Used Brick – Blessing or Curse?

Do you have 'used brick' on your home or business? If so then you probably know by now, that they can be a blessing and a curse as well. How is that … you may wonder? Well used brick certainly are a beautiful veneer for colonial or traditional applications however, if they are not maintained properly … watch out!

You could find yourself deep into the thousands in repair cost that could have been avoided, if you had only followed these simple tips to used brick maintenance.

What are used brick? Used bricks are salvaged from old building when the building are torn down or demolished. They became widely available in the '70s when many older downtown buildings across the country were being raised. They were in abundance and a source of cheap building materials for the builders.

They can vary broadly is size and shape and are usually red, orange, brown and a pink-salmon color. They have rounded corners from the demolition process, soft and sometimes have chips in the face. Most were salvaged from the back-up portion or interior walls of old masonry buildings and have various stains ranged from black soot, whitewash to paint. It is one of the few bricks though, that blend perfectly with colonial architecture. Unfortunately architecture aside, they were used extensively on all types of buildings because they were cheap and easy to find

How do I know if I have used brick on my home or business? Used brick have a specific character of being soft and when you look at a used brick building from the street it has an old appearance. If you take a screwdriver and scrape it along the surface of a used brick, you will likely gouge the surface of the brick easily.

A new brick wall on the other hand would be too hard, if not impossible to gouge and are more regular and rectangular in shape. If you looked at a new brick building from the street it would have a more uniform appearance and look 'newer'.

How do I look for damage in used brick? Fortunately used brick tend to deteriorate as individual units unlike new brick, which tend to deteriorate in sections. As you walk around your building look closely for bricks that have a chalky, orange color to them. These bricks are the first to deteriorate in a used brick wall and for some reason will be very noticeable.

As you look closer at the wall you may also find bricks that are 'powdering' which means that they turn to powder as they deteriorate. Regardless of how they manifest, you should remove and replace all the damaged used bricks that you find. While inspecting the individual bricks for damage also look for cracks and loose or missing mortar. Fill in any holes that you find and repair any cracks. This will go a long way to preventing excess water from entering the wall.

After you have completed the repairs you are now ready for your final and most important preventive maintenance chore.

Seal your bricks! There is nothing more valuable to your used brick building than a saturation application of high quality masonry sealer. I can not be more enthusiastic about the protection of used bricks with sealer. Most used brick are probably over 100 years old at this point and need protection.

As you watch that liquid gold being sucked into your brickwork by the gallons, remember that it will protect the used brick and save you ongoing maintenance and repair cost over the long haul. It is the cheapest insurance that you can buy against used brick deterioration.