Reclaimed Brick: Back to the Future

Frugality is now called eco-friendliness; salvaging is now known as style; and economy is now referred to as environmentally sustainable. Yes, old is definitely in. The construction industry has heretofore been wary of re-using materials from demolished buildings owing to a variety of reasons such as material integrity, cost of recovery and buyer habits. Now, however, more and more companies are pushing their clients to re-use materials, foremost of which is reclaimed brick. This change in provider as well as consumer behavior has come about because of a new understanding of the benefits of recycling, and the future of reclaimed brick is looking bright.

Reclaiming: Mental Blocks

So what stopped us from using parts of old buildings for new ones? One of the reasons could be the abundant availability of new materials at low cost. The culprit that introduced the 'use and throw' culture is the industrial age itself. Mass production made things cheaper, and great advertising made them desirable. Another reason could be that whole idea of hand-me-downs has been given negative twist ever since the first toddler was seen air-swimming in his big brother's britches. From then, it was down hill all the way. Bricks are no different. No one wanted an ultra-modern glass and steel structure, with cinder blocks cramping its style. Yet another reason is unreliability – bricks that are reused must undergo random stress tests and several stages of inspection to make sure they are capable of doing the job just as well as new brickwork.

Reclaimed Brick: Not Chalk And Cheese

Reclaimed bricks aren't a novelty - the only difference is the image they now enjoy. These are basically bricks that are salvaged from a demolition site, checked for strength, and used again in another construction. The type of brick will determine where it will be used. For example, cinder blocks will rarely, if at all, be seen dead in the company of concrete blocks, and word has it that the feeling is mutual. The need for matching brick types is not only visually obvious; there is also the question of varying load-bearing capacities. Uniform brick will provide uniform support, and it's as simple as that, even if it isn't. There are also other considerations, such as temperature tolerance, water and chemical resistance, and many others that make a mix of bricks an unwise move.

Reclaimed Brick Sources: Demolition Sites

The obvious place to reclaim bricks would be a demolition site. However, unless the demolition is carried out in a pre-planned manner with maximum re-usability being a priority criterion, there won't be much to retrieve. This is why you don't see that many salvagers in a demolition site that uses C4 as their 'boom of choice' – there's practically nothing left behind that's useful. On the other hand, if demolition is done in sections and largely by hand, huge quantities of brick can be retrieved. Even broken bricks can be used for various purposes like making flower bed borders. The additional cost of carefully planned demolition can be offset by the savings in new brick cost, as well as savings in terms of energy used to produce new bricks.

Reclaimed Brick Sources: Salvage Yards

The easy way, but slightly more expensive, is to get reclaimed bricks from the salvage yard. These places will often buy all the re-usable materials, including bricks, at throwaway prices, mark them up, and sell them to some sucker, I mean highly knowledgeable valued customer, for a much higher price. If that's you (much as you'd like to deny it), then remember that you can force a seller to give you a better deal with the confidence that they bought it for at least 5 times less than they're asking you to pay – in commercial parlance, it is called 'making a buck'.

Reclaimed Brick Sources: Your Own Backyard

Another way to get reclaimed bricks is from your own building. As and when you replace sections of wall or other masonry work, keep aside the good ones for a rainy day. This is a good way to cut your cost and besides, every 12 bricks that you salvage will save the earth the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, so there's an environmental value there as well. In the end, no matter where you get your old bricks from, it is an economically and environmentally viable practice that will enable sustainable development for many decades to come.