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From the monthly archives: March, 2016

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'March, 2016'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

New PCI Thin Brick Specification Provides Minimum Properties and Testing Recommendations

The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) has announced that they are revising their PCI Thin Brick Standard and renaming it the PCI Specification for Embedded Clay Thin Brick (PCI Specification). The PCI Specification provides the minimum properties and testing recommended for clay thin brick used in precast concrete as recommended by PCI.  PCI recommends that concrete precasters and suppliers of clay thin brick that will be used in precast concrete follow these recommendations.

It should be noted that, to best knowledge of BIA staff, no representatives of clay brick manufacturers or distributors were consulted regarding the new PCI recommendations or their previous recommendations for clay thin brick. In addition, note that BIA is providing this information for information only and does not necessarily endorse or recommend that they be followed.

The overall changes to the new PCI Specification involve a reformatting, more detail on frequency of testing, and more specifics on how a clay thin brick supplier (manufacturer) provides quality assurance.  The following specific changes are noted:

  1. Dimensional tolerances – Warpage cannot exceed 1/16 in. either concave or convex from a consistent plane. The previous standard did not permit convex warpage.
  2. Testing Frequency
    1. Dimensional tolerances check – Check tolerances on each run of brick supplied to project prior to shipment.
    2. Cold water 24 hour absorption test – Conduct test on every clay body/color provided to a project prior to each shipment. Submit written documentation of test. Buyer reserves the right to conduct same test prior to first shipment.
    3. All other tests (breaking strength, efflorescence, freeze-thaw resistance, pull-out strength and chemical resistance) – Conduct each test for each clay body/color at an accredited laboratory at least every two years.
  3. Chemical resistance – A 10% hydrochloric acid is specifically identified as the testing solution.
  4. Supplier letter – A letter from the supplier of the thin brick (brick manufacturer according to the PCI Memo linked below) certifying compliance with the PCI Specification.

Links to three PCI documents are provided below. PCI has advised BIA that these documents were sent via standard mail to all PCI producer members on Monday, February 15.  BIA has not received information on when these documents will be provided on the PCI website.

If you have any questions about the new PCI Specification for Embedded Clay Thin Brick, contact Chip Clark at


What to Do About a Leak in the Wall of a New Condo Building

My wife and I moved into a new condominium building in March 2009. When it rains and there’s heavy wind, we get water leaking through the brick. A gentle rain shower with the rain falling straight down causes no problems. What is causing the problem? There are many older brick buildings on the street that are well over 100 years old and none of them leak. Is there anything that can be done that will stop the leaks, or do the exterior walls have to be completely rebuilt? Stanley P., Brooklyn, N.Y.


It’s a shame you’re experiencing this common problem. Not too many years ago I used to do quite a bit of expert witness work in construction-defect cases. I was the lead witness in a huge case in the Midwest against a very large builder. He built many brick-veneer homes and every one of them had leakage similar to what you describe. My testimony about what was going on and how to fix it carried the day for the homeowners.

Two hundred years ago this leakage issue was known. The builders who experienced leakage solved the problem by modifying how they built solid masonry buildings. They used different brick and they used a lime mortar different from today’s high-strength mortars. The lime mortar has a unique self-healing property where it can grow new crystals when a hairline crack develops. It’s too bad most masons don’t use this lime mortar in modern construction.

Your new condominium building and the older solid masonry buildings in your neighborhood may look similar on the outside, but that’s where it stops. The older brick buildings on your street have exterior walls that contain a minimum of two layers of brick. Some buildings have exterior walls that have three layers of brick.

The builders of old discovered that the brick you see on the outside needs to be a hard brick that resists weathering. The brick they used there was fired in the kilns for a longer time and at a hotter temperature. Some types of brick made in this way are so hard they can resist Mother Nature’s punishment for hundreds of years.

But the brick masons discovered they also needed a softer brick that soaks up water. This was the brick they placed behind the one you see on the outside of the old buildings. The softer brick sucked up the rain water and then allowed it to evaporate back to the exterior of the building just after the rainstorm ended.

