Jason Reader sold himself on Casa Grande with white mortar

Home builder Jason Reader prefers to build with brick whenever possible.

“We use lots of materials, but if the neighborhood and the price point line up, I’m absolutely going to choose brick,” says Reader.

His most recent completed project is a 5700-square-foot brick beauty for some very special homeowners: the Reader family.

The modified Tudor style home wraps around Reader’s lifestyle with an office specially built for J Reader Construction that’s linked to the main home by a nifty portico walkway over the driveway that leads back to a separate two-car, one-golf-cart, garage.

Not only does this arrangement eliminate any commuting to work, it makes getting to the golf course a short cart ride to the Bermuda Run Country Club that backs up to the property.

It’s built with Pine Hall Brick Casa Grande. The dark brown brick with just a hint of red is balanced beautifully with white mortar. As a builder, Reader had specified a lot of the popular Casa Grande line, but when he saw it with white mortar, he knew that was what his personal home had to have.

Reader managed to have his new home ready to show this weekend and next in the Winston-Salem (NC) Fall Parade of Homes. It’s the 10th home he’s built for himself.

“And it’s the last one I want to build,” says Reader, “at least until our daughter is out of college!”

So quality was upmost in Reader’s work.

“I like to borrow from other designs I see and from other homes I build custom or on spec,” says Reader. “I mix and match rooms and exterior features working with my draftsman to get exactly what I want. The spec home I’m building next door comes from about eight different plans.”

The Reader home features a lot of stylish exterior elements that accent the expansive face brick, like cedar corbels, stained exterior ceilings and a stately second floor bay under a curved gable for his daughter’s playroom. Reader also combined Hardie Plank and stone with the brick façade for nicely balanced curb appeal.

Reader began as a floor sweeping apprentice, working his way up to eventually become a contractor — learning from his mentors along the way.

“I’m still best friends with the first contractor who hired me,” says Reader.

J Reader Construction sets itself apart by being consistently present at its job sites to monitor progress and assure quality.

Jason Reader attributes a lot of his home’s quality to choosing the best materials, like Casa Grande with white mortar from Pine Hall Brick.

Fall is for fire pits

As summer fades and the early autumn sun starts to drift lower in the sky, the cooler evenings make your home outdoors more inviting. A patio expands your space and makes it more enjoyable for your family and guests. Why not install a brick fire pit for home value and fun?

An attractive circular brick fire pit can match your home’s face brick and, as with interior spaces, decorating the new space becomes part of the fun. You can make your toasty patio beautiful and functional year round. On warmer nights, bring out the wicker or rattan. Or maybe you prefer a classic white rocker.  For winter, you might want something with a bit more upholstery, just add a few stadium blankets and put some cocoa on the coals.

A fire pit lets you be as rustic or as elegant as your mood or occasion requires.

My Home Outdoors took a look at a how affordable outdoor seat cushions (by Solarium) give you some easy decorating options. Here, our Vienna brick matches nicely with deep red.

If you’re on a budget or a first-time homeowner, you may not have to spend a lot on expensive patio furniture. Outdoor seat cushions and pillows are durable enough to be used directly on the patio.

How about some yoga or morning meditation by the fire? A kids’ party with s’mores turns your patio into a campsite with all the comforts of home. Add a guitar for a few rounds of sing-along.

Or just a good wine or craft beer with your neighbors under starlight.

Fire pits are also easier to maintain than an indoor fireplace and offer a lot of versatility. Whether you just enjoy the mood that fire sets or you want to go full-on outdoor chef, a brick fire pit lets you build a beautiful roaring blaze or a long burning bed of coals where you can roast corn, potatoes or tend a kettle of chili.

A word about wood

One big difference of having a fire in an outdoor pit versus your indoor fireplace is you can burn a greater variety of wood. Chimney cleaners don’t generally recommend softwoods like pine and cedar indoors because they produce a lot of tar that collects in the chimney. But with a fire pit—and no chimney—you might enjoy some yellow pine or cedar if you want an especially bright, dazzling fire. Such softwoods burn faster than hardwoods, so if it’s for a party, you might want to stock up. If you want a longer, hotter fire with good coals for cooking, you’ll want hardwoods like oak, hickory and hard maple.

If you love fire, a brick fire pit is a great way to have more of it. And with a little imagination, the space around the fire can be as inviting and enchanting as your den indoors.


(Fire photo: Emeldil at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Brick part of new high performance homes

When you build new homes on Stratford Road in Winston-Salem, NC, there’s an expectation for square-footage, quality and beauty because it’s one of the city’s most prestigious streets, lined with trees and spacious century-old homes.Builder Don Hamrick is raising the bar to include energy-efficiency.

