Time for major repairs!!

Don't try this at home!

Don’t try this at home!

Sad isn’t it? I know what you are thinking – “How did he let that happen?” I’m a truly ashamed. I am a bad oven owner! I have neglected my oven and should be reported to the authorities.

I can partly justify the state of my oven by blaming the weather. We had a terrible winter in the UK- snow, cold temperatures and rain – lots of rain! Unfortunately  for a large part of the winter I left my oven, normally protected by a tarpaulin sheet, uncovered. Why? Well I don’t really know why, but I did. Anyway, by the time I did cover it up it was too late. The oven was saturated and much of the outer layer had washed away, leaving piles of sand around the top of the plinth. When I finally removed the covers last month I discovered that the situation was even worse – the brick arch had also collapsed, taking much of the chimney with it. Poor oven.

Rather than get depressed about it, now that the weather has improved a little, it’s time to start thinking about what to do to make it better. There are two options:

  1. knock it down and start again from scratch, or
  2. salvage what I can and repair it.

Having looked carefully at the oven yesterday I have decided that it is salvageable and, with some major work and TLC, can be bought back to it’s former glory, and better. The outer layer is mostly washed-away but the insulation layer is 98% intact while, most importantly, the inside oven layer is pretty solid still (there are a few minor cracks which penetrate through to the insulation layer but these can be patched-up with new mixture).

I stripped off the outer layer (what was remaining came off very easily without damaging the insulation layer) and removed the brick arch. Over the coming weeks I will do the following:

  1. build a new arch (a friend is designing a “perfect” arch for me using CAD which will involve cutting the bricks to size).
  2. install a pre-made, clay-pipe chimney which will be much more robust than the old one
  3. mix and build a new outer layer (and patch the cracks)
  4. construct a proper door to fit my new arch
  5. construct a permanent roof structure, similar to this one: https://clayoven.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/clay-oven.jpg

I’ll be sure to update you with progress and post lots of photos of the re-development.

To borrow a quote from the Six Million Dollar Man, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” I can’t guarantee a bionic oven, or even that it’ll be faster, but I hope it will be at least better and stronger than the previous one. I shall redeem myself. Watch this space.


11 thoughts on “Time for major repairs!!

  1. hii Simon

    from this site, i notice their inner core layer were made of clay mixture with straw !!

    I heard sayings that any hole in clay mixture for the inner core will crack after fire.. because of the pocket of air in it that expand..

    so will this oven crack everywhere in the inner core ?

    i would like to hear from your opinion.. and hopefully the author of this site
    can contribute the result for us all to learn together.


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  3. My husband built a clay oven about three years ago. He built a roof to protect it. Unfortunately, he passed away in October 2013. I have not used the oven since his death. The oven appeared to be okay until last week. It is being attacked by mud dauber wasps. I am afraid they will destroy the oven. After reading further, I am wondering if they will only attack the outer part of the oven, and leave the inner part intact. I don’t know if I should try to spray the oven or just let it be and see what happens. Any information would be appreciated.

    • Hi Kathy. Thanks for the message. I’m sorry to hear about your sad loss. I suspect the wasps are taking the clay to build nests. If you can do it safely, I would consider spraying, you might then try covering the oven with a tarp to keep them off it. Then, when you get a chance, have a few close friends over, fire it up and cook some pizzas in it, in memory and celebration of your husband.

      Best wishes


  4. Hi Simon
    I have now finished our oven here in sunny New Zealand, using many elements of your design. For longevity, we did decide to cover it with a cement render but living on an island where many houses have been made out of mudbrick, plenty of builders happy to share knowledge. We did the three layers of clay and straw, but before we put on the cement render, I got a large pile of straw and mixed it with a very a runny clay slip. This was put all over the oven and then covered in chicken wire to hold it in place. The cement render was then laid on top so when the oven expands with the heat, the straw allows this expansion without cracking the render. We also put in a colour into the cement so now fits into the garden better

    (how can I post a picture?)

  5. Hi Simon,
    Enjoyed your ebook and built a stunning ( well the wife thinks so as it is a birthday present for her!) oven on my patio over the last 3 weeks. I was just wondering if anyone has come up with a good weatherproofing layer for the oven . it’s not in a position where I can easily construct a fixed shelter and throwing a tarp’ over it spoils the view! I was thinking about applying a lime render or maybe getting a tub of chiminea paint as I have a distant memory that this is what we did once on our old clay chiminea to help weatherproof… any suggestions welcome.


    • Great news Jeremy and I’m really pleased that your wife likes it! Happy birthday to her.

      I have seen them with lime render before but have no experience of chimenea paint so can’t advise. Le us know what you decide to do.

      Best of luck

      PS whatever you choose be prepared for the oven to crack still

  6. Dear Simon,

    Great to have come across your website – and we are hugely reassured that we are not the only ones to have allowed our beloved clay oven to fall foul of the weather last year. We built our oven with about 35 residents on a housing estate in East London in 2010 and have had many happy pizza-making sessions since – as well as made scone-making, chapatis and other breads etc. Our top day was 72 pizzas in one sitting! Our oven is mobile so it can be wheeled around the two estates where we are based. It lives in our studio garage on the lower estate between cooking sessions (though it got literally stuck in grass on the upper estate in the rain last July which is when the damage happened).

    We are about to launch our “Top Boy Bakers Project” at the request of some of the boys who helped build the oven, have taken part in community feasts, and now want to learn to bake in it themselves. (There are may boys on the two estates with little to occupy them out of school hours. We have plans for the Basic Family Loaf as well as culturally-relevant breads, herb breads… and will be working with a local bakers collective, adult mentors and a film-maker…).

    So, the damage – the inner lay has caved in at the front – around the door opening – and the insulation layer is also damaged around the same area, as is the chimney. The oven is generally robust and resilient but – while we are confident we can repair it fully – a little guidance along the way would be very gratefully received, such as advice on the mixture and bonding for the inner layer…? We have photos of before and after taken yesterday, which we can email you.

    On our website, you can see the oven being built and used etc:

    With many thanks in advance!

    Bobby Lloyd and Sally Labern
    the drawing shed

    • Hi Booby and Sally. Wow! I love this project. Clearly you need to get your oven repaired asap. As you can see, I stripped back as little as I could, just enough of the damaged material as I needed to. It’s hard to give you any advice really because every oven is unique. I say just go for it. I don’t think you’ll have any joy re-bonding the inner layer so I would cut back and maybe push the chimney back a little to replace the broken section. Happy to look at photos though if you want to email them to me.

      Best of luck with it.


      • Dear Simon,

        Many thanks for your reply!

        Would you mind having a quick look at these photos, just in case….?

        With very best wishes, Until later,

        Bobby and Sally

        Sally Labern Bobby Lloyd Artist Director Artist Director

        07740 584469 the drawing shed 07932 809816 145 Dames Road London E7 0DZ http://www.thedrawingshed.org

        Like our *Facebook Page * Follow us on *Twitter *

        On Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 3:59 PM, The Clay Oven

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