Ohio1913, kterlep, others--salvage brick reuse question

slateberry51July 30, 2009

Hi, I read your mention (in blackcats thread about her roof job/chimney snag) of how you both had unused chimneys taken out, and saved the bricks to use in landscaping.

I have to take out an abandoned chimney for an old laundry boiler, and I've been toying with the idea of salvaging the bricks and using them for walkways. I'm concerned that in addition to the substatial work involved in preparing a proper bed for the bricks and laying them, I'll be faced with painstakingly chipping the mortar off each brick before I can even use it. So I'm wondering, how did this go for you, and would you do it again, or just buy new bricks? Thanks!

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OMG. Ya know, I don't even know what happened to those bricks!!!! That is SOOO unlike me! I will find out, but I think it's too late for me :(

Sorry I can't really answer your question, but if you've seen the pics of my wood floors you will realize that I'd probably be chipping off the mortar if necessary. When did I become so ... motivated (aka crazy)?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 2:49PM
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We took out a brick wood stove surround and I used the bricks as borders in flower beds and in walkways. I did chip off the mortar with a fat brick chisel and it was easy for the most part. A few bricks were stubbord and I broke them. Reusing them was a fun project I thought. I laid them side by side for the flower bed borders in a couple of inches of paver sand. So far so good.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 12:51PM
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Actually the prep work in preparing a bed to dry lay bricks is one of the easier DIY jobs. And it can be done over time. My only frustration was when I ran out of old bricks.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 2:33PM
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thanks for the tip about the brick chisel, and the warning about running out!

I agree that preparing the bed does not require extensive expertise or special, hard to acquire skills, but my neighbor just got a 40' x 3' walkway laid, and it took a crew of 3 people, working 8am to nearly 6pm, about 3.5 days to do the job. Granted, they dug about 8" down, laid gravel, then crushed stone, then powdered stone, the whole 9 yards. So it will last. Heck they probably coulda put down railway ties and run a freight train over it! Maybe it was only 2 kinds of substrate, I forget. Anyway, there's just one of me, and I think I'd poop out before 6pm. So, I completely agree with what you say about doing it over time. It will be a fun job, but a big one. I want to do my front walk, side walk, back patio...I even want to do my driveway, but I don't have that many bricks in my house. At least I'll be fit when it's all done!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 3:56PM
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A dead blow hammer and a wide brick chisel will pop off mortar (especially older mortar) pretty quickly.

Aim the chisel at a very slight angle to the face of the brick at the joint between the mortar and brick.
The mortar will pop off without to mach hard hammering.

A dead blow hammer will reduce the wear and tear on your arm over a drilling hammer (2-3 pound hand sledge).

Do not use a regular hammer on the brick chisel. The face has been hardened to drive nails and it can result in chipping of the chisel face and mushrooming of the chisel.

Drilling hammers are not hardened appreciably, and may need a file clean up if they get to rough.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 11:16AM
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Brickeyee, THANKS for the hammer advice. I think my arm's gonna be sore no matter what, but at least it will be less.

I better get a hot tub before I start this project :-)!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 11:20AM
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We used what we had - an old, dull wood chisel and a big flat screwdriver (I can't imagine what kind of screw you would turn with this thing, it was ginormous - maybe a streetlight screw? Not sure how we inherited the screwdriver, but we had it. we just put the chisel up against the mortar (parallel with the brick) and gave it a thwack. Most of the time, the whole piece of mortar from that side came off.

Also, it was very cold for part of this project - I think the cold helped (maybe there was frozen moisture that weakened the bond, maybe they shrank differently, or were more brittle).

Good luck!

P.S. Banging the bricks together in frustration will guarantee at least one broken brick!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 10:34PM
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Hey kterlep, thanks for the insights. I like what you said about the weather; given that there's no new mortar work involved in the installation, this is definitely a project that can be done in cold weather, as long as the ground isn't frozen. So, one heavy physical labor job that I don't have to do in the summer heat. Good point!

So I just have to take out that abandoned laundry chimney. Now that you've all convinced me that the mortar chipping won't be such a bad job, can any of you shed insights on how to make the process of taking the chimney out from the inside of my house relatively painless. I just have a vision of myself, and my house, covered with a layer of gritty dust from stem to stern. Maybe I need to be made of sterner stuff!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 8:41AM
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that's gonna be a messy job. I'm just reflecting from a book I have...I think they took it apart from top to bottom, and carried it out in 5 gallon buckets. Or if you have a nearby window maybe you could make a slide to the ground outside and put the bricks on there instead of hauling them out?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 10:51AM
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kterlep: "I'm just reflecting from a book I have...I think they took it apart from top to bottom"

What's the name of the book? curiousity piqued here!

I like your slide idea, though I'd worry about damage to bricks hitting each other at the bottom. Then again, it might knock off more mortar, lol! I do have nearby windows. I'm thinking a pulley/basket system, and rounding up my kids to unload at the bottom. Actually, if I got the neighborhood kids involved, they could really have fun. Pretend they're dismantling the pyramids of Giza or something.

Which begs the question, does anyone worry about asbestos in the old mortar? I don't want to expose myself, much less children. Why would they put asbestos in mortar? The house is 120 years old, I wonder when asbestos went in, and then out, of style.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 11:56AM
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The book is "Renovating Old Houses" by George Nash.

It is a "no frills" book about old houses - no pictures of elegant scenes, etc. It's got amazing pictures of frayed old wiring, code violations, rotted sills, sagging roofs, heaving foundations, etc. Explains what the problem is, how much work (and how hard) needs to be done, etc.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 12:03AM
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Looks like a great book! I've never seen anything bad from Taunton press. off to the library...

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 7:42AM
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