Faux German Smear Fireplace Finish with Paint
Give your dated fireplace a quick makeover with this faux german smear with paint. Here I show you a fool-proof way to whitewash a brick fireplace!
This is a great tutorial for you if you:
- Have a dated fireplace that brings down the whole look of your room or home
- Don’t want to spend a lot on a fireplace overhaul
- Want an easy solution that can be fixed if you don’t like it
- Like to maintain the integrity of your home’s initial brick, while updating it!
Should I Whitewash my Fireplace Brick?
For the last three years, I have stared at our boring fireplace trying to figure out how to easily update it for a fresh new look. As I looked through Pinterest, I gravitated to those beautiful farmhouse fireplaces with the German smear or mortar wash techniques. Fortunately, after a little experimenting a found a simple way to get the same look.
This easy, mess-free tutorial shows you how to whitewash a brick fireplace to get the same look of a German smear or mortar wash for a beautiful farmhouse fireplace.
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DIY Fireplace Makeover – Defining Terms & Techniques:
As there are several ways to refinish brick, these terms can be confusing so hopefully here is some clarification on common ways to refinish fireplace brick:
German Smear – (sometimes referred to as German Schmear) This finish mimics the look century-old castles and cottages in Germany with the combination of irregular stones and heavy mortar joints. With a German smear, the surface of the brick is covered with a layer of watered-down mortar in a back and forth motion. The mortar adds a rough texture, thus creating a rustic and distressed look, giving the brick partial coverage. German smear doesn’t penetrate the brick but just covers it.
Mortar Wash – It’s means the same as German smear.
Lime Wash – This where slated lime, water and a tent is used to penetrate the surface of the brick to create a course, chalky look imitating a common look in Europe before paint was invented.
Whitewash – Whitewash is simply using thinned latex paint on parts or all of the bricks surface. It does penetrate the brick but doesn’t have the same texture as lime washing or German smear.
How to Whitewash a Brick Fireplace: My Technique
I scoured Pinterest for pictures of farmhouse fireplaces and what I liked the most were those that had a German smear or a mortar wash.
I thought about learning how to do a true German smear or how to whitewash a fireplace with lime. However, both looked really messy. Also, if didn’t like how it looked, there would be no easy Plan B. However, I felt like I could get the same effect with paint and clear mixing glaze.
So, I did some experimenting with paint and glaze to get the same look but more “workability”. Unlike some white wash recipes, the longer drying time of the glaze allows you to wipe the paint off the bricks if you decide you added too much.
This same process can be used to freshen up an accent wall or to whitewash a brick backsplash with this faux brick hardboard paneling.
How to Whitewash a Dated Brick Fireplace – Supplies:
White or Cream Latex Paint – (I used Sherwin Williams because it’s what I had on hand.) If I’d bought a quart of white latex, that would have been more than enough to do the whole fireplace. It’s also best to use a flat or satin sheen.
2 Inch Paint Brush
Plaster of Paris (optional)
Faux German Smear Fireplace- DIY Tutorial:
Step 1: Faux German Smear with Paint – Find the look YOU want…
Before you get started, it’s really important that you zone in on exactly what you want your fireplace to look like. It doesn’t matter if the ideas you find are mortar wash, german smear or lime wash, just find some pictures of the exact look you want.
Take note of the following:
- Do I want a heavy “german smear” look?
- Do I want the grout to be white also?
- Do I want a more even, translucent look or a more contrast-y look?
Here are some ideas to get you started: German Smear Fireplace Inspiration
This pin was my inspiration for my own fireplace…Isn’t it pretty?!?
Step 2: Dust the Brick Before Painting
Stop! Before you do anything…take a before pic. When you are done, post the before and after pics here, so I can see the amazing work you’ve done! ❤️
Brush off all the brick of your fireplace with a broom to remove any dust particles that could get in the paint. The last thing you want to worry about is getting gunk out of your paint while you are trying to do your faux finish.
Step 3: How to White Wash Fireplace Grout
My fireplace grout was dark gray and needed it to be white. If your grout is already white, you can skip this step.
What is the Best Paint to Whitewash Brick?
For this paint mixture, combine 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of latex paint. If you want a less-translucent, more chalky look, add 1/4 cup plaster of paris to your mixture.
