We’ve found ways to simplify construction and still create that sought-after rustic look and flavor. Here you’ll find details about a few different construction options (see “Oven Degrees,” in PDF below) as well as simple step-by-step plans for the project shown in the photos.
Using a prefabricated oven dome takes much of the intimidation out of the equation. The cooking technology is figured out for you and contained in a modular piece, making the project much easier and freeing you to focus on customizing the structure.
For this project, we chose the Chicago Brick Oven model 750 (see Sources in PDF below). Its low-dome construction pulls the flame horizontally across the top of the oven and then vertically down the side, helping to produce higher temperatures for better cooking. The CBO 750 also allows for three different types of cooking (radiant heat, convection and conduction), making it versatile and a true kitchen fixture.
The unit comes with a dome, a hearth, an arch, some insulation materials and a few other necessities and accessories. The rest of the structure shown here consists of a supportive base with space for wood storage and an oven surround with a chimney, all built with Belgard’s Weston wall stone in Cotswold Mist and large slabs of Indiana limestone.
Build the Base
Before you start stacking blocks, it is essential to create a sturdy foundation. First build a 5 x 5-ft. frame using 2x6 boards. Then dig around the frame 6 in. deep in the location where you plan to place the oven. Level the frame carefully, as the top of it will be the top of your finished concrete foundation. Next, dig four holes for footings. (Be sure to check your local building code for the appropriate footing depth).
Add rebar inside the footing holes and within the frame for stability (photo 1). Fill the footing holes and the frame with concrete; then use a screed to level the top so that it is flush with the top of the frame (photo 2). Let the concrete cure for two days.
Dig out a foundation for the oven so that the frame fits just inside. Make sure the top of the frame is level on all sides. Dig holes for four footings near the corners of the frame.
With pieces of rebar cut and secured in place inside the footing holes and frame, add concrete to fill all spaces. Then use a screed to smooth and level the concrete.
Using a wet tile saw, cut the wall stones for the first two courses according to the materials list, above. Draw a line to mark the center of the front and back of the concrete pad; then place the first stone so that it is centered on the line. Continue laying out the first course of stones according to the illustrations (see “Printable Plans,” here), making sure that all four sides of the course are square. Stack the second course on top of the first (photo 3).
After the concrete has cured for at least two days, remove the frame. Mark the center of the front and back of the concrete pad using a chalk line or carpenter’s pencil. Then place the first wall stone on the center of the line along the back edge of the concrete pad. Continue laying stones for the first and second courses according to the illustrations (see “Printable Plans,” above).
Next, place four 17 x 64-in. slabs of Indiana limestone on top of the second course of wall stones. This forms the base of the wood-storage space. Follow the illustrations for cutting (photo 4) and laying out the next four courses of wall stones and slabs. Two more courses of wall stones and four more limestone slabs come next. See the illustrations and photos 5 and 6 for layout details.
For this project, you’ll need to cut several wall stones to size. A wet tile saw is a handy tool to have for the task, as it cuts quickly and minimizes dust. If you don’t own a wet tile saw, consider renting one for a day or two.
After placing the first layer of Indiana limestone slabs, add four more courses of wall stones. Make sure that each course is level, plumb and square. Use a rubber mallet to make minor adjustments to each stone as needed.
The second layer of four 2 x 17 x 64-in. Indiana limestone slabs tops off the base of the backyard oven structure. As shown in the photo, the open space created by the previous four courses of wall stones is perfect for storing plenty of firewood. Once the base structure is complete, you’re ready to move on to building the oven-surround structure.
Build the Surround
Now you’re ready to add the oven dome. The unit comes with three insulation boards that must be placed under the dome. Lower the oven dome into position, attach the chimney anchor box, wrap the dome with the insulation blanket and then attach the oven arch and door (photo 7).
Enlist the help of a few friends to lift the oven dome into position. It is extremely heavy and requires precise placement on the insulation boards on the base of the structure. (It’s beneficial to use scraps of cardboard under the oven dome as you maneuver it to prevent scratching the Indiana limestone.) Cut away the overhanging insulation boards. Attach the chimney anchor box; then add the insulation blanket, arch and door.
Cut the next five courses of wall stones to size and stack them around the oven dome according to the illustrations. Glue down each course with high-heat-rated construction adhesive (photos 8, 9 and 10).
With the oven dome centered on the base of the structure, lay out the first course of wall stones for the surround according to the illustrations. Make sure all sides are square.
Secure each course of the surround structure in place using high-heat-rated construction adhesive. Check each course as you go to make sure that the surround structure remains level and square.
This photo shows what the oven surround will look like once all five courses of wall stones are in place. Use composite shims where needed to keep each course level. Cut off the overhanging pieces of the shims and adhesive squeezeout after the adhesive has cured. Note that the placement of the oven and surround on the base structure creates a useful countertop space.
Add a decorative touch by cutting pieces of 1/2-in.-thick bluestone to fit around the oven arch (photos 11 and 12). Next, add the four 2 x 13 x 54-in. limestone roof pieces; cut a hole for the chimney pipe to pass through. Add mortar between these pieces to prevent water from entering the oven surround (photo 13).
To add a decorative touch, use an angle grinder with a diamond blade to cut pieces of 1/2-in.-thick bluestone to fit along the arch of the oven.
Mark the size, number and location of bluestone pieces around the oven arch using a carpenter’s pencil. Note that these pieces will overlap some of the surround wall stones as well as the oven arch. We also cut out spaces for the door hardware, which helps to add a hand-crafted touch.
Place the four roof pieces of Indiana limestone on top of the surround wall stones, cutting one of the slabs to fit snugly around the chimney pipe. Add mortar between the roof pieces.
Cut and stack three courses of wall stones to fit around the chimney pipe (see the illustrations); then top them with the 18 x 18-in. limestone cap, cutting a hole in the center for the chimney pipe to pass through (photo 14). Note: We cut the chimney cap into two pieces and then mortared the seam after the pieces were installed. Secure the chimney cap to the pipe. Finish by sealing any gaps in the roof and around the base of the surround with silicone caulk (photo 15).
Stack three courses of wall stones around the chimney pipe. Then add the final limestone cap, cutting it to fit around the chimney pipe. Add mortar to all seams in the limestone cap.
Finish off the oven surround by adding high-heat-rated clear silicone caulk to all spaces that could potentially let water into the surround. This includes the chimney and surround wall stones, around the chimney cap, along the base of the surround, etc.
Most backyard ovens must be cured before they are ready to start cooking. Burn a few low-heat fires (212 degrees Fahrenheit or less) over the course of a few days to slowly release all moisture. Then you’re ready to start cooking!
Fresh Fired Pizza!
Check out a one-of-a-kind pizza recipe created just for you by Cooking Club Magazine.