Introduction: Wood Fired Pompeii Oven

Picture of Wood Fired Pompeii Oven

Wood fired cooking is a passion of mine. I became enthusiastic about the idea after having some of the best pizza I had ever had at a restaurant that utilized such a device.

A friend of mine made me aware of the fact that building one could be done by the average guy. A guy like me.

So research began and as I learned the more obsessed I became.

Please take a brief journey through my build. There is a lot more to the whole thing but way too much to cover in a brief amount of time.

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Step 1: Pompeii Oven

Picture of Pompeii Oven

A Wood Fired Oven addition to your life can totally transform, not only your back yard, but transform your way of living. We embarked on this fantastic project with a passion for pizza, a passion for baking and a passion for food in general. It took about 4 months to complete and added a new dimension to our household. Today we use the oven for everything from cooking steaks to baking bread or generally cooking just about anything. We have learned that literally everything we cook in this, turns out better than what you can produce by almost any other means.

My instructable will take you on a brief journey. I will show you what I did and talk about how I did it. There was a lot to learn and ton of work to get to the final firing. But WOW was it worth it.

Take a look!

Step 2: The Big Dig

Picture of The Big Dig

Starting with the place you want to put your oven. You want to pick a spot that is quite accessible and in a pathway that won't track dirt and mud back to the house. In my case it is the edge of a concrete walkway and close to the slider doors. It is the perfect spot to cook :)

From here this is where the work begins. This particular dig took a couple of hours and we were done. Fortunately for us it had rained recently and the dirt was soft.

Forms are easy, just remember that the concrete is heavy and the forms need to be strong and well anchored. Also pick up a little helper wherever you can.

When building a Wood Fired Oven, they are very heavy...This slab needs to be 5 inches thick. That is what is recommended.

All plans and information can be found on a website from a company called Forno Bravo They sell a kit for the Pompeii that has everything you need (Materials) to build an oven. Other than the base structure, the brick and insulation etc.

Step 3: Slab Is Done Now Start the Base

Picture of Slab Is Done Now Start the Base

Ok as you can see the slab is done. Earlier I was saying that the cement slab was 5 inches thick. In my case, It was 5 inches in the middle and 6 inches as it meets the edge. I dug a small trench on the edges of my forms to make it thicker on the edge.

Next, time to build a base. For mine, I picked a decorative block.

Most people go for the grey block and build a basic structure that you then put a veneer on. In my case, I already had a decorative wall in my yard and I wanted to build a base that matched it. So choosing a block that is already colored and formed etc. was a good option. It took about 7000 lbs of block. We brought a Ford F150 thinking that we could load it in the bed. After looking at the pallets, the guy was saying, let's throw one in the bed and see how it looks.

Well he started to let off on the forklift and the truck started to crumble. It dropped quick, that is when I screamed. STOP......our guy let up. Thank god.....another second or two and parts would have failed, bent or otherwise vaporized and it would have been a bad day.....we quickly realized that we had better make this happen over a couple of loads. So that is what we did.

The Block - With a grey block base, you build it and fill it with cement. With a manufactured block, you can do that but the cavities aren't the same. This block is intended to be glued together. So the build is quick, you glue it down with permanent glue and off you go.

The final picture shows the cross bar and that has a 4in angle iron underneath it. Little bit tricky but gives it the necessary strength it needs. The ultimate oven will be extremely heavy

Step 4: Pour Number 2 - the Oven Support Slab

Picture of Pour Number 2 - the Oven Support Slab

Forms need to be created to support the next pour. This will include a large amount of rebar and will be the roof of the base structure. The base structure will hold wood and the two wings of the structure will be work space for the Wood Fired Oven.

An internal set of forms were laid down to support the weight of the cement in the center of the structure. Underneath a series of 2x4's were put in place with a concrete board put on top to create the base for the concrete to be poured on.

Next to finish it. Concrete colored to match and formed into the desired shape for the design. You can see the support structure a little bit in the final picture. Once cured, forms removed.