Take your brush and the space between the bricks to recolor the mortar. Paint it on without being too concerned about getting the paint on the brick. After you have done a section of mortar go back with a wet microfiber cloth and white off the excess on the brick. This goes faster a lot than the alternative which is using a small brush to only paint the grout lines.
Here’s how it looks once the old group lines were painted white – already a huge improvement!
Getting Ready to Sell Your House?
If you are whitewashing your brick fireplace to update your house for a quick sell, you can check out one of my most popular posts. In it, I describe 25+ updates for selling your home fast and a printable home staging checklist.
Step 4: How to Achieve a Faux German Smear with Latex
For the finish on the actual bricks, moisten one of the small sponges and dab it into the paint/glaze mixture.
If you have any ugly bricks like I did, start with those first! For me, these were the ones that were dark gray or a weird peanut butter color. Those were scattered sporadically throughout so I dabbed each of those bricks first. I added more paint to these bricks because those are the ones that I wanted to cover.
Here is a video showing the EXACT technique I used:
Next, it was time to whitewash some of the red bricks. Since I wanted most of the red to show through, I only partially whitewashed most of these. Basically, I started with the ugly breaks going on pretty heavy and slowly worked towards other bricks going a lot lighter so the wash was more transparent. Every few bricks I’d stand back to see what I thought.
What if I Make a Mistake?
The great thing about using the glaze is that it has a longer dry time so if you do a few bricks too dark, you can go back with a wet rag and wipe off the paint. I promise, you cannot screw this up. Just keep looking at your inspiration pic to give you a good goal to keep in mind.
Step 5: How to Whitewash a Brick Fireplace with Paint so it Looks Like a German Smear
Follow the same general pattern on the bricks in your inspiration picture with your whitewash mixture. Just lightly dab the parts of the brick that you want to be white like in the video above.
Because our whitewash mixture contains glaze, if you get too much paint on a brick, take one of your wet cloths and wipe it right off!
Here’s the final look of the brick after I was done whitewashing. I played with it a lot getting the brick to look exactly how I wanted it – painting, wiping off and then painting again in moments of indecisiveness.
With an authentic German smear with mortar, you scrape in one direct and then scrape in the other in an “X” motion to get the mortar in all the crevices. After you’ve painted most of your bricks, you can do this same action with a wet rag to give it the same look. You can see how I used that technique here.
Whitewash Brick Fireplace: Before and After
Isn’t it a vast improvement? I love the way it brightens up the whole room. Also, it’s a drastic change but you can still see the original surface of the bricks coming through as opposed to completely painting it white.
I’ve had several people say that it changes the whole look of the room and really brightens things up. The fireplace was a drab and dated eyesore before but now I’m so proud to say it is the focal point of our living room.
I’m so pleasantly pleased with how this project turned out and I only paid about $15!!!
DON’T FORGET TO TAKE A PICTURE!
When you are done with your fireplace makeover, I’d love to see how it turned out! Post your before and after photos here!
My sweet boy Jake is happy with the fireplace too.
This project was definitely out of my comfort zone, as with most things we can’t control. When I refinish a piece of furniture, I know I always have a plan B. I always have the option to re-sand and re-finish, not if, but WHEN I mess up.
However, this project was a little different. I knew no matter what that the fireplace would remain unchanged. I would never be able to restore it to it’s old state and that made me a little uncomfortable.
In addition, there was no way I could possibly predict how it would turn out. I printed a photo off the internet and I clinched that image in my hand and mind. I had expectations but this time there would be no guarantees and certainly no do-overs.
Sometimes in life we hold onto expectations of God’s blessings so tightly that we forget that the very thing that sneaks up behind us and surprises us is a harbinger of His blessings in disguise. What we see as an interruption, He sees as an intervention.
Our long-awaited expectations blind us from seeing the very blessings of God right in front of our eyes. Our own expectations can inhibit us from anticipating God’s greatest blessings.
For God’s preparation and gifts seldom come wrapped in the packages of our own control. Instead, His greatest prizes come in a gift box that we could have never contrived even if we tried.
My daughter Morgan went through a rare autoimmune disease when she was younger. Those were hard days, but through them I see God’s preparation for the kind, empathetic, caring woman she will one day become.
Recently, she was diagnosed with a dyslexia. Again, this is not what I expected but I choose to anticipate God’s blessings through our struggles.
