Why you should use German Schmear on your brick home
German schmear is an old world technique that is still very useful to modern homeowners who want to make their brick homes look white.
When you’re talking about home improvement topics, it’s common to hear terms that you aren’t exactly familiar with—even if you’re known for being the “go-to” guy for home improvement. For people who are brand new to home upgrades, the term “German Schmear” sounds more like it’s from Einstein Bagels than it does a house’s front.
Of course, names can be deceiving.
Among home improvement professionals, the term German Schmear (or German Smear or German Whitewash or brick schmear) is a fairly well-known whitewashing method that’s regularly seen throughout Europe. This whitewashing method coats bricks with a layer of wet (sometimes diluted) mortar instead of a typical paint. (In other words, a mortar wash.)
Traditionally, a German smear is done on red bricks with white mortars. However, this style of whitewashing has become a common sight on all colors of brick and it’s a great way to update bricks in or on your home.
Why Do People Like German Schmear?
The idea of painting over bricks with a layer of mortar might sound a little jarring, especially if you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to whitewashing. The reason why this method is popular is because of the way it looks while finished.
When correctly done, a German schmear mimics the weathered look of classic stone that’s typically seen in older buildings throughout Germany’s countryside. If you’re a fan of the weathered yet well-kept look, then you probably will want to put a German schmear whitewash on your home.
Can I Do A German Smear On My Own?
If you already have a brick exterior and are looking to jazz it up, then it’s very possible to do your own and get professional-grade results. Even so, it can be time-consuming and many people choose to go through a professional route.
You might want to get your feet wet by doing a smear on bricks inside your home. An old brick fireplace can get a big facelift with a mortar wash in your favorite shade of white. It is a huge trend in home decorating!
German Smear Maintenance
Because mortar adheres so strongly to bricks, you can expect this to last for years and years without any need for an update or maintenance. As long as you keep your walls relatively clean, you should be good to go.
Compared to a painted brick exterior or a white wash a schmear is much better as it will wear off gradually and beautifully.
As to how long the technique will hold up, its hard to get a hard and fast number of years. A lot depends on the environment where you live, if you brick is in good shape underneath, how thickly you apply the schmear, and if other treatments (like lime wash or painting the brick) have already been done.
But overall, this is a technique that will keep the exterior of your home looking great for years and years.
How To Do A German Schmear
If you are open to working on your own home facade, don’t worry. It’s easy enough to do. Just follow these steps below:
- Prep your brick wall by cleaning it off with a brush. There’s no need to power wash this area, because the mortar will not be damaged by a little grime.
- Prepare your mortar mix. Most mortars that are used in German schmears are prepped in 5-gallon bucked, and have consist of 70 percent mortar, 30 percent water. However, if you want to experiment, you can. Some prefer a thicker consistency, while others want a light coating.
- Spray down the bricks with a garden hose. You want them to be damp so that the mortar will be given some extra time before it dries. This way, you can add touch-ups as you see fit without having to rush things. If you’re indoors, a wet sponge is a good option.
- Put on protective gear, then use a gloved hand or a trowel to smear the mortar over your brick. Work from top to bottom, making sure to add mortar to the joints. Before the mortar dries, remove some of it from the bricks to help expose the underlying brick’s colors.
- Let it dry. This usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Ideally, you’ll let it dry for a day.
How much does German Smear cost?
Most medium sized homes can be German schmeared for less than $60! Of course this is a diy cost. It is time consuming but very achievable for most home owners. An 80 pound bag of mortar costs between $10-15 and should cover around 300 feet of brick.
German schmear is much more cost effective than using paint on bricks and lasts so much longer so it is an investment that will pay off for years to come.
What do I need to do my own German Schmear?
Very basic tools are needed to do a German Schmear, many of them you probably already own. Here is a list with links for your convenience.
5 gallon bucket
Drill and concrete mixer attachment
Using this technique As A Home Accent
The overall look of a German schmear is going to be visually pleasing no matter who you are or what you do. However, there are good ways to use a German schmear and great ways. Here’s the scoop on the most popular methods to use it as a way to jazz up your home.
Use It As An Exterior Facade
If you have a brick building with a black roof, or a Tudor-style brick building, then you should consider using a German schmear as your facade. This will give your home an extra antique, weathered look that people adore.
This is a good all-around option, especially if you have an older building with an antique look. With that said, colored mortar can add a more modern or trendy take on it.
Add A German Schmear To A Fireplace
Brick fireplaces are cool, but they tend to look a little lame. They all look similar, right? Well, if you add a German schmear to your fireplace, you can upgrade your fireplace’s look in a pinch. By keeping the schmear relegated to the fireplace, you add a new focal point and a new twist to old brick.
Consider Doing Alternating Bricks
Have a small brick wall that just needs extra texture? Alternating which bricks get the schmear that you want is a good way to add a unique pattern and depth to your wall. This is a good option for people who have different colors of mortar they want to use, as well as for people who want an artsy splash of color to their homes.
Make A Mortar Mural
Though this technically isn’t a German schmear, it does work well within a lot of the same concepts as a schmear would. Mortar can be colored a wide range of different shades, and it can cling to brick better than paint.
If you’re the artistic type, you can use mortar as a quasi-paint over your brick. This works particularly well with outdoor brick barbecues as well as on brick garden sheds.
Smear Your Brick Path
Who doesn’t love the look of an old English country garden? Believe it or not, German schmears add a classic, almost antiquated charm to a garden pathway. One might even say it looks downright royal in its style!
German Schmears Are Perennially Trendy
With most types of whitewashing, there are issues that arise concerning maintenance and overall appearance. One of the reasons why German schmears are so popular is because they remain intact for years, have a timeless look, and can always add some flair to your home.
Let’s just face it. They look good on almost every home. So, if you want to say auf Weidersehen to boring styles, grab some mortar and go for it.