Step 5: Work Space Design

Picture of Work Space Design

I used pavers for the tower caps. These were set in place and next I put in spacers using construction pencils for the desired thickness. I will ultimately use paver sand, that has glue in it, to create the bond between the pavers. Being that it is "sand like" before water is added, I had to keep it from falling through cracks and crevices. After they were put in place I put duct tape down to create a barrier for the sand to rest. I strapped it with a tie down strap and then took spray foam and filled the bottom 1/4 of the crevices to create a suitable WELL for the sand to sit. Then I added water and finished the paver caps.

Workspace complete.

Step 6: Oven Floor

Picture of Oven Floor

The Wood Fired Oven is 100% insulated from all concrete. There can't be any brick touching concrete as it will "wick" heat. You can see on the oven floor there is a two inch fiber board underneath the oven floor tiles. The oven floor tiles are part of the Pompeii kit that is supplied by Forno Bravo. They were cut with a tile saw- in a series of Thousands of cuts- that ultimately needed to be done :)

The insulation is cut in such a way that the brick for the dome will rest on the insulation as well. Remember, everything having to do with the cooking area is fully insulated. In its inherent design, it will be able to hold heat for 4-5 days. One firing will create cooking opportunities from Pizza to cooking meat of all kinds to casseroles or pan frying as well as slow cooking anything. It will be the best crock pot environment you have ever used.

The first layer of bricks are put in place.

Each brick is 9in long and are cut in half. So a 4.5in brick is what you will be working with from here on out.

Step 7: Indispensable Tool

Picture of Indispensable Tool

This tool will be used to create the dome. You can research it by googling it. There are all kinds of variations but think of it as the tool that sits in the middle of the Dome and allows a cylindrical measurement as well as method to hold bricks in place.

There is a lot to read about how the dome is created. The best place to learn more is at under the "Forums" Pompeii section.

Cutting each brick is a bit complicated and more reading is necessary to understand all of that. Utilizing a wooden Jig to aid in angles, each brick was cut specific to each layer being used.

The desire is to create very clean joints for the inside of the oven and ultimately mortar filling the gaps on the back side of each brick.

Shims were used to create the desired angle and then mortar put in place.

One very important trick that really aided in the mortar process was utilizing a Mortar Bag, similar to icing a cake. I would mix the mortar in the mortar bag and then squirt it in place. There is a lot more to it but you get the idea.

The indispensable tool is used as a guide and in picture 3 you can see the oven door being created.

Step 8: Dome Build

Picture of Dome Build

There is a lot more to this but as you build each layer it becomes hard to hold the bricks in place. I used fish hooks and string to hold them in place while I mortared. You can see in picture number one how that was done. Next as the dome neared completion, holding them with the weights became a problem. Next I built a platform (one that could be removed through the door) This platform was then loaded with sand to finish the dome and create a way to hold the brick.

Ultimately the dome interior is your masterpiece.

It is very difficult to get the top of the dome as clean as desired but it is also very hard to see the top of the dome. So the dome walls are really the critical part of your Art Work.

You can see the satisfying last picture showing the interior, right after the sand was removed.

Step 9: Doorway Etc.

Picture of Doorway Etc.

The design for the doorway allowed for a larger opening than the actual oven opening. You need to create a landing space and way for the actual door to butt up against and seal. Ultimately building a chimney section and going through that part of the build.

One mistake that I made was not allowing a large enough cavern for the smoke to escape through the flu. Having the opportunity to do it again, picture two would have showcased a much larger area leading up to the flu. The result with how I did mine was smoke coming out the doorway. In short, not all of the smoke goes up the flu as desired. It ultimately works just fine but smelling of smoke is not desirable. Next time I would do this part differently.

The door is insulated with one inch of fiber blanket and welded 1/4 inch steel. My door was fabricated by my brother in law and looks and works really well.

The challenge is that it is heavy, we are going to create a lighter version and will use two inch fiber board that I have left over for the new door. This will hold heat more effectively etc.

