The Ultimate Guide to Buying the Right Pottery Kiln for You

Calling all aspiring potters and seasoned ceramic artists!  Choosing the right kiln is a crucial decision that can significantly impact your work on broad and intricate levels. In this article, we’ll walk you through the many factors at play when picking out the kiln of your dreams. 

Things to Consider When Buying a Kiln

Buying pottery kilns is a task that should be done with care. You’ll need to consider many factors, including the size, heat source, insulation, and much more. We recommend looking more into it below. 

Size of the Kiln

The size of the kiln you decide on really depends on what you're planning to make. If you're new to pottery, starting with a small electric kiln or a home kiln is a good option. These kilns are easy to use, regardless of size.

As the name suggests, beginner kilns or small kilns are great for making smaller items, while large kilns can handle bigger projects.  If you're a beginner, a small kiln is a good choice. It's perfect for testing your skills and getting started. However, if you have ambitions to create larger pieces down the road, you might want to think about getting a larger kiln.

As you become a more experienced potter, you'll probably find that these larger kilns are useful for tackling more complex projects. Additionally, if you want to produce more pieces, bigger kilns will more easily fit the load than their smaller counterparts.

Another important factor to think about when choosing a kiln size is where you're going to place it. Kilns need good ventilation, so make sure you have at least two feet of space on each side for proper airflow. Don't buy a kiln that can't be well-ventilated in your chosen location. If you want to make sure your kiln is well-ventilated, we recommend you read our kiln ventilation guide

Heat Source

Kilns can be powered by either electricity or gas. There is an important distinction between the two because how a kiln is heated affects both the firing process and how the final piece looks. We’ll dive more into electrical and gas kilns later in the article. 

For the most part, smaller electric kilns are more affordable and accessible, especially for amateur or home-based potters. On the other hand, gas kilns may run up to 10% more upfront and have longer wait times, but gas kilns will likely cost less to run for each firing since propane/natural gas fuel usually costs less than electricity. The advantage of a gas kiln is that it can create stunning, reduction-fired pottery with a unique glaze that can’t be replicated with electric kilns. 

Related: Pottery vs. Ceramics

What Do You Want to Fire? Pottery? Glass? Or Both? 

Perhaps the most important question for aspiring potters is the type of material they want to use. While some kilns can fire both ceramics and glass, many kilns are tailor-made for one or the other. For example, electric kilns intended for pottery are typically made of 3” brick and are side-fired with elements in their walls only. Kilns intended for glass fusing typically have a more compact shape designed to suit the flat nature of glass projects, with heating elements on their interior roofs. The lower side walls are made of 2.5” brick or ceramic fiber (or both). 

Different types of ware also require different firing temperatures, and this is reflected in their respective kilns. Glass has a lower melting point compared to the maturing point for clay (when the clay becomes hard and durable). Therefore, ceramic kilns are typically rated to 2,0000F - 2,350F, capable of reaching higher temperatures than glass kilns, which are rated to 1,700F.

Firing Pottery: Do you need a low, medium, or high-fire kiln? 

This question is truly dependent on the clay bodies you plan to use and their firing temperatures. Low-fire kilns will reach 2100F, medium-fire kilns will reach 2150-2200F, and High-fire kilns will reach 2350F. This is truly a matter of preference and resale value.

Power Supply

Something else to consider when buying an electric kiln is its power supply. Since models can vary in their size, capacity, voltage, and amperage, their power needs differ as well. Make sure your electrical supply can handle these requirements before purchasing. 

Smaller electric kilns, for example, may be able to use more limited resources like a regular 120V outlet. However, most kilns need a heavy-duty 240V circuit, which powers larger appliances like air conditioners and water heaters. 

Additionally, electric kilns have varying amperages, ranging from 20 amps for smaller units to 50 amps or more for more robust kilns, the latter of which may require wiring directly to the circuit breaker box. 

As always, consult an electrician to ensure you have the right setup and wiring before making any purchases. It may save you money and headaches in the long run. It’s important to know what voltage you can run for your kiln choice and how much amperage you have available on your panel to run the kiln of your choice. Not sure? Check this article out: 120 volt vs. 240 volt kilns.  

Kiln Temperatures

Cone 04-06 kilns are made for low-fire clay and glazes. As per the name, they are fired at the lowest temperatures (1,890°F-2100°F or 900°C-1,150°C). The resulting pieces have a colorful and bright glaze palette. 

Cone 5-6 kilns fire for mid-range pottery, at intermediate temperatures (2,100°F-2,300°F or 1,150°C-1,260°C). Many potters choose this range due to its adaptability and how consistent it is. 

Lastly, Cone 9-10 kilns produce extremely strong pottery thanks to their high-fire pottery ranges (2,300°F-2,700°F or 1,260°C-1,480°C). At these temperatures, the clay fully matures, resulting in dense stoneware and porcelain bodies frequently used for dishware. 

Just like the pottery they create, kilns are diverse and vary from model to model. As usual, before buying a kiln, consider the type of pottery you want to create and how. 

For more on the temperature differences between these types of kilns, check out our article on kiln temperatures

Electric vs. Gas Kilns

The main difference between electric kilns and gas kilns is how they generate heat. The inner chambers of electric kilns have heating elements like coils, while gas kilns utilize natural gas or propane in their firing processes. 

