Pizza is a universally loved meal in both the United Kingdom and America. This means most of us would jump at the chance to have our own authentic pizza oven sitting conveniently in our own yard. In this article though we will look at what we need to think about from a planning and permit point of view to make that dream a reality.
Regulations vary based on locality. However, most domestic pizza ovens are allowable with reasonable considerations such as distance from boundary and overall size. Those living in densely populated suburban areas may be subject to tighter regulations around smoke and smell generation.
Can I Have a Pizza Oven in my Backyard?
Although you may own your home and garden, it doesn’t matter if you live in the United Kingdom or the United States, you can bet that you will be governed by a whole array of building and planning regulations. While they may be a headache when you want to start a project, they also prevent any less considerate neighbors from building towering structures over your yard for example.
Although planning and building control isn’t the first thought when you think pizza oven it pays to do your homework first.
The rules and regulations around whether you can build your pizza oven in your yard can vary widely from state to state and it is always best to check with the local county permitting department. In addition, if your home is part of any type of homeowner’s association (HOA) it is also advisable to check their rules as even if you can get a building permit the HOA rules might prevent you from getting started.
If your HOA allows and there are no municipal codes preventing the installation of a pizza oven, you are likely to require a building permit for the actual construction of the oven. This is designed to ensure that the oven and any structure it is housed in, does not negatively impact others. The other concern is the amount of smoke generated from your oven as many cities and counties have pollution rules that are enforced by the permitting department.
We approached the San Marcos district planning department of California for general advice on fire pit construction. They advised there may be more specific restrictions depending on the size and design of a pizza oven but that they would consider it in the same vein as BBQs and firepits
“As a minimum, the pizza oven would need to be set 10 feet back from any combustible material, this includes boundary fences and should be 5′ from the property boundary on all sides…. Additional build permits may be required for any structures or coverings and the height of the chimney or flue would need to be agreed”
They also strongly recommended liaising with the local fire department for advice on the safety of any outdoor cooking /fire sources.
We approached the Kent County Council Planning department, one of the largest county councils in England, to get some advice about the rules and regulations that govern building your own pizza oven.
“It is always dependent on individual circumstances, but most domestic pizza ovens would not require planning permission……issues arise however if the oven is housed in a structure or generates an anti-social level of smell or smoke”
They went on to explain that most domestic pizza ovens fall under permitted development rules. This is a series of rules that lets homeowners make minor changes internally to their home or make adjustments to their garden that would not reasonably negatively impact their neighbors or area.
Similar to the guidance for the United States there will be limits on how close to boundary lines or how tall structures can be with consideration to the amount of smoke produced if you go for a wood-burning version.
Be careful though, planning permission rules can vary from county to county in the United Kingdom with some highly urbanized areas like London having stricter rules, so it is always best to check with your local planning office.
How Do I Contact Planning Authorities?
The internet is the best route to locate your local planning authority. In the United Kingdom, they are usually delivered by the local county council and consulting their website or main phone line should set you in the right direction. Many planning authorities in the United Kingdom have their own dedicated websites with information and contact pages.
It can be a bit more complicated in the United States as often planning departments with responsibility for issuing permits are run at the City level although some states have wider agencies. The first port of call should be popping ‘your area’ and ‘building permit’ into an internet search engine. This should direct you to the best starting point. If all else fails, your local City Hall should be able to send you in the right direction.
What to Consider Before Installing an Outdoor Pizza Oven
Once you have tackled the initial considerations around placement and size in order to meet building regulations in your area, there are a few more points to consider.
One of the biggest will be whether you are going to attempt to build your pizza oven yourself or are you going to leave it to the professionals? By all means, there are plenty of how-to guides out there on the web but buying all the tools required to construct your pizza oven will not come cheap.
While the most common option for authentic outdoor pizza is a wood-fired affair, if you live in a particularly strict planning zone you may consider an alternative gas-fired option. However, this will require a dedicated line. If you do go for wood fired it is worth considering at an early stage if you intend to construct a structure to house your wood fuel supplies.
There are a myriad of design examples and aesthetics for your pizza oven from stone built rustic to sleek and modern. The possibilities can feel truly endless.
What are Smoke Control Areas?
Smoke control areas (SMAs) relate to areas in the United Kingdom, normally densely populated cities like London, Birmingham, and Belfast, where there are strict regulations around how much smoke can be emitted from chimneys and the types of fuel that are allowed to be burnt.
In SMAs wood is only allowed to be burned in specific appliances, the good news is that in the majority of SMAs a wood-fired pizza oven would be exempt and allowed. This is only on the agreement that specific types of well-dried, aged wood is burnt to limit the excess smoke.
The United States does not use the term SMAs. However, many cities have similar legislation about any outdoor cooking area which would be considered to be producing excessive amounts of smoke in densely populated areas.
Do Outdoor Pizza Ovens Need a Chimney?
While you can have a pizza oven without a chimney, there are plenty of good reasons that the addition of a chimney or flue to your wood-fired or charcoal-burning pizza oven will improve the set-up greatly.
Firstly, if there is no chimney, smoke will circulate within the oven, while we love the slightly smoky smell of a wood-fired pizza, not many people would queue up for a very smoky-tasting pizza. Without a chimney, the dough will incorporate smoke and soot as it cooks. Not a great taste.
Secondly, the chimney moves the smoke away and upwards making the experience of cooking with your pizza oven more enjoyable. No one wants to be engulfed by smoke when trying to retrieve their tasty pizza after all.