The flu is all done with brick and mortar with a Duravent base put in place. My chimney is intended to be exposed and is a stainless 8in Duravent double wall model. It is warm to the touch when fully hot and looks fantastic.

Step 10: Insulation

Picture of Insulation

The dome is meant to have 3in of fiber blanket to insulate it and then covered with 1in of Perlite/Vermiculite mixed with cement. Perlite or vermiculite can be used. It is similar in feel to bean bag filler. Used in this case as more insulation and prep for the final coating. In my case it is a 7-1 mix of concrete to Perlite and off you go. I purchased the perlite at Home Depot. It's about 18.00 per bag.

The perlite mixture is then covered in Stucco.

This dome should not get wet so the green color I used is actually a vapor barrier that will soon be covered with decorative tile.

This step is not completed yet.

Side view shows the installed Duravent and cap.

Step 11: Pergola Roof

Picture of Pergola Roof

The oven should be covered and the pergola design I used was sort of made up and copied from various internet pictures and sources.

I had the lumber yard cut the 2x8 lengths and cut the decorative ends. The posts are set on Galvanized bases that are cemented into the ground. There are redwood 2x2's that support the actual roofing material.

This roofing material was purchased at Lowes and it is red in color on one side and black on the other. It is an asphalt material that will last for 30 years or so.

There is room to cook and stay out of the rain in the front.

LED lights will eliminate the whole structure at some point.

Step 12: Firing the Oven and Pizza Time

Picture of Firing the Oven and Pizza Time

Well there you go.

Firing the oven is what it is all about. In order to cook your oven dome will go black with soot when it is first lit. As it heats when the brick get's saturated with heat and reaches a temperature above 700 degrees, the dome will clear. The brick will be clean and so will the oven. Similar to cleaning your oven at home, at that temp it is simply clean.

You can now cook anything in this and ultimately we have learned - Like fine cookware, anything done in this makes food turn out better then traditional methods.

Leveraging high heat is really fun and creates a new dimension for your cooking pleasure.



Step 13: Enclosure

Picture of Enclosure

Ok Update Everyone -

Enclosing the dome is a matter of preference. In my case I wanted to have lights and run power to the oven itself. The oven doorway is pavers cut down and put on as a veneer.

I bought the stone veneer from Lowes and it is pretty straightforward to put on - cut to size and stick on with mortar.


novaslo (author)2017-05-09

@nagiquadi - I got the hardware for the cross beams from the lumber store. They are silver and I painted them black. They are very common. You can also have the lumber yard cut the cross beams and do the end cut for you.

nagiquadi (author)2017-05-06

This is phenomenal!! Where did you get the hardware for the top cross beams for the top of the pergola?

mpadgitt (author)2017-04-18

Excellent work! Please contact me privately at to discuss a reprint of your article.

discourius (author)2015-02-22

This is an awesome build, though I was wondering what you concluded about the chimney. I have been researching these for a while, even on the Forno site. I plan to start one in the spring, because as you put it they are so versatile for cooking.

novaslo (author)discourius2015-02-22

Concluded in what way? For mine the thing I did wrong was not creating a big enough draw space for the smoke to go into. Basically I thought the chimney would be sufficient draw to get all of the smoke. If I were to do it again I would have built a Higher section of Brick immediately as the smoke exits the dome pretty much not allowing it to go out the front of the oven. Mine doesn't go up high enough immediately. Think of it this way my flu needs to be raised up from where it is. And a sufficient funnel created to bring in the smoke. Does that help?

discourius (author)novaslo2015-02-22

Sorry for my misleading typing. I wasn't asking a question, I was agreeing with the comment you made about your design and the smoke. A larger intake area should draft the smoke more efficiently before it has a chance to diffuse and go out the front. Something I will definitely have to keep in mind when I begin my build.

novaslo (author)discourius2016-02-27

Did you ever begin your build?

