How to Choose A Pottery Kiln - A Simple Guide

How to Choose A Pottery Kiln - A Simple Guide

Since you are reading this guide, we can assume that you are somewhere along the process from considering whether to buy a kiln, to making the final decision.

With so many different kiln sizes, styles, prices, and capabilities, it can feel quite overwhelming sometimes. Wherever you are on this journey, this guide should be useful for you. We will outline the things you will need to consider and help you to make an informed decision.


A guide to buying a kiln for pottery graphic


Do I actually need a kiln?

The absolute first thing to decide on is whether or not you actually need a kiln, and wether now is the right time to make this investment.

There are naturally pros and cons of buying your own kiln, and you will have to decide what is best for your situation. 

Why it might not be the right time to buy a kiln:

-If you are just trying out ceramics for the first time, and ‘giving it a try’

-If you do not have a suitable space for it

-You might prefer to learn the basics at a studio first, so that you are more confident when it comes to using your own kiln

Why it might be a great time to buy a kiln:

-You have a good space for the kiln

-You are looking to progress in ceramics

-You are finding taking your pieces to a commercial studio to be fired inconvenient or non-ideal

-You have the means to make an up-front investment that will save money in the long run


Most hobbyist potters begin by learning to throw/build at a studio, where their pieces are fired in a communal kiln. This is normally a pay-monthly setup, with extra costs per firing. This is a great way to get into the craft, and it can be a fantastic way to meet like-minded people and share tips.

 Pros and cons of buying a kiln

The pros and cons list above summarises the main reasons for and against buying a kiln. Ultimately, this will come down to your personal situation and what is best for you.



Another thing to consider is Kilnshare. This is a great initiative which links people with kilns to people who are looking to fire their work. This allows people without kilns to access them for a small price.

 Kiln share logo

This adds benefits to both sides:

Non-kiln owners

-You might be able to find a good arrangement with a local kiln owner, without needing to have your own kiln


Kiln owners

-You can offset some of the costs of your kiln, by making money from renting it out to people.


We love this idea, as it makes pottery accessible to more people, and makes a great addition to the ceramics community.

However, a lot of people eventually find that they’d prefer the flexibility and control of having their own kiln. You may find yourself in this situation now, which could be why you are reading this guide.



What kind of kiln should you get?


A guide to buying a kiln for pottery graphic


Assessing your situation

Ok, so now you’ve decided that you want to go ahead and buy a kiln, where do you start?

Before you focus on the kiln itself, you need to get a clear idea of what you will use it for, in the short, medium and long term. More specifically, assess the quantity and characteristics of your ceramics work, both now and what you predict for the future.


Here we have a list of questions for you to answer, which will help you get a clear idea of what you need. Try to answer thinking about how you will use the kiln in the next couple of years, as it’s much easier to buy what you need now rather than having to upgrade in the future.


Take out a pen and paper (or notes on your phone/computer), and answer the following questions:

-What types of pieces will you make?



-Which of the following best describes your pottery?

(Small batches of small peices / small batches of big pieces / big batches of small pieces / big batches of big pieces)


-What clay body type will you be using?



-How often will you fire?

(Every few days/weekly/biweekly/monthly/sporadically)


After thinking about your pottery needs, you then have to match this up with your physical requirements and constraints. While the questions above might help you decide on your dream kiln in an ideal scenario, the questions below should help you when it comes to decide on the right kiln for you when you balance your needs and constraints:


Answer the following questions:


-Where will you put your kiln, how much space do you have

(It’s probably worth measuring out the exact size of the space you have)


-What is your budget?


-What are your electrical requirements

(If you know them, great. If not, don’t worry. we will touch on this a bit later)


-Is there anything else specific to your situation that might be worth noting here?


You should now have a clear idea of what your needs are. Use this to guide you as you read the rest of this article, where we will discuss the options of kiln types and brands.


Note: If you email us over your answers to these questions, we’d be able to recommend you a few models of kilns that might be good fit for you, based on your answers.

Just email them over to


So, what should your kiln be like?

Factors for which kiln you ultimately decide to buy can generally be broken down into ‘Requirements’ and ‘preferences’. (Needs/wants)




Size will be one of the biggest factors for deciding on the kiln you want. The size you you should get depends on your answers above that relate to:

  1. The size of your loads
  2. The available room you have
  3. Your budget


Load size:

This is where you will have to assess your current and future needs. It’s better to get a slightly bigger kiln than you need right now, as it means you won’t have to upgrade it in the future.

It can be hard to visualise what 50cm x 60cm x 80cm actually translates to in terms of what you can fit inside the kiln, so some websites (including us!) will give you an estimate of how many mugs/bowls/plates can fit into each kiln.

Kiln volume is often described in litres.


Available room:

This probably isn’t very flexible - you likely have one or two options for where you are going to put your kiln. If you don’t have a lot of room, that can often be the deciding factor for the kiln you choose.

