Cool old Brick Oven - get it working again

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N.E.K. - D.D.S.

New Member
Jan 10, 2022
17
Northeastern Vermont
This is a really cool old fireplace in my dining room. I want to get the brick oven functioning again.

The air intake is on the door. The exhaust is through a rectangular channel just above the door opening and there is a damper there (like a typical pizza oven design).
In the photo you can see some warping of the metal in that area from overfiring by the previous owner but it is still quite functional... i would just need to do a little masonry repair in that area so that the damper fully closes when engaged, and that smoke only exits through the damper.

There is another hole where i removed some loose bricks. An old brick mason (third generation, and even he is retired) says can be repaired with ceramic insulation inside followed by refractory cement.

The brick oven exhaust goes into the large masonry chimney. I am wondering if it needs that huge chimney to draft.... or if it would be adequate (or even better) for it to draft through a flexible steel liner.

Thanks!

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ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
That is nice! It'll need the original chimney draft to work. Is the bottom of it stone? As usual, the main concern is the flue/chimney this drafts into. What is the condition of that? So this will have that Woodstock stove into the same chimney. I don't know how having this drafting next to a steel liner will affect things (is it ok for the steel liner to be subjected to this, creosote will form on liner?). One problem is having a modern cap at the top of chimney for the Woodstock will restrict how this beehive oven drafts, etc. I don't know if you can have your cake and eat it too. Fwiw there is an interesting this old house segment on beehive ovens. It is a can of worms (as usual), but it'd be worth you taking a look at. Are you sure this part of house is 1850? Beehive ovens are usually much earlier. I'll stay tuned to see how this progresses. Good luck!
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
6,272
07462
Earlie similar to your pics, wonder if it was the same group of masons
 

ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
Thanks Kenny. I thought it was odd they didn't seem to reparge the inside dome part of the oven, to at least prevent brick from coming loose. From that side panel we can see the thick coat of mortar on the outside of dome. Yeah the fireplace setup is the same as op's.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,811
central pa
The inside of ovens like that are never parged it just wouldn't hold up to the heat. The posters oven is an odd one. It isn't really a full dome like most it looks more squared off. The chimney is going to have to be lined for safe use and no ceramic wool and refractory cement will not work. It needs to be patched with similar brick if it has any chance of holding up
 

ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
The inside of ovens like that are never parged it just wouldn't hold up to the heat. The posters oven is an odd one. It isn't really a full dome like most it looks more squared off. The chimney is going to have to be lined for safe use and no ceramic wool and refractory cement will not work. It needs to be patched with similar brick if it has any chance of holding up
I intended to say repointing.
 
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N.E.K. - D.D.S.

New Member
Jan 10, 2022
17
Northeastern Vermont
Wow, thanks CT Yankee for the This Old House recommendation and Kenny for the link. That is exactly my oven!

I can sort of get my head and an arm in there to do some repairs if I lay down on a platform or table of some sort. My wife actually helped me with some repointing on an exterior brick wall to the house and she was quite competent (really good manual dexterity). She is small and I would love to get her to crawl IN the oven to repair it... but I know she will freak out even at the suggestion hahaha.

Thank you Bholler for info regarding NOT parging the interior of the brick oven. Maybe just some repointing. There are some joints that could obviously use it, but surprisingly it is pretty solid overall.

There are no combustibles at all (just brick, mortar, plaster) except for the piece of green trim. The only place I was considering ceramic insulation is deep in the hole above the door, where that repair starts to get little but close to that trim. Yes, I would use bricks in the repair (I did not mean to imply only cement)... and fortunately I have some OLD bricks from various eras of the early house construction laying around (plus the loose ones I pulled out of there). I assumed I would use refractory cement, but simple N type mortar would be very forgiving to the changes in temperature, and more similar to what is in there. I have not researched this yet. Do you guys happen to have recommendation on this?

The floor of the oven is in surprisingly good condition. I wonder if it was redone at some point. It is uniformly shaped and fairly large rounded bricks. It is nice and flat.

This house is essentially two houses connected together. The newer front portion of the house is made of brick and this is where I have put a small Jotul 3TDIC-2, and I am also in the middle of installing the Woodstock Fireview. From all the research and investigation I have done, that newer part of the house is from 1850 or slightly after (and was listed by realtor as 1855 arbitrarily).

