8 German Smear Brick Homes for Inspiration

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Using the German smear technique to update the look of your outdated brick can be an excellent choice because replacing masonry is very expensive. Choosing between this finish and other options such as paint or limewash will depend on the design of your home, location, condition of the brick, and maintenance preferences.

If you’re looking to update your brick or masonry exterior but would like to see how it looks before committing, you’ve come to the right place! We’re here to help you visualize your exterior design before making any permanent changes. Learn more about the brick&batten exterior design process or the virtual home design process.

Historical building in the old town of Traben-Trarbach, Germany

What is German smear?

German smear, sometimes called German schmear, is an up-and-coming technique. It uses wet mortar applied to brick and partially wiped off before drying. This style gives the appearance of uneven mortar joints reminiscent of old cottage homes (above) and castles in Germany.

The wet mortar used for German smear is made of blended Portland cement, lime, sand, and water. It must be blended in the correct ratio, so we recommend using a premade mix or hiring a professional. While the material is inexpensive, the process is labor-intensive, adding to the cost.

German smear is typically available in white or gray; however, you can also experiment with different colors. Note that this finish is permanent. It also must be applied over bare, clean brick for the best results.

digital rendering of a cottage-style two story home with steep gable roof and white limewash brick, copper accents and black shutters

Limewash or German smear?

While many people use the terms interchangeably, there are key differences between limewash and German smear. Limewash is made with environmentally-friendly crushed limestone and water. The mixture is absorbed by the brick or stone and is fairly easy for anyone to apply. While limewash needs to be updated every 5–7 years, it requires less maintenance than paint and is a process we recommend often.

German smear is permanent and does not fade, which makes it easy to clean without worry of erosion or upkeep. However, the process requires more skill than limewash as it is a mortar that needs to be applied and wiped off in a particular way. Importantly, neither limewash nor German smear can be applied over painted brick.

virtual rendering of German smear brick house with black windows and modern balcony railings

#1 // German Smear Brick House

If you don’t love the color of your brick or are wanting to add character, this technique is an option sure to wow the neighborhood. We love the Old World feel of the German smear brick in this example combined with the modern touches of black accents, copper gutters, and a metal porch roof.

German smear brick with stone and white dormer window with bay window copper gutters and walnut front door

#2 // Brick & Stone Combo

For houses that feature a combination of textures like brick, stone, and siding, choosing to apply German smear to the brick can help bring all the elements together for a cohesive look. We love the muted tones of this home’s design as a backdrop for the pops of color throughout the landscaping. The warmth of the wood and contrast of the black trim bring it all together.

digital rendering of a large two-story house with German smear brick, black windows and shutters, large porch and vertical white siding in alabaster

#3 // Black & White Contrast

If you like the modern white-and-black farmhouse look but want something a little less stark, a design like the one above may be right for you. German smear on the brick is more muted than full-on white paint or siding. There’s still contrast with the black windows and shutters, but it’s broken up a bit by the brick’s texture.

German smear brick ranch with James Hardie vertical siding, large porch and black panel garage

#4 // German Smear Ranch

It can be a challenge to add texture and character to a smaller home without getting too busy. The German smear brick on this ranch home adds just enough visual interest without going overboard. It pairs nicely with the vertical siding in Benjamin Moore’s Graphite and the black garage door.

before and after digital rendering of a large two-story new brick home using german smear with black roof and accents

#5 // Give Character to New Brick

German smear isn’t only for old brick. It can work just as well on new brick, making your home appear as if it has always been there. We love how this new build home has an Old World cottage feel across many of its design elements. The steep and curved gable roof, second-story cantilevered window, and rounded door look lovely with the smear on the brick.

digital rendering of a brick farmhouse painted with thick limewash to look like german smear with a porch and white windows and dormer windows

#6 // Paint Technique as an Alternative

The brick on this home was painted in Romabio Classico Limewash for a modern farmhouse feel. Our designers recommended applying the limewash very thickly to give the appearance of German smear, without the extra time and skill it requires.

before and after of a two-story transitional home painted in Iron Ore with avorio limewash on the stones and black windows

#7 // Stone Application

German smear can also work on other masonry, like stone! For this transitional home, our designers again recommended using a thicker limewash application over the multicolored stone to give it a more balanced and neutral appearance, similar to a German smear. The lighter look of the stone also helps to balance out the darker cladding (painted in Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams) and accents.

before and after of large stately brick home with turret done with German smear

#8 // Castle Inspiration

German smear is the perfect application for this unique design. Our visualization shows off the irregular pattern of the brick and mortar while highlighting the turret and unique design features. This home definitely gives off castle vibes and pays homage to the origins of this brick technique.

close up of what German smear on brick looks like

German Smear: Old World Style in Modern Applications

If you’re looking for a unique way to update your home’s brick, sometimes looking to the Old World will give you new ideas! Perhaps these examples have inspired you to consider this technique for your exterior. It is a cost-effective and beautiful way to give your home a new color palette with character and texture. You really can’t go wrong with this classic look, whether you go for the real thing and apply wet mortar to your bricks, or use a thick coat of limewash instead.

Our designers at brick&batten are experts at showcasing how unique textures will appear on your individual house. If you’re ready to get started, we can help bring out the true beauty of your home’s exterior.