Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Brick By Any Other Name

A friend of mine…..I guess he’s more of an acquaintance, really. Let’s say a friend of a friend. A friend of a friend of mine is leaving the area soon and selling his house. He owns a very charming little Victorian on one of the nicest streets in town. It’s one of those little cottage type Victorians that is trying to be more than it is with all of it’s trim and detail. I wish I had a picture of it, but I don’t.

Anyway, he somehow managed to make his way in to the Salvage Club. There’s a group of people who always find out about demolitions or estate sales full of salvage. I’m sort of on the periphery of the group, but no where near a full member. He was, it seems, and since he’s moving he’s been getting rid of a lot of stuff. A few months back I bought about 100 feet of beautiful 1X12 clear, heart old growth redwood boards from him. They came in 6 and 7 foot lengths and there is not a hint of a knot on any one of the boards. All tight, straight grained wood. I think I ended up paying about a dollar a foot for it.

When I was at his place buying the boards I looked over a lot of his stuff that he wanted to part with. Most I wasn’t interested in because I either had no use for it in the foreseeable future, or I already had the items at home and did not need duplicates. There was, however, a pile of old bricks in his backyard. They had come out of the Daly building which was built at the turn of the century. Daly’s was a department store downtown that was the premier shopping place in it’s day. After the mall was built on the other side of town it started it’s steady but inevitable decline. Sound familiar? After it closed the building fell on hard times. Both the exterior and interior of the building had long since been remuddled to the point that there was little incentive to save it and restore it. It was in really bad shape and has since become a parking lot.

Even so, given the condition of the building there was still a lot of salvage to be had. That’s where the 1X12 redwood came from. I told my friend of a friend that I might be interested in the bricks. I wasn’t chomping at the bit for them, so I didn’t make an offer or anything. It was one of those “if nobody else wants them, and you’re ready to leave, I might take them”. I need to rebuild the tops of two chimneys, so I could use the bricks, but it’s a year or more away, so what’s the hurry, right?

Last Saturday I ran in to him at the market and it dawned on me I never asked about the bricks again. I had forgotten all about them. He said they are still there if I want them. I said I did and we made arrangements for me to come over and look at them. Immediately I start to think about what I’ll offer him for them. What does a brick cost these days? Ninety percent of the bricks had been cleaned of their mortar. When I went over to his house to look at them, I grabbed one to take home to see if they were the same bricks as my chimneys. They are an exact match. In the picture below the brick on the left is from my 1895 chimney and the brick on the right is from the Daly building.

I don’t know a thing about bricks so for all I know this is the most common brick in the world. Maybe it’s no surprise that both the brick from my chimney and the bricks from the department store are the same. Either way, I was happy. I decided I wanted the bricks. Now, of course, the big questions is, how much do I offer him for the bricks? I went on-line to try and get prices for salvage bricks. I found some places that carry salvage bricks but none of them listed prices. Not a good sign. When some place doesn’t list prices it’s usually because the prices are high. I said, screw it, I ‘m not going to worry about. I’ll offer him what I can pay for them.

I was driving back over and I was trying to remember how many there were. It was hard to judge. Some were stacked neatly and others were in a big pile. At first I was thinking 10 cents each, but then I thought that is too low. I have no idea how much a new brick costs. I somehow decided on 25 cents a brick and I figured I’d buy $50 or $60 dollars worth. That would be between 200 and 250 bricks. When I got back over there I told him 25 cents a brick and he agreed and we started loading them up. We got to about $50 worth of bricks in no time and there were still a lot left. The old Ford was riding a bit low at this point and I started to reevaluate. I’d never told him how much I wanted to spend.

I was in the back of the truck stacking and he was handing them in to me. I stopped and said, “You know, lets’ see where we’re at here”. I counted them up and then told him I only wanted to spend about $60 on bricks and it would only take another 20 or so bricks to reach that limit. He paused, and sort of thought a minute, and finally said, “How about taking all of them for $60?”. I paused a minute and thought to myself, “Hmmmm, advantage Greg” No, I’m only kidding. I said ok to the $60 for all of them deal and I would even take the broken ones and get rid of them with my next dump run.

We continued loading until the old Ford could take no more. I made a trip home to unload and went back for the rest. When all was said and done I got about 620 bricks for $60. That works out to be less than 10 cents a brick. I still don’t know what used bricks go for, or even new bricks for that matter. I feel I got a good deal, though. I mean, what the hell can you buy for 10 cents these days? Practically nothing.

Now I hope I can find someone who still uses lime mortar instead of cement.

Only a few days left to vote in the poll!


Jocelyn said...

reading this post, I felt like a kid at the back of the class raising her hand, "I know! I know the answer!!! Call on me." We just bought salvaged Chicago common bricks and they were about 30 cents a piece. You got a good deal and you were offering him a fair price.

Steve is rebuilding both our chimneys either this fall or next spring- probably the latter. We'll have to compare notes on the project when the time comes. Maybe we;ll be doing it at the same time who knows.

Greg said...

Yes, Jocelyn, I see you have your hand up.....

I had a feeling you'd know the answer to this one. I have to rebuild about 6 feet inside the attic and then a few feet outside. I will trnasfer to sheet metal outside to get it above the gables.

At least that's the plan at this point.

John said...

The Devil Queen's original skirt (before we moved her) was built out of Coffeville (sp?) bricks.

We salvaged them all thinking we could use them to build a new chimney (no such luck, not enough). We didn't think too much about them until everyone kept trying to steal them. We got very curious as to why and did some research.

It turns out they are famous bricks. These dated to the early 20th century and were made in Coffeville, KS. They are fired-slate bricks which means two things: they are very heavy and very strong.

If you go to Lowe's and look at their landscaping bricks, they run at about $2.00 a piece or more depending on the type. Before we gave up on the dream of rebuilding our fireplace, we priced Acme bricks. 3,000 average Acme bricks priced out at around $1,000.

Depending on which set of numbers you want to use, your bricks are worth between $0.33 to $2.00 each. I'd tend towards the $1.00 or more price range myself. How often do you find solid, 100+ year bricks that match?

No matter which numbers you use, you kicked ass and got a steal. Congratulations!

Karen said...

HB gave out his recipe for Lime Mortor on the old house web a while back
I bought lime mortor on line around 3 years ago to point our foundation and it cost around 200.00 for two buckets. HB's will do the job for a lot less.
By the way great job on the house painting.


Greg said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'll check out the lime mortor recipe

Anonymous said...

In Toronto, ON, Canada, cleaned victorian red brick sells for about $1 to $1.25 each. Higher or lower depending on quality. Bad quality, heavilily stained, limed red-brick still is $0.50 each, so yours were a bargain by any count.