This leakage has been well documented by building scientists for decades. The Brick Industry Association (BIA) has technical notes and bulletins that talk about this leakage and how to prevent it when building. Your building’s architect and builder should have followed the advice given by the BIA. These technical bulletins have been available for free for decades and can now be accessed easily from the BIA web site (

- Tim Carter is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. Contact him through his web site at

Read the full article as it appeared in The Washington Post.


Lancaster Central Market Revitalizes with Clay Pavers

Along with spring's arrival comes the start of construction season and with it, resuming work on Lancaster Central Market's streetscape project.

The latest phase of the $2 million-plus project involves replacing hexagonal concrete pavers along North Market Street between West King and North Grant streets with brick. Access to market is closed along that side and Grant is fenced off.


Charlotte Katzenmoyer, city public works director, said the work on this phase should take about seven weeks. The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of the summer. 

Since last spring, new bricks have been put in along Market between Grant and West Orange streets, Grant between Prince and Market and on Penn Way, along the market's eastern side. Next after the current phase will be repaving William Henry Place, along market's southern side.

The pavers the bricks are replacing were installed in the 1970s and weren't meant to handle the weight of automotive traffic.

When complete, the project will feature poetry path in the Heritage Quadrant — the area around the market and in front of the Lancaster City Visitor Center. Barbara Buckman Strasko’s poem, "Bricks and Mortar," an ode to the late Lancaster artist David Brumbach, will be engraved in granite. The winding path will be designed to resemble the Conestoga River in an aerial view of the city.

Other features include green infrastructure improvements, including a rainwater cistern; embedded lights in the sidewalk around market and in Penn Square near the Griest Building; black metal bollards to replace wooden ones and black wrought-iron benches to be placed around market.

Work on the project was expected to begin the summer of 2011. But work was delayed, in part, because walls of an underground vault for the Griest Building that house its electrical and mechanical equipment had deteriorated and needed to be repaired.

The city got more than $2 million in funding for the project through federal and state grants and local donations and is also using capital budget funds.

Read the full article as it first appeared in Lancaster Online.

2016 Brick in Architecture Awards Call-For-Entries


The Brick Industry Association is continuing its 27-year tradition of honoring architects for excellence in brick masonry and is pleased to announce a call-for-entries for the 2016 Brick in Architecture Awards!

Since 1989, the Brick Industry Association has sponsored one of the country's most prestigious architectural award programs. For decades, BIA has been recognized by the architectural community as the authority on clay brick. As such, the Brick in Architecture Awards has become the nation's premiere architectural award featuring clay brick.

With 10 categories, you can submit your projects in a variety of areas.  Each entry is $225 and all entries must be complete by the April 30, 2016 deadline.

To learn more about categories, prizes, and the online submission process, visit or click below.

We look forward to seeing your projects!



Brick News Online: March 2016


If you are a BIA member, check your inbox because the newest issue of Brick News Online comes out today.  This month's articles will include content such as:

BIA News

Information on Spring Meetings in Nashville in April
Congress Passes BRICK Act
Webinar Tomorrow on PCR, LCA, and EPDs
Research Paves the Way towards Wider Use of Clay Pavers
Sponsorship Opportunities for Spring Meetings
Brick in Architecture Awards Call-for-Entries Receives Wide Coverage

Regional Updates
Midwest/Northeast Region Updates
Southeast Region Brick Forum Recap

Industry News
February Brick Shipments
Brick in the News
Architectural Insights
Builder Insights
Housing Statistics

In Every Issue
Upcoming Events
Member News
Classified Ads

If you're a brick manufacturer, distributor, or affiliated industry supplier and would like to receive Brick News Online, contact BIA for more information about membership.

Building A Collection Brick by Brick

On an unseasonably warm midwinter day, Stephanie LaRose Lewison arrived at Fall Kill Creek in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with hip waders, a ladder and white ski poles. After descending the ladder into the creek’s swift current, she balanced herself on the poles and began bricking.

“It’s a defining characteristic of myself,” said the 31-year-old geologist, of her passion for collecting the ubiquitous fired-clay blocks almost universally regarded as heavy, dirty and generally worthless. To date, she has amassed more than 400 bricks—not far from the proverbial ton—in her Poughkeepsie basement.

