Your In-Depth Guide to German Smear on Red Brick.
In one of the most popular children’s fables, The Three Little Pigs, the third pig didn’t get eaten by the wolf. He was smart. He used bricks for his house.
That story taught people the importance of using quality materials – like bricks – to build a house. Quality, natural materials like red brick, are an excellent investment. They’re long-lasting and add a timeless touch of beauty to your home.
Red bricks have become a staple building material all over the world. They can withstand the elements, many natural disasters, and even invasive insects. That makes them durable, trustworthy, and worth using for more than just a little pig’s house.
But because they’re so durable and long-lasting, it’s natural you might get tired of them with time. After 20 or 30 years of seeing the same red bricks, sometimes you just want a change. But it’s not worth it to change out your faux bricks for another inferior material.
Fortunately, there are tons of ways you can spruce up the look of your home’s red brick while even correcting some of the problems inherent to an old home’s brickwork.
One of those is called German Smear (or Schmear). Let’s have a look at the German Smear technique and why you should seriously consider it for the red brick on your home. Plus, we’ll give you some tips for your own German Smear DIY project!
The German Schmear Technique
There are a variety of techniques you can use to add some flair to your old red bricks – from painting to using stucco to completely cover over the brick.
Among the variety of techniques, the German Smear really stands out. Initially started in Northern Germany, the German Smear technique became popular throughout Europe and America. You see more and more people are using this technique on homes that were built decades ago and some are even using it on newly constructed homes.
What Is German Smear Painting?
German Smear painting is to paint or partially cover a red brick wall using mortar to achieve a worn or distressed look. The mortar wash doesn’t completely cover all the brick.
Some apply watered-down latex paint to their red brick to get a distressed look. German Smear takes it a step further by using wet mortar. Depending on the look desired, a mixture of wet mortar is either painted or 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 never goes out of style.
Can You Remove German Smear?
While applying the mortar and it’s still fresh, you can remove it. In fact, to get the German Smear look you have to remove some of the mortar to expose some of the red brick.
Once the mortar has dried, it is very difficult to remove especially if you’ve applied a thick layer that has almost completely covered your brick facade. It’s not impossible though. With a wire brush, muriatic acid, some elbow grease, and a whole lot of determination you can remove most of the dried mortar.
German Schmear vs. Other Brick Painting Techniques
The main difference between German Smear and other brick painting techniques is the materials used. German smear uses white mortar, which is a combination of sand, water, and cement. Other techniques use regular exterior paint that’s usually been watered down.
Paint gives you the option to choose a specific color, although for a distressed look most will choose white. However, just like any exterior paint, you will need to repaint every few years which will add more work and cost down the road.
Since German Smear uses a cement-based mortar, it’s much more long-lasting, resistant to the elements, and simply needs to be washed clean once or twice a year. It also helps fill voids between the bricks to help protect them and extend their lifespan even more.
In the next section, let’s look at some more specific benefits of doing a German Smear on your home’s brick.
The Benefits of German Smear
You might be able to do the German Smear technique yourself. While there is a small learning curve, the German Smear usually can be a DIY project. The materials are also widely available and accessible to everyone.
Once you have them, you can smear away on the brick wall of your home. *See below for some more tips on how to apply German Smear.
German Smear materials are relatively cheap.
Basic German Smear materials are relatively cheap. Premixed mortar is readily available and for doing smaller areas like a fireplace, just a few basic tools are needed. If you’re going to do the exterior of your home, it can get a little more expensive because you’ll probably need ladders and scaffolding to reach higher areas safely.
The mortar that was smeared on brick is permanent.
Unlike doing the traditional paint technique, German Smear lasts on the brick’s surface for many years. There is very little maintenance involved.
The German Smear look is flexible.
Whether you want to mimic the old world or the modern world look, you can do so through the German Smear. The whole look will depend on how you will apply and remove the mortar wash from the brick wall.
The German Smear is sustainable.
Most of the materials needed for this technique are natural and environmentally-friendly. They don’t give off any harmful fumes like most paints.
Since the mortar wash is durable and long-lasting, very little maintenance is needed. And the less maintenance it entails, the more sustainable it is.
How To Apply German Smear On Red Brick
So now you’ve got the basics of German Smear. Ready to give it a try? Keep reading for some basic instructions on how to apply German Smear.
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 A&X Masonry.
What Materials are Used for German Smear?
- Premixed Mortar (Something like Quikrete’s Veneer Stone Mortar should be perfect)
- Several five-gallon buckets
- Drill and mixing bit
- Several large sponges
- Several large spatulas or trowels
- Gloves and safety glasses
- Wire brush
The Whole Process
When you’ve purchased the materials needed, it is time to envision the look you want for your brick wall. Check out some pictures online of other homes with German Smear or check out our makeover guide here.
First, you need to prep your brick wall. For the mortar to adhere correctly, the brick needs to be clean. A power washer works great for this. You can also use a hose and a stiff brush to make sure it’s free of dirt, dust, and organic matter like moss.
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.
After mixing, you splash or spray 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! Depending on the look you want, use the sponge, a trowel, or a paint roller to apply mortar to the wall.
After a few minutes of smearing, check back on the first mortar you put on the wall. It should start to get stiff but not be dry enough that you can 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 until you achieve the look you want.
Should You Seal German Smear?
There is usually no need to seal German Smear, but there are exceptions. One of them is if you’re applying it to brick that’s old and crumbling. The concrete sealer will help stabilize the old brick so it’s imperfections won’t affect the new mortar.
Usually though, you never need to apply a sealer to your German Smear. That’s one of the major perks of this finish – it’s lack of maintenance. Just hose it off once or twice a year to prevent dust buildup and you’ll be able to enjoy your new facade for many years.
The Final Product: Timeless Beauty
Get ready for the compliments on your new house!
Your new German Smear finish is the perfect combination of rugged beauty and timeless elegance. It adds a touch of sophistication and old-world appeal. Plus, it’s durable, long-lasting, and easy to take care of.
Not many finishes can boast all of these benefits in one. Check out these examples:
The German Smear is perfect for redecorating and repainting your brick fireplace. It adds a unique facet to your interiors.
German Smear Experts
Ready to add a German Smear upgrade to your home? We’d love to help you out! Contact us today at Alexander and Xavier Masonry. We love adding this touch of timeless beauty to our clients’ homes and can’t wait to work on yours as well.
You can check out this article to prevent your german smear gone wrong.
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