The part of the house we are talking about now for this post is the old wood house connected to the barn, and it is significantly older. This side has not only hand hewn beams, but things like hand made nails in its construction, etc. The date is unknown but certainly some number of years earlier than 1850. This portion of the house sort of needs to be heated separately, because there is a thick exterior wall between this wood portion and the newer brick portion.

This chimney is huge and is an interior chimney. It's condition is pretty good, all things considered, but of course it is an unlined masonry chimney. This chimney has also been ruined by the same clown (certified chimney expert) as the spray foam and undersized liner situation from my previous post. There is a brick channel (like a separate flue) that comes from the basement where some wood burning was done in early days of the house. Later, the basement furnace vented through there. Then they then put a 7" flex liner in it, and when it wouldn't fit easily, they smashed out the entire channel all the way to the top of this historic chimney (previous owner, remember). That liner is a ridiculous and shocking situation that has to be the topic of a completely different thread (likely in the furnace section) and should have some appalling photos.

But anyway, I originally wanted to remove that poor liner and line the entire old chimney with cement. In fact, a mason quoted me on a job where he would wear some kind of suit, climb through the chimney, press his body on the sides, and thereby line it with refractory cement.... like Santa Claus I suppose (I am not making this up). He was a cool guy, but has disappeared.

- I know that nobody wants to do this kind of masonry anymore... but I wonder if it is possible (and desirable) to preserve the large cross sectional area of that chimney and line it with cement so that the rumford fireplace and brick oven can function in their original way.

- The other option is obviously a flex liner to the brick oven. Would that function better or worse in that manner (compared to it pouring into the huge chimney)?


With the second option I have to give up the fireplace, which I struggled with, but I can connect the beautiful old antique stove that shows some flames through a screen. It would get only very occasional use and would be just for ambiance and a bit of extra heat during some dinners (this is the dining room). This old side of the house is just heated up at the times needed (and where needed). I can post about the antique woodstoves on that side separately in the antique section of the forums.

As far as the other question from CT Yankee:

- Modern cap? There is no cap on the flex liner, haha. It is just sitting there open. There is also no top plate with hole holding the liner up. I don't know what holds it in place (rebar?), but the masonry chimney is open to the air and has tons of draft (dust flies right up it spontaneously when inspecting it). There is a solid piece of sheet metal on top of the chimney lifted up by 2 and a half widths of brick to basically keep the rain out. I am attaching photos.

When I first bought the house, the previous clown (chimney guy) of the previous owner wanted to do a bunch of work including a (too small) liner for the fireplace and an exhausto fan. Between that and the other existing liner from the basement furnace in that chimney, I asked (in writing) where the brick oven smoke would vent and they wrote this in reply:

"The brick oven smoke would flow between the liners, it would just be fly ash smoke- not creosote, I am sure the oven is designed to work effeciantly (sic)."

What does this mean, and is this correct?

Thank you!!!

Chimney outside 1.jpg Chimney outside 2.jpg
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,811
central pa
If it were me and I wanted to use the oven I would run a liner for the oven and a liner for a stove in the fireplace. There are several ways to coat the inside with lining material as well. One is with a spray head that is run through the chimney another is with a slip form basically
 

N.E.K. - D.D.S.

New Member
Jan 10, 2022
17
Northeastern Vermont
Thanks Bholler.

Yes, I have heard of the slip form. I have long been asking around about whether a spray existed as it seems ideal if I wanted to use the fireplace.

However, you are probably right that using a stove and steel liners is a better option... especially if I can confirm that the brick oven will function better (or at least equally well) on a round liner than into the large rectangular chimney. That certainly would not be the case with the fireplace.

It would be convenient because the chimney is big enough for me to fit multiple liners.... especially if they are not insulated. I am wondering if I can get away with it since it is an interior chimney, and we are talking about primitive wood burning devices. The existing liner from the basement is not insulated.

And what about this guy's suggestion that the "fly ash" smoke of the brick oven is somehow different ("not creosote"???) from what is generated by other wood burning devices? Is there anything to this?
 

ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
Thanks Bholler.

Yes, I have heard of the slip form. I have long been asking around about whether a spray existed as it seems ideal if I wanted to use the fireplace.

However, you are probably right that using a stove and steel liners is a better option... especially if I can confirm that the brick oven will function better (or at least equally well) on a round liner than into the large rectangular chimney. That certainly would not be the case with the fireplace.

