Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Pizza Oven Update: Topping off

Hit a milestone over the weekend so it is time for the next wood fired oven update. It was a bunch of long days so it is kind of blending into a blur. I might be messing up the timeline.

First, if you need steel studs I highly recommend BuildingSpecialties (L & W Supply) right off of Route 9 in the Latham/Cohoes area. Very friendly. They answered numerous and most likely annoying questions including a panicked phone call about the washers I used. Just generally nice place. I underestimated what I needed and had to get a few more pieces. They cut them down so they would fit in my mini-van.  They also stock the most sheet rock I have ever seen in one place.

One day after work, my friend Ryan drove up with me to L & W supply and we got a bunch of 18 gage steel studs and track. On the way to my house, we also stopped at Home Depot to grab a few sheets of plywood. All of this sat in my garage while it rained off and on for what felt like an eternity.

I unwrapped the oven and screwed the bottom tracks in for the steel studs. Lots of holes were drilled and probably an excessive amount of TapCon screws (concrete screws) were used. Then the oven got wrapped up again… and it rained again. 

I wanted to start with the easiest wall which was the back.  Just a straight 30-inch high wall. I messed up the gauges of the steel studs. I bought tin snips that said they were good up to 20 gauge. I was using 18 gauge steel studs. Perfect, the snips age good to 20. Except I forgot that gauges go the other way and 18 gauge is thicker than 20 gauge. I gave it a shot. My tin snips were able to bend the 18 gauge steel but not cut it. I don’t have a chop saw so all the cuts were made with an angle grinder. I kind of got the hang of an angle grinder just in time to be done cutting. The first wall went pretty well.

On to the sides. I decided on a 30 inch wall height in the rear and a 48 inch height in the front. The idea was to avoid being able to hit my head on a corner anywhere around the oven. It’s a little close in the back but the higher the back wall is, the higher the front wall gets for the pitch. The chimney also has to be factored in to the calculation. I have 5 feet of chimney and you should have at least 2 feet of pipe above the roof. 

I cut the wall closer to the house. Fit it together. It looked good so I took it apart and did my best to duplicate it for the other side. I fit them both back together to see if they were level-ish to each other. I was going to take them down so the current tarp/canopy covering system still worked, but they looked pretty good so I screwed them into place. It was also clear that I needed some more material that was it until I got the chance to go shopping again. 

My friend Joe stopped by to lay out the wiring. There will be a few outlets in back, a few on the side and a switch for some overhead lights. He also helped me figure out how to frame the front. Brick size limited the depth of the landing so the chimney is in there pretty tight.  After getting the second round of steel studs, Joe came back to help again. He mounted and wired the electric boxes while I cut the pieces for the front. We got the chimney anchor plate installed and then framed up the front.  The anchorage was set up when I built the arches. One thing to note, the bolts, nuts and washers are all stainless steel. You don’t want to heat galvanized metal up (puts off a toxic gas).

Then with some help from my wife and oldest daughter we put together the framing for the roof. My wife had to leave but my daughter and I were able to get the roof from the driveway to the oven with a moving dolly.  During the process, we met our new neighbors. I must have looked like a complete, possibly scary, mess. Great first impression.

I put the strips I used to for the concrete ring around the oven. I picked up a few bags of perlite to dump over the oven as a little bit of extra insulation. The form was to keep the perlite from flowing into the corners. Then the whole family managed to get the roof onto the framing and the concrete board walls went up. (I don't think I took any pictures of just the walls)

Last Sunday morning, we got the front wall mounted.  With the walls done, I dumped in a bunch of the loose perlite around the oven walls. The rest goes on the top as the roof gets installed.

The problem with changing the plans multiple times is that it eventually messes stuff up. I had figured three 4’x8’ sheets of plywood for the roof (a 4 foot, a piece cut to 3 feet, and another cut to a little over 2 feet depending on the overhang) and that adds up. What I messed up was having the roof framing line up at the right spot. Lots of measuring, a little bit of cursing and some work with a circular saw and each of the 3 sheets of ply wood were cut to something’ x 8’ so they hit the framing. There’s a reason everything is supposed to be 16 inches on center. It adds up. Local framing contractors do not need to worry about me stealing their business.

Once two pieces of plywood were on, I quickly realized my plan for locating where to cut the hole for the chimney wasn’t going to work. I had thought I’d be on the one piece of plywood and reach under to locate “centerish” with some help from the bottom. However, instead of being on one piece of plywood, two pieces had to be put up to get past the chimney location. Not sure this makes any sense. I had planned to be working fairly close to the edge of a 4 foot piece of plywood. I could lay on top and reach under. But I needed 2 cut pieces of plywood (about 6 feet up there), so I couldn’t reach around the framing to touch the center of the chimney. Plan B was needed.

