What is German Schmear?

German Schmear is all the rage these days in the world of remodeling.  Giving your outdated brick fireplace a makeover using the German schmear paint technique is a fairly easy process that’s affordable and gives your home a charming European look.

If you’re trying to imagine what the finished look will be, think of castles and cottages hundreds of years old, scattered throughout Europe, especially northern Germany where the process gets its name.

The Process

The German Schmear process, similar to whitewashing, uses wet mortar instead of watered-down latex paint.  The wet mortar is applied over the bricks creating a rough texture.  Only some of the bricks are covered creating an irregular pattern.  You can also use this technique on exterior brick.

Of course, the more brick you have the longer and more labor intensive the German schmear process becomes.  But keep in mind that doing the project yourself instead of hiring a contractor will save you money.  The process works on bare basic brick and cannot be removed very easily, so be sure it’s the look you want before you commit. So if your brick has already been painted, you might consider either painting over it with a solid color paint or try the Brick-Anew paint system that gives you a natural brick look.

How to German Schmear Your Brick Fireplace

Tools and Materials:

  • Sturdy wire brush
  • Large plastic bucket
  • Pre-mixed mortar
  • Rubber gloves and protective eyewear
  • Dropcloth
  • Stucco sponge
  • Trowel
  • Spray bottle

First, use soap and water to clean the brick with a brush and soapy water or fireplace cleaner to make sure it’s free of dirt, dust, and grime.

Next, combine the pre-mixed mortar and water in a large bucket (about 70% mortar and 30% water).  The mixture will be very thick.  You can adjust the amount of water if you want to make the mixture a little thinner.

Then, dampen your bricks using a spray bottle of water or a wet stucco sponge.

After that, smear the concrete mixture onto your bricks using your gloved hands or a trowel.  Then, before the mortar begins to set (within about 30 minutes), use a wire brush to remove some of the mortar from the bricks.  It’s up to you how much you remove to get the look you want.

So there you have it!  A fireplace makeover that will add charm and compliment your home for years.

If you are looking for more inspiration for fireplace painting, here’s an excellent resource for more brick fireplace painting ideas and techniques.