Traveling to a pottery studio and working on your clay pieces can be a lot of fun. But for some folks, having the ability to fire your own projects whenever you want is worth the effort. That’s why pottery kiln manufacturers sell kilns you can install in your home studio.
If you’re considering purchasing a kiln for your home, there are a few considerations you’ll need to work through before you make the actual purchase. This article will guide you through the process of preparing your home workspace for a kiln, from the aspects you’ll need to have in place already to those you can install later if necessary.
Plus, we’ll also cover what kilns you can invest in for your home pottery studio. There are quite a few out on the market to choose from, so it’s all about what works best for your particular situation.
Are you ready to learn more about kiln safety for your home? Let’s begin with a few tips you should keep in mind to protect you and anyone else who will use your home pottery studio.
Don’t have time to read? Here’s a quick summary of the products we recommend.
|Kiln Name||Why We Picked It|
|Esdabem Microwave Kiln Kit||great teaching tool|
|Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln||easy-to-read digital pyrometer|
|Paragon Caldera Kiln||reaches high temperatures for many uses|
|Amaco Excel 22-Inch Deep Select Fire Kiln||fires pieces up to 18 inches tall|
|Paragon Dragon Front Loading Kiln||large firing chamber for many pieces, depending on size|
Recommended Electric Kilns for the Home
Esdabem Microwave Kiln Kit
We’ve included this particular microwave kiln on our list to show you that it’s definitely within affordable reach to use an electric kiln inside your home. This particular kiln kit includes everything you need to fire, not only small clay pieces but also fuse glass.
As long as your microwave is wired incorrectly, the safety hazards involved in using this kiln are few. You’ll want to make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on best practices. These include wearing gloves when you remove the kiln from the microwave and understanding that the pieces within the kiln are hot right after they come out.
Why it’s good for home use:
- easy to use
- great teaching tool
Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln
The Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln is a great starter kiln for your home. This particular kiln can fuse glass, enamel, and fire precious metal clay and ceramics. The kiln reaches up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and plugs into a standard outlet.
One of the most innovative aspects of the Skutt FireBox 8 is that the kiln is buckled to a base, but the top and sides can be removed to load it. The kiln can then be reassembled for firing.
The Skutt FireBox 8 includes a wooden handle on the lid that stays cool. The lid itself hinges over 90 degrees and can be opened with a single ungloved hand. An easy-to-read digital pyrometer helps you keep an eye on the temperature. You also have the ability to upgrade to the GlassMaster LT3 Digital Controller, which gives you more capabilities during firing.
Why it’s good for home use:
- plugs into a standard outlet
- versatile loading style
- easy-to-read digital pyrometer
Paragon Caldera Kiln
The Paragon Caldera Kiln exemplifies the middle of the road when it comes to kilns for home use. This particular kiln is portable and stackable and can fire up to 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Made in the USA, the Paragon Caldera Kiln sits upon a heavy-duty steel stand. Heat-dissipating element connectors power coiled wire elements that have a high-temperature rating. A stainless steel sheath protects the thermocouple, and 2.5-inch thick firebricks insulate the interior.
The Paragon Caldera Kiln fires ceramics, porcelain, stoneware, and precious metal clay. It also slags, slump, and fuse glass. Everything is controlled by the Sentry Xpress Digital Controller, which makes firing a breeze.
Why it’s good for home use:
- Sentry Xpress Digital Controller
- reaches high temperatures for many uses
- extremely capable for the price
Amaco Excel 22-Inch Deep Select Fire Kiln
If you’re someone who struggles with unloading or loading a kiln, the Amaco Excell 22-inch Deep Select Fire kiln can make things that much easier. It’ll protect your back as much as it will allow you to fire large pieces still.
For example, the firing chamber can handle pieces up to 18 inches in height. Plus, it reaches up to Cone 10 temperatures, all controlled by the Select Fire computer controller. You can select the firing chamber size you prefer from the list, but you will need 208 or 240 volts in order to power this kiln.
Amaco fits their Excel kilns with an EZ-Lift spring-assisted lid on some models. However, all Excel kilns are stainless steel, modular, and contain reversible slabs. Corrosion-resistant lug connectors extend the life of your kiln, along with the high-quality Kanthal A-1 elements. Plus, the 7-foot long cord has a NEMA 6-50 or 15-50 plug.
Why it’s good for home use:
- available in many chamber sizes
- modular design
- fires pieces up to 18 inches tall
Paragon Dragon Front Loading Kiln
As one of the more expensive kilns on our list, the Paragon Dragon Front Loading Kiln may be out of the range of many potters’ budgets, at least for their home setup. However, it’s always good to see what spending a bit more can get you.
