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

One of the recent trends in Masonry involves a Northern Germany paint technique called the German Smear. German smear homes are a sight to behold, and people know that it can be a DIY project. That’s why a lot of them have done it to their house all by themselves.

The German Smear is very easy to do, given that you have had ample research. People know that experience on brick masonry is also only a plus. However, since this doing-it-yourself is already a trend, failures are also widespread.

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 figure that it is very doable. Combine a premixed mortar with water to create a joint compound. 

After that, you can paint or smear away with all your heart. If you don’t have time to DIY, hiring a mason is pretty affordable.

While many homeowners have found success with this, some are stunned to see failure in their bricks. What are these errors? What could be the reasons behind all of them?

Discolored Bricks

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

Many homeowners find that their German Smear brick set has turned yellow. It mostly happens 24 hours after they did the project. 

It’s quite bothersome as German smear was created with the white mortar in mind. Sadly, a lot of smeared bricks have turned from white to yellow.

There are two reasons for this occurrence.

1. Lack of cleaning before smearing

If you haven’t read any German Smear hacks or advice, you’re likely to miss out on a general rule of thumb. Before you smear the mortar wash into the brick surface, make sure the bricks are clean

They should be devoid of any dirt, or else the dirt will get stuck between the old bricks and the new mortar. They will also be likely to affect the final result’s color.

2. Nicotine Bleeding

Nicotine bleeding is usually a dental health term. It is an explanation that nicotine from cigarettes is the cause of teeth bleeding. However, it is also the term used for Masonry.

Smoking cigars affect a lot of natural construction materials. They may not show very often, but the German smear technique exposes this phenomenon.

After just doing the procedure for a day, some people find that their house or wall has obtained the color yellow instead of white. 

Smoke contaminants cannot penetrate a red brick, so the smoke effect needs to manifest somewhere else and, that’s right, it has chosen to make a home through the white mortar.

Scraping Off Mortar is Impossible

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

The whole essence of the German Smear look is a mix of white mortar and the original color of a brick. One of the essential steps in the technique is to smear the mortar into the brick and remove some of it later.

There are instances wherein scraping off mortar is impossible. That will entirely change the look and cancel out German Smear. It will be just like painting a brick wall traditionally.

There are three reasons for this, mainly:

1. Old Bricks

You can use an old brick and transform it into a new one through German smear. However, there are exceptions to the rule. If a particular brick is already crumbled and almost smashed, you should replace it.

The mortar could save the old brick, but it, too, has limitations. You should take this precaution seriously. Instead of saving up for retaining a brick, you could lose more money in the end.

2. Wrong Brick Type

There are more than twenty types of bricks. While there is a more common one like the Fireclay brick or Refractory Brick, there are also particular types. For the German Schmear, the important thing is you pick the kind of brick that goes well with the mortar.

For easy bond and application, you should go for any smooth brick type like the fireclay brick or the paving brick. If you go for the rough types, then you won’t be very comfortable while smearing.

3. No Leeway Between the Brick and Mortar

The person responsible for smearing didn’t provide the mortar enough leeway before it completely bonded with the brick. Just like cleaning the brick, another pre-smearing procedure should be done.

The bricks should be cleaned and splashed with water. The water provides additional time before the mortar wash completely sticks to the brick. That way, you have a chance to remove some of the mortar and achieve the German smear look.

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 can still repair them when you make a mistake.

Preparation of the Materials

Fixing failed German Smear bricks are as cheap as doing the necessary procedure. There are only a few additional materials you need to acquire. 

However, the materials will also depend on how hard it will be for you to remove the mortar. You may not need each of these materials, but they are necessary for fixing your German smear gone bad.

You will need lots of water, a shellac-based primer, a wire brush, and if it is hard to remove the mortar, we suggest that you use muriatic acid for this.


Before doing the primary procedure, we can’t stress this enough. You should clean the bricks thoroughly. Remove dirt and splash them with water before you paint the bricks.

Removing the mortar

Using the wire brush and some water, remove the discolored mortar from the brick. If it still can’t be eradicated, then use the muriatic acid

After removing the mortar, clean the brick wall again and splash water on it.


Once you are very sure that the brick is clean, add the shellac-based primer

If there are still dirt and nicotine embedded in the wall, the primer helps get rid of it completely.

Once everything is set, it’s time to paint. To achieve the look that you would like very much, you should prepare for it. 

Paint on an old brick or old room. Mix the mortar and water properly to get the perfect mortar wash consistency.

For fixing the failed German smear, you benefit much if you don’t use a paint sealer. Just let it be. Check the results the day after. 

If the color of the brick wall is only white and a shade of red and not yellow, you’ve succeeded.

German Smear Tips to Ensure its Longevity

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

1. Make sure you are ready and have ample time to DIY. Create a schedule and focus on the task while you’re at it. Get rid of distractions. 

Just like studying or any other job, do your best. Mediocrity is not an option.

Doing your best affects the results of your German smear fireplace or house. You will waste a lot of effort if your heart and mind are not in it.

2. Don’t be afraid to seek some help. If you think someone in your house is capable of mixing the joint compound or any tasks, ask them. 

They also gain from your DIY because they live in the same house anyway.

If you think it will be hard for you to comply with the essential things, then you’re better off with hiring a mason instead.

3. Refrain from doing things that can harm the perfectly-smeared walls. While weather elements cannot be prevented, habits like Smoking can damage your bricks.


Now that you’ve learned all about avoiding and fixing German smear mistakes, you should always keep them in mind. Always remember, prevention is still better than cure.

If you want to hire a mason to fix your brick walls for you, contact us. Here at Alexander and Xavier Masonry, We’d love to hear what you think!

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