CalStar Products Recycled-Content Bricks


CalStar Products

These bricks and pavers look like any you would find in your typical lumberyard, except they aren’t. The eco-conscious products aren’t made exactly same way and not exactly with the same materials. First of all, they’re made with 40 percent post-industrial fly ash, the sooty leftover from electric power generation. On top of that, the company has found a completely new way to make the bricks that eliminates the need for firing. As a result, the bricks require 85 percent less energy than clay bricks and emit 85 percent less CO2. Pavers come in eight colors and one size, while the bricks are available in eight colors and two sizes. www.calstarproducts.com.

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4 comments on “CalStar Products Recycled-Content Bricks

  1. Homeiq

    The investment info is public knowledge – three rounds of financing in the last 6 years.
    The employee info is from public data and from insiders.
    The sales and financials are from public data and insiders.

    I cannot comment on the business model. However, the primary reason why Calstar is failing is that they hyped their products (bricks and pavers), claiming performance and safety levels that are far from the truth. In reality, a whole host of issues have been documented – including heavy metals leaching from the fly ash used in their products, severe shrinkage after installation, severe efflorescence, poor mortar adhesion, mortar line failure, poor hardness and abrasion resistance, rapid color loss and color transfer, poor resistance to water-based washes and acid cleaners typically used for masonry.

    You may have noticed that Calstar never shows close ups of their products/installations – if you see their bricks/pavers and installations up close (as I have), the defects listed above become very apparent.

    You may also notice that their pavers carry a very low 10 year warranty. Standard clay, concrete, stone and composite pavers carry 25, 50 or lifetime warranties. The above issues are the reason for this.

    Calstar has made performance or safety claims, then has withdrawn or amended those claims when they have been challenged- for instance, claiming in their safety document that they had tested for the elements “Mb” and “Va” – these do not exist in the periodic table. When challenged on these claims, they amended the document and removed these “elements”.

    Another case in point is their sustainability claims. On the Calstar website, the following is illustrative for what is claimed:

    Brick Project – Milwaukee Scholars School; Energy saved: 255 million BTU; CO2 avoided: 20 tons; Landfill avoided: 40 tons
    Paver Project – Main Street Plaza; Energy saved: 4 million BTU; CO2 avoided: 3 tons; Landfill avoided: 8.5 tons

    So, in the case of Calstar’s pavers, 1 ton of landfill avoided (ie. fly ash) equals 0.5 million BTUs avoided. But in the case of bricks, the figure is ten times higher – at 6 million BTUs per ton of landfill avoided. Whether this is intentional fudging or botched claims is not clear, but these claims are clearly absurd.

    Unfortunately, this is how Calstar operates – lots of hype and products that have failed again an again to live up to the claims.

    • Hi Brad or anyone else out there with knowledge on the subject.

      I am a project manager for a general contractor/developer who has recently used CalStar brick on a project and am witnessing first hand just how brittle and poor the product is. The house has been bricked for only about 6 months now and there are shrinkage cracks ALL OVER THE HOUSE! The local supplier who sold us the brick came out to walk the job with me to discuss options for repairs and root out the cause. During our site meeting, they informed me that CalStar has gone out of business but that our cracks were due to inadequate control joint spacing, and they stopped short of laying any of the blame on the product they sold us (surprise, surprise!). We are looking now at a situation where we will have to come back and pay the masons to cut in caulked expansion joints all over the exterior of the house and tooth in new brick to replace as many of the cracked ones as we have left over brick to replace. My big concern is that (in addition to the expansion joints all over the house being a huge eyesore) this is not going to do much to solve the problem as new cracks are showing up in the facade weekly. We’ve built larger houses with zero expansion joints so I have a hard time buying that the sole reason for the cracks is due to a lack of adequate expansion joints.

      Can anyone provide me with some web links to any articles or literature outlining the specific problems and/or case studies where these products have failed elsewhere? I really need to make a big decision on whether or not to replace all the brick or just try and fix the existing problems, and I also need to build a case to keep our company from being stuck footing the bill for the fixes.

      Thank you,

      Ronnie Allyn, Fleeced CalStar Customer

  2. Calstar Products is operating at a large loss and in the process of shutting down.

    The VCs put in over $30 million into Calstar Products, and they have brought in new management and downsized – with the hope of a buyout.

    Total staffing has been reduced by 70%, and the production workforce is at 25% of capacity.

    In the last three years, Calstar has sold 255,000 bricks and 120,000 pavers.

    Annual production is below 100,000 units – well below the plant capacity of 10 million units.

    Revenue is below $ 0.4 million per year – well below the burn rate of $ 2.6 million per year.

    The CEO – Tom Pounds was removed in December.
    The R&D Director – Kyle Douglas left in December.
    The VP of R&D – Amitabh Kumar left in March.

    • Wow! How did you come by all of this information. Assuming we can confirm it, that is amazing. Do you have any insight as to why the business model has failed?

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