In the case of the Paragon Dragon Kiln, you’ll have the capability to fire up to Cone 10. The kiln requires either 208 or 240 volts and can be purchased in either single or three-phase configurations.
The firing chamber of this kiln measures 24 inches wide by 24 inches deep by 27 inches high. The front-loading door closes via two spring-loaded latches. A set of tapered peepholes allows you visual access to the interior, including extra insulation to lower your energy bills. Plus, the walls are 4 inches thick and made from a mix of ceramic fiber block and firebrick.
The Paragon Dragon Front Loading Kiln also comes with the Orton Sentry 2.0 electronic controller.
Why it’s good for home use:
- fires up to Cone 10
- large firing chamber for many pieces, depending on size
- Orton Sentry 2.0 digital controller
32 Electric Kiln Safety Tips
Kiln safety should be one of your top priorities when it comes to having your own pottery studio. We’ve put together the following list of the top safety tips you should abide by throughout the entire process.
Preparation for Your New Kiln
Much of the preparation is laying the groundwork for safe practices during use. Here are a few things you should keep in mind as you prepare for your kiln:
- Kilns should not be installed in areas that are damp or wet. Electrical components and water do not mix.
- If you plan on installing your kiln outside in a shed or enclosure, ensure that the kiln is covered and sheltered from the elements. Again, you don’t want any rainwater or other moisture anywhere near the kiln.
- Learning and abiding by the local fire code is crucial. Contact your local offices to inquire what potential paperwork or inspections you may need in order to install a kiln on your property.
- Check with your homeowner’s insurance agent to see what additional coverage you may. They may also be able to advise you on local regulations to stay up to code and avoid potential fines or other issues.
- Contact a licensed electrician if you don’t feel comfortable wiring your home or home pottery studio for the kiln you purchased. The power required for a pottery kiln is not something you want coursing through your body, as it can be fatal in most, if not all, cases.
Unless you have the ability to pick up your kiln locally, you’ll most likely have your kiln delivered. There are a few ways you can prepare for and streamline the delivery process, at least on your end of the matter.
- Coordinate with the delivery company and determine a timeframe for the kiln to be delivered. Ensure you or someone else can be there at the time of delivery to handle any complications that may arise, or even just to sign for the delivery of the kiln itself.
- Clear a pathway from your driveway to the final resting place of the kiln, accounting for moving equipment such as dollies or forklifts. Doing so can easily increase the safety factor and potentially prevent damage from occurring.
Installation of Your New Kiln
Consider your kiln’s location carefully. Keep these tips in mind as you install your new kiln for home use:
- Kilns should be operated in “ideal” conditions, where the temperature falls somewhere between upwards of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal wear and tear occur in these conditions, but components can likely fail prematurely outside those parameters. Heating elements are especially susceptible to adverse temperatures.
- Arrange your kiln with open air at least 18 inches around the entire kiln body. This allows the kiln to warm up without the possibility of creating a fire hazard. If you plan to install more than one kiln in a single space, arrange the kilns at least 36 inches to allow for the same amount of breathing space. Even radiant heat can spark a fire.
- Kilns should never be placed near flammable materials, such as wood, curtains, fabrics, etc. Ideally, the kiln or kilns should be the only items in the room beside any furniture that goes within the kiln during firing. You should also have a fire extinguisher and sprinkler system ready for any fires that may occur.
- Install your kiln atop a stand or cinder blocks. This allows the kiln to receive airflow underneath for better heat control. Plus, if you plan to install a kiln vent (which we highly recommend), you’ll have the space to attach the vent to the kiln itself.
You’ll want to pay close attention to certain aspects of kiln flooring. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of installing a kiln in your home, as most people simply place the kiln on the garage floor and call it a day.
However, you should be aware of the following safety guidelines when it comes to kiln flooring:
- The weight of a kiln can be too much for some flooring material types, so consider this aspect as you pick out flooring for your new pottery room.
- The best flooring materials are concrete or strong tile or any other non-combustible material.
- Linoleum and similar materials are not favorable flooring options.
Safety Tips During Kiln Use
You should be cautious around kilns when they’re dormant or not currently firing. However, they’re more of a potential threat during and after the firing is complete. This is where you should direct most of your safety protocols based on the many factors involved.
- For example, kilns vent a number of toxic fumes during the firing process, depending on what’s inside the kiln. It’s best to start the kiln vent you installed before turning it on so that the venting system can prime.
