A Complete Guide to the German Schmear Technique - Home & Texture
DIY German Schmear

A Complete Guide to the German Schmear Technique

Give your brick wall or fireplace a modern look

November 10, 2023 at 3:00 PM PST

Brick has become a staple in the home in recent years, with brick walls and fireplaces being a popular interior design trend. They often become the center of attention when someone enters your home. They’re also easy to work around and make decorating fun, as you can experiment with different artwork frames, decor pieces, and furniture.

However, if the brick detailing in your house is a bit dated, it can be very expensive to replace or even update. Because of this, many people opt for the German schmear technique. This technique, which goes by multiple names including mortar wash and German smear, is used to transform your basic and outdated fireplace or wall into a bright, modern, and cozy space. The German schmear technique involves applying thin coats of mortar onto the brick surface and smearing it off. This leaves a white and textured coat on the brick, making it look like white paint.

How To Apply German Schmear

The german schmear technique is simple and only requires a few materials. Pictured: A brick wall

While it may look like a difficult process, applying German schmear can be quite simple. Because of its thickness, you’ll want to use a towel for application and to remove some of the coating. It’s up to you to choose the amount of coating you want over the brick but keep in mind German schmear is not easily removable, so you’ll want to make sure you like how the coating looks.

What You’ll Need

To apply the German Schmear technique to your surfaces, you’ll need a few supplies to prep the space and execute the distressed and textured look to the brick.

  • Pre-mixed mortar
  • Painters tape
  • A towel
  • A cloth
  • Dish soap and water
  • Sponge roller
  • Sponge
  • Brick sealant 
  • Piping bag
  • Sponge roller
  • Putty knife
  • Plastic sheeting, large construction paper or cardboard
  • Gloves

Get Ready To Apply

German smear on wall

Prepping your space before applying the German schmear technique is very important. To start, you’ll want to make sure your brick is clean. Use a vacuum to pick up any dirt and dust on the space, then thoroughly clean the surface using a cloth, dish soap, and water. Make sure to get in between the grout, cracks, and crevices. Seal your sponge roller with a sealant and apply it to the brick to let it dry overnight.

Now, it’s time to prep your space. Make sure your walls and floors are protected by putting down some plastic sheeting, large construction paper, or cardboard. Tape the edges of your space for accurate application.

Application is the next step for the German schmear technique. Start small by adding your pre-mixed mortar into a piping bag. Pipe the mixture in between the grouts and grooves of the brick. Gently squeeze it so that you can control the amount of mortar that comes out of the bag. If your grout lines are larger, you’ll need to use more mixture, whereas if they are smaller you can use less.

Now comes the fun part! Take your putty knife and wipe the excess mortar in other areas of the brick. Keep adding more until there is enough of the mortar on the brick to your liking. The best part about the German schmear technique is that it embraces imperfection. You don’t have to be precise unless you want to. After application, clean up any mistakes using a damp sponge and let the mortar dry. Make sure you are using gloves throughout this entire process, as it can get messy.

After the brick has dried, enjoy your space and make it cozy and comfortable. Add artwork, new furniture, decorations, rugs, plants and more to make your space feel more like home.



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