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What are 'Reclaimed' brick slips?

When trying to create a wall with a aged appearance one option is to source bricks from old buildings that have been demolished. Old buildings are becoming fewer and often are not allowed to be demolished due to planning constraints and as such ‘reclaimed bricks’ are becoming more and more expensive and harder to source in volume.

As with all products there are pros and cons for purchasing a certain type and we have summarised these below for you.

The ‘Pros’

Distressed Appearance
Nature has a fantastic way of making things looks perfectly natural – this is very difficult to simulate in newly made bricks
Matches some exisisting walls
Most reclaims are made from a ‘common brick’ which were typically what used to be laid for internal walls before the creation of concrete breezeblocks and timber stud. Feature walls made from reclaimed bricks create this old type of internally constructed leaf.
Imperial Sizes
Often due to the age of the reclaims they can be an ‘old money’ larger imperial sizing. This is, to some, a desirable feature.

The ‘Cons’

Number one has to be cost. Reclaimed brick slips are basically a pound each for slip pretty much anywhere you buy and this cost is only really likely to increase due to scarcity and the labour involved in producing them.
The process of reclamation takes its toll on the slip causing about 10-40% waste dependent on the quality and care taken with the brick during the demolishing and cleaning stage
Even within a batch the size, colour and shape can vary. This is because when they were originally lain, because they were being used for internal walls which would end up being plastered or painted, any old brick would be used with little consideration for colour consistency being taken.

Whilst we understand the processes involved it can be a bit confusing if you have never been to a reclamation yard or visited a building site during the demolition process so here is an explanation of what is involved.

The Reclamation process

Brick by brick old buildings are taken apart to recover as many materials as possible. The bricks are then cleaned up by hand usually and palletised and then purchased by reclaim building material suppliers up and down the land.

Due to the nature of the demolishment process the bricks corners and edges are chipped and rounded off, and the brick itself may develop cracks. As a result of this sometimes the bricks can be lightly or heavily distorted and quite fragile.

Workman manually demolishing wall to reclaim the bricks

Cutting of bricks is nothing new and is done on-site or in cutting sheds up and down the country. Use of high powered masonry saws with water cooled diamond tipped blades enables fast cutting of many types of brick into many shapes and thicknesses.

High powered masonry saw cutting a special shaped brick

At Matclad we have a bank of water cooled masonry saws specifically set up to cut the reclaimed bricks sourced from reputable reclamation companies.

The waste we produce from the cutting process is almost completely re-processed for other purposes rather than being sent for landfill. It is crushed and used as an aggregate by other companies who use clean waste aggregates as part of their green incentivised schemes and businesses.

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