How To Build a Wood Fired Pizza Oven in Your Backyard

$5000
6 Months
Advanced

Have you ever had real Neapolitan pizza? It's cooked in a wood-fired pizza oven at around 1000 degrees, and only takes 90 seconds to cook. It's also insanely delicious. I became obsessed with the idea of building a pizza oven in my backyard, despite having no masonry experience at all, and ended up with an amazing outdoor kitchen.
It's the perfect outdoor entertaining space, and we can feed a crowd--easily, deliciously, and quickly! It's dinner and a show, all in one.
A concrete pad and simple dry-stacked concrete block wall created a solid foundation. I did this all myself. While I was pregnant. I nest with power tools.
The floor of the oven came next--a counter height concrete slab on which I'd build my brick oven dome.
The firebrick dome was built over the course of the long Thanksgiving weekend.
We built the enclosure out of metal studs and concrete backerboard. No fire should ever get out there anyway, but it never hurts to be extra careful! That's a picture of me signing my masterpiece. Nobody will ever see it, since it's enclosed, but I know it's there! ;-)
Finishing touches--stone veneer. I did so many squats applying the stone! Best leg workout ever.
And the end result? AMAZING pizza. We actually can get three days of cooking from the retained heat from a pizza fire. Pizza the first night, artisan breads the next morning (500ish degrees), calzones and lasagna made from leftover pizza ingredients the second night (375ish degrees), and then low, slow cooked things like beans or some meats overnight and into the third day (225 degrees). I love my WFO!
Nikki Wills

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

Go

Have a question about this project?

22 questions
  • Candy
    on Apr 13, 2016

    Does the outside of the oven stay hot? Is it dangerousness for the kids to be around?

    • Nikki Wills
      on Apr 13, 2016

      @Candy Not at all, it's very well insulated. I have fiberglass refractory insulation over the dome, then air space, and then the walls of the enclosure are made out of cement backerboard. It's totally outside air temperature, even when the fire is raging! (Of course, in Phoenix, that can be quite hot just from the sun ;-) ) I do keep kids away from the front of the oven, just like a fireplace, of course.

  • Candy
    on Apr 13, 2016

    How long does it take to heat it? I'm so impressed with your enginuity!!

    • Nikki Wills
      on Apr 13, 2016

      @Candy It takes about an hour to get the oven up to full heat. You can tell it's at heat when the dome of the oven turns white instead of black.

  • Deb
    on Apr 13, 2016

    Nicely done! Do you use the space underneath for wood?

    • Nikki Wills
      on Apr 13, 2016

      I intended too, but honestly, it's too deep for convenient wood storage! We only end up keeping a few logs under there, the ones we use for the fire that night.

    • Pamela Montgomery
      on Apr 27, 2016

      Looks like a nice doghouse underneath. Maybe not when the fire is burning but other than that.

  • Giselle
    on Apr 13, 2016

    Amazing! Was the $5,000 just the cost of the oven or your entire entertaining area?

    • Nikki Wills
      on Apr 13, 2016

      @Giselle The entire entertaining area, including having the pavers installed (turns out I'm not good at that ;-) ) and the whole outdoor kitchen (including sink and fridge, 4 burner cooktop, and grill--the whole thing came from Sam's club and just looks built in). Oh, and the teak dining set (Craigslist for the win!).

    • Giselle
      on Apr 14, 2016

      Wow! Great job!

  • But208456
    on Apr 14, 2016

    If you don't mind. How tall and wide is the inside of the oven? I have already started this project and very excited. Thanks I'm Butch from Fla.

    • Nikki Wills
      on Apr 15, 2016

      @Butchehall The interior of my oven is a 42" circle, and it's a dome shape, so the oven is roughly 21" at its highest point. Have fun with your build!

    • But208456
      on Apr 16, 2016

      @Nikki Wills I think you did an awesome job. Will you give me an idea of about how many brick it took? I have located all the materials. The brick were the hardest. 2 days comparing prices and I found them for 2.36 each.

    • Nikki Wills
      on Apr 17, 2016

      Eek, it was 7 years ago and I don't remember at all, sorry! I think you can get a good estimate from the materials list in the free plans from forno bravo.

    • But208456
      on Apr 20, 2016

      Can I use styrofoam between the concrete slab and the firebrick floor?

  • Doris
    on Apr 14, 2016

    Is the roofing out of stone too?

  • Chris Keating
    on Apr 18, 2016

    Was the pizza oven a kit or was it custom made? I love this project and would love to do something similar. I can't even get a patio done for 5k.

