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Broke Ground! And Questions. . . - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community



I'm Peter Reinhart! Ask Me Anything! Monday, February 15, 2016 7:00-8:00 pm EST

To kick off our AMA feature, we have invited author, chef and master bread maker and host of Pizza Quest, Peter Reinhart, to be our first host! Peter will be in the Forum on Monday, February 15th, from 7:00 - 8:00 pm EST. If you are unable to be online during the live session, you can post your questions in the sticky post. Peter will answer those questions during the live session on February 15th. You can view Peter's answers to your questions as well as what happened during the live session in the session thread.

Ask Me Anything New Forum Feature

You will notice a new forum at the top of the main page called, "Ask Me Anything". This forum will be used for live one hour "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) sessions hosted by people who are knowledgeable in different areas pertaining to wood fired ovens. How it works:
- Each AMA will have a "sticky" thread where the community can post questions they would like answered during the live session. This will allow everyone to participate even if you can't be online for the live session. These questions will not be answered by the host until the live AMA; if you need an answer quickly, you should post it in the appropriate Forum area for the community to respond.
- Another thread will be posted for the live AMA. Registered users who are logged in during the live session can interact with the host by asking questions and receiving responses.
- The live thread will remain in the AMA forum to view after the session.

We hope you enjoy this new feature! Please let us know if there is a topic that you'd like to have as an AMA and we'll look for a host!

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Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

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  • Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

    Well, after a couple months of research and "should we do it" discussions with my wife, I dove in over the weekend and broke ground on a WFO in my backyard. I've got a hole excavated about 8' x 6' x 10".

    Next, my plan is to lay about 4" of pea gravel and 7" of concrete, then build the hearth from cinder blocks as shown in the Pompeii oven instructions. Before I get too deep, I figured I better ask a few questions to be sure I'm on the right track.

    Pouring concrete and laying brick are all new things to me, so forgive the elementary questions.

    1. I live in Boise, ID. Winters are somewhat mild - we'll hit low 40's during the day and single digits or teens at night during the coldest months - so there's a lot of freezing and thawing during the winter. My soil drains pretty well and would be considered to be somewhat sandy. Is 4" of pea gravel and 7" of concrete (with rebar support) the right foundation? Anything I should consider before pouring?

    2. Do I put the layer of pea gravel in before the frame (and put the frame on top of it), or do I fit the frame in first and put the pea gravel inside? Or, does it matter?

    3. I haven't yet decided which oven I'm going to buy. I've had the Pompeii 90 (build from scratch), Casa 90 (modular) and Toscano 90 (place and fire) each in my shopping cart at different times and just haven't been able to make the decision on which is right for me. I'd like to do it all myself and buy the Pompeii 90 kit, but am somewhat concerned whether I have the time and skill-set to do it. Cost is a consideration too. Any suggestions? What's the incremental time required for the pompeii versus the casa 90?

    Thanks in advance for advice. I've read a bunch of threads on this forum and appreciate what an awesome resource this is. I've loved seeing the pics and progress from others and I plan to snap and post lots of pics along the way.

  • #2
    Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

    It takes time to build one from scratch, and can get expensive to get the materials. I've got six months of weekends and nights into mine. wife said I should have bought one, but I couldn't live with that. I haven't added up the receipts yet, but including tools about $3K


    • #3
      Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

      Also sounds cold there. Here in texas we don't need deep foundation work beacuse of the cold, but good footings because of the unstable soils.


      • #4
        Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

        I put a full foundation under my oven. If I was going to put the time and money into the project, I wanted to make sure that frost did not get the better of me. With that said, there are many on this site that have gone with the floating-type slab that you are leaning towards. They report back no trouble with that approach.

        As to what oven to buy, if you do not have the time, buy the modular oven. If you have the time, use the Pompeii plans and source your materials locally. Half the fun of the project is trying to figure out where to find/buy all of the materials. As to how much it will cost, you have to look at it as project of love where money doesn't really matter. My project took two full summers. I could spread the costs out that way. My wife called it my $150 per weekend project. The local masonry supply store got to know me by name.


        • #5
          Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

          Masonry fireplace code says the footings should be poured below frost line on undisturbed soil, no gravel or crushed rock underneath. The footing should extend six inches beyond the structure, and be one foot thick.

          Now that's for multi-story masonry chimneys, which are seriously heavy. Freestanding ovens are light by comparison, and that's why they work fine with a slab on well drained crushed rock.
          My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


          • #6
            Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

            Thanks for the feedback. I spoke with a couple people locally who felt a floating slab would work. This weekend I poured the slab. Next weekend I'll stack the block, and the following weekend I will pour the hearth.

            I'm still undecided which type of oven to go with. I'm leaning towards the brick / pompeii route and assuming I go that route, I'll probably hire a bricklayer to help with the dome and arch.

            Attached are some pics of my progress so far.


            • #7
              Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

              I am about to start one of these projects as well,when you free stand the bricks i think that means no mortar on the bricks is this right?just concrete down the center of the bricks ,is this your take on it?


              • #8
                Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

                Originally posted by kmaxx View Post
                i think that means no mortar on the bricks is this right?just concrete down the center of the bricks ,is this your take on it?
                Correct, the correct term should be dry stacked, that way there is no confusion, well maybe less confusion.
                The English language was invented by people who couldnt spell.

                My Build.