Out of the two, electric kilns tend to be the favorite for potters. They are great for low to mid-fire work since the coils wear out more quickly at high temperatures. Electric kilns are very easy to load and fire, so they’re a great kiln for beginners. Additionally, many of them have programmable controllers and preset cycles, which further adds to their convenience. With this simplicity comes some drawbacks. Unlike gas kilns, they can’t produce as wide a range of glaze colors due to their inability to create a reduced atmosphere. 

However, electric kilns are still the popular pick for good reason: their reliability, affordable price, and simplicity make them a wonderful choice for any ceramist, regardless of skill level. 

Still, professional potters and people with limited access to electricity might favor the gas kiln instead thanks to the specific glaze colors they can create and their heat source. They are typically more expensive than electric kilns, and for good reason. Precision is one of their biggest strengths since you can control their internal firing atmospheres and fire to much higher temperatures than electric kilns. Additionally, gas kilns can deprive their inner atmospheres of oxygen in a process known as reduction. Reduction results in a beautifully rich array of glaze colors as the oxygen-deprived molecules latch onto the oxygen in clay, such as brilliant copper reds. The pottery pieces gas kilns produce are very visually distinct from electric kilns. This type of firing is extremely difficult to achieve with electric kilns, and, along with the intricate level of control gas kilns afford artists, is a great reason to consider purchasing gas kilns. 

Related: The Top 8 Kiln Uses

Top-Loading vs. Front-Loading

Another critical choice is between top-loading and front-loading kilns. The difference mainly boils down to how their doors hinge, which affects their loading mechanisms and prices. 

Top-loading kilns are easy to use and a wonderful choice for smaller projects thanks to their lid that hinges upwards. With these kilns, you simply open the lid and place your pottery inside, though this may be more difficult for larger or heavier items. Compared to front-loading kilns, they are often less expensive, mainly due to their simplicity. However, it’s important to remember that factors like size and power also play crucial roles in the cost of a kiln beyond its loading mechanism. Certain top-loading kilns, depending on their design, can cost more than front-loading kilns. 

Front-loading kilns have a door that hinges on the front, allowing you to load the substantial pieces that top-loading kilns struggle with easily. This convenience is a front-loading kiln’s biggest advantage, especially for anyone with back issues who finds top-loading kilns difficult to work with. Front-loading kilns are more complex than their top-loading cousins, thanks in part to the wide range of sizes and shapes they can accommodate as well as other structural features. This is reflected in their more expensive price, but if you’re working with larger projects, the benefits these kilns bring are invaluable. 

To sum it up: top-loading kilns are simple, cost-effective, and pair well with smaller projects, while front-loading kilns are more complex and expensive, yet offer a wider variety of benefits such as their versatility and convenience.

Carefully consider the types of projects you want to make and which kiln would best help you achieve your vision. 

Different Price Levels for Kilns

Since kilns vary so widely based on design, model, and specifications, their prices also come in different ranges, often depending on what material they are tailored for and the temperatures they can achieve. 

Glass fusing kilns, for example, usually cost $1,000 to $2500 as household models designed for a 120-volt circuit. More advanced models reliant on the 240-volt circuit can cost anywhere from $1500 to upwards of $6000. Since they specialize in working with glass and its distinct requirements, they have a narrower range of temperatures when they operate it, as compared to pottery kilns. 

Indeed, pottery kilns are more versatile, able to fire pottery, ceramics, beads, porcelain, and more, and include electric and gas models. One of the most crucial things to consider with pottery kilns is their size. Smaller kilns can be around $1000, while quality, medium-sized kilns cost $2500$ to $6000$. The most advanced, large-capacity kilns (assuming they’re front-loading) can cost tens of thousands, while basic models start at around $6000.

Gas kilns, which boast more precise flame management, range from $1500 to $15,000. Most people gravitate towards electric kilns, however, due to how reliable and convenient they are to use, regardless of one’s experience. Top-loading kilns can be very affordable at around $1,000. Front-loading kilns are usually more expensive, and their costs rise significantly as size and capabilities increase, upwards of $15,000. 

Kiln Controller Types

Kiln controllers, like knobs, buttons, and units, “control the kiln” (if you couldn’t already guess from the name). They’re essential for maintaining precise firing schedules. 

While in the past, these kiln controllers were manually operated, in our modern age, kilns and their controllers have evolved to become digital. Some controllers are even manufactured with touchscreen features and are sophisticated mini-computers. While manual controllers in new models still exist, the majority of kilns produced today are equipped with digital interfaces, all in the pursuit of a more streamlined experience.

These advanced controllers may feature a heftier price tag than older models, depending on their condition. 

Kiln Supplies to Go With Your Kiln

Kiln supplies are separate items designed to complement your kiln. Consider investing in these for more convenience and a longer kiln lifetime. Certain accessories are essentially required for a good firing experience. 

Furniture like kiln shelves, stilts, and posts protect pottery inside of the chamber and optimize space inside of the kiln. Bricks can retain heat within pottery kilns and vary in shape and material. Relays inside of the kiln control box impact switch kiln power and off, and are crucial for maintaining a kiln’s ability to operate. 

Since kiln accessories aren’t always included in the purchase of a kiln, you’ll need to factor in their prices separately and take into account the size of your kiln and your own firing needs. 


Choosing the right pottery kiln is a significant decision for any ceramic artist. At the end of the day, when considering factors like size, type, and accessories, the key is to align your kiln with your specific needs and dreams as a potter. Now that you’ve read this article, you're well-equipped to embark on your pottery journey with the perfect kiln by your side.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Explore more