In this section we‘ve tried to provide a step-by-step plan to restore a two-part bakehouse, a type which is very common in Belgium. With a few small alterations you can also use this plan to restore a free-standing or an indoor oven.
Once you are familiar with the different components of a bread oven, you can examine your own oven to determine exactly what needs restoring.
First look at the condition of the oven vault and floor. After all, these are essential components for baking and they are the most difficult to restore. Their condition may determine whether or not you want to proceed with the restoration.
If you do decide to restore it and you know exactly what has to be done, you can proceed.
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As the entire oven rests on the substructure, it is important to check it first.
If the substructure is a wooden frame, it consists of two supporting beams with crossbeams on top, sometimes completed with thin slats. Check that the wood is not affected by woodworm, wood rot or mould.
If the wood of the substructure has to be replaced, then use hard-wearing wood such as oak and ensure that the oven floor is well supported. It is a delicate operation that is perhaps best left to an expert. Also check that the foundations are strong enough to prevent it collapsing.
The substructure can also be of masonry. Quite often a small wall is built all the way round with the space inside filled with a mixture of crushed stone, earth and sandy clay. It can also have the shape of a vaulted space: the “oven cellar”. The vault itself consists of one or more spans. Due to the weight of the oven floor and vault, the walls of the substructure have to sustain a pressure that is mostly directed horizontally. The load of the structure results into outwardly sloping forces that have to be contained by cramp irons. These can be seen from the outside. [De veer bevindt zich vlak boven de ondersteunende laag van hout, steen of beton.]
If the brick vault of the substructure is badly damaged, the oven floor and vault will probably have partially collapsed. Survey the original condition as best you can. Put aside the bricks that can be reused. If necessary, get in an experienced bricklayer to restore the vault of the substructure.
Ensure that your brickwork is nice and sturdy: in each row the butt joints have to be placed alternately.
Make sure your brickwork is in harmony with the rest: examine the brick pattern of the original walls and build them back up in the same way.
You can find more tips on the masonry in the section "The build itself": substructure.