Hamrick’s side-by-side 4,200-square-foot Pine Hall Brick homes, now nearing completion, have signs that guarantee heating and air conditioning bills of $59.00 per month.

Custom Homes by Hamrick takes pride in making such performance building affordable to the general market.From modest custom homes to his grander properties on Stratford Road, the company doesn’t skimp on materials or craftsmanship. It pays off in beautiful homes that far exceed Energy Star standards, making them some of the most green projects in the market.


Hamrick’s Stratford Road homes feature Pine Hall Brick Chesapeake Pearl brick and Casa Grande brick respectively. And while a platoon of craftsmen hustles to have them ready for the fall Parade of Homes, they already fit right in the stately sylvan street. The design and construction is state-of-the-art, but with such classic brick colors, the effect is “Old Winston-Salem,” even with the excavation dirt and pickup trucks parked on the sidewalk.

Inside, Hamrick takes pride in describing his construction approach to creating tightly sealed homes literally from the ground up. It starts with specially sealed crawlspaces. It includes precisely blown insulation in every nook and cranny of the walls and separate HVAC for upstairs and downstairs that use lighter, more efficiently “right-sized” equipment. Performance building is a process that results in less humidity, less likelihood of mold, healthier air and, most important, that amazingly low energy cost.

“On spec houses like these, friends ask me, ‘why are you building in all that, you could just sell them on eye-candy,” says Hamrick. “But when I built my own house 15 years ago I learned how to do this and decided it’s the right way to build.”

                                                                                            Don Hamrick, builder.

Hamrick’s choice of brick color—Chesapeake Pearl and Casa Grande—couldn’t be better for the neighborhood and it’s also a boost to curb appeal for some lucky buyer.

“People associate higher quality with brick and brick is a great exterior cladding,” says Hamrick. “It’s competitively priced against fiber cement siding and gives you the same lower rates on home insurance for being fire retardant.”

My Home Outdoors will check back once the Stratford Road homes are completed. In a town where Pine Hall Brick is everywhere, they’ll soon join a 100-year-old legacy.

Give your home a smarter exterior

It’s the time of year when parents drop off their kids at college, visit their alma mater or start taking a class at their local university.

What is it about college campuses that creates the serene mood and cultivates the sensation of being away from the harried pace of everyday life?

The answer might be right under your feet.

Take a walk on an American college or university campus and you’ll probably see acres of bricks and pavers under a canopy of stately old hardwoods. The classic American campus is an aesthetic standard of venerable beauty and contemplative serenity. What pulls it all together is that network of clean well-cultivated lawns and paths that make you feel like you’re somebody special.

Why not bring that home?

My Home Outdoors took a stroll around historic Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to show how you can bring home the classic collegiate look with a new patio that looks timeless and will last for centuries.

Salem College, founded in 1772, is the oldest all female institution in the Southeast. The campus adjoins the Old Salem historic district of Winston-Salem, a Moravian settlement whose citizens founded the college.  It’s hard to tell when you leave Old Salem and enter the campus, because the 18th century cobblestones and buildings meld so well with modern brick and pavers.

A campus may be a cozy refuge, but there’s really no place like home. You can have the best of both worlds and create the kind of magical space that elevates your thinking.

With affordable landscaping using clay pavers you can extend your home’s living space with pathways and outdoor rooms for relaxing with the morning newspaper or entertaining guests into the night.

If you have a brick home, paver hardscapes around the yard can match your home’s façade like nothing else. And any home can increase its value and curb appeal with low-maintenance clay paver walkways, drives and patios.

Pavers give you a tidy, easy-to-clean floor outdoors that you can accessorize with outdoor furniture made more comfortable and cozy with throws, pillows and indoor accouterments.


As with interior design, exteriors built with clay pavers have a lot of color options. Depending on the season, you can have plenty of fun decorating your hardscapes with fabrics and ornaments, just like inside. In much of the United States, a patio can be enjoyed year-round. Add a fire pit and a crisp stack of comforters as temperatures gradually drop.

Just like college, it’s a smart investment that’s fun and rewarding.

Create cozy outdoor spaces that make you want to loll around and read a good classic novel. Lie back in your rocker and have a mid-summer night’s dream.

Or take a twilight walk down your own garden path to contemplate how good your life is in your amazing home outdoors.

In short, have the time of your life in your own backyard. And there will be no paper due on it Monday.

Take that nap you always wanted to take in school while you’re reading a book!

All pavers shown in this story are Pathway Full Range.

Planning a home? Take a look at white brick!