TristramB (author)discourius2016-02-26

A partial fix would be to extend the flu higher. Flus work from the atmospheric pressure differential. A higher flu, a big pressure differential, a larger pull.

novaslo (author)TristramB2016-02-27

Yep that is basically what I could have done better. The chimney is high - about 8 feet in total. butt the flu area is simply not sufficient enough to capture the smoke. This causes smoke to leave the front of the oven.

When I added the structure around it, I created another vent area in between the Bricks on the front and the front of the is a two inch gap that allows smoke to come out the front of the oven and go up one more time without making my front structure black.

novaslo (author)discourius2015-02-27

I should have planned it better. The Brickwork intimidated me. Also on everything I read, which was nearly everything lol....there was very little out there regarding THAT topic.

Ti-7-4Raven (author)2015-10-13

At least you were smart enough to know your truck's limits. I can't even comprehend the amount of time I spend telling people that no, your 1/4(or 1/2) ton cannot hold an entire pallet of shingles/concrete/block...and no I will not load it on with the forklift even if you insist that it will hold. I don't need that liability.

If people are really insistent I will drop the pallet on the ground and let them assume responsibility by hand loading it themselves. (I will assist in hand loading until the truck is at it's max capacity. After that it's all them)

I am always really grateful when I tell someone "You will need to take multiple trips, this pallet weighs over 3000 lbs" and they just say "Okay, I guess you would probably know"

One (or two or three) less trip(s) is not worth permanently compromising your suspension to anyone contemplating large projects, listen to the lift driver when he tells you "No", don't argue.

Just something to remember next time you're at the home improvement store.

novaslo (author)2015-09-13

Stark - Not only that, pricing out the 80k Pool that is going to go right there with it!!

Stark Ideas (author)2015-06-25

What a fantastic build. Looks fantastic and I am sure you will get so much use out of it...

One MAJOR problem with kind of build is now your down there at your fantastic new pizza oven sizing up where the bar, pool, hot tub, deep fryer, dart board, tiki bar will all go now.

gonzalofv (author)2015-04-15

Hi great oven , would u tell me witch mortar to use to made the dome


novaslo (author)gonzalofv2015-04-16

I used the mortar that comes in the Forno Bravo kit. It is there own mix.

However I did run out and then made my own to finish the build. It was made out of the correct cement mortar that I researched online (I don't remember the name) I mixed it with Fire Clay. You can buy that as well.

There are plenty of threads that talk about home brew. You can look those up and make your own.

Good luck.

jerseybusboss (author)2015-04-07

Nice work. did you need a permit for building in California?

novaslo (author)jerseybusboss2015-04-12

In my area this is considered a BBQ.
What I did was follow the published rules for setback of the stainless chimney which was 10 feet from the house. I also followed the structure distance from the property line.

That is what I did. You will want to check how things work in your area.

jsolterbeck (author)2015-02-24

So did you actually get a kit from Forno Bravo, or did you just buy parts?

novaslo (author)jsolterbeck2015-02-24

Hi, Yes I did buy the Forno Bravo kit. I am lucky in that I am about 1.5 hours away. So buying it and driving the product home was easy. In one of the early pics you can see the pallet of materials. It is a pallet of brick as well as fiber blanket and Mortar. That is have to do the rest. Think of it as just the right amount of stuff and you are on your own. In my case, I needed more brick and more mortar. I am not sure if that was their fault, or mine, but I did need more. I think the kit is great. The challenge for most people reading this is that the kit is not an option. I would source the best material locally that I could find and go from there. It's all published in the will need to gain and understanding of your options locally, if the kit is too far away.

jsolterbeck (author)novaslo2015-02-24

Thanks, just curious. I'm local (enough) as well, so would just take the truck and get the stuff. I've been stalking the Forno Bravo site for a couple years. I want to build an especially small oven though, and their smallest is larger than I want. A guy that goes by PizzaHacker here in SF made an oven using a webber as a mold, and he gets it up to 900º. It's literally the size of a bbq, so I know it can be done. Yours is top notch though, thanks for posting the process.

