Should you build a pizza oven? A warning from the experts

Expert advice on whether you should build your own pizza oven

An example of should you build a pizza oven - a large brick pizza oven in a backyard
(Image credit: Getty Images / HopeMcManus)

There's nothing like a pizza oven for a backyard cookout. Sure, a grill and a smoker used to be all you need, but after trying more than a few of these appliances I think they're fast becoming an essential.

However, pizza ovens are very expensive. If you want the very best, you're probably going to spend around $1000 before you even buy a pizza. This means that lots of homemakers are turning to DIY brick ovens. 

I've tested dozens of the best pizza ovens over the years, and I've spoken to a licensed contractor about the very best method to build your own pizza oven. But before you rush out to buy a load of bricks, take a moment to consider the practicalities. After looking over the data, I think a DIY brick oven could be a fun project, but it's a very advanced and expensive undertaking. If your DIY skills stop at putting up shelves - and you don't have a cool $2600 to hand - you might be better off buying a pizza oven. 

An example of a homemade brick pizza oven in a custom-built shelter

(Image credit: Getty Images / Thananat)

What are the benefits of building your own pizza oven?

Building your own pizza oven can save you a little money. I've seen cheap builds using exercise balls, clay and concrete that cost no more than $300.

Building your own pizza oven also means that you can make it to your specifications. You aren't limited to the 12"-16" diameter of most domestic ovens but can make your oven bigger or smaller as it suits you. In fact, most DIY pizzas are much larger than pizza oven appliances, so if you have a big family or love to feed a crowd, you can make a lot more pizza.

Homemade pizza ovens also use wood, which is my favorite fuel for pizza. This not only gives your pizzas a delicious smoky taste but is the hottest and therefore fastest fuel you can use. A fire in a brick or clay oven can easily reach 1000°F, which will cook a pizza in just a minute.

What are the drawbacks of building your own pizza oven?

Cooking two pizzas in a brick oven

(Image credit: Getty Images / Jimmy69)

The drawback of building your own pizza oven is that it it's a pretty advanced DIY project. You need to know how to lay a concrete foundation, build a foundation from wood sleepers or bricks, and then build the oven itself from fire bricks. I spoke to licensed contractor Jay Sanders who set out the whole process.

'Several steps are involved to construct your own pizza oven. Firstly, you’ll have to lay a foundation made of concrete by leveling the ground. Secondly, the base should be built of materials like concrete blocks or bricks, followed by an oven floor often made of firebricks for increased heat resistance. Then, the dome is built with the firebricks over the floor. Finally, the oven is finished and insulated with a layer of stucco or other appropriate materials.' That's a lot of work, and if you don't know what you're doing, it could be a pretty expensive mistake.

What's more, even if you do know what you're doing, it's an expensive project. Jay Sanders laid out some of the costs for me. A homemade pizza oven 'requires up to $700 on the foundation and block stand, $540 on the hearth, and $1,360 on the floor, dome, and chimney.' While you can jerry-rig a homemade oven for a lot less, it won't look great.

Another drawback is that you need to give up some space to build it. If you have your patio exactly as you like it, you may not want to give up space to a pizza oven.

It might also affect your home's resale value. If you do it well, it's a great feature, but if you build an unsightly oven some buyers might think of it as something they have to spend money and time removing.

Jay Saunders headshot
Jay Sanders

Jay Sanders owns Castle Dream Construction and Maryland Contractors, two home remodeling companies in Baltimore, MD. He's been working on construction for more than 10 years with a solid track record of successful projects.

Is it cheaper to build your own pizza oven?

It can be cheaper to build your own pizza oven, but it depends on your method. I've seen very cheap builds out there for a lot less than Jay's outlined, but they're made from thin wood bases and clay. Not only do they not look as good as a real brick oven, but worry about their safety. I don't like the idea of a 1000°F fire perched atop a flimsy wooden base. 

Building your own pizza oven isn't necessarily cheaper than buying one. If you finish off your oven with tiles or other design features the cost can quickly mount up, and you'll have put in a lot of effort without saving any money. Building a bigger oven is obviously more expensive than a smaller oven, and this can double your costs.

As Jay showed me, building your own pizza oven could easily cost more than $2600. That's more than double the price of our favorite pizza oven appliance, and seven times more expensive than our favorite budget option. Sure, they're not as large as a DIY brick oven, but you can still find large ovens out there for cheaper, and larger ovens than you could build for yourself without all the fuss of a DIY project.

Pizza oven FAQs

Do I need to use fire bricks in a pizza oven?

You don't need to use fire bricks in the interior of your pizza oven, but the experts highly recommend it. Normal bricks are fine but aren't designed to withstand high temperatures like fire bricks. Regular bricks on the floor of the oven will likely crack under the high heat in a pizza oven. This would form a lip in the floor of the oven which your pizza could catch on, tearing your pizza as you take it out of the oven. It should be fine, but fire bricks remove the possibility.

For more advice on getting started with pizza ovens, take a look at my coverage of how much you should spend on a pizza oven, or my comparison of a pizza oven vs a regular oven to see if it's worth it in the first place. 

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.