How to Mortar Wash (German Schmear) a Brick Fireplace

Materials Needed:

    • Plastic or drop cloth
    • Painter’s tape
    • 2 buckets (one for mixing mortar and one for water)
    • Durable gloves
    • Mortar mix
    • Electric drill (for mixing mortar)
    • Mixing paddle
    • VersaBond White Mortar Mix
    • Putty knife (metal is preferable)
    • Heavy-duty sponge
    • Rags

Step 1:

If any of the bricks have soot on them, clean off using Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach spray and a rag.

Step 2:

Cover the floor and logs (or inside the firebox) with plastic because this is a messy process. We were eventually covering the tile floor with new flooring, but we still covered the floor to make cleanup easier.

Step 3:

Use painter’s tape to tape off around the crown molding, wall, and floor (anywhere the brick borders) so as not to get the mortar on the walls, floor, molding, or ceiling.

Step 4:

Mix the mortar (according to product directions) in a bucket using an electric drill and mixing paddle. Give it a few minutes to slake (again, according to the mortar mix directions).

Step 5:

Start at the top of the fireplace. Using a putty knife, apply mortar to the brick joints. Use the putty knife to smear the mortar mix on the brick. The amount of mortar you use is dependent on the look you are attempting to achieve. If you want to leave some brick revealed, then apply the mortar more sparingly and leave some brick exposed.

Because the brick on this fireplace is mostly brown, we wanted to use more mortar and not have exposed brick.

We worked in an area at a time. After we applied the mortar to a section, then I came back and wiped it down with a heavy-duty sponge to remove some of the excess mortar.

Continue applying mortar and wiping down with a sponge until completed.

Step 6:

Remove painter’s tape and clean up. Allow time to dry. We waiting overnight and a few days before putting anything on the brick.

Here is the process in a quick time video. In actuality, it took about 4-5 hours to accomplish this project.

And ENJOY your updated fireplace! Let us know if you have any questions and what you think of our fireplace by commenting below.




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Author: Suzanne

Blogger and DIYer with my talented husband Neal. I share about our projects and life lessons following Christ.

18 thoughts on “How to Mortar Wash (German Schmear) a Brick Fireplace”

    1. Hey Cindy,
      We thought about leaving some of the brick exposed but just did not like the brown color.
      To show more of the brick, just apply the mortar to the joints only (you can see I sort of do this and then wipe it on the face of the brick) and don’t wipe on the face of the brick. Only smear the mortar on the joints. Some will get on the face of the brick but that is ok – – part of the overall look. Go slow and get the feel for it initially. Let me know and share pictures if you do this.
      Thanks for reading our blog!

    1. Karen,
      It is off-white, but it initially dries more white (at least lighten than when applying) and then sort of darkens up over time. It definitely looks off-white now.
      Thanks for reading our blog! Let us know if you have any other questions.

    1. Thanks, Samantha! We really appreciate that!
      I bought the wreath at Hobby Lobby and added the ribbon (also from Hobby Lobby).
      Thanks for reading our blog!

  1. Is there a benefit to doing this beautiful technique vs painting ? 🙂 asking because I’m trying to decide what to do to my own outdated red fireplace.

    1. Hey Jess,

      Thanks so much for your question. I had thought about painting the fireplace, but paint does not always stick well to brick.

      This technique also gives it texture – – sort of gives it an old/aged look. Another advantage of doing this technique is to reveal the color of the brick in some places. I initially was going to reveal some of the brick, but the brick was not very pretty (brown). However, if your brick is pretty (red), then this would look good. It would make the fireplace look old/aged. I hope this helps!

      Thanks for reading our blog!


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