A Second Tour of Insulbrick Covered Homes Around Ottawa & Gatineau

After posting the first OttawaVeloOutaouais tour of local Insulbrick covered homes I discovered a few more examples throughout the region, so here is a follow up tour for those of us with a soft spot for this mid-century faux-wunder-cladding.

N.b. – Insulbrick has become a popular generic term to describe the tar impregnated exterior covering first patented in 1932 as Inselbrick and includes Inselstone, Inselwood and a few other imitations. Lots more on Insulbrick to be found on links at the bottom of this post.


First stop – 187 Rochester, where you’ll find this interesting multicoloured extended brick pattern. Note the top portion is covered with fiberglass siding. Because Insulbrick is flat, stable, and easy to nail through, much of it has been covered up with whatever subsequent siding was fashionable. I’m guessing there is a lot of Insulbrick covered up in this manner all over the region. UPDATE March 2021 – The Insulbrick has been ripped off and the whole exterior is undergoing a big reno.

187 Rochester St
187 Rochester St

Carla and I rode south on Rochester St towards our next stop at 28 Breezehill South, which could very easily be mistaken for a brick house, but it’s Insulbrick! The clearest  indication is how the pattern does not reproduce the 2 to 1 overlapping stacked brick pattern on the corner where the walls meet. Ivy helps. Very clever.

283 Breezehill South
283 Breezehill South

The next two stops are located on the Gatineau side of the river. To get there we rode along the O-Train path to the Ottawa River Pathway, then along the path over the Portage Bridge. This example is located along Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville at the corner of Rue Helene-Duval. The Insulbrick was applied to the side of the building only. The original brick structure pre-dates the invention of Insulbrick which, in this case, is really showing it’s age.

Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville
Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville

We wove our way eastwardly along paths and quiet roads to get to 289 Rue de Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile where we found another example of the red Inselbrick pattern. The owners are in the process of adding an addition at the back, It will be interesting to see whether they preserve the Insulbrick covering on the front, or cover it all with whatever siding they put on the back extension.

289 Rue de Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile
289 Rue de Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile

On our way back to Ottawa we rode along the boardwalk over the Alexandra Bridge. We then cut through Majors Hill Park where there’s a little known passageway at the end of the park that accesses the patio overlooking the canal and continues under Sappers Bridge beside the Chateau Laurier. It isn’t always open, so worst case scenario would require carrying ones bike up the stairs beside the Chateau BUT if you can access the passageway it’s worth it! It includes a couple of short flights of stairs that are equipped with bike ramps wide enough for your tires to push your bike along. My Grandmother used to describe riding the train into Ottawa along the canal and taking an elevator up to the Chateau Laurier lobby. I’m guessing this is where she would disembark.

Access to passage way under Sappers Bridge beside the Chateau Laurier
Access to passage way under Sappers Bridge beside the Chateau Laurier

Further south at the corner of Grenfield and Havelstock sits our next stop but it may not be there for long. At the time of our visit (April 2017) there was a plywood panel describing how the lot is up for zoning review with plans to build a new condo in its place. UPDATE – 2020 It’s gone, replaced with the condo.

Corner of Greenfield Avenue and Havelock Street

Next it’s over the Pretoria bridge and along quiet streets to our following stop – 28 Florence St. Love it.

28 Florence St
28 Florence St

Florence turns into a one way heading east halfway between Bank and Kent. To get to James St which is one way heading west, we cut through the service alley behind the businesses that front on to Bank Street.

Alleyway between Florence & James St
Alleyway between Florence & James St

Our final destination is 642 MacLaren Street, and what a beauty it is! So well preserved, one has to take a really close look to see that it is in fact Insulbrick. As mentioned at the Breezehill stop, corners are where the truth is told. To hide how Insulbrick patterns don’t correspond to real brick at corner junctions, a corner strip is often applied, as was in this case.

642 MacLaren

There are two other buildings located in Centretown that I didn’t include in this tour as it would have required some convoluted navigating to avoid biking down busy streets, however I have included photos. The first is this abandoned leaning house on Somerset between Lyon and Kent. Probably won’t be there for long as it and the lot it is sitting on is up for sale. UPDATE April 2017 – It’s been knocked down.

Leaning house of Somerset
Leaning house of Somerset

Another example is located two blocks north on Lisgar also between Lyon and Kent St. The Insulbrick was added to the front portion of an already existing building. It is really showing it’s age, especially in contrast to the original brick still visible on the back portion of the building.

Insulbrick on Lisgar
Insulbrick on Lisgar

Here are a few links to stories involving Insulbrick:

– A short history of Insulbrick (click)

– A stop along the Lincoln Highway where Insulbrick has been preserved to maintain it’s heritage feel (click)

– An example of Insulbrick being covered up with more contemporary siding. (click)

Signing off with this image of an Insulbrick home I passed on Concession Road 7 while riding to the Blue Skies Festival near Sharbot Lake.

Concession Rd 7

Author: ottawavelo


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