Since helping friends to build a pizza oven on their bush block several years ago, we’ve wanted a pizza oven of our own. Pizza is a regular favourite in our household, we aspire to become regular bread bakers, and frankly we think we’ll be much more sociable once we have a nice outdoor entertaining area where we can cook good food and enjoy it al fresco with friends.
When designing our garden in Google Sketchup, a pizza oven was always given prominent point of place in our designs. But we became distracted by several years of planting fruit trees, building raised garden beds and having a baby.
With the front yard approaching a point of established productivity, and with Ben starting to find his own feet, it was finally time to start on the pizza oven. Over several months, the project was largely a civil engineering job. Firstly laying the gas and water mains pipes to the oven’s future location (for a water tap and for a mains gas burner outlet on the oven base structure), then laying the base slab, then the dry-stacked hollow concrete blocks (because I’m no bricklayer), then the suspended top slab, and finally the oven itself.
The bottom slab was a relatively easy pour with our cement mixer, which we co-purchased with our original pizza oven construction friends as an early investment in our pizza oven future.
The mortarless concrete bricks were really easy, and once filled with gravel were very solid and stable.
The top slab was somewhat more challenging, but once we worked out how to fit the formwork, it came together quickly. The trick was to cut out MDF formwork sections which fitted the gaps between the walls, which could later be removed after the top slab had cured, leaving the slab supported by the walls. These were held up initially on steel right angle brackets screwed into the brick walls, and were then bolstered with wooden posts prior to the concrete pour. The front curved form was made from several strips of thin MDF, laminated together, and was held in place by steel right angle brackets, screwed into the horizontal form.
By this stage, we’d decided that we wanted to polish the top concrete slab for a terrazzo effect (rather than opting for a tiled finish), so we ordered a delivery of strong (32MPa) concrete with mixed aggregate. Not having to mix, pour and lift the concrete made the job very quick and easy.
A week after the top pour, we hired a concrete polishing contractor to do the initial cut with his polishing machine. Then we could remove the formwork and admire the top slab and imagine the oven on top.
We’d long planned to construct the oven from recycled bricks, as per the bush block experience. With Christmas looming, however, and being realistic about the timeframe and effort involved, we had a fortuitous visit from an uncle who raved about a kit oven he’d installed at his place. It was music to our ears and we saw the sense in the kit oven approach. Not only would it get our oven project completed quickly, but it would arguably result in a better performing and better looking oven. We placed our order and it duly arrived a week later.
From there it was a relatively easy job to assemble and render the oven. The kit contained everything we needed: the refractory concrete oven sections; pre-cut hearth bricks; refractory cement powder to fill any gaps; insulating blanket, alfoil and chicken wire to cover the dome prior to rendering; detailed instructions and even a peel and brush for operating the oven. Easy. After a session of rendering and curing, our oven was complete. Just in time for Christmas.
So now it’s happy days. Pizza, bread, roasts, smoked fish and good times with friends.