Should I Use Recycled Bricks In My Home?

Bricks are an incredibly versatile building material. What’s more, they’re very durable, lasting up to around 500 years. This incredibly long lifespan is one of many reasons why more and more people are turning to recycled bricks for construction purposes.

You could say that bricks are the Lego blocks of the construction industry. You can build and break things with them as you see fit. Think about it — just because you’ve used a lego piece once doesn’t mean you can’t use it again.

If you’re looking for a suitable material to build an eco-home or curb construction costs, then look no further.

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What Are Recycled Bricks?

A house located in the UK, made from recycled bricks.
Source: Archdaily

When removed from a building with care, bricks can be recycled into a variety of products, such as recycled bricks. These bricks can be used again for construction purposes.

History Time

Bricks have been around since 7000 BCE and are one of the oldest building materials known to man.[1]

The first mud bricks (also known as adobe bricks) were found in the Babylonian era. However, the first fired bricks were used in Neolithic China around 4400 BCE.[2]

Since then, bricks have evolved into the construction material as we know them today. Bricks have a lifespan of 500 years, meaning that we can use them repeatedly until they deteriorate.[3]

Since we can use bricks for centuries before they break down, they make a perfect eco-friendly building material.

But, If we were to get technical, there’s a difference between reclaimed bricks and recycled bricks.

Reclaimed Bricks

Reclaimed bricks are carefully removed and set aside during the demolition of a building. You can reuse these bricks for different construction projects.

Note: Reclaimed bricks don’t go through another process before being used again.

You should always consult with your contractor when using reclaimed bricks. In addition, you may have some codes or regulations in your area that pertain to the usage of these bricks.

Moreover, there’s the possibility that the structural integrity of your bricks has been compromised. In which case, you’ll only be able to use the bricks for non-load bearing structures.

Reclaimed materials are just as useful as recycled ones. If you’re interested in learning about another type of reclaimed material, read our article on reclaimed wood.

Recycled Bricks

These bricks are broken down and made into a new product like brick chips or new bricks.

Recycled bricks have been removed from the building site and processed into new material.

When factories recycle bricks, they break them down into three sizes:

  • Chips
  • Aggregate
  • Dust

Brick Chips

Gravel-like brick chips — recycled bricks.
Gravel-like brick chips.
Source: nirmanonline

When you feed bricks into a crusher, they turn into brick chips.

The chips are as large as gravel pieces. This makes it easy for you to use recycled brick throughout your home.

Some applications of brick chips are:

  • Using them as an aggregate — instead of using gravel in your concrete, you can use brick chips instead.
  • Using them as gravel — the only thing to note is that brick chips can be a little sharp. So you might want to tumble them before using them on a footpath.
  • Using them as drainage layers — if you have a sand filter, you’ll know that you need a couple of layers of gravel. Instead of buying gravel, you can use brick chips instead. These come in handy when creating a greywater filter. The sharper edges trap sediment easily.

Brick Sand

Brick sand.
Brick sand, made from red bricks.
Source: aumanns

When you put brick chips through a crusher, you create brick sand.

Brick sand is courser than normal sand but it has a number of practical purposes.

  • You can use brick sand in french drains or other drainage methods you may have at home.
  • You can also use brick sand to fill the gaps in-between pavers.

Brick Dust

Red brick powder.
Red brick powder that you can use for construction projects.
Source: istock

Brick dust is the most refined version of recycled bricks. Unfortunately, though, it’s the hardest to obtain due to the amount of processing required.

It is however incredibly useful — brick dust can be used as a filler when building brick walls and mixed with mortar.

Be Creative!

As you can see, recycled bricks have many uses (definitely more than a lego block). So when renovating or demolishing, it’s important to keep bricks in mind.

Food for thought:

  • How can you recycle the bricks for your project?
  • Can you use them to save you money?
  • How can you curb your construction waste?

How Much Do Recycled Bricks Cost?

Recycling bricks are often cheaper than new bricks since there are no manufacturing costs.

However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all recycled bricks are cheaper — this is not the case.

Reclaimed bricks can be from a building you’re demolishing — this makes them cost-effective. However, recycling those bricks will require labor, time, and a crushing machine, all of which cost money.

If you’re buying recycled bricks, make sure that you keep an eye on how much a new brick costs. Keeping this in mind applies to all second-hand items you buy.

Some reclaimed bricks are considered antique and can go for triple the price of a new brick!

Other reclaimed bricks have been re-glazed or fired again.

It Depends On The Type Of Brick

You get many different shapes and sizes of bricks to choose from.
You get many different shapes and sizes of bricks to choose from.

Bricks come in many different shapes and colours. For example, your most common bricks are red, brown, and cream bricks.

However, you can also buy bricks of almost any color for a price! Black bricks are currently a craze at the moment!

Next comes the shape of the brick. You can get your standard stock brick, a bullnose brick, or even a rabbeted lip corner!

Finally, you choose the finish of the brick. Is the brick rough or smooth? Has it been fired, or perhaps glazed?

All these factors influence the price of new bricks and the price of recycled bricks. There are no standard prices for recycled bricks, so always compare different resellers.

According to The Brick Recyclers, a Grade A red brick costs $1.98 per brick.

Manufacturer Defects

Now, you can always contact your local brickyard and ask them if they have any defects.

Brick defects can come in the form of off-shades or incorrect shapes.