“Take a real close look,
you begin to see why
there is much more to white
—much more—
than can ever meet the eye.”

—Ken Nordine, jazz poet


Chesapeake Pearl is one of Pine Hall Brick white bricks, shown here with gray stone, gray roof and brown accents.

White has long been a popular choice for interiors and exteriors, but when people think of brick color options, it’s not always the first color they think of.

Think again.

White brick is a little different than just plain old “white” because with brick varieties and mortar choices, there’s a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle color variation to build a beautiful home that captures your personality. White brick gives lots of latitude for design choices in trim, accessories, patios, walkways and landscaping.

Detail of Chesapeake Pearl home, showing brown accents.

Oyster Pearl with brown accents takes white in another direction.


Here are close ups of Oyster Pearl (left) and Chesapeake Pearl illustrating how different white brick can be.


White brick is anything but sterile. The manufacturing and firing process give brick plenty of character and richness. Paired with a carefully chosen mortar color (remember, mortar makes up about 20% of a brick wall’s surface area), you can home in on the perfect tone from a very broad palette. You can even specify the mortar application—flat or recessed—to make a difference in the aesthetic effect of white brick.


And for even more color variations, consider the texture of brick. Here's Oyster Pearl Tumbled to give it an aged, legacy look.


Chesapeake Pearl and Oyster Pearl, two of our most popular white brick lines, give you a stately appearance, each with its own unique texture and tone. Both lines also pair well with Pine Hall Brick clay pavers for landscaping features. Pine Hall Brick Rumbled® Cocoa goes especially well with Chesapeake Pearl and Oyster Pearl.


For a beautiful contrast to white brick, consider a patio or walkway in Rumbled Cocoa clay pavers.


There are a total six white brick options from Pine Hall Brick, that you can see here on our website. You can also pick up sample cards at a Pine Hall Brick showroom for designing your brick home.



If you’re planning a home and you want to really express yourself with color, don’t overlook white brick as the starting point for a beautiful composition.


Since mortar is so important to the overall color of your home, you'll want to take some time to choose exactly what you want from a sample tray like this.


Garden wall built in March looks great in July!

A fresh front yard vegetable garden in historic Fisher Park near downtown Greensboro, NC, looks like its been part of the neighborhood for decades. But the nifty brick retaining wall was only installed in late March.

Pine Hall Brick distributor sales manager Rick Leonard undertook the project at his son’s and daughter-in-law’s home.

Rick chose Old Hampton Oversized Tumbled brick that was perfect for the neighborhood of 100-year-old homes. It’s part of the Pine Hall Brick Tidewater Series, designed to resemble the texture of colonial wood-mold and handmade brick.

The aged look and patina of the brick blends beautifully as the garden matures. It’s inviting and tidy with flowers and tasty edibles. And there’s no mowing necessary.

The design is simple. It’s not an especially high wall, but following some standard landscaping principles of retaining walls ensures that the garden has a nice foundation—including a sturdy entry step—that will last many growing seasons. It’s all done without mortar.

Rick is modest about the task, but it looks great.

“The garden retaining wall was a pretty simple design, requiring little ingenuity, but mostly brawn…right up my alley!” says Rick.

Grandson James delights in showing off the garden to our photographer.

Here are some detail photos of the project:

If you want to take on a retaining wall of any size, FamilyHandyman.com offers these tips:

  • Bury the bottom course, or courses, of the retaining wall one tenth the height of the wall to prevent the soil behind from pushing the bottom out (Fig. B).
  • Step back the blocks, rocks or timbers to get gravity working in your favor (Fig. B). This lets the walls lean and push against the fill. Walls built perfectly vertical (Fig. C) get gravity working against them the second they start leaning outward even just a bit. Most concrete retaining wall block systems have some kind of built-in lip (Fig. D) or pin system (Fig. F) that automatically creates the step back as you build.
  • Install a base of solidly compacted material (Fig. B) so your wall stays flat. A level wall provides modular blocks, stone and timbers with more surface contact with the courses above and below them. They fit together more tightly. The more contact, the more friction and the stronger the wall. Apply these three rules, and you’ll create a strong wall. But even a well built wall won’t survive unless you take care of two troublemakers: water and uncompacted soil.

Read the whole article here.

You can have a lot of fun with easy brick and paver projects. Check out our Pinterest page for ideas that will inspire your imagination and make your home outdoors a little more special, a little bit at a time.

James plays on the sidewalk bound by lush gardens.

Early tomatoes look delicious on the brick steps into the garden.

