The Art of Recycling Bricks

Materials That Tell a Story.

Recycling bricks is not for the fainthearted. Actually it is for those committed to the ideal of recycling; one brick at a time. I had the opportunity recently to do just that. A rickety old brick fence, perhaps more than fifty years made of solid creams, needed to be removed. I had recently built a recycled brick, hit/ miss,  style designed wall detail, in Little Oxford Street, Collingwood, that connected to a basement/ carpark. These walls, fences, partitions, are an old school ventilation system, that allows air flow through a building to enhance amenity. It is a beautiful design and in Melbourne’s inner suburbs like Collingwood, Fitzroy, Carlton, Abbotsford, and Richmond, this brickwork is seen as new and old; Post modernity at its functional and aesthetic best.


The fence we built in Newport, utilized the old bricks. Because creams are so abundant in Melbourne, as we needed more, we found it easy to source the recycled bricks from many yards and outlets scattered through Melbourne. My old fence had mortar that wasn’t too difficult to remove, as when they were installed they didn’t use too much lime in the mix. A hammer, a cold chisel, or a cordless power drill, in demo-mode, with a wide cold chisel attachment is ideal for removing mortar. It is time consuming, sweaty, and a touch dusty. Wear the appropriate PPE, glasses, glove, a quality dust mask, and steel capped boots.

When the job is done, and the bricks are stacked neatly, ready for re-use, pride and that inner good feeling pervades. It is quite special to look at what is possible when little things become something extraordinary. There is something about the patina of older bricks, something that time itself inscribes on the surface. It is what is called character, and it is character itself that is instilled into the person who involves themselves with recycling.

Minimizing the Co2 emissions of using the bricks on site, mitigates transportation costs, manufacturing costs of new bricks, the energy of that making, is exceeded by the value of recycled bricks. Today, many architects, building designers, and town planning departments are using the aesthetic, heritage, and neighborhood character contexts of using old bricks. New developments have an anchor in the past, and as a positive for our urban environments, for those who live and breath in these suburbs, the local is more harmonious as a consequence. We want this sustainable practice to be the new normal, and it is a win, win for all, beyond traditional reckless consumption that has pervaded practices for way too long.

So next time you decide to throw out your bricks, thing again. They are diamonds in the rough, if only one paused, rolled up their sleeves, and know that a smile is on your immediate horizon.

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