It would be convenient because the chimney is big enough for me to fit multiple liners.... especially if they are not insulated. I am wondering if I can get away with it since it is an interior chimney, and we are talking about primitive wood burning devices. The existing liner from the basement is not insulated.

And what about this guy's suggestion that the "fly ash" smoke of the brick oven is somehow different ("not creosote"???) from what is generated by other wood burning devices? Is there anything to this?
They are right more or less now that I think about it re fly ash smoke. It's a small hot fire to create coals, then you remove the coals for the baking. The cover has to be put on during the process to trap the heat. I've seen some hearth cooking where hot coals from the main fireplace are put in the beehive oven, left there to warm the oven. So there wasn't even an initial fire in the oven. At the coal stage, there isn't any appreciable creosote creation. I'd leave the coals in to be honest, when cooking, and experiment. Maybe that's too hot. Anyway, I'd only burn very dry wood in the oven.
 

Rob711

Feeling the Heat
Oct 19, 2017
439
Long Island, ny
Very cool to see. Thanks for sharing. That’s a lot of mass. Wonder what that weighs. Good luck, look forward to watching
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,811
central pa
Thanks Bholler.

Yes, I have heard of the slip form. I have long been asking around about whether a spray existed as it seems ideal if I wanted to use the fireplace.

However, you are probably right that using a stove and steel liners is a better option... especially if I can confirm that the brick oven will function better (or at least equally well) on a round liner than into the large rectangular chimney. That certainly would not be the case with the fireplace.

It would be convenient because the chimney is big enough for me to fit multiple liners.... especially if they are not insulated. I am wondering if I can get away with it since it is an interior chimney, and we are talking about primitive wood burning devices. The existing liner from the basement is not insulated.

And what about this guy's suggestion that the "fly ash" smoke of the brick oven is somehow different ("not creosote"???) from what is generated by other wood burning devices? Is there anything to this?
The exhaust from ovens can create ceosote absolutely. You are still burning wood.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,811
central pa
They are right more or less now that I think about it re fly ash smoke. It's a small hot fire to create coals, then you remove the coals for the baking. The cover has to be put on during the process to trap the heat. I've seen some hearth cooking where hot coals from the main fireplace are put in the beehive oven, left there to warm the oven. So there wasn't even an initial fire in the oven. At the coal stage, there isn't any appreciable creosote creation. I'd leave the coals in to be honest, when cooking, and experiment. Maybe that's too hot. Anyway, I'd only burn very dry wood in the oven.
Some people cook with the coals in there some with active fire. It all depends upon the heat needed the size and type of the oven etc.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,811
central pa
That is a "cool" look. As you probably know this would have been covered by paneling, or plaster walls, maybe a set of stairs in front (I don't know the house obviously) when first built. I like those warmers on the pipe.
Some were never covered some were actually exterior especially in summer kitchens to reduce heat inside. We work on one huge rat tail oven that was always completely exposed. Lots of behives here were built exterior from the home.
 

ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
In New England that wasn't done to my knowledge. I've never seen an example, though they could be out there. Center chimney construction. Where all that brick is would be the front entry way to the house, often with a set of stairs. Original center chimney homes are rare outside of New England (the exception being New York which has a mixture of center and end chimney). Your area and south are known for end chimney construction.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,811
central pa
In New England that wasn't done to my knowledge. I've never seen an example, though they could be out there. Center chimney construction. Where all that brick is would be the front entry way to the house, often with a set of stairs. Original center chimney homes are rare outside of New England (the exception being New York which has a mixture of center and end chimney). Your area and south are known for end chimney construction.
We have lots of center chimneys but those are for heating purposes. Cooking ones were sometimes on ends but many other times separated from the main house
 

ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
I stand corrected on PA then. I'll take your word for it. The vast majority of stone PA homes I've seen (photos mostly) are end chimney construction. Living in a state and working as you do gives a fuller picture.
 

ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
There are some grand Georgian colonials in N.E that mimic more the English build --- i.e. end chimney. So there is that exception. And the Federal period architecture in N.E. saw more and more end chimney construction. There's always caveats, exceptions, changes to everything in life.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,811
central pa
I stand corrected on PA then. I'll take your word for it. The vast majority of stone PA homes I've seen (photos mostly) are end chimney construction. Living in a state and working as you do gives a fuller picture.
Many have or had a central chimney as well. It all depends on the size of the home and the time period.
 

N.E.K. - D.D.S.