We best guessed near center and drilled a hole. As long as the holes were inside the circle that was getting cut out, it didn’t matter how many were drilled. I lowered a string with a screw tied to the end (homemade plumb bob). From that location, we re-estimated center-ish (a few inches towards the front and a just a little bit more to one side. Drilled another hole and tried again – pretty close. I drilled a screw in where I thought center was. Using a string and a Sharpie I marked out a 12 inch circle. Then starting from one of the holes, I cut out the circle with a jig saw. Up came the chimney pipe (a 5 foot length of 8 inch double walled Duravent – outside diameter is 10 inches). Holy shit, it fit.

Dumped in the rest of the perlite and then we got the rest of the plywood on the roof. Snow and ice barrier is usually over the last 3 or 6 feet of a roof line. Since the whole roof is 9’ by 8’ and the barrier is sold in 150 square foot package, we covered the whole thing. After that, I popped the chimney flashing and cap on to the pipe.

Structurally, the oven is done. Topping party!

This Sunday, I wrestled with the fascia. I don’t really know the ins and outs of small building construction. My goal, based solely on earlier indecision, was to leave a 1.5-inch overhang with the plywood around the entire frame. 20/20 hindsight being what it is, I should have shot for ¾ of an inch. To fill this gap I needed a 2xsomething piece of wood which are significantly heavier than 1xsomething. Doesn’t mater structurally, more for installation difficulty.

So I got a bunch of 2x8s (which are actually 1.5”x7.25”), ripped about half an inch off them (the metal roof framing is 6 inches deep and the extra ¾ inch if to make a line with soffit (bottom of the eave). Once they were ripped I used the router and ½ in round over bit to make the bottom edge pretty. Then came the installation.

Each fascia board was clamped into position. Pilot holes were drilled and the widened a little for a counter sink. Each board was then attached with a bunch of screws. I’ll either plug the holes with a little piece of word or maybe a rounded button. I’ve got to decide which looks better.

It was now about 7:00 on Sunday.  I didn’t think putting up the drip edge was going to be a problem. But it was. And I messed it up. Expletives were muttered. OK, maybe louder than a mutter. I got the back piece on and called it day. After some more research and looking at our roof, it appears that no one does drip edge the way I was trying. And I thing bending one piece around a corner was harder with the drip edge I was using. I got the kind that has a 6 in flap so I could get past the steel framing to nail it on. It might work better with the 2-inch kind that could have worked if I built the entire roof out of wood. Caulk will be my friend here. 

Had an appointment Monday afternoon and then went home. Got the rest of the drip edge on and then set up to do the shingles. My wife Amy was cutting them and I was crawling around the roof nailing them on. We were careful to avoid nails going into the steel framing. We got lucky, there was really only one row that was a little too close for comfort. Cut out around the chimney pipe, got the flashing down and then kept going towards the top. (Side note: you can’t get more of an open ventilated area than the top of a roof and I think I caught a buzz off of the caulk around the flashing.) We finished up around 7:30.

There are a few things I want to touch up on the roof but the roof is basically done. Here's the view from an upstairs bedroom

Everything else is finishing work. There’s still plenty to do, most likely in this order...

1. The soffit: going to be a grooved pine with a few lights (once this is done, the oven is truly sealed up)

2. The counter in front - some more concrete and a counter top

3.  Make the outside walls pretty - I’m leaning towards stucco, I might need to extend the opening arch a little.

4. Make the concrete base look pretty- probably some stone veneer or tile.

Parts of this might get put one the back burner. I’m in a spot where I really want to use the oven and ease up on building it. Once the soffit is in and everything is sealed up, I wont have to worry about the weather forecast every time I think about firing the oven up.

Some 20/20 Hindsight: If I could go back in time, I would have only used the steel for the front wall and wood for the other three and the roof. It’s easier to work with, probably a little cheaper and would have been built faster. No worries about the steel rotting though.

Many thanks to Amy (she was really a huge help), Joe, Lisa, Eric, and Allison for their help with this phase of the construction.


  1. Looks really good, how big of a counter are you going to make?

    1. Thanks! Nothing too big for a counter. I'm going to raise the concrete ledge in font and then a local company is going to put a piece of granite on top. They will probably be able to make it out of scrap from kitchen counters. I'd like a big shelf but the bigger it is, the further you get away from the oven. I think it will be 12-14 inches at it's widest part.