    • Nikki Wills
      on Aug 21, 2016

      I did the homemade route, but followed the free instruction book from fornobravo.com. It would have been more expensive to purchase a pre-cast dome oven kit. Still less than hiring a mason to do it, though!

  • Buffy
    on Jun 25, 2016

    I would love to know how you made the wooden structures that hold your light strings.

    • Nikki Wills
      on Aug 21, 2016

      Those are just two 8x8 poles sunk into the ground (in concrete, and two 1x8 boards screwed to either side of the tops of the poles. Super easy construction!

    • Carolyn Sandison
      on Aug 28, 2016

      How much did all the materials cost?

  • Borge Zierke
    on Aug 21, 2016

    Are the bottom firebricks the same as the dome and what brand of mortar did you use? TY

    • Nikki Wills
      on Aug 21, 2016

      Yes, you need to use the same firebricks for the base of the oven (there's sheet insulation beneath to help the heat radiate back up). I forget the name of the mortar brand I used, but it's a special refractory mortar designed for high heat applications. It's nice and sticky and easy to use, too. When you find a firebrick supplier, ask them for the right mortar, too. They'll carry it.

  • Pamela
    on Aug 22, 2016

    There appears to be a 'surface' between the concrete and the 'floor' of the firebricks; if so, can you elaborate? THX. Nice work!!

    • Nikki Wills
      on Aug 22, 2016

      It's a refractory insulating foam sheet. If you don't insulate beneath the firebrick floor, it'll be a HUGE heat sink and make the oven very inefficient.

  • Beth Greenway Shaffer
    on Feb 26, 2017

    Please tell me what kind of fire brick you used? also where did you purchase your fire brick from? BTW AWESOME job on your pizza oven... LOVE it!!!!

    • Nikki Wills
      on Feb 27, 2017

      I used firebrick to build my oven, and that's very important. If you use just regular bricks not meant for use in a high heat environment, they'll spall (flake off). You can get firebricks at any local masonry supply in your area. Be sure to use refractory mortar, too! It's meant to take the high heat and is nice and sticky, which makes building the dome much easier.

    • Mary McDonald
      on Mar 2, 2017

      Yes, I love your little igloo! We would practice as kids just like the Inuit up north, but the snow has to be just right and ours would eventually crash in.

  • Mag13293962
    on Feb 27, 2017

    What do you use the large space under the counter height oven for?

    • 15330759
      on Feb 27, 2017

      The fire?

    • 15330759
      on Feb 27, 2017

      The wood storage?

    • Nikki Wills
      on Feb 27, 2017

      wood storage, exactly. But honestly, we only keep a bit of wood under there, because it's so deep that we don't want to have to go crawling way back to fetch the wood!

    • Lynn
      on Mar 3, 2017

      I live in an area that spiders love to grow in, so I'm with Nikki, no crawling under to fetch wood. Although, a roll out wood stacker would be nice. 😊

  • Jonathan Lane
    on Feb 28, 2017

    Do you lose heat out of the flue stack or do you have a chimney cap to retain?

    • Nikki Wills
      on Feb 28, 2017

      Some heat is definitely lost out of the flue, there's nothing there to help retain it. The plans from Forno Bravo that I used to build didn't mention anything of the sort, and I was a complete beginner when I built this (honestly, still am!) and never even considered such a thing.

    • Mark Binns
      on Mar 1, 2017

      It is common practice to add an insulated inner door to retain heat once the fire is extinguished.

    • Mary McDonald
      on Mar 2, 2017

      Well, whatever you did Nikki, it obviously works just fine. Everyone's a cook! Lol

  • Karen Kalau
    on Mar 3, 2017

    I thought cinderblock was toxic

    • AdriMarie Taylor
      on Mar 3, 2017

      Not sure but with the way it is built, she doesn't actually cook on cinderblock

    • Morgan
      on Mar 4, 2017

      Lets review. 1. The foundation was built using the cinderblock. 2. a wood form was built around the top and 3. a thick layer of concrete was poured to form the base of the oven. 4. Firebrick was used to form the oven proper and 5. the oven was then insulated and surrounded with fireproof materials. The photographs are very clear that NO cooking is done on the cinder block. Toxicity from it is not a concern in this matter.

    • Carl Dahle
      on Mar 5, 2017

      They are Concrete blocks.

    • Karen Ballou
      on May 31, 2017

      the concrete blocks are away from the heat. It has a concrete base for the oven that rests between the oven and the concreye blocks.
    • Anne Gideon
      on Jul 28, 2017

      Only the base-not involved in the actual oven, is cinderblock

    • Davey
      on Oct 31, 2017

      You should not eat cinderblocks


    • Rra31823953
      on Apr 10, 2018

      Love it

    • Mcd33404438
      on May 28, 2018

      I eat cinder blocks but I have to use a jackhammer for a toothpick.

