Ann’s DIY German Smeared Bricks

I can’t even tell you how much I love receiving before and after pictures of DIY projects from my readers.  These pictures are really making me want a brick house, because I just love the look of German Smear – Mortar Wash.  Ann generously typed up about how she did it and how it went, and if you are wondering if this will look good on your color brick, keep reading because Ann had about all the colors of brick on her house.

Guest Post from Ann:

“So I decided that I didn’t like all of the colors of brick that I had going on, on this house.

Before German Smear on Tan Brick

Before German Smear

I tried multiple types of stains and watered down paint to get the look I wanted, but didn’t like the result of any of my test spots.

Before German Smear on Red Brick

Before German Smear

I called, researched and watched hours of YouTube trying to figure out what to do.  White Wash with paint didn’t get the best reviews because they said it might have to be redone in 5-6 years; also fading and staining were an issue.  No thanks!!  I’d read so much, mostly DIY Home Décor Blog, about German Smearing and decided that’s what I wanted to do.  I had tons of questions and asked professionals in the painting industry, concrete business, building supply companies, you name it, and no one knew what I was talking about! So frustrating, but Brenda gave me the answers and confidence to just get in there and do it. And that’s what I did.

Pancake batter was the suggested thickness – using burlap to scrub the surface in between dry times to get that “show through” effect – applying with a sponge and/or brush – using vinegar and water in a spray bottle to thin areas that were applied too thick – these were all of the suggestions from outside sources – mostly Google – this process was way too tedious for me (always looking for shortcuts) and took me close to 4 hours to do a very small section.

The next day I did my own thing now that I had a little more confidence in what I was doing and actually SAW the results and how this stuff works.

After German Smear on Red Brick Grey Brick

After German Smear

I mixed white mortar (multi-purpose bought at Home Depot in the TILE section)  EVERYONE told me you have to special order white mortar!!!  No you don’t!!  I used a 5 gallon bucket and started with water – 2-3 inches in the bucket and added one red solo cup of mortar at a time – mixing with a large kitchen spoon with holes in it before adding more.  I went with a much thinner mixture on day two – between pancake batter and paint – and I used a 2” roller to apply – then smoothed it out with a large paint brush.  It goes on looking VERY thin, almost transparent, gets into the nooks and crannies amazingly – took no time to apply and dried so much better  – the “show through” effect was achieved WITHOUT any additional sanding (burlap). DON’T BE FOOLED BY THE INITIAL APPEARANCE it takes approximately 30-45 minutes dry time before you achieve the ACTUAL look.   I did the entire front of my house in the time it took me to do just one side the suggested way!!  My kinda job!!

The only thing I didn’t figure out was how to avoid the, what I call dry line, stopping one section and then starting on another leaves a slightly thicker line of mortar even if you try to feather it out.  I bought 60 grit sandpaper and lightly sanded those lines by hand until they blended – then continued to sand the entire house to smooth the top surface.  It sounds like a lot of work but took me about hour to do my house top to bottom – lightly sand being the key words here.

After German Smear on Tan Brick

After German Smear

The only thing I’m still searching for an answer on is…when the house gets wet (rain-hose) the brick goes back to damn near red!!  It spooked me, thinking OMG it just washed off!!!  No, after 10 minutes or so the color was right back to new again.  However, every time it rains my house is going to be UGLY for a little while!  Don’t want that.  Need to find out what I can put over this to lock in the white wet or dry.  Tricky because even a clear stain goes on wet – not good.  Still on the hunt for this and I’ll keep you posted what I find out.

My father built this house 35 years ago and he was notorious for buying odds and ends of everything.  I had probably 6 different types AND colors of brick on this house – red, dark grey, tan, pinkish, you name it.  I didn’t want to paint the brick red or any other color for that matter.  I saw this online and I’m so happy I decided to give it a whirl!!

I’m sure it’s not perfect, but then again, no one’s ever heard of it in my neck of the woods, so it’s damn near perfect in their eyes!”

