T Street Between 13th and 14th Gets New Brick Sidewalk


I dig these brick sidewalks but seem to recall folks saying they were hard to maintain. I also recall a photo I took of some weeds growing out of the cracks of a brick sidewalk this past Summer. Is the sand supposed to prevent that or does it just make the walk even? Also if this is more expensive than regular concrete sidewalks who pays for it? So any fans of brick sidewalks out there?


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  • The sand is just for leveling the ground under the walks, and you pound (with a rubber mallet) the bricks into it. Ideally the bricks are tightly packed enough that no / few weeds are possible, but in general you’re supposed to weed these regularly. All the bricks pushed together tightly and secured on the outer edges give it the stability, and plant roots structures degrade the overall stability. So does water, heavy use, etc. So they are somewhat of a paint to maintain, but also if you need to repair them you can just deal with a few bricks rather than re-concreting a whole section of sidewalk or some such.

  • If DC citizens were smart, they’d want them everywhere. It increases the value of homes/neighborhoods. Especially in historic neighborhoods. I know a few of the NIMBYS on 17th St (Dupont) don’t want it, so they’re going to get hideous grey concrete instead.

  • I thought they were only putting the new brick sidewalk between 14th and 15th on T – are they extending it to 13th, as well? I think it is great and has tons of character!

  • The cobblestone sidewalks in my neighborhood are my enemy. The cobblestones are bad enough, but then the tree roots push them up and make them bumpy, which is possibly fine for people who aren’t as clumsy as I am, or who don’t wear heels. A couple of years ago, I wound up in a leg brace after getting a heel stuck in front of my house and face planting on the sidewalk, banging my knee off the ground in the process. I’ve stopped trying to walk anywhere around the neighborhood in anything but sneakers or flip flops (but, I’ve definitely stubbed my toe in the latter). Even just walking my pup around the neighborhood (in sneakers) I often trip over bumpy cobblestones. These new brick ones seem a little better, but still not heel friendly and they definitely sprout weeds and become uneven.

  • So in summary, SG is right – they look great, and people like them, but they aren’t super user-friendly when you have to deal with them every day.

  • In addition to leveling underneath, the sand on top is for the cracks and helps stabilize them.

    My question: who pays for the bricks and how does a neighborhood go about getting them? I have always associated them with wealthier neighborhoods – though I may have just overlooked those in other neighborhoods. Is it a neighborhood association thing?

  • sand is also skimmed across the top once the bricks are laid to fill in the cracks. Sort of like a makeshift mortar.

    They are more expensive than concrete, and I assume the city pays for it. There are streetscape plans for many areas that outline the sidewalk paving to be used.

  • I find them a pain. Especially in winter because the ice over and get slick faster and longer than concrete. Scarry walking in the winter. Shoveling them is also more of a problem than concrete because the shovel gets caught. I also hate having to weed the bricks – which most people (esp. renters) don’t bother with – so a sidewalk with bricks can start looking very neglected very quick which in turn makes the neighborhood look neglected.

    DC seems to be going for some sort of aesthetic and is putting in bricks – though it is hard to tell because they replaced the brick sidewalk down the side of my house with brick and replaced the cement sidewalk in front of my house with cement.

  • “I have always associated them with wealthier neighborhoods – though I may have just overlooked those in other neighborhoods.”

    I agree they are typically in in wealthier neighborhoods, but they are putting brick sidewalks in a lot of neighborhoods as part of streetscape improvements. This isn’t being paid for by the neighborhoods, I’m pretty sure. My friend who lives in Shaw on Marion St. says her street was re-done in brick just a few years ago.

  • One of the reasons they’re associated with wealthier neighborhoods is that their installation used to be limited to Historic Districts — Georgetown, for instance. I love them — they seem to add an element of class to the ‘hood.

    Waiting to get some in Mt. P.

  • I’m from Portland, Maine, where they have those all over the place. They look sweet but are so grim in the winter, especially in Zoo England where walking around the streets is near impossible in winter. They are classy, tho.

  • I don’t know where to substantiate this, but I heard from an arborist friend that in DC the brick sidewalks were bricks on top of a layer of concrete. So it looks like a brick sidewalk, but it’s really just a facade on concrete. This means that the tree roots won’t break them up, but it also means that instead of being a pervious surface that absorbs (and filters) some of the rain and runoff, it’s is just another impervious surface dropping water into the CSOs and storm drains. It also means that the brick sidewalks would not benefit the trees here, as they do in other places. (Hate the roots, love the trees, it’s hard to have one without the other.)

