Rebuilding the parapet

Taking the existing parapet down wasn’t too difficult. But rebuilding it is a more daunting task.

It begins with organizing materials for the mortar. Actually, it starts with researching and determining the appropriate mortar type and mix – but that deserves its own blog post – stay tuned! The bottom line is that I need medium (or mason) sand, Portland cement (Type I) and hydrated lime (Type S) for the mortar.

I also need some common brick. The majority of the existing brick was in bad shape and only a fraction was suitable for reuse. I found a couple of masonry material suppliers that sell salvage common brick. As per my count, three truck loads (around 1500 bricks or three palettes) should be enough to rebuild the parapets.


Common brick has a very large carbon footprint. Not only because of the material extraction (clay) and processing, but more so because of the firing process – in kilns powered by coal. Figure all that carbon dioxide emission!

The good news is that the large carbon footprint of common brick can be spread out thinly over many years, due to the longevity of this product. This was all the incentive I needed to go for salvaged bricks to avoid adding to that footprint.

And there is the other kind of footprint – or footprints to be precise – which we left on the back porch staircase while schlepping all that brick onto the roof. We got it to the second floor level from where had to throw it through the little roof hatch. The pitcher was on the second floor, the catcher above the hatch on the roof. We carefully avoided strike outs!

All materials are organized and in place. Time to rebuild the parapet!

Did you really think that I would rebuild the whole parapet by myself? No way! This is a task where a set of skilled and experienced hands are priceless. I found myself David Suarez, a good mason who came with recommendations from my friend John (thanks John!). We got each side rebuilt in one day respectively – although those were very long days. But we got the job done – prior to winter! This feels like a brick load off my shoulders.

About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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