However, some manufacturers won’t sell their defects because they are unfit for use. But just because you can’t use the brick as is, doesn’t mean you can’t crush it down.

We couldn’t come up with a price for you as each manufacturer differs. But you can expect 30% – 50% off.

Are Recycled Bricks Cheaper Than New Bricks?

Again, it all depends on the type of brick that you buy. However, we’ll take a look at your normal red brick.

$1.98/brick or $1,485 /pallet$0.90/brick or $675/pallet
$0.6/brick or $450/pallet$0.6/brick or $450/pallet
$1.90/brick or $1,425/pallet$0.46/brick or $335/pallet
A quick price analysis of recycled vs new bricks

The above table shows the prices for new and recycled bricks. As you can see, buying new bricks is cheaper than purchasing reclaimed bricks.

One of the biggest reasons for this price gap is that reclaimed bricks often require more labour to obtain. Brick resellers need to acquire bricks from building sites or even waste yards.

It also takes time to sort through the waste bricks, determining which bricks you can reuse and which bricks you can’t.

Tips On Getting Cheaper Recycled Bricks

The best way to get recycled bricks is to find them yourself. Finding them will save you money but will take time and effort. However, you can find great discounts, and if you’re lucky, you could get them for free!

  • Drive around and look for residential building sites. Ask to speak to the site manager or head contractor. Commercial building sites will require authorisation from the architects or the corporation and will be a huge hassle.
  • Go to brick yards and ask for their defects. You can find bricks at huge discounts.
  • Search scrap yards. Sometime you can get these for free, othertimes you’ll need to pay.

The Downside

The biggest issue with finding your own bricks to recycle or reuse is quantity/availability.

Finding the right amount of bricks for your build will prove tricky.

Are Recycled Bricks Eco-Friendly?

Bricks are generally seen as an eco-friendly building material. Recycled bricks are therefore even more eco-friendly and sustainable.

Bricks produce a lot less CO2 compared to other building materials like cement. For example, 250 t of bricks emits 55.58 t of CO2 whilst 250 t of cement emits 171 t of CO2.[1] That’s more than double the amount that brick production emits!

Bricks also make up 22% of construction waste. That’s roughly 182. sq. ft of wastage. [2]

When you compare the amount of CO2 emitted to the lifespan of bricks, it’s clear that bricks are an eco-friendly option. Recycling bricks keeps them out of dumps and saves you from buying new bricks with a higher carbon footprint.

Are Recycled Bricks Strong Enough?

In a perfect world and a perfect environment, the brick strength would not deteriorate over time.

However, we live in a world with harsh weather and other complications that affect brick durability.

Rain, ground moisture, insects, heat, and shifting of the soil can all cause damage to bricks. In turn, these damages determine the strength of the bricks.

In most cases, the bricks will be strong enough for you to recycle. However, there will be cases where the bricks will crumble before you.

But don’t fret, you can even use the crumbling bricks again!

How Can I Use Recycled Bricks in My Home?

We’ve come up with some ideas on how you can use recycled bricks in your home!

Building A House

You can use recycled bricks to build a feature wall in your home.
You can use recycled bricks to build a feature wall in your home.
Source: Archdaily

If the brick is intact and not damaged, you can use the bricks to build your home!

This home in North Berwick by Sutherland & Co. Architects uses recycled bricks as a feature wall.

Building Garden Walls

Recycled bricks can make a beautiful garden wall.
Recycled bricks can make a beautiful garden wall.
Source: theartinlife

If your bricks aren’t strong enough for a house, you can always build a garden wall for your home.

Garden walls don’t have as much load for the bricks to support as a house wall does — supporting less load means you can use weakened bricks.

Brick Pavements

Recycled bricks can be used to create pathways.
Source: kaleidascopensw

You can use bricks that aren’t suitable for structures to create pathways with a ‘weathered’ look.

Brick Chips For Gardens

brick chips in gardens
You can use brick chips in gardens.
Source: Silaco

Lastly, bricks that are too damaged for even pathways can be crushed into brick chips and used in gardens as pebbles.

How Can I Recycle My Own Bricks?

Recycling your bricks is easy.
Source: Greenmatters

There are a couple of things to remember when recycling your bricks:

  • You need to carefully demolish the structure. It’s important to not break the bricks when removing them — this can be tricky.
  • You might have to sand or chip away the mortar attached to the bricks.
  • If you’re not sure which bricks you can reuse, ask your contractor or architect.
  • If there’s still doubt, rather be safe than sorry. Use a brick crusher to turn your bricks into aggregate. You can then use this aggregate in concrete.

Recycling your bricks comes with huge benefits! Like obtaining recycled bricks for free and curbing your construction waste by 22%.

What’s more, these bricks can make for a beautiful weathered look, giving your home more character.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to make your home more eco-friendly or simply trying to reduce waste, recycled bricks are for you!

The cheapest way for you to recycle bricks — using them after demolition. However, if you’re building a house from scratch, getting recycled bricks for cheap will take some work.

To tie up our lego analogy, it’s always cheaper to reuse Lego than buy a new set! Maybe you’ll even find someone willing to donate legos! Well, bricks in this case.

Dylan Crosbie
Dylan Crosbie

Dylan is a qualified Architectural Technician who's combined his passion for sustainable architecture with journalism. He believes that it's possible for everyone to work towards a sustainable future, even if it’s one small step at a time. This interest has led him to the Climatebiz team where he continues to strive for a greener future for all.