Add Curb Appeal With German Mortar Smear!

Elizabeth Fencl
by Elizabeth Fencl
In August, I posted a question on Hometalk asking about the German Mortar Smear technique. I had seen this technique done on my favorite show, Fixer Upper in January and I loved it. I couldn't get it out of my head, I really wanted to do this to our home, but seriously, if I mess this project up, we are talking BIG bucks to fix or replace the brick. Not to mention having a very angry hubster to deal with...not good. Yikes!!
So, during the spring and summer months, I painted kitchen cabinets and did a faux granite counter top, up at the lake (check out my posts on these two projects) and enjoyed the beautiful summer.
However, every time I would return home, I would look at my overgrown bushes and that darn brick and I would think that I have go with my idea and change the look of our home.
I will warn you, you are in for some serious picture overload.
Our home and many homes in the neighborhood all have the same brick, even the school across the street has this brick. By mid August, I got the bug and started looking into the German Smear again. I was researching, watching videos and went to a local stone and brick company for help.
When I would tell my hubby my ideas, he would nod and continue to read his paper. I would be on my computer and I would show him examples of the smear and he still didn't take me serious.

Then he saw our neighbor come across the lawn with a really heavy rope and I told him that the nice young man was going to help me pull out those stinking overgrown bushes. Well, my goodness, I haven't seen him move that fast out of his chair in years! Hubby and neighbor took out five bushes lickety split!

Here is where I got impatient, I couldn't look at the front of the house without plants. I went out and bought some Hydrangea's and planted them-wrong move. I should have waited until I was done with the brick, lesson learned-wait until job is done before planting new plants, it is easier to move around if plants are not there.
These are the products that the guys at the stone and brick company sold me. I bought 2 bags of the sand and 1 bag of the white cement, costing me close to $50.00.

Following are the other supplies that I purchased: trowel (I had on hand), 2 - five gallon buckets (one for mixing, one for water), a big sponge, spray bottle, heavy rubber gloves and lots of drop cloths (drop cloths already on hand). This really is a messy job, so be sure to cover your work areas well.
Here is the after picture! I can't tell you how happy I am that I followed my instincts and went with my idea. My husband was out of town when I started the project and said he wasn't going to come home until I was finished. Well, let me tell you, it took me a really, really long time to
With the husband being out of town, and everyone working, I didn't have anyone to video me doing this, so I will try my best to explain the process.

Using one of your buckets, you will mix 2 cups sand to 1 cup of cement (trust me, when I saw the word cement on the bag, I asked the gentleman about that and he assured me this is what they use for mortar). Depending on how big of an area you want to work with, I would make a bigger batch so that I didn't have to keep refilling the bucket. Using a mixer with my Ryobi drill, I added water until I got the consistency of a slightly thicker pancake batter.

First, I sprayed the area that I was going to work on with water, then using my trowel, I would start at the bottom and work upward. After putting some mortar on the brick, I would take my wet sponge and spread out the mortar, filling in the old mortar and covering some brick and leaving some exposed. While smearing the mortar around, I would use my spray bottle of water and spray some of the brick and pat it with the sponge to thin it out and expose more brick. Keep the 2nd bucket with water close to you so you can keep rinsing the sponge. Again, this is a really messy project so keep everything covered well.

Don't get to fussy or particular when covering your brick-you will drive yourself crazy. It's not supposed to be perfect. Just have fun!
For all you plant lovers, the new Hydrangea plants made it through my project without getting to badly damaged.
When doing the steps, I did use my hands for smearing. I actually used my hands a lot for tight corners and in areas hard to get with the trowel.
When looking at the different ways to do German Mortar Smear some (as in Fixer Upper) will keep entire bricks exposed and will use a heavier application of mortar and some will be similar to mine which can be called a Mortar Wash. It just depends on what you are looking for and how you apply your mortar.
I considered going over and darkening some of the brick with a Masonry paint by Behr (which I purchased). I thought it would look more like the Fixer Upper look that I originally wanted. After I finished and really looked at the big picture, I didn't think that Old World look (as much as I love it) would fit in with my neighborhood.
I am so happy and quite giddy with how everything turned out. It did take me several weeks to complete the brick. Working my full time job and rainy days will drag any outside project on longer than planned. It was a tedious, messy job, but so worth it in the end.

The other updates I did with this project (I will post later) was: Making new shutters, painting the front door, painting all the lights, covering the post by the front door, planting the Hydrangea's, adding new mulch and new hardware to the garage doors. Everything I did myself except for the hardware on the garage doors (my brother was in town visiting and I put him to work).

My next project may be painting the garage doors to look like wood...we will see. The weather is getting colder and that project may have to wait until spring.

Did I mention, my hubby really likes our new look that I gave our home? He told me at one point that he trusted me with this project and after the job I did at the cottage on the counter tops, he thought I would do a good job on the brick. Overall, we are both very pleased with the outcome and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

Here are a couple of sites on how to do the German Mortar Smear that I followed with videos and more pictures:
Frequently asked questions
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3 of 10 questions
  • Carol Groff Carol Groff on Jul 01, 2017

    Love the new look. How is it holding up after almost a year?

  • Deborah Threlkekd Deborah Threlkekd on Jul 01, 2017

    No question...saw same tv episode & fell in love with the German "Schmear" (per Chip). Your house turned out great!! I'm still working up nerve to fix mine up. Congrats!!!

  • Ellen H Ellen H on Feb 01, 2018

    I love this so much! We bought our house a year ago and I have begged hubby to help me do this. We have the horrid orange brick and I want it gone! Is their a way to figure cost for a 1000sf ranch? Budgets are my nemisis.

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  • Carrie Carrie on Feb 10, 2019

    I have a very large brick home I would love to do this technique on but I'm concerned about the time frame. I have a few questions for you about the process. 1. How long did it take for you to do your home and 2. How large is your home? When we renovated ours we painstakingly looked for paint for wood (brown) and paint for stucco (tan) that would go with a burgundy brick color I hadn't seen in a very long time and a copper roof. We had assumed at the time (you know what assume stands for), that the water stains on the brick were going to be able to be cleaned, wrong. So now, we have to paint or do some kind of treatment to the brick to "cover" all of the stains but we don't want to add yet another color to the house, it'll have too much going on. I was going to "white wash" with the paint we used on the stucco but I like your project. 3. Do you think paint could be added to the mixture so I don't introduce yet another color to a house with a lot going on already? (BTW the windows/doors are white but I'm painting the doors one of the colors already on the house.). Like I said, a lot going on.)

  • PAMELA PAMELA on Mar 07, 2019