    Somewhere in the DDOT or DPW site they probably tell you what they put in.

  • The last place I saw DC laying brick sidewalks there was no sublayer of concrete (around 17th and New Hampshire). Just sand and bricks. It looks like PoP’s pictures above are of real bricks, too. I doubt DC would shell out the money for both concrete and bricks.

    Maybe they are doing the brick facade in some parts of DC, but I havent seen it yet.

  • Just to echo what Jimmy D said, I’m pretty sure that the new brick sidewalks put in as part of the Q St. restoration have no layer of concrete. Sure looked to me like they just used sand and bricks.

  • Its fine if the city is doing this, but I think the maintenance requirements are, overall, greater than just concrete sidewalks. Without regularly resetting sunken bricks you get an extremely dangerous walkway. And without regular weeding and such you get sunken bricks. So, I guess I’d be concerned that they look great until the first winter, at which point they’ll start to fray. I wouldn’t assume that DC has figured maintenance into the long term picture.

  • I saw the bricks stacked up on T St before laying. They are real not facades.

  • you want cement? go to virginia.


    and then you people bitch about concrete housing.


    i’ll gladly pay your ticket back to iowa, indiana, nebraska, or wherever.

    this is dc.

    it’s brick, baby.

    PoP can you reccomend a realtor to the dorks that live here, but should really be living in the burbs?

    thanks in advance!

  • I have seen plastic tarping material placed below the sand layer before, on P Street I believe, which should help alleviate the weeding issues.

  • Here on my block we have giant concrete slabs sticking up because of tree roots — serious ramps for skateboarders. I’d rather have a brick sidewalk in, where a few bricks can be replaced when needed (because I’d rather have the trees). If done properly, a brick sidewalk can be very low maintenance for years. And unless they start dyeing the concrete a warm red, I’d take the brick color over grey anyday.

    In some cities, they are installing recycled rubber blocks, especially around tree roots. Don’t know how they fair over the long run.

  • Regular concrete or real brick, I don’t mind either. What I do mind is the concrete that’s pressed and colored pink to resemble brick but just looks cheap. A couple years ago DC redid all the crosswalks along Pennsylvania Ave between 15th and the Capitol which this stuff, along with some crosswalks around Ford’s Theater and a few other locations — nasty.

  • So about a decade ago the brick sidewalk at my parents’ house was replaced. No concrete underneath, just leveled sand. I can’t remember if they underlayed (sp?) it with plastic. But indeed, the sand on top is designed to work its way into the cracks to help stabilize the bricks.

    We read, or found out, or whatever, that the brick sidewalks are subject to some historic code, and therefore must remain brick and cannot be paved with concrete. That’s why you’re seeing sidewalks replaced on one side of the street with brick and the other with concrete. I’m not sure of the exact code or rule or whatever, but that certainly seems to be the case all over the city.

    I kinda wish they would just re-level the sidewalks with the existing bricks. The old bricks are beautiful with their moss/lichen covered weathered-ness.

  • Months ago, they did this on the 1400 blocks of T..but that block already was brick, they just re-laid all the brick since they were quite uneven which is dangerous and probably some ADA violation. The only problem is the sand can take forever to go away and it tracks inside your house. They recently completed re-laying the brick on the 1500 block of T Street, too.

  • A few weeks back they replaced some of the brick work at the corner of 18th and I Sts NW. I noticed at the time that there was a layer of concrete under the sand they were laying down.

    I think concrete must be replaced more often than bricks because it does not accomodate any root growth underneath without cracking. Also bricks can be replaced one at a time, without replacing an entire section of sidewalk.

    Personally I prefer Euro-style cobblestones to bricks.

  • Landscape Architect here. There are several ways to do a paver sidewalk (bricks are for walls, you walk on pavers, but you know what, only landscape architects actually care about that – sort of like the difference between soil and dirt). They can be done on a concrete slab, or on compacted subgrade (just dirt). In each case sand is used as a leveling course, then is swept on top and vibrated into the joints to lock the pavers together.

    If done without a concrete slab, then the contractor will lay down a filter fabric first, and then the sand. The filter fabric is not plastic. The filter fabric allows water to drain through, but not the sand. It also prevents weeds from penetrating from below.

    Over time, especially if not installed properly, the sand may wash away and the joints fill with dirt instead, allowing weeds to grow in between the pavers.

    Whether a sidewalk is done on concrete or just sand depends on the quality of the soil beneath it, what is already in place, etc… There is no standard.

  • Yep they at 8th and T now…any idea why they are doing it? I like the look a lot

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