Brick is a very common material on the reuse market, especially in Belgium.
Until the first half of the 20th century, each region produced a type of brick whose appearance and colour differed according to the clay and the baking method used. There are therefore numerous varieties – a diversity that is currently reflected in the range offered by suppliers of reclaimed bricks.
Today’s reclaimed bricks are solid bricks from walls built with a lime-based mortar (or other soft mortars: clay, ashes, etc.). Cement mortar, the resistance of which makes it more difficult to clean the bricks, became more widely used from the 1950s. Most bricks used before this period are suitable for reuse.
The majority of suppliers specialising in reusable bricks are also demolition firms. They agree to knock down a building if the bricks are worth reclaiming. The original brickwork is demolished using a method adapted for reuse. In some cases, the value of the bricks enables these firms to offer a reduction of the demolition costs. The total proportion of reclaimed bricks depends on the condition of the original brickwork. It is usually in the region of 50%. The bricks are sorted, cleaned and packed on pallets.
Today, reclaimed bricks are generally used as cladding rather than as structural components. They are valued for their appearance and particular colour variations. There are also cases of reclaimed bricks being used for load-bearing masonry, but these are rarer. This material also has various applications in interior design and landscaping.
There is a wide variety of reusable bricks, characterised by their manufacturing method, their origin, their format and their colour. The following two families of bricks can often be distinguished:
Hand-moulded bricks: Klampsteen, Paepesteen (red or black), brick-oven bricks (Veldovensteen), etc.
Machine-made bricks (extruded): Beerse steen…
Brick suppliers usually offer the following treatments:
sorting (exclusion of bricks unsuitable for reuse)
removing traces of mortar
packing on pallet
For a brick to be considered complete, at least one of the two large surfaces must be intact. Given that just one surface of the brick will be visible when it is reused, it does not matter if some of the edges on the other side are cracked.
Some suppliers also prepare half-bricks and three-quarter bricks. These are useful for some applications (e.g. standing upright or crossed for cladding). Approach your supplier for further information.
The price of bricks sold by number varies in accordance with the size, quality and rarity of the brick.
hand-made bricks: between 0.30 and 0.60 €/brick excl. VAT
machine-made bricks: between 0.25 and 0.35 €/brick excl. VAT
When designing brickwork using reclaimed bricks, a series of choices have to be made concerning the appearance, as follows:
choice of system (cut and orientation): standing, cross, free choice, half-brick, etc.
mortar: lime or cement.
joints: colour, thickness and type. Traditionally, there are often brushed joints, a sandy/beige colour. But it is also possible to work with a thin, dark joint. In other cases, the project developers expressly leave the cladding non-repointed to emphasise the rough appearance of the façade.
finishes: option of sanding the brickwork (the traces of mortar and paint on the façade are removed), lime stains, etc.
The success of reclaimed bricks has led some manufacturers to produce new bricks imitating the appearance of reused bricks, using “artificial ageing” techniques blows on the edges, fake traces of mortar, etc. Confirm the origin of your reclaimed bricks with your supplier.
Did you know?
There has been an interesting development in the reusable brick market. In the past, “hand-made” bricks were the most popular. These are bricks of irregular appearance, sometimes over two hundred years old. Since the 1990s, the demolition of very old buildings has decreased, while the demand for reclaimed bricks has remained constant. This has resulted in recovery operators taking an interest in the more modern types of solid brick, machine-made (extruded). These date from the first half of the 20th century and have a much more regular appearance. The recent reusable bricks have gradually found a place on the market. Because they are more commonplace during demolitions, they are also cheaper than reusable hand-made bricks.
Below you can find extracts from the specifications for reusable bricks. These specification extracts were produced in close collaboration with the specialist dealers concerned.