Fireplace Makeover – Mortar Wash

I am back with another DIY home makeover! Since the second I saw this fireplace in our house, I knew I wanted to turn it into a beautiful focal point! While I love the traditional brick, the dark colors do not mix well with our neutral hues throughout our home. I had seen photos of beautiful white washed brick, and wondered if this was something I could achieve. I took to the internet and realized this white washed brick style is actually called German Smear, and can be achieved with a mortar wash technique! This has been my favorite project to date, and I am so excited to share it with you all, let’s get started!

Before I started, I researched a BUNCH of photos of German Smear fireplaces (I suggest you do the same!). While the overall technique is the same for all, there are certain qualities that make each style different.

Now you can see from the photos above, when you google German Smear fireplace, all of the photos look similar but there are unique differences that can make a big difference in the way you apply this technique! I wanted to go for a look similar to the third photo (an overall wash of white).

Now that you have a design goal in mind – let’s make sure we have all of the supplies! I picked all of my supplies up from Amazon and my local Home Depot/Lowe’s.

White Mortar Mix
Painter’s Tape
Gloves (make sure you wear gloves! I forgot to and absolutely destroyed my hands!)
Mixing Bucket
Grouting Sponges (I suggest 3)
Paint Stir Stick
Foam Brush

Step 1 – Clean surface

Vacuum your fireplace thoroughly and clean all debris

Step 2 – Tape fireplace

Apply your painter’s tape to the fire place, mantel, and floor

Step 3 – Mix Mortar

Using your mixing bucket, mix water and mortar together. Follow the instructions on the mortar package for mixing. MAJOR TIP! Do not pour a ton of water into your bucket before mixing! Depending on your fireplace size, you most likely will not need the entire bag of mortar. We made the mistake of pouring too much water into the mix to start, and we had to use almost the entire bag of mortar to get the right consistency. This added about 40 minutes to our process and it was not necessary! The mixture should take about 5 minutes to stir once you have the right mix of water and mortar powder, and the finished mixture should be like thick soft serve ice cream!

Step 4 – Fill in grout (work in sections)

Now the magic begins! The most important step in achieving this look is to ensure all of the grout lines are fully filled with mortar. The easiest way to do this is to use a foam paint brush to fill in all of the grout lines.

Step 5 – Spread mortar

While working in sections, I used a damp grouting sponge to start spreading the mortar from the grout lines all over the bricks. I used a mix of circular motions and dabbing motions to attain the textured look I wanted. During this process the fireplace DEFINITELY did not look like I was envisioning. You have to be patient and once we get to step 6, things will start coming together!

NOTE: some of the grout mortar will wipe away during this step, repeat steps 4 & 5 until grout lines are fully white with mortar!

Step 6 – Detail!

This is where your original design vision comes into play, think back to your inspiration image when going through this step! If you want more of an overall white wash (like I did), go ahead and add some more mortar to certain areas you want to be whiter. I used a dry grout sponge for this step because I did not want the damp sponge to remove any of the mortar I already applied.

Once I finished applying more mortar, I realized I actually wanted more of the original brick showing through. I grabbed a freshly dampened grout sponge, and starting running it over the middle of some of the bricks to expose some color.

I kept repeating this process of using a dry sponge to add more mortar, and a damp sponge to take mortar away, until I was happy with the outcome! Be patient with this step and refer back to your inspiration photo as much as you want to compare!

As you are working through this step just remember, the mortar will dry to a brighter white, so if you are discouraged it is not as bright as you envisioned, wait 12 hours for it to fully set, and you will be amazed at the outcome! Above are photos of the fireplace right before I finished “detailing”, and below are photos the next morning of the fireplace fully dried!

You can find my sweater from Chicwish here!

I am in love with the final outcome, and it has added a new level of design to our family room! Let me know your thoughts below, and if you try this technique be sure to tell me how it goes!

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links – We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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