novaslo (author)jsolterbeck2015-02-27

Only you know why you need the small size. Probably lack of space. But the fire will take up quite a bit of room. Also the pots or pans you will use need space also. Either way, go as big as you can. My thinking was simple, going through all that work, I didn't want to regret the size.

michael.crowley.14 (author)2015-02-27

My hat's off to you. That's one killer job, beginning to end!

rowman25 (author)2015-02-24

Looks fantastic. Nice work! What do you estimate your total budget for each part of the build was?

novaslo (author)rowman252015-02-24

hmm total budget is a good question. I spent about 4k on it I would estimate. It was not cheap but, if you were to have someone build this, I would think about 20k.

It took a lot of time and elbow grease.

SwansonDesign (author)2015-02-24

Hi! In Step 4, how did you remove the bottom wood form after the over support slab was cured? Did you lift the slab? In the photos it doesn't look like you left it there.


novaslo (author)SwansonDesign2015-02-24

After the slab was dry, I just removed all supports. Kicked them out or cut them with a Sawsall. They fall right out. Some were screwed in. Drill Driver action and it was out in 20 mins.

MS441 (author)2015-02-24

DUDE!!! You have created the final boot upon my backside to build our own. Awesome build!!! Thanks

novaslo (author)MS4412015-02-24

Well I will kick it...that is the boot I needed. My buddy told me about the idea. He wanted to build his, but ran into some other problems. I decided the time was right for me. Anyone can do it. Just roll up your sleeves. That's all.

danzo321 (author)2015-02-24

Wow. It just looks way enormous, like who needs a fire that big. What if it were all scaled down?

stihl88 (author)danzo3212015-02-24

Trust me, you can never have too big of a wood fired oven...

If you have the opportunity to build a big oven then build a big oven.

You'll be roasting vegetables, meats and all sorts of things at the same time so that extra room is paramount.

I have a smaller oven and next time i rebuild a new oven (when and if this one fails) i will go double the size!

novaslo (author)stihl882015-02-24

Agreed, I cook in the oven, around the edges of the oven and in the doorway of the oven. It is all about the different heat zones. I cooked an apple pie this weekend and for the first hour, it was just in the doorway, about 350 Degrees

boocat (author)stihl882015-02-24

Excellent advice. The size seems perfect to me, too. And the design is lovely.

novaslo (author)danzo3212015-02-24

Scaled down is not a problem. Mine was 42 inches and could easily be smaller. The thing is that once you start cooking, you will find that the extra space is worth having. Having a lot of room takes more wood, but is welcome at all times. It's sort of like having a larger monitor or TV. You think you don't need it, until you have it and you are thrilled.

boocat (author)2015-02-24

When you get the outside finished, please let us see your finished result. The execution of your plan is great. I have always wanted an outdoor cooking area. (My family had one when I was a child in Los Angeles. It was terrific fun; all our friends and family were always there. Great memories of happy days.) I am really jealous.

novaslo (author)boocat2015-02-24

Well I am proof that you can do it. Tile will be be the next step and the cooking will not stop.

boocat (author)2015-02-24

It looks fantastic! Thank you for sharing. Wonderful evenings out in the summer enjoying dinners most people will only dream about.

spark master (author)2015-02-24

Impressive to be sure, love the inside dome pictures.... extremely neat job.

mikecz (author)2015-02-24

That's some nice looking concrete work!

surfdude (author)2015-02-24

Really nice project! The attention to detail really paid off.

THEFIRSTBDC (author)2015-02-23

Dude...This is an incredible build! Thank you for sharing!

GoLightLady (author)2015-02-22

I'm so excited for you! This looks awesome, and the pizza, I can hear the crunch of that crust as I read beautiful. Lots of work as you said, but so worth it! Hope to build me something like this.

novaslo (author)2015-02-21

I will definitely update this when I finally do the tile work. Also need to finish the LED lights.

You can see the tools hanging up in the Pergola roof.

runesda (author)2015-02-21

Absolutely fantastic! I hope you update with the decorative tile. Great work.

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