by Eric Mootz on April 28, 2016

Old Becoming New: Repurposing Historic Brick Buildings

repurposing historic brick buildings

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Exposed brick, wooden beams, and an industrial yet welcoming feel—it’s not hard to see the appeal of historic buildings for both commercial and residential projects. The growing trend of repurposing historic buildings continues to gain popularity as people gravitate toward a rustic yet contemporary aesthetic centered on brick as a design element.

Bringing aging historic buildings back to life does more than lend character to homes and businesses. Here are some of the other benefits--and challenges-- of repurposing old brick buildings:

 

1. Provides more commercial and residential space

As the demand for increased housing and commercial space climbs in most U.S. cities, restored historic buildings create vast opportunities. Creating new, usable space from disused buildings helps to revitalize communities and generate desire for an area. Additionally, neighborhoods with masonry features on building exteriors have been proven to hold their value better over time than those using other materials.  

2. Keeps history alive

A city’s architecture is an important part of its history and character. Restoring and repurposing historic buildings is a fantastic way to preserve the past while improving infrastructure for the future. The transformation of an older building can instill a sense of pride when it returns to daily use. 

3. Reduces the need for new building materials

New construction can be costly and take a toll on the environment, depending on the materials that are selected. Restoring an existing brick structure helps reduce the costs and materials associated with new construction, cuts down on land use, and reduces waste.  

4. Creates a distinct identity

Historic buildings are ingrained in a city’s culture and individuality. Restored brick buildings not only spark renewed interest in previously neglected parts of a city, but become part of the distinct character of that city, bringing the past and the present together.

Considerations for Restoring Historic Brick Buildings

Matching the brick

This can pose a challenge for any mason or builder. Brickwork may have been patched in the past using any number of different sizes and colors of brick. The exact match may not be manufactured anymore, so finding an acceptable replacement may be a challenge. Trowel Trades Supply has extensive expertise at matching brick and can provide the perfect brick for any project.  

Matching the mortar

Mortar color and type also needs to be considered. The finished mortar should look as aged as the rest of the building, and mortar dye is available to match virtually any color.

Using reclaimed bricks

If there are other brick structures nearby being torn down, it may be possible to use salvaged bricks from those buildings to supplement missing or damaged bricks for the restoration project. Reclaimed bricks should be sealed so that they are waterproof.

Performing historically accurate masonry

Some masonry techniques are different today than they were a century ago. When restoring a historic brick building, it’s important to pay attention to these differences. About a restoration project, mason Fred Campbell says in an interview with General Shale: “Now, masons use mostly a concave or grapevine technique [for mortar joints], but if you look at the way it was done a century ago, it’s more at an angle. My guys and I had to keep looking at the original part of the building for reference and use our modern-day tools to give it that old look.”

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