How to Do German Smear – A Complete Guide

by Andrew Ahearne - February 16, 2022

A brick exterior is simply stunning, providing a unique architectural aspect that draws the eye. However, many homeowners prefer a more antiqued look and use German smear to upgrade their exterior and change its original brick color. The result is a distressed and rustic looking brick exterior reminiscent of old European cottages.


What is German Brick Smear?


Originating in Northern Germany, German Brick Smear or ‘German Schmear Brick’ is a mortar based exterior treatment used on brick walls to produce a textured, white tint. The German smear technique uses mortar and water to create the white smear, which is then painted or troweled onto your surface. Bricks are only partially covered, allowing for varying amounts of red and white brick to be exposed once some of the wet mortar is wiped away.

In addition to your home’s exterior, german smear bricks can revitalize an old brick fireplace. It’s a versatile technique that can be applied to masonry surfaces, regardless of brick color and is more durable than limewash paint and whitewashed brick.


German Smear Pros


If you’re prepared to purchase the ingredients and supplies to do german schmear, it helps to know its advantages and disadvantages. Below are the many benefits of this brick treatment.

A cost-effective DIY project: If you opt to DIY, the materials and equipment needed for German Brick Schmear are inexpensive compared to hiring a professional. In this case, we recommend buying premixed mortar. You can use one 80 pound bag to cover approximately 350 sq. ft. of brick exterior, with three bags covering up to 1000 sq. ft.

It’s a permanent finish – This mortar based treatment is long-lasting and will not wash away with rain or snow. It also requires relatively little upkeep, which, unlike paint, doesn’t peel off and require reapplication.

A beautiful, antique look: German Brick Smear creates a stunningly beautiful brick texture, perfect for hiding imperfections and enhancing the look of brick. It also provides a weathered, worn look, which is very popular in architecture and interior design. If your bricks are worn, and in need of refreshing, this technique is the perfect solution.

It accommodates your preferences – Some DIY’s prefer a thicker brick smear, while others will prefer a thinner layer. The mortar mix allows you to choose how much mortar is applied for the look you want


German Brick Smear Cons


There are a few cons to German smear, however. It’s essential to be aware of these disadvantages before commencing this exterior brick project.

Labour-intensive: The German Brick Smear process entails mixing, applying, and wiping off the mortar mix. It is a messy project, which can be reasonably strenuous if you’re not prepared. Some elbow grease is required, but the result is well worth it.

Limitations: German smear can only be applied to bare brick, as the white mortar will not adhere to painted surfaces. If you’ve done a painting job in the base, the German smear technique will not be an option. 

Removal Difficulty: To remove the mortar from brick, you’ll need to scrub it off. Be prepared for this process to be lengthy and potentially damaging to the brick surface if you scrub too hard. We recommend using muriatic acid with a wirebrush.


Applying German Smear to Your Brick House or Fireplace


When making your own mortar, the incorrect mixing ratios can cause the mortar to not set correctly and crumble. As previously mentioned, we recommend buying a premixed mortar mix that only requires water. This makes the application process much easier. 

With that being said, let’s get into the application process to German brick smear your exterior.

Materials and Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Paint roller or trowel
  • Premixed Mortar
  • 5 Gallon Bucket or Wheelbarrow
  • Grout Sponge
  • Rubber gloves & Safety Goggles
  • Shovel
  • Wirebrush
  • Stucco sponge


Step 1 – Clean Your Brick


Use a pressure washer or a stiff bristle brush with soapy water to clean your grout lines and individual bricks. Remove all dirt, mildew, moss, and algae from the bricks to ensure proper adhesion of the mortar mixture.


Step 2 – Mix Mortar in a Wheelbarrow


Pour your mortar into a 5-gallon bucket or a wheelbarrow, making a note not to overspill. Mix your mortar with a shovel and gradually add water to your mixture.

While most opt for the standard ratio of 70% mortar to 30% water to achieve a batter or peanut butter consistency, you may wish to experiment with mixing in varying amounts. A thinner consistency will produce a translucent smoother finish, while a heavier mixture will result in a more textured, opaque appearance. 

We recommended adding the water gradually and testing different ratios on a small portion of your brick to find your preference.


Step 3 – Dampen your Walls with a Garden Hose


Before applying, use a garden hose to wet the walls you’ll be working on. This helps the mortar from drying too quickly, so you have adequate time to work while it’s still wet. Use a wet stucco sponge to dampen the brick if you’re working on your fireplace.


Step 4 – Apply Your Mortar


Since smearing mortar can be time-consuming and messy, it’s best to wear some old clothes with rubber gloves and safety goggles. Use a trowel, paint roller or grout sponge to apply your mortar from top to bottom, ensuring you fill any grooves or gaps with a putty knife or piping bag.


Step 5 – Wipe Mortar From Your German Smear Wall


Before the mortar begins to set, you can use your trowel or a wire brush to remove any excess from the brick’s surface. Drying times will depend on the room’s temperature, with warmer climates causing the mortar to set faster than cold environments.

Voila, you have a beautiful German Smear wall! With a little practice, patience and elbow grease, you’ll achieve the look of vintage, white finish in no time.


German Smear – Common Questions and Answers


Do you seal German smear?

Applying a sealant after applying your German smear finish varies from person to person. While doing so can provide an extra layer of prevention from dirt, mildew and other pollutants, the mortar mix already acts as its own sealer.

What is Mortar Wash?

Mortar Wash is an interchangeable term with German Brick Smear and German Schmear, essentially meaning the same thing. Mortar wash is a preferred term for some as mortar is the primary ingredient in the mixture.

How long does German smear last?

Typically, German smeared brick will last for several years, withstanding elements such as rain and wind. While we can’t precisely pinpoint an expiration date for German smear, we usually recommend testing the durability of your German smeared brick every few years and regular cleaning with a damp sponge or garden hose. 


Newline Painting – A Painting Provider in Melbourne


If your home needs a facelift, our team of experienced, professional painters can assist you with all types of painting requirements.

We service both residential and commercial properties – offering our expert advice, painting services and color consultancy to ensure you get the best possible outcome. For more information , call the team at 1300 044 206, or book a free quote on our booking page.

If you enjoyed this guide, read other DIY painting article on door painting to spruce up your home!

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