New Member
Jan 10, 2022
17
Northeastern Vermont
They are right more or less now that I think about it re fly ash smoke. It's a small hot fire to create coals, then you remove the coals for the baking. The cover has to be put on during the process to trap the heat. I've seen some hearth cooking where hot coals from the main fireplace are put in the beehive oven, left there to warm the oven. So there wasn't even an initial fire in the oven. At the coal stage, there isn't any appreciable creosote creation. I'd leave the coals in to be honest, when cooking, and experiment. Maybe that's too hot. Anyway, I'd only burn very dry wood in the oven.
Yeah for pizza Napolitana I should have actual flames. For throwing a rack of lamb on a cast iron pan or something, coals would be okay. An iron pot full of beans and/or meat stews would probably be fine with coals or without. As you say, removing the fire is more appropriate for baking. While I am curious to try bread, I do a lot of cooking and not baking.

By the way, do you have any idea about age of the old part of my house? I have the newer section well estimated at 1850-1855. The old part is obviously before that... I am thinking early 1800's. There are not many records. However, I am deducing a lot from the hand made building materials, etc. On the "This Old House" segment, they say that the beehive ovens were no longer being made by mid 1800s.

That is a "cool" look. As you probably know this would have been covered by paneling, or plaster walls, maybe a set of stairs in front (I don't know the house obviously) when first built. I like those warmers on the pipe.
Thank you! Yeah, this was one of the few good things the previous owner did. There is clear evidence of the wall that concealed the back of the brick oven and fireplace. I like that they re-exposed the handmade wood beams overhead also.

And yes... the "warmers" on the pipe.... what are they used for? Plates?? They can be in the position you see, or else fold down against the pipe. I can't quite figure it out.

Very cool to see. Thanks for sharing. That’s a lot of mass. Wonder what that weighs. Good luck, look forward to watching
Thanks, man. Yeah, it has a brick arch in the basement holding it up. The bricks go right down to the earth. It is so much weight. There is also a little wood burning area to heat a cauldron or something. This was ruined by the previous incompetent licensed chimney guy smashing out many things that were great about this old chimney. Details will eventually be on the furnace section. I will see about some photos.

The exhaust from ovens can create ceosote absolutely. You are still burning wood.
Yes, this makes sense. Do you have any idea if a brick oven world perform better on a relativelysmall diameter liner (the way a wood stove would)? Or if these brick ovens need the really big original chimney the way a fireplace would? I am really struggling between the idea of a bunch of steel liners in the chimney vs. lining it with cement and then putting a couple class A chimney pipes for the stoves through the roof.
In New England that wasn't done to my knowledge. I've never seen an example, though they could be out there. Center chimney construction. Where all that brick is would be the front entry way to the house, often with a set of stairs. Original center chimney homes are rare outside of New England (the exception being New York which has a mixture of center and end chimney). Your area and south are known for end chimney construction.
This is EXACTLY the way it is in the old portion of my house. The former front door to the house enters into this room (now it is a door through a super thick exterior wall from the new brick section of the house into this old wood section of the house). And yes there are stairs in front (down to basement and up to the attic.
We have lots of center chimneys but those are for heating purposes. Cooking ones were sometimes on ends but many other times separated from the main house
PA is such a funny transitional state. I am originally from Buffalo, NY and the northern and western parts of PA seem to have a lot of similar mindset and mentality as well as climate. I visit my friend in Maryland, near D.C. and it is so similar in climate to southern parts of PA and has mindset similar to the eastern parts of PA.

If you are in Central PA, it is sort of like this convergence of the far northern and more southern climates.... and convergence of east coast vs. midwestern mentality. No? This seems to be reflected in the masonry as well! Ha.

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ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
There may (maybe it's still there but likely it was filled in at some point) have been a smallish opening in the main firebox/hearth floor. Excess ash would be swept down it. Falling down to the arched base. The ash would be used to make lye (for soap making). A cauldron would have been used to make the lye. In front of that trash can, is that recess open enough to build a small fire in. If so, I'd guess this allowed for heating the cauldron above. Or maybe there was just a fire made on the platform. Another rabbit hole! Thanks for the info and updates.
 

ctyankee

Member
Oct 25, 2019
104
connecticut
By the way, do you have any idea about age of the old part of my house?
An exterior photo or 2 may help. Also, windows are usually changed throughout the years, but not always. So it's worth knowing what style windows are in this part of house. Maybe they were changed 10 years ago, or are original. I'd be curious what's there now.