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 how to whitewash a dated brick fireplace on a budget!


Those beautiful modern farmhouse fireplaces with their light and airy whitewashed finishes serve as a beautiful focal point for any living room.   

On the other hand, if your fireplace is outdated you can re-decorate the rest of the room to your heart’s content.  But, it won’t change the look of your fireplace.

But no worries!  You won’t need a brand new fireplace or even a professional painter to come in.  I have an incredibly easy way to whitewash a brick fireplace with nothing more than a little white paint and clear mixing glaze.

I turned our eyesore of an orange fireplace into what is now my favorite feature in our home! 

I’ll admit.  When I told my husband I was going to “whitewash the fireplace” he rolled his eyes because he cringes at the thought of painting over perfectly good brick.  And I get that!

Also, you don’t have to lose the integrity and character of your home’s original brick as with a painted brick fireplace. With a whitewashed brick fireplace, some of that brick color will still show through – and you can pick which bricks do and which will be covered!

This technique allows you to allow you to completely hide even dark grout and the ugly bricks while allowing others to be a visible part of your fireplace’s color palette.

This is a great tutorial for you if you:

  • are wondering how to whitewash a dated brick fireplace in a way that lightens up the whole room
  • 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!

 

whitewash a brick fireplace

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My Secret Ingredient to Whitewash a Brick Fireplace

☑️ If you are curious or in a hurry, here is a quick link to the glaze I mix with latex paint: Clear Mixing Glaze (Click here for the Current Price)   I have tried some different options and this is the best glaze for fireplaces and wood furniture!

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 with good old latex paint and a little glaze. 

How To Whitewash A Dated Brick Fireplace With Paint

This easy, mess-free tutorial shows you how to whitewash a brick fireplace to get the same look as a German smear or mortar wash just paint and glaze.

Lime-washing, German Schmear and mortar washing are all involved processes that aren’t only messy but require some specified skills to get decent results. Also, this process is quick as it will take less than a day to complete. No matter your brick or grout color this process will yield beautiful, long-lasting results.

DIY Brick 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 to Whitewash Brick Fireplaces  – (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.

Whitewashing a Brick Fireplace with a Mortar Wash – It’s means the same as German smear.

Whitewash a Brick Fireplace with a Lime Wash –  To limewash a brick fireplace, slated lime, water and a tint 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. 

Whitewashed Fireplace with Paint – 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.

 

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How to Whitewash a Brick Fireplace: My Technique

As I mentioned, 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, it 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 whitewash 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 a brick wall, porch or you can whitewash a brick backsplash with this faux brick hardboard paneling.

how to whitewash a brick fireplace

How to Whitewash a Dated Brick Fireplace – Supplies:

2 Inch Paint Brush – This is my favorite set of low-cost paintbrushes: Presa Paint Brushes

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.  If you have a white mantel, you can color match your paint to the same paint color as there are hundreds of shades of white.

Valspar Clear Mixing Glaze

Microfiber cloths – I used this set!

Small, Dense Sponges – These are cheap and work well.

Plaster of Paris (optional if you want a chunkier look – I left this out)

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whitewash a brick fireplace

How To Whitewash A Brick Fireplace: Video Tutorial

Below I give you ALL the details on how to whitewash fireplace brick but I also made a video tutorial so you can see the exact technique I am using!

How Do You Whitewash Brick? – DIY Tutorial: 

Step 1:  Faux German Smear with Paint – Find the look YOU want…

Don’t forget to take a before picture of your fireplace! I’d love to see how it turns out so tag me on Instagram @renovatedfaith.

Before you get started, you must 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 limewash, 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 contrasty look?

Here are some ideas to get you started:  Whitewashed Fireplaces

This pin was my inspiration for my own fireplace…Isn’t it pretty?!?
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Renovated Faith: What’s in a Name?

God never leaves a project half-done…He continually works on each one of us, as a lavish expression of His amazing love and grace.  So many of my DIY projects remind me of how God renovates our hearts.  If you are a work-in-progress, just like I am, check out the Renovate Your Faith Devotional at the bottom of this post.  Click here to get a weekly reminder of new posts by email.

Step 2: Dust the Brick Before Painting 

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.

You can put a drop cloth down when you are done dusting to ensure the paint doesn’t get on the floor.

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, I use a ratio of one part glaze to one part paint so I combined 1 cup of glaze, and 1 cup of white paint.  If you want a less-translucent, more chalky look, add 1/4 cup plaster of Paris to your mixture but I just stuck with the glaze and paint.

First, we are going to work on recoloring the mortar.

With the paint glaze mixture, paint 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.

faux german smear with paint
whitewash a brick fireplace
faux german smear with paint

Here’s how it looks once the old group lines were painted white – already a huge improvement!

whitewash a brick fireplace

 

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Step 4: How To Paint Fireplace Bricks For a Whitewashed Look

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 as 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:

 

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