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Current oven issues & what to do next..

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  • Current oven issues & what to do next..

    Hello, I hope I am posting this in the correct forum (if not please send me in the right direction..)

    I've got an oven in my backyard, which was here when we bought the place so I don't know how it was built etc. Here are some photos:

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    We've been here 6 years. In the beginning we had some (sort of) successful pizza days, although it took a lot of work to build and maintain a hot enough fire. I am the first to admit there were more frustrating days that enjoyable ones, so I stopped using the oven and focused on other things. I built a door for it although I was never able to successfully bake anything in the oven, and I think I have always battled moisture when using it. I could get it hot but as soon as the door went on the temperature dropped rapidly.

    There are cracks on the outside of the oven, and I've included a photo that shows the moss & weeds growing out of it.

    Note the design is like a barrel or vault style (?) and the floor of the oven inside is 1220mm deep (from the door to the rear), 900mmW wide and 530mm high.. which seems huge.

    I'm debating what to do with it. I am considering knocking it down, maybe just to the top of the stand and building a simple open grill to cook on. Or a brand new oven... I have also had the thought of carefully knocking off the outside (cement?) layer to see how it appears to be built and maybe putting in some effort to bringing it back to life. Maybe it needs a roof built over it.

    I'm in Melbourne Australia if that helps, and the oven faces west.

    I love reading these forums and seeing what others have built and what you all cook. I guess my question is - what would you do??

    Thanks in advance.


  • #2
    Phil, the oven looks like it was nicely built and I suspect that insulation is the problem. Being out in the weather, it's highly likely the insulation has become saturated. If there's wet insulation above & below, it may take quite a few long, low firings to force that water out. Insulation material was not always used in some home built ovens (both half barrel & Pompeii) because of cost & just "not understanding" its importance - especially underneath the cooking floor. A small hole drilled through the top shell would let you determine amount & state of covering insulation. If you've got wet insulation, the hole will give moisture a better escape route when doing your slow, reconditioning fires. Finding out if the cooking floor has insulation below it might be a bit more difficult. You may be able to pull off the front landing bricks to see if the cooking floor is just set on the concrete hearth slab.

    In either case, starting a small fire will also tell you a lot about the construction. If the outside and slab underneath get warm/hot pretty quickly, then you've obviously identified why your oven doesn't retain heat. Top insulation will be easiest to dry out (especially with existing cracks & drilled shell vent hole ). Drying lower insulation takes much longer. If you find there is no insulation beneath, you might be able to pull out most of the cooking floor bricks and add insulating board. You'll lose several cm access height by raising the floor, but it should give you the ability to at least be able to bake bread or cook a roast after a pizza party.

    I hope this gives you some help deciding if this oven is worth salvaging... always a shame to see any build torn down. If you do decide on a demolition, consider the dome style instead of the dog house on top of that slab hearth.
    Mike Stansbury - The Traveling Loafer
    Roseburg, Oregon

    FB Forum: The Dragonfly Den build thread
    Available only if you're logged in = FB Photo Albums-Select media tab on profile


    • #3
      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your detailed reply, I appreciate it. the last time I lit a fire in it I did the opposite of your recommendation of "long, low firing" and I lit a rager in there!!! ha!
      I am sure you are correct, the insulation (at least on top) is wet. The rear of the oven facing the fence had some weeds growing from it, and I pulled one and could feel through the hole that was left what seemed to be wet sand.
      As per my first post I have been thinking of tearing down the oven, or partially removing the insulation to inspect. I might consider another option based on your post, to build a lean-to roof over the oven and then start to try and dry it out with some long low fires. If the roof kept it dry and the oven was functional, then I could cook in it as you have suggested - pizza, bread and/or a roast & I would be more than happy!
      I'm going to spend some time looking through the forums and having a think about roof options.
      Thanks again & cheers,