German Smear Gone Wrong? Here Are Ways to Fix or Avoid Major Problems

One of the recent trends in masonry involves a technique that originates from Northern Germany called the German Smear. German smear homes are a sight to behold with their combination of timeless sophistication and rugged charm.

Some German Smear projects are even simple enough you can do them on your own. The technique is relatively easy to learn and doesn’t require a lot of special tools. And if you have even a little bit of construction experience, things will go a lot smoother for you.

But still, it’s easy to run into some problems while doing a German Smear finish. They range from minor style issues to major discoloration. What are some common issues you might run into if you try to do these yourself or when hiring a contractor?

Let’s have a look.

German Smear Gone Wrong? Here Are Ways to Fix or Avoid Them German Smear Gone Wrong | Alexander and Xavier Masonry
Source: Flickr

German Smear Common Mistakes

If you look into some of our German Smear DIY instructions, you’ll see that it’s not overly complicated. Mix water and a premade mortar mix to create a soft mortar that you then spread over the brick.

Then, before the mortar is dry, you wipe some of it off to expose parts of the brick. If you don’t have time to DIY or just want to make sure to get it right, hiring a professional masonry company is a good idea.

While many homeowners have found success with the DIY route, some are stunned to see their project fall short of expectations. What are these errors? And what can you do to prevent or fix them?

Discolored Mortar On the Bricks

Discolored Bricks German Smear Gone Wrong | Alexander and Xavier Masonry
Source: Joy Deleyer

Some homeowners find that their German Smear mortar has turned an ugly color of yellow. It mostly happens within a day or two after the project.

It can be quite annoying to see this happen, especially since you were probably hoping for a nice clean white mortar finish.

If you are wondering about the german smear cost, you can check out our guide.

There are two possible reasons for this happening.

1. Lack of cleaning before smearing

Before you smear the mortar wash onto the brick surface, it’s really important to make sure the bricks are clean.

This isn’t just to protect the final color of the mortar. Bricks should be devoid of any dirt, or else the dirt will get stuck between the old bricks and the new mortar. This could cause the new mortar to stick to the dirt and not to the actual brick, which with time could cause the mortar to fall off.

The dirt from the brick can also mix in with the mortar as you’re spreading it and is likely to affect the final result’s color.

2. Nicotine Bleeding

Nicotine bleeding is usually used as a health term however, it is also a construction term that’s used to describe when the nicotine on walls bleeds through paint or mortar.

If you paint or do a German Smear finish in a smoker’s home, it might gradually turn a yellow or brown color because of the smoke contaminants that bleed through from the original wall surface.  

If you’re applying German Smear in the home of a smoker or even with stone, it’s best to apply a quality masonry sealer to the wall after a thorough cleaning and before starting the mortar smearing.

Scraping Off Mortar Is Really, Really Hard

Scraping Off Mortar is Impossible German Smear Gone Wrong | Alexander and Xavier Masonry
Source: Heather Nest

Scraping off fully cured German Smear mortar is hard work. Plus, it involves a lot of elbow grease and sometimes even dangerous chemicals. That’s why it’s best to do it right the first time.

So, if as you’re moving through your project something doesn’t seem right, it’s best to clean the mortar off the wall sooner rather than later. Wasting a couple of bucks of mortar is better than wasting several days trying to scrape it off once it’s dry.

So here are some things to watch for that could make it harder to get a good end result.

1. Old Bricks

German Smear is a great way to breathe life into some old bricks. But if bricks are too old and damaged, there’s not much you can do. If you apply mortar to a piece of brick that’s already starting to fall off, when it finally does fall off, it will take the mortar with it.

Also, if there are cracks in the brick because of structural issues with your home, no amount of mortar will fix that. In this case, it’s best to get the german smear professionals to have a look. Structural issues could be risking more than just your beautiful german smear on red brick.

2. Wrong Brick Type

There are more than twenty types of bricks with all different sizes, colors, and textures.

Smooth bricks tend to provide the most predictable results. If your home has rough and uneven bricks, it’s best to practice first in an area that’s out of site so you can see how it will turn out.

3. Pre-Wet the Brick

It gets really frustrating when the mortar starts to dry too quickly and you don’t have enough time to wipe it off. German smear faux bricks are porous and will start sucking moisture out of your mortar as soon as you start applying it.

That’s why it’s best to spray your brick wall down with water before you start smearing on the mortar mix. Since the bricks are pre-moistened, your mortar will take longer to dry out and it will be easier to work with.

How to Fix German Smear Failures

How to Fix German Smear Failures German Smear Gone Wrong | Alexander and Xavier Masonry
Source: Sister Sister DIY

Generally, the German Smear is permanent, but you might still be able to repair it if you make a mistake.

Here are some supplies you’ll probably need for fixing and maintaining your German Smear.

  • Stiff wire brushes
  • Heavy-duty rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Buckets with water
  • Muriatic acid (USE WITH CAUTION!)
  • Large sponges

Removing the Mortar

So if the mortar has dried but you don’t like the way it looks, here are some things you can do.

Using the wire brush and some water, scrape the discolored mortar from the brick. Muriatic acid can make this go a little quicker, but it is a dangerous chemical and should be used with caution.

Be sure to follow all the safety procedures on the container regarding mixing it with water and applying it to the brick. Plus, don’t forget to wear proper personal protective gear.

Once you’ve removed the mortar, identify what the problem was. If it was discoloration, you may need to seal the wall first like we mentioned above.

If it’s the finish you didn’t like, then you may need to practice with your technique until you get the desired result.

German Smear Tips to Ensure its Longevity German Smear Gone Wrong | Alexander and Xavier Masonry
Source: Clayton Brothers


Remember, with something so permanent as a German Smear finish, it’s best to do it right the first time. So don’t forget the things you learned in this article.

If you’d rather not try it again yourself, then give us a call at A&X Masonry. We’re German Smear experts and can give you a free quote so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

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