Coastal homes move inland with Oyster Pearl brick

A new planned community in Winston-Salem, NC, features distinctive homes modeled after homes from the Carolina coasts. The Village at Brookberry Farm, Phase IV, by the Sonoma Building Company is over 200 miles from the ocean, but strolling through the community you might think you’re in Beaufort or Savannah.

With Charleston-style design, some of the homes feature spacious porches upstairs and down.

Although clapboard is the dominant building material, foundations, entrance steps, chimneys and outdoor lattice walls hearken back to the old beach houses from a century ago using Oyster Pearl brick with white mortar and sand.

Cool summer entertaining on this striking combination created with an Oyster Pearl lattice brick columned fence and the deep mixed hues of a Rumbled cocoa paver patio, artfully mixed with dark accent pavers.

The patio extends to the front in a walkway.

Detail of lattice fence.

The Oyster Pearl brick steps have a light and airy look that complements the deep blue porch and it all transitions beautifully to the darker paver patio.

An Oyster Pearl staircase makes a striking front entryway for this bright white Charleston-style home, accented with black shutters. Notice also the lattice foundation, with the same brick.

Perfect imperfections!

Brick structures and streets last for centuries. They age beautifully, as they weather, wear and react to their environment. And while brand new brick and pavers give a crisp, clean look with precise lines, there’s a lot to be said for the imperfection of time.

Rumbled™ Full-Range offers some artful color variations in any project.

A lot of people prefer the aged look, but most can’t wait 50-100 years to see it. One option is to spend a lot of money on architectural salvage brick, but a more practical solution is Pine Hall Brick Rumbled™ pavers.

A regular paver (left) compared to a Pine Hall Brick Rumbled paver.

They’re made to the highest modern standards and you can get a wide range of color, in the exact quantities you want. But they look like they could have been used on a Beacon Hill Street in the 1800s.


This herringbone path with a soldier border is made from Rumbled Cocoa clay pavers.

We’ve mastered a method of aging our genuine clay pavers, so you don’t have to wait for your project to look like a classic hardscape. And if you have an older home, Rumbled is a good choice to match the look and feel.

Even though Rumble pavers look irregular, they’re designed to fit perfectly for easy installation by pros or DIYers.

Hamptons or the Carolina coast, Chesapeake Pearl fits right in

If you liked the lavish interior Grayson Manor shots from the ABC soap, “Revenge,” you ought to see our Chesapeake Pearl brick on the home’s exterior.


The series (2011-2015) was set in the Hamptons, but many of the interiors were shot at an amazing home in Wilmington, North Carolina.


The “Revenge” producers used another mansion for establishing shots of the outside of Grayson Manor, but the actual exterior featuring Chesapeake Pearl with White Sand/White Mortar was never on camera.

Maybe it should have been the star, because it’s gorgeous. (Here’s some background from a home blogger.) And right now, if you’ve got $4 million or so, you can own the home, designed by Dietsche + Dietsche Architects in Wilmington. Here’s the realtor’s information: Nick Phillips, Landmark Sotheby’s International Realty, (910) 679-8047

The real “Grayson Manor” interior opens up to embrace the tidal marshes of the North Carolina coast, where Chesapeake Pearl couldn’t be more at home.

A lot of people think “red” when they think of brick, but there’s so much more of the color spectrum attainable in today’s brick manufacturing process. And when you balance the brick color with mortar, you have even greater latitude to achieve the perfect exterior for any environment. Be sure to check out the Pine Hall Brick Design Guide to see what you can achieve in your brick home.

Construction of the home used in ABC's "Revenge," located in Wilmington, NC and now for sale!

Whether your home has an ocean view or it looks out on a quiet street in the suburbs, brick does a great job of merging the living experience with your environment.

Photos by  Landmark Sotheby’s International Realty.



Great Wall of Granddad—Ricky and James make Mom’s garden beautiful

Brick and clay pavers don’t always have to be for big jobs. There are lots of nifty ways to use both for small, weekend-size projects.

Pine Hall Brick’s Ricky Leonard and his grandson James teamed up to build a small retaining wall around a cool little front yard garden in the historic Fisher Park neighborhood of Greensboro, NC. The home of his son and daughter-in-law is a classic Craftsman bungalow on a cozy street of similar homes of the era.

It’s a frame house with a brick foundation. So the retaining wall makes a nice complement. Ricky used a dry stack method—no mortar needed—laying the wall into the garden soil at a slight angle for strength.



Completed, the little wall with its brick entry steps invites you in. The whole effect helps connect the raised bed garden to the home for easy access to the kitchen counter—a modern urbanist vibe.

Jobs like these are fun because they’re so easy, but yield a lot of long-term value and enjoyment. And it’s a great way to connect with an adoring grandson.

Next Page »