Before German Smear on Pink Brick Grey Brick

Before German Smear

After German Smear on Pink Brick

After German Smear

Thanks so much Ann!!

~~~

Ann brings up a good point about the mortar getting wet.  This is definitely an issue you’ve run across if you’ve ever put in cement tile.  I freaked out when my cement tile back splash changed color when it got wet.  I used a penetrating sealer on it and it didn’t change the color of my tile. It also stopped getting darker when it was wet, so then I was assured that it wouldn’t stain.  It’s been 2 years now and it hasn’t stained yet and it’s white!  I look forward to hearing what sealer she finds that works best for her.

So for all you brick house owners that hate your brick, I hope you are seeing it as a diamond in the rough because with this technique you can have a look that’s even better than new brick!

Update to Post:

Q&A with Ann:

Q:  How much mortar did you use?

A:  “I bought the Versabond 50 lb bag – see attached photo – two of them actually and I have a fairly large home.  I only used ¾  of one bag for the entire process and wasted some of it.  While applying you have to constantly stir the mixture in the bucket because it thickens as it sits – there were times I had to go back and add more water to my already perfectly mixed batch because of the setting process in the bucket.  When pouring it out into the rolling tray – pour a little at a time – don’t fill it like we do with paint because of this setting process.  Small amounts at a time.”

 

versabond for german smear

Q: Do you think it will cover pink brick and maroon mortar?

A:  “It absolutely will!!  That’s why I went with the mortar versus the paint because of the “pink” issue.  I had some tan, CHARCOAL GREY (of all things) and pink colored mortar on my bricks prior to doing the smear and it came out perfectly!!  You don’t have to put it on thicker – I can’t stress that enough – the thinner consistency doesn’t appear as if it’s going to cover until it’s COMPLETELY DRY.  The thicker you apply, the more unnecessary work you create for yourself. ”

Thinking about doing some German Smear on your brick?  I’ve been collecting info on it, you can see what I have so far here:

Lisa’s German Smeared fireplace

Ann’s Exterior Brick German Smear

How to German Smear your brick

White Wash Brick vs Painted Brick vs German Smear

Sandi’s Whitewash Brick Fireplace

My painted fireplace – before I knew about German smear, lol

Easy way to Limewash your brick which gives an extremely close look to German Smear

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18 thoughts on “Ann’s DIY German Smeared Bricks

  1. Do you think if the mortar was mixed with a sealer instead of water that it would work to seal it?

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    • We tried this technique and with the penetrating sealer and when we splashed a cup of water it beaded right off. We will see how it stands up over time.

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  2. Thinking of doing this to my home- what about weep holes in the brick?

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    • I was wondering the same thing.

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  3. I live in Upper Michigan where our winters can be brutal. Which brick technique would give me the lest, longest lasting results? My brick is ugly and we took a chimney out, so I will need to replace brick that can’t be found

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  4. I live in Florida in a pseudo-Spanish style home with half-brick walls and brick archways over front door and garage. Has anyone used the German smear or mortar wash in a similar application? I’m thinking of a khaki color for the stucco above the brick with the white mortar wash for the brick walls and arches. Suggestions would definitely be appreciated.

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  5. Shannon Muller says:

    Has this ever been tried on stone? The front of our house is a man made stone. My husband wanted the look of the very thick mortar which would have been nice but it’s chocolate brown (looks like cake icing) and over powers the stones and brings out all brown and the grays are non-existent. The front of my house is so ugly now. Any ideas?

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  6. Charm Cadorette says:

    When you are mixing the mortar use white paint and water to mix. Half water/half paint then add the mortar till you achieve the desired consistency. It’s that simple! I do it with all my mortar work.

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    • Thanks a great tip, does it help the mortar not to become transparent when wet?? Do you have any before and after pics you could send me of some of the projects you’ve done? I’d love to share them. Brenda @ diyhomedecorblogs .com Thanks for commenting!

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  7. I want to do the German Smear on my red brick fireplace. I didn’t realize how dated it looked until I started watching all the HGTV shows. My problem is finding white brick mortar. Been to Lowes, Home Depot and other stores, but no one carries it. I see from your article you used white tile mortar. I can get this, but was afraid to use it. So my question is, will the white tile mortar work as well as white brick mortar? What is the difference?

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    • Update on above questions. I used white tile mortar and it worked beautifully on my red brick fireplace. I cut 2 large sponges in two-lengthwise, burlap for rubbing the brick and my favorite tool I thought of was toothbrushes. No where did I read about using a toothbrush to help spread and smooth the mortar between the bricks. Worked perfectly!!

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      • Awesome!! Thanks for letting us know. I’d love to be able to share before and after pics if you have any! You can email them to me at Brenda @ diyhomedecorblogs .com

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  8. Hello Ann
    Love this technique when I first saw it used on HGTV FIXER UPPER. How does German smeer hold up in a cold climate, Chicago gets extremely cold & hot. I have orange brick on the lower half (ugly) & newer Hardy board siding on 2nd level. This technique will give it the complete look I’m going for, I’m hoping to find a company that can do it.
    Thank you
    Anna
    Anna

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    • Good question. Since this technique uses mortar which is what is between the brick, as long as it’s applied properly so it adheres well, I can’t imagine it having a problem. I lived in the Czech Republic a little over a year and most people build their own houses. So they’d take any kind/size of brick including broken ones and fit them together like a puzzle and then smear the whole thing so you couldn’t see much of the brick, more like a mortar wash. I think brick layers might be more familiar with the term “Mortar Wash”, which is what you’re doing except the German Smear look lets more of the brick show through, so just make sure you let them know the exact look you want, like full coverage with just the outline of the brick showing through or most of the brick covered with bricks here and there showing through (like the house they did on Fixer Upper) or most bricks showing with mainly the mortar between the bricks covered, etc If you do it, send us before and after pics!!

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  9. Going back to the sealer to avoid the UGLY color change when the mortar gets wet – I bought a spray can of Thompson’s Water Seal and tried it on a small, inconspicuous spot – NOPE – it dried the brick and mortar with the appearance of the UGLY red brick look. Darn!! Still searching and any suggestions would be awesome!!

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    • Belinda Williamson says:

      Hi…I’m seriously loving the whole idea of the German smear look for my house as well..thanks to everyone who has given great tips etc already…my question is : is there a time period when the smear effect Will need to be redone or maintained ? That’s my only issue right now…will I end up with a bigger maintenance issue ? Thanks again..

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      • good question, you can research “Mortar Wash” since it’s really the same as German Smear, except German smear shows more of the brick color and Mortar Wash covers everything, just leaving the outline of the brick.

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    • Suzanne Collister says:

      Ann, thank you for educating us! I’m going to try it! Did you try another sealer yet? Something must work, right? I’d appreciate it if you have found the answer. Sue

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