Try this easy and inexpensive DIY tutorial to achieve a german schmear mortar wash on a stone or brick fireplace for just a few dollars!
Welcome back to the One Room Challenge, a six-week-long room makeover challenge featuring twenty designers and hundreds of guest participants like myself.
We are already at week four which means there are only two weeks left! There’s still a lot on my to-do list but I am over the moon happy about how this week’s major fireplace DIY turned out.
Read on to find how out to create a german schmear fireplace makeover the cheap and easy way!
How to DIY a german smear fireplace for under $10
Yep, you saw that right! I created this lovely german smear fireplace update for under $10!!
A professional German smear or German Schmear can cost thousands so I was super excited to figure out how to do it for pennies. It’s also a great way to achieve a whitewashed brick look without the paint.
First, let me show you how it was when we moved in six months ago. The built-in bookcase was a genius solution for this common Texas stone fireplace wall.
I painted out the built-in bookcase white before the moving trucks even arrived and then later decorated it with our personal items.
Our house is pretty dark so just about every decision I make is one to try to improve the light in the space.
This side of the room was completely transformed with the mortar wash completed!
What you need for a german schmear /whitewash stone fireplace update
- Joint compound (under $10)
- Gallon zip lock bag
- Putty knife or another similar tool
- Bucket of water and sponge for a clean up
- Protective cloth and painter’s tape
After doing much research on the proper application of the german smear technique with mortar I decided I wanted something less messy, easier, and could use tools I had on hand.
I’ve been using joint compound to repair cracks in our drywall and am familiar with its consistency and how it dries in a creamy white.
Since it is a permanent solution my backup plan was to paint over the joint compound if needed. Thankfully it worked out beautifully and I am thrilled with the finished results! Sometimes you just have to go for it.
You can rest easy in this simple technique now that I’ve done the leg work for you. 😉 Especially if you are unhappy with your stone or brick!
What to use for german smear
Use joint compound which comes premixed and dries white for an inexpensive mortar wash.
How to apply a german smear mortar wash on your brick or stone using joint compound
- Keep a bucket of water and sponge for quick clean-ups and protect surrounding walls and floors by taping off the edge with painter’s tape and laying a cloth.
- Use a spatula or similar tool to scoop the joint compound into a Ziploc bag. Close and snip a tiny bit off one corner. (You can use the same method to apply mortar.)
- Hold and squeeze the bag like you would ice a cake! Fill in the grout lines as you work a section of your fireplace. I did about 2-4 square feet at a time.
- Smooth down the joint compound with your finger. Wearing durable work gloves is probably best to prevent cuts and irritation. My plastic glove ripped easily. 😉
- I suggest filling in all of the grout lines and letting the compound bleed over the edges a bit as it’s a lovely look on its own.
- Create a lighter look by using your hand or spatula to spread the joint compound on top of the stone or brick. Cover it all or leave some natural and some white per your preference.
- It takes 24 hours for the joint compound to dry (sometimes longer) but when applying thin layers it can dry much more quickly. I was able to cover our entire fireplace surround in a few hours and it dried to the touch shortly after.
Isn’t it beautiful? I know german schmear is often associated with farmhouses but I also love the cozy cottage vibes it gives.
You can find all the scoop on that with my makeover plans and inspiration boards shared in week one.
Now that the stone is lighter I feel like the room with our gallery wall and freshly stenciled gray walls flow seamlessly together.
The great room layout definitely has a yin-yang element with the other side of the living room featuring moody colors and maximalist vibes. I still have much to do to unify everything including the dining area. Just two more weeks!
Faux German Schmear Fireplace DIY Four Years Later
I completed the One Room Challenge and this fireplace DIY almost four years ago (April 2019). We haven’t had to do a single touch up and now our floating mantel has had a facelift. Here’s how it looks now!
You can read all about our current organic modern living room resources and DIYs in this story.
Now you know how to achieve a german smear/schmear mortar wash for just a few dollars, quick, and easy!
Questions about German Smear Fireplace DIY
- What’s the difference between whitewash and German smear? The whitewash technique is using a water-down solution of white paint to create a more transparent effect on brick or stone lightening the color but letting some of the surfaces come through. German smear is using mortar on brick or stone surfaces wiping some away to soften grout lines and create a more irregular aged look and is more long-lasting than whitewashing. Both can be used on interior and exterior walls.
- What is German smear? German smear, German schmear, and mortar wash all refer to the same technique used centuries ago. The technique is when you apply wet mortar on the surface of brick or stone walls.
- What style is German smear? German smear provides a rustic or aged look reminiscent of European cottages and castles but has quickly become on trend for the farmhouse style and interior spaces like fireplaces for added character and texture.
- Can German smear be removed? It can be extremely difficult to remove and should be considered a permanent solution.
A huge thanks to these sponsors for making the One Room Challenge possible.
Week One: Eclectic and Glam Inspiration for an Open Concept | Week Two: How to Update Furniture with Peel and Stick Wallpaper | Week Three: Small Dining Room Decorating Ideas | Week Four: DIY a German Smear Mortar Wash for Under $10 | Week Five: Stencil Your Foyer for a Beautiful Makeover | Week Six: Eclectic Glam Open Concept Living Areas
The to-do list:
Reupholster grandparent’s armchairs with blue velvet and bird fabric Paint the front picture window black Paint green focal wall Hang new window treatments and remove old blackouts in the piano area Makeover music cabinet with removable wallpaper and paint Install new foyer light
- Stencil foyer walls with cheetah stencil and pearl metallic paint
- Add fringe to arch floor lamp
German smear technique on fireplace stone Hang curtains with rings Create a faux roman shade for the dining room with an existing window panel.
- Reupholster two barrel chairs in green velvet with green print, paint the chairs frame dark
Purchase a new sofa
- Trim loveseat with fringe
- Paint french door trim black? (Having second thoughts….)
- Add brass nailhead trim to the black leather chair
- Sew lumbar pillow
- Reupholster two more dining chairs
- Add fringe to the piano seat and maybe tuft
- Paint the dining room wall
Stencil living room wall
- Paint buffet
- Add trim/moulding
if foundation issues are resolved
- Add rugs, lights, textiles, and art
- Paint front door
- Large tropical print art
- Style, style, style
It is seriously crunch time! Aside from the many DIYs on the to-do list I need to experiment with a couple of different furniture arrangements and source art for the walls.
Thanks for stopping by! Remember to check out the feature designers and other guest participants for the One Room Challenge.
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