This winter when the weather gets nasty, public works crews with the city of Hays will sort through bricks removed this fall during repair of Allen Street.

“A lot of those old bricks had shattered,” said John Braun, public works project manager for the city of Hays. “They had broken into pieces, so we wouldn’t reuse them. Our crews will be hand sorting and picking out any good ones we can find.”

The brick is being dug out from Allen as part of the current $2.4 million reconstruction of the street. The project replaces old waterline and pavement from 24th and Vine streets to Eighth Street.

The north end of Allen was concrete surface, the middle was asphalt, and the south end near downtown is old clay-fired brick from Eighth to 12th streets. The brick was probably laid sometime from the 1920s to the 1940s, Braun estimated. Like the rest of the new street, the brick section will be replaced with concrete.

“Within our yard here, we’ve got stockpiles of old brick,” said Jesse Rohr, director of Public Works for the city. “As we tear up old street we try to salvage the old brick.”

City workers sort the brick, saving and stacking whole ones to patch the city’s other brick streets, and discarding broken ones.

“If they’re broken into multiple pieces, they get crushed up with concrete and get put into alleys as surface, or as base under a street repair,” Braun said.

Some of the city’s signature brick streets get brick replaced after repairs if they fall within the city’s “brick street policy” area designated for historic preservation.

Because clay-fired brick isn’t readily available anymore, Braun said the city uses new concrete brick pavers for large projects. Brick on Main Street was replaced in the 1990s with concrete brick pavers that are dyed red.

Concrete bricks lay easier and smoother because they are a little more uniform in size and dimension, he said. Concrete pavers were used for a patch of Eighth Street, for example, that was replaced in 2006 between Oak and Fort streets.

“It’s a pretty nice section of street,” Braun said. “It’s smoother, and there aren’t as many humps or dips in the road.”

Allen’s brick streets fall outside the preservation zone, but Hays City Commissioners in January still asked the contractor to bid what it would cost. The answer came back $100,000 from Paul-Wertenberger Construction. Only Commissioner Sandy Jacobs voted to relay the brick.

Out of 120 miles of street in Hays, about 11.2 miles is brick, or about 9 percent, Braun said. 

Brick streets don’t require the maintenance that concrete and asphalt do, said Braun, and usually only need patched when pushed up by tree roots, or when there’s a failure of either the curb and gutter, or of the underlying old-time weaker concrete base.

Laying brick initially is more expensive, however, he said.

That’s because the entire process of removing it, preserving it and relaying it is very time consuming, said Tyler Pfannenstiel, supervisor for J Corp, the contractor that recently repaired the waterline break on Main Street, which required significant brick replacement work.

“All the bricks that come out, each one has to be cleaned by hand, scraped with a scraper, because they’re covered with dirt and tar — they’ve been there for 50 years,” Pfannenstiel said. It also takes a lot of care to make sure they don’t break, he said.

The replacement brick is placed onto a layer of mason sand. It takes string lines to get the brick pattern going and keep them as straight as possible, Pfannenstiel said. Then a mix of mason sand and Portland cement is broomed in to all the joints.

J Corp, 1707 E. 10th, has been relaying brick for the city for about a decade.

“My guys can lay 4,000 to 6,000 brick a day on a straight pattern,” Pfannenstiel said. “It’s like learning to ride a bike, once you get the hang of it you just take off and go.”