- Personal protective equipment is essential to kiln safety. Wear heat-proof mitts or gloves as you operate the kiln to prevent any thermal burns. Human skin is no match for the heat generated by these kilns.
- Dark UV protective glasses, similar to the hoods used during welding, should be worn when looking into the kiln. These glasses can also help to see your cone packs during glaze firings.
- Kilns should never be operated near children or pets.
- Never place anything on top of the kiln at any time. This includes both front-loading and top-loading kilns.
- Be aware of your clothing choices when in the pottery room. Wear tighter-fitting garments that won’t get caught on protruding objects. Dedicate a pair of comfortable and close-toed shoes to your kiln space to prevent any contamination.
- Speaking of contamination, never eat or drink in the kiln room. The chemicals involved in the components of a pottery studio can be harmful if ingested.
- Never smoke in the pottery room.
- Wash your hands often when working in the studio.
- Don’t risk it if you aren’t sure about what you can and cannot place in your kiln. The high temperatures generated within a kiln can explode various materials and/or produce toxic fumes.
- Carefully monitor the kiln temperature and never let it exceed the maximum rating as specified by the manufacturer.
- Before unloading or loading the kiln, prevent electrical shock by ensuring all switches are off.
- Don’t unplug or plug the kiln in unless the circuit is off. This is especially true if you are performing maintenance. You should never insert metal instruments into the kiln.
- Never unload the kiln when it is hot. You should wait until the kiln is cool to the touch before reaching into it.
Like any other machine, pottery kilns do require a bit of maintenance. Below are a few key points you should pay attention to as you use your kiln in order to maintain it for future use.
- Before and after using your kiln, visually inspect it; keep an eye out for anything that’s out of place, including damaged components. This includes heating elements such as coils and thermocouples. If it doesn’t look right, don’t change it.
- Replace any broken parts before firing the kiln up again. If you don’t want to risk your work, fire the kiln for a short period of time to ensure the replaced components fix the problem.
- Periodically check the kiln vent to ensure it is working properly. Inspect the fan’s speed and direction and its physical well-being.
- Clean your kiln after the firing is complete and the kiln is cooled. A clean kiln will prevent any contaminants from ruining your future pieces.
Worst Case Scenarios to Avoid
Knowing how to be safe around a kiln takes understanding what can happen if you aren’t careful. For example, take the following list of ways something can go wrong if you don’t practice caution when operating your kiln:
As the kiln fires, the pieces within release toxic fumes. These fumes, such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and other toxic gases, can fill up a pottery room and cause health issues if the room is not properly ventilated.
Kiln pieces with air pockets can fill with moisture during glaze firings. Too much moisture build-up causes these projects to become combustible materials that can explode in the kiln.
Improperly wired kilns can cause electrical shock and pose a potential fire hazard. Kiln fires can start with an exposed wire that arcs to some flammable material nearby.
Hot kilns can cause thermal burns and even permanent damage if touched. Lack of personal protective gear is a mistake you’ll likely only make once.
As you can see, kiln safety is critical when it comes to successfully firing your pottery projects.
Other Considerations Before Putting a Kiln in Your Home
Purchasing a kiln for your home and actually installing it are two different things. Here are a few other considerations you’ll want to keep in mind as you shop for your new kiln for home use.
There are two components to the budget question: (a) how much do you want to spend on the kiln and (b) how much will you need to spend on materials, upkeep, and firing costs.
For the most part, there are kilns out there for every type of budget. Most home kilns of adequate size can run you anywhere from $500 to $1,000 or more, depending on which one you choose. Mid-grade kilns typically cost anywhere from a grand to $3,000. You can certainly spend more than that if you want to, but it’s easily achievable to buy a kiln for home use at a reasonable price.
As we mentioned, you’ll also want to consider the consumables and the electricity bill. We’ll look at mostly electric kilns in our list of recommended kilns below, as they’re the simplest to install in your workspace. Just know that you’ll also likely see a spike in your energy bill on top of materials such as kiln furniture and such.
Type of Kiln
There are various types of kilns available for home use. In fact, we’ve included a microwave kiln below, which harnesses the power of your microwave in order to fuse small glass and ceramic projects. That being said, there’s no huge preparation necessary for a microwave kiln.
You can also purchase kilns that run on gas or another alternate fuel besides electricity, but for the sake of simplicity in this article, we’ll focus mainly on electric kilns. They’re most widely used in home studio environments since they are safer and less labor-intensive when it comes to fueling them.