She keeps them neatly displayed on shelves just above her glass-bottle collection, a decision that led one fellow brick aficionado to label her an “optimist.”

Like other collectors, she looks for bricks stamped with words, pictures, symbols or numbers set in a rectangular recess called a frog. Unmarked bricks, called “vanillas,” are usually ignored.

Ms. Lewison is member No. 1,518 of the International Brick Collectors Association. The organization, which frowns on buying or selling, won’t assign bricks a monetary value. It insists that one brick is worth another in trade only.

“When you place a value on something, you attract people who want to make a profit,” said the association’s librarian, Jim Graves. If bricks were worth money, he added, “it would encourage people to go out and liberate them.”

Mr. Graves, 73, has between 3,000 and 4,000 bricks in his yard in Wichita, Kan.

“I don’t mind being called crazy,” he said.

Instead of searching eBay, IBCA members travel to thrice-yearly swaps where collectors trade from truck beds and spread out bricks to give away. A bell rings and attendees race around, filling their arms.

“It’s amazing what people are willing to share,” said Ms. Lewison, who said she once scored a rare New York Central Railroad example. Between swaps she mails bricks to collecting colleagues in flat-rate boxes.

In the early 1900s, the Hudson Valley led the world in brick production. New York City building codes mandated fireproof materials, and vast deposits of clay lay within a short boat ride of the growing metropolis. But regulations changed, the Depression hit, and construction firms turned to concrete and steel. Of the 100-plus brick manufacturers that operated along the river in 1910, none remain today.

Now collectors scavenge river banks, former brickyards, constructions sites and landfills for the industry’s remains.

Much of that history is preserved in the 3,000-strong New Netherland/New York Brick Archive at Fordham University, maintained by Allan S. Gilbert. The anthropology professor uses chemical analysis to compare bricks from dig sites with ones in the archive.

Calling the humble brick a crucial artifact in the history of urbanism, Mr. Gilbert said he is “awed” by its significance.

The gurus of Hudson River brick collecting are Andy van der Poel, 50, and Fred Rieck, 74. They met recently to “talk brick” in Mr. Van der Poel’s garage in Kingston, N.Y., where the high-school physics teacher keeps his finely curated collection on floor-to-ceiling pine shelves. His passion is such, he said, that if he isn’t careful, “I’d have no family and a whole lot of bricks.”

The amateur scholarship of these two brick buffs has exceeded the published literature on bricks. Now they are correcting the texts and advising other collectors on forums like

“Some of the stuff I’m looking for is rare—it is 100 years old, but it wasn’t a fine art. It was crude and industrial,” said Mr. Rieck, a retired electronics equipment inspector for New York’s Office of General Services, who has at least 1,000. “Who gave a hoot about bricks?”

The two friends pore over old maps, obituaries and industrial records to find out what company made what brands, where the brickyard was and who owned it. They have solved the mysteries of Shamrock, Dwyer, Roberts and about 400 others. A few brands, such as *DK* and VF, still elude them.

Mr. Van der Poel’s favorite brick is unmarked, except for the tiny footprint of a child who stepped on the clay before it was fired.

“When Fred and I have done lectures, I bring this along,” he said. “You’re only going to find that when you’re out there doing some digging.”

On one brick hunt, they did find a corpse.

“It didn’t look gory,” said Mr. Rieck. “A cowboy boot with a pant leg coming out of it. A skull like it was just planted in the sand.” They took their bricks home, then called the sheriff. It turned out to be someone who had been reported missing months before from a nearby beach.

Mr. Van der Poel said he once knew a collector who tried to pry a desirable brick out of a stranger’s front steps. “I’m not going to take a brick out of somebody’s house,” Mr. Van der Poel said. He and Mr. Rieck do have their strategies, but the duo are careful to ask permission, when there is someone around to ask.

The best time for bricking comes after the snow melts because ice shifting along the Hudson’s shoreline can uncover fresh examples. Another choice time, said Mr. Rieck, is right after a fire.

When people inevitably ask what they are doing, casing a freshly burned building or mucking about on the river, Mr. Van der Poel hands them a business card reading “Hudson River Brick Collector.”

“It legitimizes us,” he said. 

Read the full article as it first appeared in The Wall Street Journal.