                • #9
                  Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

                  Your pretty close to that two-story house, better plan on a tall chimney.
                  Our Facebook Page:http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stoneh...60738907277443


                  • #10
                    Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

                    What you've described is what I did. . . I dry stacked the blocks and filled the cores with concrete and rebar. The block stacking / positioning went very fast up until I needed to lay the blocks on the angle iron. It took me about four hours to grind / cut the grooves into them, using both a tile saw(cheap one) and a grinder.

                    This week I will pour the hearth. I am planning to bend the rebar extending from the cores at 90 degrees and attach them to the rebar grid centered in the hearth. Is that a good idea, or a waste of time?

                    Thanks for the feedback regarding the chimney - I hadn't put much thought into that. Am I going to smoke myself and my neighbors out each time I fire up the oven? Aside from building a towering chimney, any other suggestions? Maybe I'll have to deliver a pizza to my neighbors as a peace offering each time I use it!


                    • #11
                      Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

                      I suggest that you also apply a surface bonding product on your dry stacked block foundation. It adds a lot of strength and will keep the blocks from moving around as you build the oven.


                      • #12
                        Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

                        Be very very nice to your neighbors. Peace offering are definitely the way to go. I always make more dough than I need so that I can make extra pies for the neighbors. While I read that you can control the amount of smoke by using very dry wood that is finely split, I still create a lot of smoke when first starting the fire. After about 15 minutes, it calms way down. However, everyone in the neighborhood knows when I fire up the oven.


                        • #13
                          Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

                          IMO the re-bar in the vertical walls is over-kill. It's all in compression and dependent on the compressive strength of the concrete. It's only 4' tall & reinforced on all four sides. Your not even in earth-quake country. How was the skiing this year, lived in SLC for 10 years. Beautiful country. Lots of snow this year, I bet.
                          Our Facebook Page:http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stoneh...60738907277443


                          • #14
                            Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

                            --PROGRESS UPDATE--

                            This weekend I framed and poured the hearth. Despite a weather forecast predicting otherwise, as soon as I finished floating the concrete, it started pouring rain! Ugh! I spent the next hour hanging tarp canopies over the oven stand and re-floating the hearth to get the pit marks off. I think it turned out okay, but was a bit frustrating.

                            I ended up bending the exposed rebar from the cement cores at 90 degrees using a steel pipe, and then rested the horizontal rebar grid on top. It turned out to be roughly centered vertically in the 3.5" hearth. I agree with the comments above that this was probably over-kill, but I already had the rebar in the cores so may as well put them to extra use.

                            I also arc'ed the front of the hearth about 5" front to back. I used a cement expansion joint as my form, and lined it with 6mm plastic to prevent the concrete from adhering into it. Looking back, I'm wishing I would have brought it out another 5".

                            I also decided to go the modular route and I ordered the Casa 100 last week. This way, I can be eating pizza within the next few weeks. I'm impatient, I know. . . My next build I'll go the pompeii route.

                            Over the next couple weeks (depending on when the oven arrives), I'm going to excavate an area beside the oven and lay a patio. I'll also put in a preparation island to the left of the oven. I saw one guy that upgraded his existing patio by mixing epoxy with colored pebbles and spreading it with a trowel - however he did it over an existing concrete slab. Anyone know whether I could do this over a layer of pea gravel? Should I put a sheet of plastic over it, like I did the slab underneath the oven stand?

                            Finally, there have been a few tools I've used that have made this job MUCH easier up to this point, aside from the standard tools suggested by FB. Thought I'd share my favorites:

                            1- Cement mixer. Okay, this was on the FB list, but I can't overestimate how much I've appreciated this. I bought a fairly cheap one ($300) and figured I'd sell it after this project is over. I can't imagine mixing all this cement by hand, and I'm sure I'll be able to resell it for a price that will make the overall cost MUCH cheaper than renting one ($50 per day in my area).

                            2- Grinder with a masonry grinding wheel and masonry and metal cutting wheels. When I was building the rebar grid for the hearth, I discovered a metal cutting wheel went through the 1/2" rebar in about 10 seconds. Plus, it gives off a good fireworks show. I was using a hack saw before, which took about 3-4 mins per cut and without the entertainment. Wish I would have put this to use sooner!

                            3- 2" Brad nailer. This has made assembling the cement forms very easy and fast. And who doesn't love using a pneumatic tool?

                            4- Mitre saw, for cutting the cement forms. I also made my own stakes from scrap wood and the mitre saw made it easy.

                            5- Gloves.

                            6- Tarps. Lots of them. And not just for the rain.

                            Thanks in advance for any insights on my patio material idea.


                            • #15
                              Re: Broke Ground! And Questions. . .

                              I received the Casa 100 from FB a couple weeks ago and assembled and mortared it last weekend. After waiting three or four days for the mortar to cure, I installed the insulating blankets and chimney. It's looking good! A couple more weeks and I'll be throwing pies into it.

                              I decided the patio and workstation will be phase II, so I haven't broke ground on that - yet. I figured I'd save my energy to complete the finish work on the oven.

                              I need some advice on how to cure the oven. The instructions say to keep the oven at 300 degrees for as long as possible for the first day, and then increase the temp by 50 degree increments each day for five days. Now, if I were a trust fund baby, retired or unemployed, I can see how this would be possible. But since I'm none of these, it's going to be tough to keep a fire going for more than 3-4 hours at a time. Any advice on how a time-crunched fully-employed family man can cure an oven without taking a week off?

                              Thanks for any insights. . .