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How Do I Reclaim Bricks?

By B. Turner
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bricks are made from natural clay, and can last for centuries when properly installed. Instead of investing in new bricks, many homeowners are turning to reclaimed bricks to add character to projects ranging from fireplaces to patios. Reclaimed bricks have been recycled from previous projects, and often have an aged or weathered appearance. While it is possible to buy reclaimed bricks from building supply stores, these bricks are typically expensive, and often cost more than new brick. To save money, you can reclaim bricks on your own simply by removing the old mortar and cleaning the bricks for reuse.

In order to reclaim bricks, you'll first need to find a source of old bricks. Keep an eye out for local buildings or homes that are being demolished, and ask if you can haul away the old bricks when the builder is done. He may be happy to give you the bricks so he can save on hauling and disposal fees. Some homeowners will even place classified ads online or in the newspaper that allow you to keep bricks and other materials in exchange for demolishing an unwanted structure on their property. You can also check your local dump, as some separate out building materials like brick for recycling.

One of the easiest ways to reclaim bricks is to take them from your own property during a renovation or remodel. To do this, you'll need to use a masonry saw to cut the brick into small sections along the grout lines. Keep the sections limited to no more than three or four connected bricks, as this makes the cleaning process easier. Wear safety glasses and other protective gear, and take extreme caution to protect yourself and your property when completing this task. Plan the work carefully to keep bricks from falling onto you as you work, and make sure to use supplemental supports if you are cutting into a load-bearing wall.

To reclaim bricks and use them for a new project, you'll have to remove the old mortar. Use a chisel and mallet to clean dried mortar off of the bricks. Slip the tip of the chisel into joint between the brick and mortar, then strike the head of the chisel with the mallet so that the mortar falls away. Wear safety glasses during this process to protect your eyes from flying mortar chips.

Once you reclaim bricks and clean them, you can use the vintage bricks on almost any home building project. Indoors, reclaimed bricks can be used to construct accent walls or even a fireplace. Outdoors. these bricks can be used to build a retaining wall or patio, or as part of a planting bed or other garden features.

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Discussion Comments
By Sporkasia — On Nov 21, 2014

@Feryll - I used reclaimed brick to make a floor of sorts under the overhang on my outside shelter. I used the brick because I thought a brick surface would look better and this would also prevent grass and weeds from taking over the area.

The reason I mention this is because many of the reclaimed bricks I used still had the mortar attached. I scooped out a shallow hole for each brick I placed, so mostly the top side of the brick was exposed.

Some of the bricks were placed flat and others I placed on the sides. I was always careful to place the bricks so the mortar could not be seen. This way I didn't have to take the time to remove all of the mortar. Also, I used whole bricks and broken bricks and the floor turned out great.

By Drentel — On Nov 20, 2014

@Feryll - You should be prepared to put in a lot of hours cleaning the mortar off of the reclaimed bricks. It will come off, but you need patience. You are fortunate the building was as old as you say it was. Some of the compounds used to hold bricks together today are much more difficult to break free from the bricks once they have set and fully hardened.

By Feryll — On Nov 19, 2014

I tore down an old pump house in our back yard. The walls of the structure were built with two layers of bricks rising about seven feet on all four sides. The building had been around for 60 or 70 years.

At first, I wasn't sure I would be able to get the brick walls down because they appeared so solid, and I was using hand tools. However, I was able to find the weaker points in the walls and use a crowbar and a sledge hammer to bring the walls down. Demolishing the entire building took some time because I was trying to keep the bricks intact and this was not easy, but I wanted to get as many whole bricks as possible.

Now that I have the walls down I have to find a way to get all of the mortar off of the bricks without breaking the bricks. I guess I'll take the advice given in this article and get out my mallet and chisel.

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