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  • location of oven

    I want to build my oven in between a three foot high concrete block retaining wall. I would have to cut into the retaining wall and dig a lot of earth. The back and sides of the oven stand would be about three feet underground. I have heard about people building on a slope, but what about an oven thats stand is basically is built underground? The front of the oven would be open to our patio.
    Any ideas?

  • #2
    Re: location of oven

    Souds perfect!

    A tad labor-intensive, but I think it would be really cool.

    Go for it!



    • #3
      Re: location of oven

      I guess the reason to dig into the slope is to create a wood storage area in the stand under the oven? Obviously, its a lot easier to just cut into the hillside even with the retaining wall, pour a slab and build the oven on top of that...but then you lose the space under the oven.

      So, if you must dig in, a couple of pointers based on what I ran into when I built a large smoker oven under my pizza oven by digging into a steep pond dam. I ended up cutting the dirt about 3 & 1/2 feet deep and its basically a 3sided retaining wall pushed back into the hillside. Probably similiar to your oven stand except I made it taller than your typical oven height.

      My dirt is a VERY heavy clay, so I can make nearly verticle cuts in it without much fear of collapsing....but once the cut was made, I braced the soil with a temporay brace wall of particle board held up by pipes and rebar driven vertically into the cut out earth. If you have loam or sand, you'll have to cut back at a pretty good angle, so you'll end up moving a lot of dirt twice (to dig and refill around your stand).

      It would have been easier to pour my foundation if I had made the cut -out area much deeper into the hillside: as it was, it was slightly difficult to form the concrete as its difficult to scree it off from only one side.
      Placing the brick itself wasn't too bad. Since the side in the hillside is not visible once its backfilled, actually went a little faster than normal brick-laying. I probably used some excess mortar as I wasn't too concerned about anything oozing out into the hillside. I had a slight problem with stacking the unlaid bricks around the job site so they would be at hand.... as the walls progressed upwards, I ended up having to make scaffolding held up by the hill-side on side and a small step ladder out on the flat area, otherwise I had bricks sliding down the hill.
      In some theory, I should have put a waterproof membrane on the outside of the brick (in the hillside)...but since I didn't put my wooden brace wall far enough back from my brickwork, I didn't have enough room to manuveur a memebrane around it. I did seal the inside of the brickwork and put a perforated drain pipe around the brick work to help channel water away. Never underestimate the power of water in the ground!
      Since my excavation was into a dam, I had easy acess to the back side of the wall from on top when I was back-filling. Otherwise, it would have been a lot of buckets of dirt lifted up and over from the downhill side...OUch!

      Once you get above 3 feet of retaining wall height, it can start getting into pretty serious soil presures. If your retaining wall by the patio is already 3 feet and its holding back a 45 degree slope... you're going to be lookin at a back wall of something like 5 feet or more. It can be done, but I would be thinking about concretefilled blocks with lots of rebar.

      Good luck with it.
      Paradise is where you make it.


      • #4
        Re: location of oven

        Thanks for the input. I probably didn't explain the situation all that well. There is a hillside, but above the retaining wall the ground levels out slowly. It is fairly flat. So basically the only part of the oven that would be below ground is the stand (base). Wouldn't building the base be like building a little retaining wall? The existing wall is block with lots of rebar and concrete, and it has drainage pipe that we can tie into. There would be lots of digging to do and it's not easy work because we have heavy clay soil.
        Not that it should make a difference, but I am a woman and there will be some physical stuff I will need help with. Luckily, I have a husband and two strong boys. I've never laid a brick in my life so there are parts of this project that will be challenging. I also want to run electricity up through the oven so I can attach a light fixture on the outside. Any ideas on that? I read this forum all the time and I haven't found anyone who has discussed that.


        • #5
          Re: location of oven

          I also want to run electricity up through the oven so I can attach a light fixture on the outside.
          There are two approaches to outside electricity. If you go low voltage, there is a lot less problems. You can just bury a special wire deep enough to avoid garden tools. If you want 110 volts, for hooking up tools and cooking accessories outside, it gets a bit more complicated. You need to have your wire in conduit, it has to be buried two feet down (to the top of the conduit) It needs to be connected to a special breaker in the panel, called a ground-fault-interrupter. It's like the fancy plug in your bathroom, but it protects the whole circuit from shorts, not just what's plugged in. Boxes need to be waterproof, with outlets covered with sprung, gasketed covers. I think that about covers it.
          My geodesic oven project: part 1, part 2


          • #6
            Re: location of oven

            Re: the electrical. Just to add to Dmun's post. Check with your local building department for their code requirements if running 110v. I can meet code here by burying UG romex (the gray exterior wire) 6 inches deep without any conduit. Also, I don't have to run a ground fault (GF) circuirt in the breaker box as long as the first outlet box in the line is GF protected (everything after that is GF protected if connected properly). But down south here, we've always been pretty lax with our rules!

            As far as the project being basically a small retaining wall...that's true, but better bulk up those two strong boys. If your exisiting wall is concrete block with rebar, there'll be some fun in cutting out the opening. Doublely fun if the block was concrete filled, because then you're cutting through a 10-12 inch thick concrete and rebar wall. It can be done... but you'll have to rent a pretty hefty concrete cutter saw. Only time I ever used a concrete cutter, it was cutting pavement so it was mounted on wheels. Personally, I'ld hate to have to pick up something that big to cut out a wall.
            If your concrete wall wasn't filled with concrete, the job gets easier. A smaller masonry saw and some sledge hammer work will do the job...maybe a hack saw or a cutoff saw if you run into the rebar.... or a cheap hand-held grinder.
            Once you make the cut-out, you (or those boys) will have to dig out the opening. Becasue you'll need space to work around the wall, the excavation will need to be wider and deeper (front to back into the hillside) than the planned finished size of the oven stand...at least a foot or so on each side. You may or may not need to put in some temporary bracing to hold the soil up until you get the wall built.
            Because this will end up below ground, you might want to consider something besides brick for the stand. Concrete block will go faster (but heavier...so again those boys are looking like a good option). I'm a big fan of dry-stacking concrete block and using surface-bonding cemment...as long as you can get the surface bonding cement on both sides of the block, its stronger than mortaring between the blocks (but then you have to cut your excavation wider to get more room to apply the cement).
            Sure you don't want to just build on top of the exisiting wall? It'll be a whole lot easier... of course, you'll lose the stoge space under the oven and you won't have those two bulked-up boys (but you can improve their physique with the rest of the build!)
            Paradise is where you make it.


            • #7
              Re: location of oven

              Hi Briot and welcome aboard.
              From your posting and description, it sounds almost identical to my Pompeii installation. I cut the top few bricks of a retaining wall, dug out and into the sloping ground, poured the footings and built the oven. Since then I have built a new patio and currently installing a new outdoor kitchen. See:


              Check out my build as it has many pics and step by step progress. I also have built into my chimney void some lights that illuminate the entire inner oven.
              Ask any questions you like and don't be afraid of the bricklaying. It really is easier than you think.


              Prevention is better than cure, - do it right the first time!

              The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know

              Neillís Pompeiii #1
              Neillís kitchen underway