Also note that a kiln will usually need to be around 40-50cm from a wall, so be sure to factor that into your measurements.



This also probably isn’t very flexible. You may have a limited amount that you are able/willing to invest in a kiln, and bigger kilns tend to be more expensive. This might also be a deciding factor for you.



Note down the following:

-Load size: I want a kiln that is between _____ litres and _____ litres

-Budget: I’m willing to spend £XXXX on my kiln

-Available room: My kiln can be wider than XXXcm and no deeper than XXXcm


Disregarding kilns that don’t meet these criteria will help you whittle down the options to a much more manageable number.



You probably have an idea of what types of clay and glazes you use/will use. Each of the types of clay bodies require a different firing temperature, and it’s important to know which you will need.

  • Earthenware:
    • Low-fire range: 998°C - 1060°C
    • Ideal for decorative pieces and traditional pottery.
  • Stoneware:
    • Mid-fire range: 1180°C - 1230°C
    • High-fire range: 1280°C - 1300°C
    • Versatile, durable, suitable for functional ware.
  • Porcelain:
    • High-fire range: 1250°C - 1300°C
    • Known for its strength, translucency, and white color.
  • Raku:
    • Low-fire range: 950°C - 1000°C
    • Used for the specific raku firing process, yielding unique effects.


To cover all bases, it’s probably worth getting a kiln that can reach at least 1250°C, just to cover all bases, as you never know what you might end up making in the future.



Gas or electric?

You may be wondering wether you should be looking for a gas or electric kiln.

Both have their merits and quirks, and understanding these can help you pick the one that aligns best with your pottery aspirations and practical considerations.

Electric kilns are often hailed as the go-to choice for beginners. Their ease of use, eco-friendliness, and affordability make them a practical option for those just starting out. Electric kilns heat up and cool down with a precision that's hard to beat, offering a cleaner atmosphere that's ideal for bisque firings. They're also generally cheaper to run, thanks to their fuel efficiency and the advances in modern kiln technology that have made them surprisingly inexpensive to operate.

On the other side, gas kilns, fueled by propane or natural gas, offer a traditional firing experience that many potters seek for specific effects like reduction firing, which can produce rich, vibrant glaze colors unattainable in an electric kiln. Though they may require more attention and expertise to operate correctly, many people enjoy the tactile experience and control over the firing process.

However, gas kilns can be pricier to run and may need specialized venting setups, especially if located indoors.

Installation-wise, electric kilns are generally easier and less expensive to set up, especially in smaller sizes. Larger electric kilns might need a significant electrical supply, potentially complicating their installation.


Our opinion?

If you’re not sure, we’d recommend going for an electric kiln, unless you are specifically looking to focus on reduction firing or other gas-kiln specific firings. It just tends to be a much simpler process with electric kilns.



Electrical requirements:

When setting up a kiln in the UK, understanding its electrical requirements is crucial for both safety and efficiency. Here’s a straightforward guide to help you get started:

Small Kilns: Plug and Play

  • Ease of Use: Smaller kilns (like a 45 litre model) might come with a standard 13 Amp plug, similar to common household appliances, allowing you to plug them directly into a socket. This ease of use is perfect for hobbyists or those with limited space.


Larger Kilns: Professional Installation Needed

  • Hardwiring Necessity: Bigger kilns, due to their higher power requirements, need to be hardwired into your electrical system. This isn’t a DIY job; a professional electrician should handle the installation to ensure it meets safety standards and to verify your home’s electrical system can support the kiln.
  • Cost Efficiency: Despite the assumption that kilns are expensive to operate, modern kilns are designed with exceptional insulation, making them surprisingly economical. A large kiln (around 117 litres) may only cost approximately £6 per firing.

Checking Your Electricity Supply

  • 13 Amp Models: For kilns that operate within this range, you won’t typically face issues plugging them into standard sockets. However, avoid using extension leads or multi-plug adapters to prevent overloading.
  • Dedicated Supply for High Power Kilns: Kilns exceeding a 13 Amp requirement will need a direct line from your electrical distribution board, akin to an electric cooker setup. This ensures the kiln receives a stable power supply without overloading your home’s system.


Voltage and Phase Considerations

  • Voltage Requirements: Ensure your property consistently provides the kiln's required voltage (commonly 230 volts in the UK) to avoid performance issues, especially when reaching high temperatures.
  • Single vs. Three Phase Supply: Most homes have a single phase supply, sufficient for many kilns. Larger installations might benefit from a three-phase supply, distributing the electrical load more evenly and allowing for larger kiln capacities.




