundations
Wood fire pizza ovens aren’t light They can weigh up to 500kg or more. Yes the bricks and materials are heavy and the overall weight can quickly add up.
As such you need strong foundations that go into the ground at least 20cm. Ask a builder or your local hardware store for advice. Oven bases can be made from a myriad of resources.
People have used steel frames, galvanized water tanks, stone walls, concrete slabs and brick structures. Regardless of your choice, it needs to support the required weight, be durable and solid and ideally resist heat absorption (you don’t want it to suck the heat out of your oven.
Best to get advice tailored to your specific installation straight up, or use the services of a friend who knows about building.
Get this wrong and you have a very dangerous pizza oven indeed!
It may be tempting to go build the biggest wood oven that fits in the space you have available, sure bigger is better right?
You definitely don’t want to build something too small that you won’t be able to use it effectively. The size of your oven will dictate a few things. Namely
- How long the oven will take to reach optimum temperature — bigger ovens take longer to heat up
- How much wood you will go through when using the oven – Large ovens will use more fuel to maintain the same heat as smaller ovens
- When would you be using your oven — is this something you’re building for regular weekly or mi-week meals or something you’ll use only for birthdays and the odd family get together. If it’s for larger events, you may want to cook more things at once.
- What are you likely to cook – Too small an oven and you could possibly only fit a single maybe two pizzas at a time and that’s about it. Larger ovens can accommodate a few trays of meats and vegetables for slow cooking bliss.
It’s about choosing a size that both fits your space and purpose having taken the above into account.
Not using adequate materials
Using materials that are appropriately fire-rated is essential. Yes they may be more expensive, but they are also fire proof! Something you’ll appreciate when you have a 400 degree celcius fire burning on the inside of the structure. They’ll also help with retaining heat in the oven allowing for a full heat cycle of cooking often lasting overnight with proper insulation.
Don’t do this and it can backfire in a big way. Nothing worse than seeing your pizza oven and all that hard work come crumbling down, worst of all with your pizza inside.
Not properly drying the wood oven out before use
Through the oven building process, it is essential that drying out of all moisture content of your materials happens gradually and is not accelerated. If the oven dries out too fast, or is not completely dried out when you start firing it to high temperatures, you will undoubtedly start to see cracks appear both inside the firing chamber and on the finished outside surface.
Slow gradual drying, while lengthy and time consuming, is necessary so that shrinkage and expansion of the construction materials is moderated.
The above information is not intended to scare you. Far from it. It just shows you the mistakes that can happen when building your own wood fired pizza oven. Use these to help you stay on track and build a perfect wood fired oven that you and your family can enjoy for years to come.