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Reclaimed brick is brick which has been previously used, and is recycled for another purpose. Using reclaimed brick can make a building project more environmentally friendly, and it may also allow people to access unusual sizes and styles of brick which are no longer readily available. There are several avenues which can be pursued to obtain reclaimed brick.
Reclaimed brick comes from structures which are being torn down and remodeled. Instead of discarding the brick, construction crews set it aside so that it can used again. Often, it is possible to retain most of the bricks used in construction, as long as care is taken during demolition. While thinking ahead about the possibility of reclaimed brick can add some time to demolition, it can be worth the extra effort.
On occasion, reclaimed brick is reused on the same site. During remodeling, for example, brick may be taken out for retrofitting and then replaced at the end of construction. This is often done when people want to maintain the continuity and heritage of a structure by preserving original structural elements. People can also knock buildings down entirely and salvage materials from them for a new building which will be built on the same footprint.
When reclaimed brick is not going to be used on the site it was taken from, it may be sold to a salvage company. Salvage companies collect useful construction materials and resell them to contractors and the general public. A salvage yard can be a great price to find unusual or low cost construction materials, ranging from Victorian banisters to toilets, and many salvage yards have sizeable collections of reclaimed brick.
Specialty dealers may also buy directly from a construction site. Contractors and people working on projects for which reclaimed brick is needed may also swoop in if they spot materials of interest at a construction site. In some cases, people are asked to pay for the materials they salvage, and in other cases, they are allowed to take the brick for free, with the construction crew being appreciative that they don't have to pay to have bricks hauled away.
Reclaimed brick must be inspected to confirm that it is still sound. If it is cracked and crumbling, it may not be safe for use in structural applications. However, pieces of old brick and damaged bricks can be used for things like making walkways or creating mosaics.
The UK produces around three billion new bricks a year and demolishes around three billion old ones, of which around 300 million are salvaged by reclaimed brick dealers for reuse. So, yes, I agree with you when you say that 'it can be worth the extra effort'.
Each 12 bricks embody the energy equivalent of around a gallon of petrol, so we waste a lot of energy by crushing old reusable bricks.