Front-Loader vs Top Loader

When deciding between a top-loading and front-loading kiln, it's essential to consider how each type aligns with your pottery practice, spatial constraints, and ergonomic preferences. Here’s a straightforward look at why you might lean towards one over the other:

 Front loader vs top loader kiln graphic


Top-Loading Kilns: Versatile and Cost-Effective

  • Cost-Effective: Generally more affordable, top-loaders are attractive for hobbyists or small-scale professional studios looking to maximize their budget.
  • Space-Efficient: Their design is ideal for tight spaces since they don’t require clearance for a door to swing open; you only need to access the top.
  • Direct Loading: Placing and positioning pieces directly from above can be straightforward, allowing for efficient use of the kiln’s interior space.


Considerations: The main drawback is the physical strain involved in loading and unloading, especially for deep models, which may not be suitable for individuals with back issues or limited mobility.


Front-Loading Kilns: Ergonomic and Professional

  • Ergonomic Design: Front-loaders are easier on the back and joints, offering a comfortable standing position for loading and unloading, which can be particularly beneficial for those with physical constraints or in high-production environments.
  • Uniform Heat Distribution: Many front-loading kilns come with multiple heating elements on the sides, door, and back, contributing to more even heat distribution.
  • Enhanced Control and Accessibility: The straightforward access makes it easier to manipulate the ware inside, beneficial for delicate or complex loading arrangements.


Considerations: Front-loaders typically cost more, both in initial investment and potentially in operating costs, due to their larger size and heating requirements. They also require more floor space to accommodate the door's swing.

Choosing What’s Right for You

  • Your Pottery Scale and Type: Large sculptural pieces or high-volume production might lean towards the ergonomic benefits of front-loaders, while casual hobbyists or those with space limitations might prefer top-loaders.
  • Physical Considerations: Think about the physical aspect of loading your kiln; if bending and reaching deep into a kiln could be a problem, a front-loader might be worth the extra cost.
  • Budget and Space: Evaluate your budget and the space you have available. Top-loaders offer a great entry point without needing extensive space or a hefty investment.

In summary, your choice should reflect a balance between the ergonomic needs of your practice, the physical space available, and your budgetary constraints. Both types of kilns serve well in different contexts, making it important to consider your personal circumstances and pottery goals.


Which brand?

By now, you probably have an idea of the size, type and power of the kiln that you want to buy. You have probably whittled the options down to 2 or 3 options.

Now how do you choose between brands?


The quality of kilns is generally good across the board. All established brands will likely offer a good product that will last you a long time. So how do you pick one?

There are a few things that differ across brands, and these factors will ultimately sway you one way or another:


1. Style

You will naturally like the look of one make/model over another, and as long as all of your must-have criteria are met, this is a factor that is probably somewhat important to you. Even though this won’t affect your success with firing, having a really cool looking kiln may inspire you to keep practicing and using it.

On the other hand, you may not care about what it looks like, as long as it does what you want it to do.


2. Price

Price is probably an important factor, and it might be the deciding factor between two kilns, if you like the look of both of them and they both do the job. Just remember, kilns should last you a very long time, so even though saving £200 difference by choosing your second choice feels like a lot now, in a few years time you may wish you’d have gone for your favourite.

Especially in todays economy, price may be the most important of these 3 factors. In that case, if the kiln meets your required specs, a lower priced kiln from a respected brand will definitely do the job just fine.


3. Warranty/servicing/support

You will want some peace of mind that your kiln isn’t going to break on you 2 months after you buy it. Most kilns will come with at least a 1 or 2 year warranty, and this will vary.

There are also differences between manufactures when it comes to availability of parts, and servicing. If you have a problem with your kiln, you want to be able to talk to someone who can help you with your issue.

This is why buying a British kiln is preferable to a lot of people. Having access to a technician in the same time zone as you from a smaller British company can often offer a much more personal touch when it comes to post-purchase support.


When you buy from The Pottery People, you have added access to our experts who are always more than happy to help you. If we can’t, or you need more specific technical details, we have a great relationship with suppliers and a direct line to the engineers who designed the kilns (pardon the self-promotion!). We only work with brands who have a track record of customer satisfaction and who offer good quality post-purchase support.


Other things to consider when buying a kiln

Regardless of the kiln you buy, you will need to consider the following points. These are slightly out of the scope of this guide, but we have provided links to other articles that go over these. (We are still in the process of writing some of these articles, so some may not be linked yet, sorry!)


Where to put your kiln




Kiln Safety


Kiln maintenance




Buying a Kiln: Conclusion

Here, we have talked you through the whole process of choosing a kiln, from deciding whether you actually need a kiln in the first place, to how to choose an exact model and brand.

A guide to buying a kiln for pottery graphic

We hope that we have helped you on your journey to becoming (or deciding not to become) a kiln owner. We’ve loved seeing the growth in the ceramics community in recent times and hope it continues as it becomes more and more accessible to all.


If you need any more help with this, we are always happy to help! Just give us an email at or give us a call on 020 3576 3147. Getting a kiln is a big investment and big decisions can be difficult to make sometimes, especially when there are lots of options and technical jargon involved! Just talking it through with someone to order your thoughts can really help.

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