Anytime God calls you to sacrifice, He WILL replace it with something greater.
Her learning disability was not on my radar but I know God has better plan. For her brain works in an amazing way that is sure to prepare her for the plans God has already laid in her path.
In the same way, the results of the fireplace aren’t something I could control. Does it look just like the image I printed? Not really. But in spite of that the results are amazing and are far greater than I expected.
True transformations means we will be left unchanged, unable to ever revert to old habits and tendencies. Through God’s grace, we can allow ourselves to let go of our expectations and can anticipate the freedom of being surprised by grace.
Every DIY or Home Decor post with spiritual encouragement has a Renovated Thinking section. You can see more of those posts by clicking here and can subscribe to the weekly newsletter by clicking here.
Now our fireplace retains the original character of the brick but is now updated and consistent with the rest of our decor.
I had so much fun decorating the fireplace for fall with my blue thanksgiving decor here. It’s amazing how it’s new look made me excited about decorating it for the first time. No longer was a dark, dreary eyesore but now it is has a fresh, updated look I can be proud of.
If you enjoyed these tips for updating your fireplace, be sure to download my best painting tips for furniture. I’ve learned these tips the hard way so hopefully they will save you some time and money, while yielding some beautiful results!
Faux German Smear Paint Finish – FAQ’s:
Here are some common questions about this technique for refinishing a fireplace:
Can you whitewash painted brick?
You could use this same technique on brick that has previously been painted since the ingredients are just paint and glaze. For example, if a fireplace had been painted gray, you would probably use less of the whitewash mixture on your sponge since the painted brick will not absorb as much paint as brick will.
Can you lime wash a brick fireplace?
You can certainly limewash a brick fireplace using professional supplies like lime slate, and tint but the option in this tutorial with the plaster of paris will give you the same look of lime wash or German smear because of the extra grit created from the plaster.
Can you whitewash brick with chalk paint?
You can but the problem with most chalk paint is that it’s very expensive in comparison to latex. Also, this technique includes the glaze which gives you more time to work with the finish before it dries where chalk paint will dry up on you. To read more about my thoughts on chalk paint, click here: Why I Don’t Use Chalk Paint on Furniture.
Can you use this same process for whitewashing exterior brick?
You could use this technique to whitewash exterior brick but I think it would be time consuming especially if you had to color the brick white also.
What about whitewashing brick with gray paint?
If you whitewashed your brick fireplace with a light gray or charcoal-colored paint, it would definitely be more of a muted whitewash look, giving the fireplace a more subtle look than the contrasting look of German smear. I would test a small area first to make sure you like it.
Update Dated Brick with Paint – Related Posts:
- The Easy Way to Make DIY Windmill Wall Art
- DIY Farmhouse Cotton Stems
- How to Make a DIY Cotton Boll Wreath for Less Than $10
- How to Make a Boxwood Wreath with Burlap Bow
DIY Faux Fireplace Finish – Final Thoughts:
With this tutorial, you can update the entire look of your fireplace and living room with a few low-cost supplies. It is a super user-friendly process and you can easily take off paint before it dries if you decide the look is too heavy. My husband was also happy that we maintained the initial brick in our home but I love that it’s no longer dreary and dated but adds a lot of character to our home. So start looking on Pinterest for some ideas to replicate and before you know it, your own fireplace will be even more inspiring!
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What are your thoughts, my friend? Do you think the makeover was worth it? Can you relate to what it feels like to be broken? I love to hear your thoughts and questions! Scroll down to leave a comment and I WILL reply! ❤️
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Table of Contents
- Faux German Smear Fireplace Finish with Paint
- Should I Whitewash my Fireplace Brick?
- DIY Fireplace Makeover – Defining Terms & Techniques:
- How to Whitewash a Brick Fireplace: My Technique
- How to Whitewash a Dated Brick Fireplace – Supplies:
- Faux German Smear Fireplace- DIY Tutorial:
- Getting Ready to Sell Your House?
- Whitewash Brick Fireplace: Before and After
- RENOVATED THINKING:
- Faux German Smear Paint Finish – FAQ’s:
- Update Dated Brick with Paint – Related Posts:
- DIY Faux Fireplace Finish – Final Thoughts:
- Faux German Smear with Paint