The old house had a large brick fireplace in the family room. Chicago brick is highly prized for its interesting character. Did you know that Chicago brick has been harvested from buildings in Chicago? For our green house it was readily available recycled material. So, when that room was removed, the fireplace bricks were saved. They were taken down and the mortar carefully chipped off each one individually. Then the bricks were arranged on wooden pallets in the garden. These particular bricks had been recycled from a building in Chicago to Folly’s original fireplace in Vero Beach. This new grill area is the third time these bricks have been used!
Many of the bricks were damaged, chipped, bent, etc. so it took some time to cull through four pallets to find enough bricks for a wall!
Old Chicago brick contains a lot of air. It’s not apparent to the naked eye, but visible in its consequences. When the cement is applied, the brick draws the water out of mortar, causing an inadequate bond. In layman’s terms, the mortar dries too quickly, is not strong, giving the homeowner a weak structure which could fall down. Stonemasons, who know how to handle Chicago brick, soak the brick to let the air bubbles out. Gary, our stonemason, told me they bubble like seltzer.
Gary is a teacher at heart, so he set up an experiment for me. He set a wet brick next to a dry one and plopped mortar on each. The wet brick on the left is deeper in color having just emerged from its water bath. The mortar is equally moist on each brick.
After just five minutes, the mortar on the right is already dark and hard. Gary tried to insert a pencil into it, but couldn’t. The cement was already set. The wet brick allowed the mortar to stay wet. The pencil stood on its own! This slower drying process will allow good, strong contact between the brick and the mortar.
A labor-intensive process, indeed, but the result is that the bricks have new life and Folly has a solid, beautiful and interesting wall.