DIY Guide to Achieve Your Desired German Smear Fireplace

Gear up as we reveal the step-by-step process on achieving a German Smear fireplace. Now, get ready to revamp your sacred fireplace.

A red brick fireplace is a classic feature of many homes. But with time it could use an upgrade to help revamp your home’s decor. Adding a German Smear finish is a great way to do that.

Completely replacing a brick fireplace is a large and expensive job. So why not create a German Smear fireplace? It’s easier to do and doesn’t require a lot of expensive tools and equipment.

Plus the German Smear finish will add a touch of rugged elegance to your space and is a style that’s truly stood the test of time.

At Alexander and Xavier Masonry, we are proud of our skilled masons who work perfectly to apply the German Schmear finish to our clients’ fireplaces. Our masons are skilled, dedicated, and creative. They’re experts in indoor fireplace remodeling and using the German Schmear technique.

If you want to try it yourself, keep on reading to learn more about the German Smear fireplace finish and see if it’s a DIY project you want to take on.

What Is the German Smear Technique German Smear Fireplace | Alexander and Xavier Masonry
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What Is the German Smear Technique?

There are a variety of techniques you can use to add some flair to your old brick fireplace – from painting to using stucco to completely covering over the brick.

Among the variety of techniques, the German Smear really stands out. Initially started in Northern Germany, the German Schmear technique became popular throughout Europe and America. You see more and more people are using this technique on homes that were built decades ago, as well as on newly constructed homes.

This technique is called German smear (or schmear) because it originated from Germany. Schmear is a German word that means “to spread,” like what you do with butter on bread. So it’s kind of like you’re taking the mortar and “buttering” your bricks with it.

So, depending on the look desired, a mixture of wet mortar is troweled onto the surface of your brick. Then, before it’s completely dry, some of it is wiped off to expose parts of the brick. This gives it a rustic and kind of “Old World” look that truly never goes out of style.

How Does German Smear Differ from Other Brick Finishes?

German Smear VS. Painted Brick

German Smear VS. Painting the Brick German Smear Fireplace | Alexander and Xavier Masonry
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For a painted brick look, it’s really quite simple – you just choose your paint color and paint the brick. This will give you an even, solid color. It’s much easier to do by yourself if you don’t have a lot of construction experience and can even be done on stone or other masonry finishes.

German Smear VS. Whitewashed Brick and Limewashed Brick

The main difference between German Smear and Whitewashed Brick or Limewashed Brick, is the materials used. With whitewashed brick, a water-based paint, like latex paint is applied to the brick.

It’s usually watered down so that it’s semi-translucent and you can see some of the brick color through the paint.

Limewash is a paint made from limestone. Limestone is crushed and combined with water to become a type of paint. It’s also a relatively easy project to do for DIYers.

Both of these techniques can add some depth and a touch of style to your brick fireplace but they still don’t quite match the German Smear finish.

Let’s see some more benefits of going the extra mile and doing a German Smear finish.

The Advantages of the German Smear Technique:

It's relatively inexpensive.

The supplies you need for a German Smear finish are basic and relatively cheap. It’s just basically a premixed mortar (Something like Quikrete’s Veneer Stone Mortar should be perfect) and water.

You probably already have some of the tools needed in your garage like a trowel, spatula, bucket, and large sponges. If you don’t have these, a quick trip to your local home improvement store can fix that.

It is durable and long-lasting

While you might be able to remove a mortar wash or a limewash from your fireplace bricks using muriatic acid, the use of a thicker mortar makes the German Smear finish more permanent.

This means that the bricks will not look worn out or outdated even after many years. That’s not the case with a painted finish that you may have to redo every couple of years.

It adds a touch of rugged sophistication.

The German Smear technique adds a kind of “old world” look that reminds you of quaint European cottages and towering castles, while still being rustic enough to look right at home in a variety of home styles.

You can mix it in different colors.

The main colors of mortar are white and gray, but you can mix in other earth tones. At many home improvement stores, you can buy additives that allow you to change the color of your mortar. White German Smear is the most common, but you can choose just about any earth tone so it’ll match perfectly with your home’s colors.

How To Apply the German Smear Technique German Smear Fireplace | Alexander and Xavier Masonry
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How to Apply the German Smear Finish to Your Fireplace

So now you’ve got the basics of German Smear. Ready to give it a try on your fireplace? Keep reading for some basic instructions on how to apply the German Smear finish.

NOTE: If this is your first time doing something like this, try it out in a smaller area first. Although it’s a relatively easy technique to learn, it is permanent and there’s no easy way to redo it once it’s dry.

That’s why a lot of people leave important parts of their homes – like the front facade – to the experts at Alexander and Xavier Masonry.

What Materials are Used for German Smear?

The materials you’ll need for the German Smear finish on your brick fireplace are readily available in most home improvement stores. Here’s a basic list of materials you’ll need:
  • Premixed Mortar (Something like Quikrete’s Veneer Stone Mortar should be perfect)
  • Several five-gallon buckets
  • Drill and mixing bit (You can mix it by hand but it’s really tiring)
  • Water
  • Several large sponges
  • Several large spatulas or trowels
  • Gloves and safety glasses
  • Wire brush

DIY Step by Step Guide

When you’ve purchased the materials needed, it is time to envision the look you want for your brick fireplace. Check out some pictures online of other fireplaces with German Smear or check out our home makeover guide here.

First, you need to prep the brick. For the mortar to adhere correctly, the fireplace bricks need to be clean. You can use a bucket of water and a stiff brush to make sure it’s free of dirt and dust.

Now it’s time to mix the dry mortar with water. Generally, the mixture should be 70% water and 30% mortar. If you want a thicker coating, add less water, and if you want a thinner coat, add a little more. Usually somewhere between peanut butter and milkshake consistency is just right. Don’t be fooled, it won’t taste like a peanut butter milkshake 😉

After mixing, splash or spray some water on the brick. That will give you more time to work with the mortar before it dries. That way, you’ll have the chance to remove some mortar to be able to create the look you want.

Now you’re ready for the fun part! Use a trowel or large spatula to apply mortar to the brick.

After a few minutes of smearing on the mortar, check back on the first section you covered. It should start to get stiff but not be too dry that you can’t wipe some off with a wet sponge or wire brush.

How long you wait depends a lot on the look you want to achieve. It’s really an art, so there are no hard and fast rules. That’s why it’s so important that you experiment first until you achieve the look you want.

Ready For a New Fireplace?

Doing the German smear technique to revamp your fireplace is a relatively easy DIY project. But remember, it is permanent so make sure you practice first and do it correctly.

If you’re unsure of your abilities but would still love to have the amazing look of a German Smear fireplace, call the German Smear experts at Alexander and Xavier Masonry.

We’d be happy to have a look at your project, give you a free quote, help you get your dream home. Give us a call now.

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