My adventures in building a brick oven in my backyard
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did you get the plans?
My main source of inspiration was "The Bread Builders" book by Alan Scott. It's cheap and easy to find online and contains one set of plans.

Can I buy the plans from you?
I don't sell plans but I do have a Construction CR ROM available which contains more than 400 high quality pictures I took while building my oven. My CD ROM combined with Alan Scott's "The Bread Builders" book should give you the answers to all your questions. 

How big is the inside of your oven?
The inside of the oven is roughly 34" X 38"
How did you cut the bricks?
I used this

Where can I find Vermiculite?
I bought mine from a local manufacturer but I've seen bags of Vermiculite in the garden section of Home Depot. Give them a call and see if they can order you a couple of bags. If you can't find Vermiculite, you can use Perlite. Usually also available at  Home Depot.

Do the stainless steel pipes go the full length of the dome?

How much did it cost to build the oven?
Roughly $1,500 (US). For a breakdown click here

What are the dimensions of the flue liner?
The flue liner I bought is 2 feet in height.The ouside measurements of the flue liner are 8.5"X8.5". The inside measurements are 7"X7".

How wet is the Vermiculite/Cement mixture?
Not very wet,
about the consistency of damp sand.

Do I need special concrete for the cladding?
If you use you oven recreationally, you're fine with regular Portland cement. If you going to use the oven often (as in commercially), you will want to look into using refractory cement.

Are you happy with your cheap Craftsman thermometer?
Yep, recommend it to anybody willing to spend $30.

For the thermocouple in the floor of the oven, did you run the wire under all the fire bricks and where did the wires end up?
I drilled a hole through the concrete and insulation slab. The wire comes out in the space where I keep the wood. It's long enough so I have it routed to the front of the oven where the rest of the thermocouple wires are.

Where did you learn to bake? Where do you get your dough receipes from?
I get most of my receipes from cookbooks. I don't have any secret receipes. I can highly recommend "The Breadbaker's Apprentice" book.

How do you start a good fire?
You will need dry logs of wood (I use oak wood), some newspaper and some dry small sticks. Lay 2 logs along side eachother with about 8" gap between them. The ends of the logs should point front-to-back. In the gap between the logs, crumple up a couple of sheets of newspaper. Next, lay the small sticks of wood across the gap. The sticks should rest on the logs and point side-to-side. Light the newspaper and keep adding small branches to the top. Gradually increase the size of the branches you put on top. Always make sure there is a clear path for air to get to the fire. This is the reason why initially, you lay the first logs facing front-to-back. You want to start the fire towards the opening  of the oven in the beginning and as the heat increases, push it back further to the back. If you start he fire in the back, you'll have a lot of problems trying to light it. I usually move the fire to the back after about 15-20 minutes.
When I'm done baking for the day, I always throw about 10 logs of wood into the oven and close it off. This will dry out they wood very well for the next firing. I live in Floriday so we have a lot of humidity here.

Do you have to face the oven a certain way?
If possible, try to face the opening away from any prevailing winds.

Would you do anything differently?
I would wait longer to put on the stucco. I don't think the cement/vermiculite mixture was completely dry when I put stucco on it. Because of the moisture, the oven didn't heat as efficiently as it should have in the first couple of months. As long you have ventilation for the moisture to escape, you're fine.

How do I twist the thermocouple wires? Do I need to solder anything?
No need to solder anything. Just take both wires between you thumb and index finger and twist away. Nothing to it.
What protective cover do I need for the thermocouple inside the oven bricks?
Since the wire is burried inside your brick, there is no need for additional protection. The brick offers protection.

What's the deal with the height ratio between the oven door and dome?
If the ratio is between 63% and 67%, you will have a perfect airflow. (fresh air enters through the bottom half and smoke escapes through the top half). If the ration is less than 63%, the fire will have difficulty to burn. If the ratio is greater than 67%, too much heat will escape. If the dome height is 100%, your oven door should ideally be between 63% & 67%.
If this doesn't make sense, it's time to call your math teacher :)

How did you make the fireclay mortar?
10 parts sand, 3 parts portland cement and 1.5 parts of fireclay.

Can I imitate your oven?
Sure, this guy did.
Consider getting  my Construction CD ROM if you need detailed pictures of the construction process.

What are the dimensions of the concrete foundation?
The slab is 76" X 84"

How wide is the oven door?
It's about 15"

You really didn't have any prior brick laying experience?
That is correct. It's really not that difficult. I did read some books from the library on masonary stuff, but that's about it.

What did you lay they bottom oven bricks on? It looks like some kind of mortar.
The hearth bricks are laid on a mixture of fireclay, sand and water. Equal portions of fireclay and sand. Add water to get a "toothpaste-like" consistency.

Did you use refractory concrete for the hearth slab and cladding?  If yes, what product did you Fondag etc.  If no,  are you having any problems with using normal concrete?
I just used regular QuickCrete concrete. I've had no problems.
I know that you would want to use the special stuff (Fondag etc) if you're going to fire up the oven on a daily basis, but if it's only for recreational use you should be fine with regular concrete.

How did you know the vermiculity mixture was dry enough before applying the stucco?
If you haven't fired the oven yet, fire it up (starting with small fires and gradually increase the length and heat). This should help dry out the vermiculite mixture. I did the smell test. Not exactely scientific but it made me feel important. Smell the vermiculite when firing the oven. If it smells musty, it's probably still somewhat wet. If it doesn't you're fine.

How does the bread taste and how often are you using the oven?
The bread tastes great. I makes a really good crust. I mainly use the oven during the winter weekends since summer is just a bit too hot for me.

The stainless steel pipes, are they placed between the concrete cladding and the vermiculite or in the vermiculite?
Inside the vermiculite

Do you read all the e-mail you get?
Yes, I read all my mail daily. You might not get a quick response but I greatly appreciate hearing from people who have enjoyed the site or have a particular question.

Got a question that wasn't answerd in the FAQ?
Let me know

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