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By Amy Pearson December 22, 2023

Welcome to the world of home design, where a simple yet captivating technique called German Smear is making waves. Picture this: a DIY-friendly method that involves creatively applying mortar to surfaces like brick or stone, resulting in a rustic and charming finish.

In this article, we’ll talk about the versatility of German Smear, discovering where it can be used, how easy it is for DIY enthusiasts, and the incredible transformation it brings to both interiors and exteriors.

Without any further ado, let’s get into it.

What is German Smear?

German Smear is a unique and creative technique in the realm of home design and renovation. Also known as “mortar wash” or “smear technique,” German Smear involves applying a thick layer of mortar or a mortar-like mixture to the surface of brick, stone, or other masonry materials. The result is a charming, rustic finish that adds character and warmth to the exterior or interior of a building.

At its core, German Smear is a decorative method that transforms the appearance of traditional masonry surfaces. The process typically begins with a mortar mixture that includes cement, sand, and water. This mixture is then generously applied to the surface, and the excess is strategically smeared or wiped away, revealing the underlying texture of the brick or stone. The goal is to achieve a weathered and imperfect look, reminiscent of the European cottages and castles that inspire this technique.

One of the key attractions of German Smear is its versatility. It can be applied to both interior and exterior surfaces, allowing homeowners to revitalize fireplaces, accent walls, or the entire facade of their homes. The technique works particularly well with bricks, as the mortar adheres to the porous surface, creating a visually appealing contrast between the mortar and the exposed brick.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, German Smear offers practical benefits. It can be used to cover up damaged or discoloured masonry, providing a cost-effective solution for those looking to refresh the appearance of their homes without resorting to more extensive renovations. Additionally, the thickness of the mortar layer adds an extra layer of insulation to the walls, contributing to improved energy efficiency.

The application process itself is relatively straightforward, making German Smear accessible to both DIY enthusiasts and professional contractors. Homeowners can experiment with different mortar mixtures and application techniques to achieve the desired level of coverage and texture. This hands-on approach allows for a personalized touch, ensuring that each project results in a one-of-a-kind finish.

In terms of colour, German Smear is not limited to traditional white or light grey mortar. Homeowners can customize the colour of the mortar to complement the overall design scheme of their homes. This flexibility makes German Smear a versatile choice for a wide range of architectural styles, from modern to traditional.

Where to use German Smear?

German Smear, a creative and versatile technique in home design, can be applied to various surfaces to enhance the aesthetic appeal of both interiors and exteriors. This unique method involves the generous application of a mortar mixture on brick, stone, or masonry surfaces, creating a rustic and charming finish.

Let’s explore the different places where German Smear can be used to transform and revitalize spaces.

Fireplace Surrounds: German Smear is a popular choice for updating fireplace surrounds. By applying the mortar mixture to the brick or stone around a fireplace, homeowners can achieve a cosy and weathered look that adds character to the focal point of the room.

Accent Walls: Transforming a plain wall into a focal point is easy with German Smear. By applying the technique to an accent wall, whether in a living room, bedroom, or kitchen, you can create a textured and visually interesting backdrop that complements the overall design of the space.

Exterior Facades: The exterior of a home is the first thing visitors see, and German Smear can breathe new life into it. Whether applied to the entire facade or specific sections, this technique can give your home a timeless and charming appearance, reminiscent of European cottages and rustic country houses.

Outdoor Walls and Fences: Extend the charm of German Smear to your outdoor living spaces by applying it to garden walls or fences. This not only enhances the visual appeal of these structures but also provides a cohesive and stylish look to your outdoor areas.

Interior Feature Walls: Beyond accent walls, German Smear can be applied to create distinctive feature walls in various rooms. Consider using it in entryways, hallways, or even as a backdrop for built-in shelving units to infuse character and warmth into the space.

Kitchen Backsplashes: Kitchens are not exempt from the charm of German Smear. Applying this technique to a kitchen backsplash can add a touch of rustic elegance, creating a beautiful contrast against modern appliances and cabinetry.

Basements and Recreational Spaces: Unfinished basements or recreational spaces can benefit from German Smear to transform them into inviting and comfortable areas. The technique adds texture and interest to otherwise plain surfaces, making these spaces more enjoyable.

Commercial Spaces: German Smear is not limited to residential applications. It can also be used in commercial settings to create a distinctive and memorable atmosphere. Restaurants, cafes, and boutiques can utilize German Smear to set a unique tone and stand out.

Architectural Details: Emphasize architectural details, such as arches or alcoves, by applying German Smear. This technique highlights the natural textures of brick or stone, adding depth and character to specific features within a space.

Is German Smear DIYable?

Absolutely! German Smear is a DIY-friendly technique that empowers homeowners to transform the appearance of their homes without the need for professional assistance. Whether you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a beginner looking to embark on your first project, German Smear offers a creative and accessible way to add character and charm to various surfaces.

Materials and Tools:

One of the reasons German Smear is DIYable is the simplicity of the required materials and tools. Typically, you’ll need a mortar mixture consisting of cement, sand, and water. This mixture is easily attainable at your local home improvement store. Additionally, basic tools such as a trowel, bucket, and sponge are sufficient for the application process.

Step-by-Step Process:

The application process itself is straightforward, making it suitable for DIYers of all skill levels. Here’s a simplified step-by-step guide:

  1. Prepare the Surface: Ensure the surface is clean and free of dust or debris. If needed, repair any damaged areas before starting the German Smear application.
  2. Mix the Mortar: Create a mortar mixture by combining cement, sand, and water. The ratio may vary depending on the desired texture and coverage. Mix until you achieve a consistency similar to thick paint.
  3. Apply the Mortar: Using a trowel, generously apply the mortar mixture onto the surface. Work in small sections to ensure you have enough time to smear and create the desired texture before the mortar sets.
  4. Smear and Wipe: As you apply the mortar, use the trowel or a sponge to smear and wipe away excess mortar. This step is where you can get creative, adjusting the thickness and texture according to your preferences.
  5. Repeat as Needed: Continue the process, working section by section, until you cover the entire surface. Allow each section to dry slightly before moving on to the next to avoid disturbing the texture.
  6. Fine-Tune the Finish: Once the mortar is partially set, you can fine-tune the finish by lightly smoothing or distressing certain areas, achieving the rustic and weathered look characteristic of German Smear.


One of the joys of DIY projects is the ability to personalize the outcome, and German Smear is no exception. DIYers can experiment with different mortar mixtures, colours, and application techniques to achieve a customized look that suits their taste and complements their home’s style.

Cost-Effective Solution:

For budget-conscious homeowners, German Smear offers a cost-effective solution to refresh the appearance of masonry surfaces. The materials required are relatively inexpensive, making it an attractive option for those looking to make a significant impact on a limited budget.


In the world of home design, German Smear stands out for its charm and user-friendliness, especially for DIY enthusiasts. Whether it’s a fireplace surround or an entire exterior facade, German Smear is a versatile and customizable technique, empowering homeowners to add a touch of creativity to their living spaces.

With its simple application process, budget-friendly nature, and room for personal expression, German Smear becomes a standout choice for those looking to elevate the visual appeal of their homes. As you embark on your DIY journey, imagine each application becoming a canvas for your personal expression, transforming your space into a haven of character and individuality.

Amy Pearson