A machine that can save masonry restoration contractors time and money by quickly cleaning old mortar off used bricks for reuse is slated to hit the market this year in Quebec.
“With this machine we are able to clean a brick in two to four seconds…ready to install,” says Doina Chifa, co-ordinator of Brique-Recyc.
Traditional cleaning methods, by comparison, take longer, are costly and can damage bricks, she points out.
Brique-Recyc is the brainchild of Montreal-based contractor Maçonnerie Gratton president Tommy Bouillon and his business partners David Dufour and Hugo Cartier. The brick masonry restoration contractor works primarily in the multi-family and institutional sectors in Montreal.
Three years in the making, the patented machine cleans 99 per cent of a brick through a process involving “a concrete grinder that allows the cleaning of the brick extremities,” says Chifa.
The bricks are “precisely aligned” by lasers on a conveyor belt which moves the brick between two diamond saw blades for mortar removal.
The brick cleaner has caught the attention of Synergy Montreal (SM), an initiative driven by PME MTL East Island.
Funded by the City of Montreal and Recyc-Quebec, SM provides advice to the city on economic and sustainable development, says Melissa Stoia, SM’s co-ordinator and its director of sustainable development and the circular economy.
Calling the machine “a real revolution for the construction sector,” Stoia says the industry “throws a lot of good, Quebec-made bricks to waste because it is faster” and less expensive than disassembling a wall and cleaning the bricks for reassembly.
More than 40 per cent of the waste in landfill in Quebec is from the construction industry, she says, noting reused bricks help reduce that percentage and eliminate greenhouse emissions resulting from the fabrication and transportation of new bricks.
She says many of the replacement bricks required for older residential and industrial buildings in the province are not made any more in Quebec but rather in the U.S.
Those bricks are often less durable in Quebec’s winter climate.
Adding to the problem, Stoia says masonry contractors normally order 10 to 30 per cent more bricks than needed for each batch in case colour/shade does not match.
“Once the renovation is done all the leftover (new) bricks go to waste.”
Stoia is not aware of any other brick-cleaning products like Brique-Recyc on the market.
Chifa says Maçonnerie Gratton calculates the brick recycling machine can eliminate up to 5.9 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the restoration of a 1,000 square foot brick wall.
“Throughout Quebec and Canada this means a lot because we are all about bricks,” Stoia says.
The recycling machine “sets the tone” for municipalities and the province to consider legislation on the reuse of construction materials.
She adds recycling bricks for reuse helps to conserve Quebec’s architectural past.
Chifa says the company chose to use diamond-tipped cutters for mortar removal because they eliminate potential damage or weakening of the brick caused by traditional removal methods such as percussive hammers. To meet health and safety requirements, Brique-Recyc employs a vacuum dust removal system.
She points out the speed of removal can be adjusted according to the “hardness of the mortar. Our cleaning is a simple process that doesn’t require water.”
Traditional cleaning methods remove less excess mortar and can involve the use of “extremely corrosive” cleaning agents, unhealthy to workers and hard on bricks, Chifa adds.
Brique-Recyc can be either mounted on rubber tires or on scaffolding via winching for in-situ cleaning.
While a date hasn’t been set for marketing the machine, its launch is expected this year.
A number of companies have shown interest in the product, some from as far away as Vancouver and France, Chifa says.