Laura Hauck designs and builds hearths. Her family’s business has been in operation for nearly 300 years, and the 34-yearold is keen to keep it going. The trade is as versatile as it is obscure. We spent a day with the hearthmaker.
A weight carried by the team
When Laura Hauck and her assistant, Hans, start their work early in the morning, they don’t exactly take things slowly. The first order of the day: Installing a new hearth. The 250-kilogram unit needs to be moved from the van into the new building. In the warehouse, Hans uses the forklift to life the hearth into the van, but on the construction site, all they have is their own strength. Muskelkraft. The Haucks are used to pulling together as a team, and Laura’s father, Reiner, is already on hand to help. The three of them heave the hearth from the pallet onto the handcart and strap it down. Carefully, they balance the cart along the thin rails leading up to the front door. Teamwork is a must in hearth making – especially when it comes to moving the heavy hearths, which can weigh as much as a ton.
One by one, Laura and Hans carry the heavy firebricks into the room. They are milled, pressed bricks with excellent heat storage capabilities. The vermiculite boards are much lighter, and they are easily cut to size with a handheld saw. “Something’s missing,” exclaims Hans as he runs outside toward the company car. Laura looks puzzled. “Music,” explains Hans as he comes back with a radio. Time to prepare the floor. Underfloor heating has been installed in the room; only a small area has been left untouched, with concrete stones surrounding it. This is where the hearth goes. Hans fills the space with quick-setting mortar. Laura cuts and fits the tiles. Just 15 minutes later, everything is firmly in place. Hans and Laura position themselves around the hearth again and lift it onto the tiled floor together. It can stay here: Nothing will be happening at this building site for a couple of weeks.
A second family on site
Assistant Frank – just like Hans, he has been a part of the Hauck team for 20 years – is busy on another building site. He has completed a hearth and covered it with firebricks. Laura, who designed it, is having a look at his progress. “I’m not checking on Frank. He knows what he’s doing,” she reassures us. There’s no need to tell him how to build a hearth. “I just need to know what the customer wants,” adds Frank. Laura has worked in this field for 15 years. Since completing her apprenticeship at another company in the Bavarian Forest, she has worked on many construction sites with Frank and Hans. Frank likes to think back to their early days. “Remember the tiler who walked into a pillar when he saw you?” They both laugh.
To Frank, the company is more than just a workplace: It’s like a second family. He looks back on many years of working together and remembers how Laura – the owner’s daughter – first became his colleague, then his boss. They are both comfortable with this development. “She is great at what she does,” Frank says proudly. Mutual trust and appreciation have turned this team into a second family.
First a Planner, then a Master
After her apprenticeship, Laura trained to become a master craftswoman. Today, she is mostly in charge of planning and customer meetings. She notes her customer’s wishes and communicates them to Frank and Hans, who implement them on site. Every planning process starts with an analysis of the building layout: Where will the hearth go? Is everything in static equilibrium? What type of flooring does the customer like, which tiles? There are virtually limitless options and the choice of tiles is immense, so every hearth is a unique project. With every customer bringing their own requirements and preferences to the table, Laura and her team never get bored.
A longstanding tradition
The history of the Hauck family of hearthmakers dates back to the 18th century. Laura is running the company in the twelfth generation, and she isn’t the first woman to do so: Her grandmother was a hearthmaker, too. In those days, her unusual occupation was met with skepticism, but she carried out her work passionately for more than 40 years. Laura’s grandfather, along with a hearth company, revolutionized the market by designing the furnace with stone panels instead of a grill.
Looking back on such a longstanding tradition, Laura is happy and proud to be in charge of the family business. Her father, Reiner, feels the same – he took over the company 40 years ago. Although Laura had her eye on various degree programs after graduating from high school, she soon realized that hearthmaking was her passion. “Building a hearth from scratch and seeing the finished product is an incredible feeling,” she enthuses.
Fire in her heart
Laura Hauck, a talented hearthmaker and heiress of a longstanding family tradition, takes the leap into self-employment. With plenty of passion and skill, she will keep the business going, and her customers are already devoted fans of her custom-built solutions. Her progress from working as a colleague on the building site to becoming the owner of the business has been a natural transition for her and her employees, who share mutual trust and plenty of memorable experiences. The tradition established by her ancestors lives on in Laura, motivating her to keep the flame of hearthmaking burning.