Monday, March 26, 2012

Brick Oven Cost

Please also check a post of September 19. 2016 for comparisons with other makers.
[THIS IS AN UPDATED-UPDATED VERSION OF A FORMER POST, REVISED ON NOVEMBER 22, 2015]

3000 year old oven in Pompeii
As this is one of the most viewed posts on this blog, I feel compelled to update it as new and important information is available.
Our experience with major purchases tells us that we can expect our cars and houses to need major repairs within fifteen years (max) of purchase.  Brick ovens built as they were built a thousand years ago, last forty times longer.  Except for high-tech insulation materials that conserve fuel, the ovens I build are like those ancient ones.
It's been  years since I attempted to give those interested in purchasing a brick oven a solid bead on the costs.
In those years, I have built many brick ovens and consulted on others.  The answer to the question is...


What exactly do you want?  NOT a true answer, I admit, but it is the most important question that needs answering.

Brewster Academy Oven by TBO
Because I build custom brick ovens, made for individuals and their unique locations and requirements, answering a group of questions will lead directly and effectively to an oven with a specific price tag.  It will, more importantly, result in an oven that works perfectly.

To explore this and obtain a personal response from me, go to: http://truebrickovens.com/ and click on "Your Checklist".




As of Fall 2015, I began giving exact costs for various sizes of oven cores.  
An oven core consists of the base slab, the base, the oven floor slab (formed at about 3'), the insulation under the oven, the oven floor and dome, the insulation over the dome, and the flue.


Cores cost $8000.00 for a 36" interior dome.  Larger ovens can be built in exact increments with associated increase in cost.  Because these are custom domes, I do not need to build standard sizes.
Recently, a customer compared the cost of my building the oven to a high-end kit shipped from (fill in the blank...other country).  My on-site build was competitive.  The result is a true brick oven built from U.S. bricks, by a U.S. artisan mason.

Factors that alter the cost are: locations requiring sub-floor reinforcing, difficult to reach locations, and places where codes require specific modifications.  I've dealt with all these conditions easily.


Here are a few categories of ovens and uses to consider:
Outdoor kitchen and terrace by TBO
  1. The residential or home brick oven.  Usually 36" interior diameter unless you have crazy-big parties; then 42" or bigger.
  2. The outdoor brick oven, often part of an outdoor entertainment and kitchen space.  My longtime company: North Star Stoneworks northstarstoneworks.com is able to build out from the oven and integrate it into the landscape.
  3. The indoor brick oven, a smart choice in rugged climates where rain, snow, bugs, wind, and local gangs or neighbors might be a problem.  These oven can fit into conventional kitchens by placing the volume of the oven in a bumped-out space adjacent to the kitchen. Code-compliant, stainless steel insulated chimneys allow for ease of running exhaust vapors.  Indoor ovens by TBO now have make-up air channels so negative draft issues and air infiltration is eliminated.
  4. Bakery brick ovens capable of producing hundreds of loaves a day and remaining at temperature for long periods.  These ovens have extra mass in the dome and extra insulation under the floor and above the dome.  They are used to cook large amounts of food ranging from pizza to roasts, bread to slow-cooked casseroles.
  5. Portable brick ovens suited for catering business that want to cook on site.
    Portable 48" oven for 50 Local Restaurant in Maine (2015)

The above five categories begin to determine cost.  The other factor is style.  Ovens range from exterior finish that is very simple to elaborate details such as stone roofs, special tile and brickwork, stone, and even frescoes.

What I can do for anyone inquiring (see website TBO Checklist) is respond to a detailed request that includes photos and desired features.  If after talking with you, we have a clear idea of the oven you want, an exact cost amount will follow.  Then you'll know the true cost.

Please note: Factories, like those that turn out hundreds of cast refractory shells that you can buy, are able to put a dollar amount on their stamped-out product because they are all identical.  The hidden costs of finishing the job and the longevity of the oven are not mentioned.

(Added on July 8, 2014)
Given the attention this particular post has generated, I'll tag another factor in cost onto the information given:
Built right, a brick oven is one of the most cost-effective investments you can make.  Built wrong, it can be a heart-break.  That is why so many of the posts on this blog offer information on building an oven.  Even if you don't build it yourself, YOU need to know what goes into a successful brick oven project.  You or your local mason, however well-intentioned, may not have ever built a successful brick oven.  The technical details of brick ovens, while not 'rocket science', are specific to this device.  There are dozens of books, and Youtubes, for products that claim to be 'brick ovens'.
The builders of the ovens in Pompeii and throughout Europe and north America (representing more than three thousand years of experience) perfected the domed brick oven.  Every other design is a post-industrial version.  Enough said.  Good luck.


The earlier version of this post is shown below:

During home and garden shows I have hundreds of people talk with me about brick ovens.  Although many (mostly guys) wanted to build one themselves and I am happy to supply know-how (as past blog posts will show), the most frequent question asked was, "How much do they cost?"
This is a legitimate question for anyone. Naturally, the smaller the oven the less the cost. Because I, as a mason have had negative experience with pre-cast ovens, I build solely out of fire brick, I can say that compared to some pre-cast wood-fired ovens, my brick ovens are competitive.

But people want hard numbers, so I bracket the costs, pointing to small ovens (30" interior diameter) with simple finishes. Larger ovens, portable ovens, interior ovens, and more extensive projects like designing an entire outdoor entertainment space or room addition tend to be priced individually because the detailing is so specific.

Anyone checking the marketplace for pre-cast refractory kits and custom brick ovens will find the range begins at about $2k (excluding the really cheap stuff) and tops out in the $20K range.

Hand-crafted brick ovens take available common materials (fire brick, refractory mortar and insulating products, concrete block, brick, stone, and heavy countertop stone) and make brick ovens that are unique to your environment and desires.

I find that people who are already avid cooks see the wood-fired brick oven as the holy-grail of chefdom, and for good reason.  They may already have a $6000.00 range in their kitchen. This is where cost comparisons become fair.

What will you spend? Think of the genuine brick oven as in the price range of a used car; one that will never need fixing, or an oil change, the windshield won't crack, or the tires wear out. It will become the center of your cooking life and each time you open the door, great food will come out.

This is what I said two years ago.  Compare to the first part of this post for similarities and differences.

POST, POST Script:
Hundreds of products have emerged on the market as a result of exploding interest in brick ovens.  Each of these products attempts to give the consumer the 'brick oven' experience at the lowest cost.  This is good, in some ways.  Not everyone can build or afford a true brick oven.  Inventing ways of emulating the cooking qualities of a masonry mass is the job of industry.   It's been done with virtually every device ever invented.  As tempting as it is for me to become a 'dealer' for a company offering the manufactured wood-fired oven, I will continue to take pride and pleasure in building custom brick ovens in the tradition of true artisan masons.
Stay tuned for an announcement of brick oven building workshops that will allow people to have a brick oven built while hosting a workshop, thus saving them part of the cost, giving them a hands-on part in the process, and allowing others to learn the basics of brick oven masonry.  

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