You’ll typically find either top-loading or front-loading electric kilns for home pottery use. As the name identifies, a top-loading kiln allows you to place projects in from the top. These kilns are typically wide and circular- or oval-shaped to accommodate a large number of projects for one firing. The lids on these top-loading kilns can be a potential safety hazard if they fall, but the majority of manufacturers identify this safety issue and address it individually.
On the other hand, front-loading kilns can be easier for some potters to load. They resemble a refrigerator in that you open the doors by swinging them out to the left and/or right. While you may not necessarily have as much space in terms of height with a front-loading kiln versus a top-loading kiln, you may have an easier time arranging the pieces in proximity to one another.
New or Used
The safety procedures listed above apply to both new and used kilns for home use. However, when you purchase a used kiln, you will need to pay closer attention to the kiln components, as you can never be sure how well they were taken care of.
That being said, new kilns for home use are not indestructible. Something could have happened during shipping and/or assembly, and it may or may not be readily apparent. Most newly-purchased kilns come with a manufacturer’s warranty to cover any repairs necessary within the first few months to a year.
Kiln Room Space
The size of the kiln and the room in which it will live are closely linked. You’ll want to consider how much room you have to house your kiln before you determine which kiln you will purchase. Of the two dimensions, the kiln is easier to manipulate since it takes much more effort to expand a living space than it does to purchase a smaller kiln.
Size of Kiln Footprint
When it comes to looking at a kiln’s dimensions, exterior measurements are just as important as the interior. Having enough space for a kiln is key, and as we mentioned above, you’ll want to make sure you have at least 18 inches of space between the kiln and anything else in your home studio.
At the same time, you’ll also want to choose a kiln that can accommodate your clay pieces’ common dimensions. If you tend to sculpt or throw larger pieces, investing in a larger kiln interior will be best. Many kilns can arrange the shelves as you please to accommodate pieces of various dimensions, but the overall interior space still limits you.
There are many kilns available on the market with a number of different features. You’ll want to pick out a kiln that covers your top 3-5 features, even if that means pushing the limits of your budget a bit.
For example, kilns with digital controllers can make life a lot easier. However, these types of kilns can cost you more than $1,000 in most cases. Having more space within your kiln might also mean that you pay more for electricity since you’re filling a larger area with heat. But if you can fire a large number of pieces in one firing versus many, you could actually be saving money on energy bills.
Other features include maximum firing temperature, viewing ports, adjustable kiln shelving, kiln accessories, etc.
Speaking of energy, you’ll definitely need to ensure you have the right wiring setup for your new kiln. Single-phase kilns can simply be plugged into your existing home outlets.
You should also consider the length of the power cord; having your electrical supply nearby will cut down on any potential problems with taut cords.
Pay attention to how the kiln plugs into your home, whether it’s a 120 volt or 208/240-volt system. The phasing can also be an indicator of whether or not you’ll need to have an electrician come out and wire up a specific outlet for your new home-use kiln.
Investing in a quality kiln ventilation system should be one of your top priorities in addition to choosing the best kiln for your home use. Most kiln vents are a negative pressure system, which removes pollutants such as carbon monoxide from the pottery room and mixes it with room air as it brings it out of doors to disperse into the atmosphere.
Kiln ventilation systems can be an additional cost besides the (a) kiln itself, (b) consumables, and (c) energy bills, but it’s a worthy investment for your safety as well as your health. Removing the toxic fumes that pottery kilns emit is critical to keeping both you and your pottery kilns safe.
Are kilns safe for home use?
Yes, kilns are safe for home use as long as they are properly installed and maintained. It’s important to keep your home kiln studio up to code as well as safe for all occupants.
Can a pottery kiln be dangerous?
When improperly handled or used, pottery kilns can most definitely be dangerous. Potential hazards include explosions, fires, and/or electrical shock. Placing potentially combustible materials within the kiln could cause a huge explosion. Kilns can also emit carbon monoxide during the glaze firing process.
How dangerous are kiln fumes?
Kiln fumes are toxic and even more dangerous because they cannot necessarily be seen. Pottery kiln fumes can cause a number of health issues and should be removed from the kiln room with a proper ventilation system to protect those within the pottery room.
Do I need to vent a kiln in my kiln room?
Yes, kiln ventilation is necessary for proper safety practice. While a cross breeze may help to disperse some of the toxic gases, such as carbon dioxide, that electric kilns emit, they’re a temporary solution. Ventilation systems are an investment in your health and an important part of any home pottery studio.
We hope you’ve found this article on safety tips for your home kiln useful. There’s a lot to think about for sure when it comes to putting a kiln in your home, but it can easily be done if you put safety first.