“I bought a Veneklasen brick house; now how do I repair the bricks”?

At least a few times per year, I get an email from someone from West Michigan who owns a 19th century brick house and is looking to repair it. I welcome these emails, and I’m always glad to share information.

In the past, I have learned of some people who have extra bricks sitting around. These bricks would be useful for anyone working on repairs to their Veneklasen brick homes, especially since it is difficult to match modern bricks with the color of old bricks. However, I haven’t kept contact with anyone who has extra bricks, so I can’t offer a contact right now. If you live in West Michigan and you do have old bricks that you like to sell, please leave contact information in the comments below. Also, if you are looking to buy bricks, you could do the same. Hopefully someone will see your comment, although I suspect if may take months or years to hear from anyone.

A second issue is re-pointing bricks. I’ve never actually done this work myself, so I am far from an expert on repairs. I can suggest however that you think long and hard about getting the right kind of cement. Modern cement mixes are not all the same, and most of them won’t be the same color and consistency as the mortar that is between the bricks of your old house. Modern cement tends to be harder and more likely to crack. Look for Portland cement and mix up some small batches to see if you can match the color of the old stuff. Nothing signals a bad brick repair job like off-color cement.

If you are interested in the history of your brick house or brick store, and you didn’t find the information in my book, Veneklasen Brick (Eerdmans, 2005), then you might find more information in the Veneklasen/ Zeeland Brick Company files that are kept at the Joint Archives of Holland at 9 E. 10th Street in Holland, Michigan. There, I have individual folders with newspaper clippings and the like for some/ many of the old brick houses in the area.

As always, I am happy to hear from you and will do my best to answer any questions about the history of the brickyards, your home, or bricks in general.

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