DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum (
-   Building & Construction (
-   -   Reusing old brick for a shop (

bigalpha 01-18-2010 01:14 AM

Reusing old brick for a shop
A good friend of mine is the manager of the local Restore. We recently had a new hospital built and the old hospital closed down. He has gotten access to it to pull stuff out of it. The exterior of the building has a ton of brick and I'd like to build a shop at my house.

My questions are:
1. Is it generally safe to reuse brick?
2. Will we have to remove 100% of mortar from the brick to use it?
3. Does the brick have to be layed brick by brick? Can we knock down sections and use it instead of laying brick by brick?
4. Would it be better to try to recover other material instead of brick?


stuart45 01-18-2010 05:40 AM

Second hand bricks are often reused nowadays, but you have to make sure that they are suitable for the intended use. For example many bricks used on the inside walls were inferior quality and not suitable for external use.
If it's lime mortar they will be much easier to clean.
You will need to build it brick by brick really, I wouldn't use sections of brickwork.
If there are some joists and flooring available, I would think about getting them, as well as roof tiles.

user1007 01-18-2010 06:02 AM

Glad to see you trying to rescue old building materials. There is an organization in Champaign Illinois, staffed mainly by volunteers, that does this all the time and makes a fair amount of money selling the rescued stuff. The money goes to rescuing old properties and restoring them.

Brick gets reused all the time and in fact used brick often goes for a premium. Do check to make sure it is stable for construction though if you are using it for that purpose. Sometimes old brick can be rather flaky due to weather exposure over the years. It is not unusual to find antique brick really brittle and hard too.

I do think you will find you will be tripping over mortar if you do not make an effort of getting most of it off so you have a relatively level surface on the bricks. It will go faster than you think once you get in the groove. If you don't, it will just slow you down and threaten the integrity of your new mortar joints.

I would definitely contact a mason for at least a consult to go over your project with you before you get in too deep. I don't know the answer to your brick laying questions and your building codes related to constructing with brick.

Just one caution and not to get you paranoid. I don't remember all the details but there was an old hospital in Champaign that could not be recycled as much as some wanted because the Illinois EPA flagged much of it as hazardous waste. Machines leaked radiation, residual biologicals, chemicals and so forth over time, etc. It had struggled in its last years and was poorly maintained. So be somewhat careful with what you take from the building. Hopefully your local EPA has been out to flag anything you should stay away from?

Hard hats and masks on everybody too please!

Thurman 01-18-2010 08:14 AM

Along the same lines, and to share: A very old, and I mean very old, textile mill closed down here some years ago. The main mill building, two story, sat vacant for this time, with the more modern building being leased out. Recently the owner/operator of a business who buys old farm houses, barns, etc. for the wood to make wood flooring bought the entire facility. The first thing that sold was the old brick, which was longer than today's normal house-building brick. A company from Alabama bought it, including removing it, and cleaning up behind them. They wanted every single brick intact, to the tune of $1.3 million. Then there were the true four inch (4") flooring boards of the second floor, real old growth heart pine. Buyer gets those for flooring, expected revenue--$3 million +. Then comes the old growth heart pine beams, my gosh these things were like 12 x 16's or better and some were 24 feet long. Local buyer didn't have the equipment to cut these up for flooring, but found someone in the N.E. who wanted them, really wanted them. They were loaded up onto trucks for transport and were gone, another $1.5 million for beams. Once all of the original structure was completely gone and cleaned up, the entire property was sold and a new warehouse structure will be built on the original concrete floor of the old mill. Another profit. The original smokestack, which has been an icon around here since back in the '20's will remain, it's been declared safe. I know the guy who bought all this, he mortgaged his house, his parents, his in-laws, to make the initial purchase. Ironically, flooring made from this type of old lumber is still selling well in this economy. I think he did well. Just another success story in today's times, Thanks, David

user1007 01-18-2010 08:50 AM

PACA was the name of the place in Champaign. It bought its current warehouse and paid off the entire mortgage in three years. Just about volunteers rescuing old stuff from buildings and selling it again.

The best deals I have found though? When in Champaign? Habitat for Humanity Restore. Someone donated boxes and boxes of nice Italian ceramic tile. It was so criminally underpriced but we got it out of the way and it is tolerating happy dancing feet as we speak!

Pier One interior designers were dumping track lights to Restore too. I picked up 100-150 or so for $1 each and $.50 for the bulbs. Fit the tracks we put in at the retro furniture store perfectly and most of my gallery client tracks too.

One man's junk is another's treasure. Restore, if you have one, is worth a visit?

bigalpha 01-18-2010 09:33 AM

Thanks for the replies everyone.

The Hospital was built in the 70's so the bricks are in great shape and the mortar is Portland, not lime.

It is quite a large building so I want to make sure I get all that I can to build my dream backyard, haha. Perhaps I'd be better off trying to recover other items to build it with?

I know that the inside is mostly, if not all, built with metal studs. One big problem is that we don't know how much time the people will give us to dig through the rubble once they tear it down, so I need to get as much as I can right now.

I couldn't quickly find a good picture of it, but here is what it looks like: LINK

user1007 01-18-2010 09:46 AM

Get two or more bricks into a 1/2 ton pickup, you can collapse the suspension. Get four or more in 3/4 ton, the same thing can happen.'

You have lined up options for how you are going to move this brick right?

bigalpha 01-18-2010 09:54 AM


Originally Posted by sdsester (Post 384967)
Get two or more bricks into a 1/2 ton pickup, you can collapse the suspension. Get four or more in 3/4 ton, the same thing can happen.'

You have lined up options for how you are going to move this brick right?

Yes, the hospital is just right down the street from my house and I have a pickup so it's not big deal to make a bunch of trips.

In addition, I know someone with a 16' trailer and my Jeep has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds so I can go that route as well.

I've never worked with brick before so I am a complete newb when it comes to building things with it. On the plus side, while I don't need my shop to be tall, I am wanting to build it as big as I can.

stuart45 01-18-2010 10:05 AM

It's a pity that it's Portland cement mortar and not lime, as it will be more difficult to clean up the bricks.

bigalpha 01-18-2010 10:24 AM

Yeah I know. I just drove by the hospital and looked at it again and it's just an oasis of nice brick ready to be reused.

When you use brick to facade a building, do you mortar it to the building? Since this hospital is still standing, it's going to be even more of a PITA to get the brick.

If we were to reuse cinder block instead, could we just mortar between the blocks and not drop cement down into the block cavities and it still be a strong structure?

stuart45 01-18-2010 10:32 AM

If the inner skin is built with blockwork, we use metal or plastic wall ties to hold the two skins together. Some countries fill the gap with mortar, but we leave the gap clear to prevent damp penetration.

user1007 01-18-2010 10:42 AM

I hing again. Call in a mason to look over what you have in mind and to thump the used brick. One could save you a fortune. They always do me.

bigalpha 01-20-2010 07:59 PM

When reusing cinder block, is it ok to mortar between the blocks and not run any rebar or anything down through the openings?

Also, is it alright if the cinder block has concrete or morar in the holes when I use it?

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:45 AM.

vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.

Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.1