Bob Vila Radio: The Brick Treatment You Should Try

You've likely seen and appreciated German smear finishes before, without realizing you can achieve the look on your own, and with relative ease. Continue reading for an overview of how it's done.

Looking for a way to improve the look of a brick exterior, interior wall, or fireplace surround? Consider German smear—a treatment that lends an appealingly evocative “Old World” look.

German Smear DIY

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Carrollton, TX


Listen to BOB VILA ON GERMAN SMEAR DIY or read below:

For best results, use premixed mortar, apply it only to bare brick, not to brick that’s been painted.

First, clean the brick, removing built-up dirt, grease, and mildew, using water and a stiff-bristle brush. Next, mix a mortar slurry of 70% mortar to 30% water.

When that’s ready, dampen the brick with water and smear the mortar slurry over the brick, working from top to bottom in five-foot-square sections. Don’t forget the joints!

When the mortar begins to set (about half an hour after application), follow up with a trowel or wire brush to wipe away some of the excess. Small amounts removed from random areas are what give German smear its softly muted look.

Bear in mind that once dry, your German smear treatment isn’t going to budge. It will be more or less permanent.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!