  • Mar21968044
    on Apr 7, 2017

    Fantastic job. Where did you get the plans?
  • Tana
    on Apr 23, 2017

    Love the pizza oven. Not sure how to cook in one, but do you think one would hold up in Northern Illinois? Lots of rain in the season and we can't forget snow an ice. Would it possibly crack?
    • Nikki Wills
      on Apr 23, 2017

      There are lots of people on the Forno Bravo forums who built in cold climates! Northern England, Switzerland, Minnesota... You do have to dig a deeper foundation to avoid frost heave, but that's the only difference in construction, I believe. That's not something I had to research, but I'll bet the people on the FB forums would be full of great advice for you.

    • Ella Hockenberry
      on Jul 29, 2017

      My daughter has one in their backyard here in Cental PA.

  • Jodi Lyn Biasiucci
    on Jun 5, 2018

    i wish there were more step by step plans.....like what is the white layers on the dome before the frame around was placed and what was the chimney made out of and what would did you use on the entrance to the stove

    • Nikki Wills
      on Jun 6, 2018

      I linked to Forno Bravo, where I got the incredibly robust, free plans for building the oven. I'd head to them for all the details! (Their forum is also full of incredibly helpful people!) . I used refractory insulating blanket on top of the dome (bought from Forno Bravo). People also often use a vermiculite mixture to insulate. The chimney is made out of chimney flue pieces from my local masonry supply. The lintel to the oven door was a cut up piece of an old steel bedframe. You can also buy lintels, or if you're a better mason than I am, make an arched entrance.

  • Kris
    on Jun 14, 2018

    Just out of curiosity could this be used as a kiln since it gets hot?

    • Nikki Wills
      on Jun 15, 2018

      I'm not sure it gets quite hot enough for that, but I know people who have melted glass in their ovens!

  • Ofe33670537
    on Jun 25, 2018

    hi, you have made a beautiful project.

    is it possible to have a drawing with measurments?

    • Nikki Wills
      on Jun 26, 2018

      The excellent free plans I used from Forno Bravo (link in the blog post) have all the exact information and measurements you need to build one for yourself!

    • DAVID P
      on Jul 17, 2018

      very good article by the way. The pizza oven came out beautiful just to answer some of these questions. Anybody can do this. You don’t even need to know how to read a tape measure. You can do a little bit as you go and learn from your experience. I also build one from Forno bravo completely from the hip. Did all the labor by myself with some help from my lovely wife. But I tell you. You don’t have to be exact now leaving close and you can create something incredible just like this woman did

  • Eli
    on Jul 31, 2018

    Hey

    When you said you cooked for 2 or 3 days with the retained heat, where there still flames/ burning coals? Or was all the fire extinguished and it still retained the heat?


    Thanks!

    • Nikki Wills
      on Aug 1, 2018

      All the flames and coals were completely extinguished for that extended cooking. It was just the built-up heat in the firebrick!

    • Krafty Mrs.K
      on May 21, 2019

      How thick is your fire brick?? is It Hard brick or Soft brick.

      My kiln has 3 inches of soft firebrick but it is cooled to room temp in less than 24 hours. That is after a stoneware firing to 2200 degrees.

      We did cook hot dogs and soft pretzel in the kilns at college.

  • Robert L Rodriguez
    on Sep 6, 2018

    How many brick you use y the proyect

    • Nikki Wills
      on Sep 6, 2018

      Oh man, I'm sure I knew at one point, but that was years ago at this point! I'm sure the plans I used from Forno Bravo (linked to in the post) have an accurate count in the materials list.

  • Fritz Lee
    on Nov 18, 2018

    Would you share your technical designs.... Love your creation.

    • Nikki Wills
      on Nov 19, 2018

      I got the plans from fornobravo.com . The plans--and the message board full of builders ready to answer any questions--are exactly what you'll want and need to build one!

Join the conversation

4 of 117 comments
  • Srebrenka Bogovic
    on Apr 3, 2018

    Shouldn't the interior be lined with fire-resisting bricks. Cinder blocks & cement will "blow up" under such high heat.

    • Nikki Wills
      on Apr 3, 2018

      The dome and floor of the oven is made with firebrick and high heat refractory mortar, not cinderblock, and rests on refractory insulation. The cinderblock is only for the oven base, and is completely insulated from the heat. You're right, regular bricks or cinderblock would spall at those temperatures!

  • Eli
    on Jul 31, 2018

    This is incredible! The coolness factor of your house just skyrocketed!!!

Your comment...