There are few things that make us long more for summer than the warm embrace of the sun, soaking our face while we spend idle afternoons in the garden. These sunny days are, of course, prime opportunity to fire up our barbecues.
In addition to having a barbecue though, there are many who wish to add a rustic touch to the garden with a brick oven. It’s simply the best way to bake fresh bread and amazing pizzas, filling the neighbourhood with wonderful smells and providing a talking point at any social event!
Take notes and, as always, be inspired!
To build a robust and durable brick oven you need to have a meticulous plan because, after all, it’s a construction that’s supposed to stay put for several decades.
The first question you should ask is where to build the oven in the garden. We know that this sound mundane but it’s absolutely pivotal. If the oven is too close to the house then the fumes and smoke can damage the façade and become a nuisance.
The same applies for neighbouring houses as you want to avoid any disputes.The oven site must also allow you enough space to manoeuvre and cook, which means that the area must at least make room for a table to be placed close by so that it can assist cooking preparations.
There are also a few important questions to ask regarding the floor. Is the floor fixed? Is there a chance that the terrain underneath the oven could shift in the coming months or years? Are there aquifers directly under the stove? A solid floor is essential in order to lay the foundations of your brick oven.
The foundations are, after the furnace, the most important element of the brick oven and should be as stable as possible as it will support the mass of the structure. The base plate should be between 120cm x 120cm and 200cm x 200cm and about 20cm thick.
After you have taken the necessary measurements of the floor, you can lay down the foundations. It's best if you excavate the soil a little bit to give yourself enough space for the subsequent structure. We recommend to dig to a depth of 20cm-30cm.
The soil of the excavated area should be strengthened well with a hand tamper to ensure that the base will be stable. Next fill the area with gravel and create a formwork to set the boundaries of the base. Use a spirit level to ensure that the base plate is straight and level.
The next step will be to fill the formwork with a concrete mix (it’s best to ask an expert on what is the best mixture).
You should use a reinforcement, including a filling of 10cm, followed by another layer of concrete. It’s important to ensure that surface is flattened out, while the foundation will need a waiting period of two weeks to solidify.
When you are making a DIY brick oven, using natural stones will be a real eye-catcher. You can also use aerated concrete blocks, which can be painted after the construction is finished. In the case of the stones, it’s best if you try a mock run and see how they fit together before building the body. It’s important to ensure that the stones are placed edge-to-edge, especially when it comes to the bottom plate.
To join the stones together you can use a specialist adhesive. You should remember that this procedure will require a lot of patience and delicate hands as the adhesive will need some time to dry out. As you build the bottom plate, gradually work your way up with rows of stones to reach the optimum height you wish for your oven.
Once the base is set you must allow it to harden. In the meantime, you can prepare the top round arch that gives the oven its typical appearance.
The template of the arch is made out of two insulated panels, which are later cut to create the baking entrance. The stones will be lined around the arch and there there are, of course, many ways to design this.
In the image shown above, for example, instead of an arch a square top was used, which is equally practical.
Before building the baking surface a concrete layer must be initially set upon the base. The concrete slab should be about 3cm-4cm thick. At this stage you should recheck that the set stones are firmly arranged and not at an angle that could hinder the structure.
It’s important to make sure that the baking surface will not cool down quickly as this will impact cooking. You should place an insulation plate between the brick base and concrete slab, which will prevent direct contact between the two layers. The insulation should be heat resistant and sustain high pressure. We recommend to use a foam glass.
The baking chamber is undeniably the heart of your brick oven. There are many forms a baking chamber can take, with round and square being the most popular. For a round chamber we recommend a 10cm-12cm thick dome made out of refractory concrete.
As a starting point, you can form the baking chamber by using moistened sand. Once the sand cools down and hardens into a stable form, cover it with refractory concrete, from which the subsequent chamber will be made. Regarding the concrete mix, it will be best to follow the product instructions or ask an expert.
Finally, the brick oven will need an appropriate chimney for the smoke to escape. The chimney will be set on the top of the oven so that the resulting heat can flow out as easily. A simple stovepipe is an excellent option for this purpose.
After you have completed the baking chamber and the chimney your brick oven is almost set, apart from a few details. You should install heat insulation between the roof and the oven, which ensures heat is stored for baking. We also recommend leaving a gap between the oven and the roof and use waterproof material for the roof.
Oh, and lest we forget, start building your oven at the beginning of spring so it’s ready to be fired up in the barbecue season… happy cooking!
More more tasty ideas, check out these: Fantastic Wood Burning Stoves.