How To Give Your Fireplace a Facelift Without Breaking The Bank

For those who have never attempted to remodel or renovate your home (or maybe you have), I would like to explain to you what these two words actually mean.

Remodel – to change the structure, shape, or appearance of something.

Renovate – to restore to good condition, make new or as if new again, repair, improve.

My point is, there are many ways to remodel or renovate areas in your home without replacing them, which usually means savings on time and money. Today I’m going to share with you one of my favorite budget conscious projects that I completed for one of my clients.

Our client had a home that was built in the late 70’s on Lake Lanier in Cumming, GA that was in need of a fireplace facelift.  You know the one with the dated, dull, pinkish red brick that has no appeal.  I encouraged the homeowner to consider applying a mortar wash, a.k.a German Smear.  This idea met all of our criteria;  simple, cost effective, and would create a focal point in the living room.

If you are tired of looking at that outdated brick fireplace, then consider applying a German Smear.  Below are the tools, materials, and easy instructions to follow.

Tools and Materials : sponge, scrub brush, finishing trowel, 5 gallon bucket, rag, spray bottle, vinegar, water, and white mortar (comes in many colors), dish soap, and baking soda.


1) Mix 50/50 vinegar and water solution in a spray bottle, spray on the brick and use a scrub brush remove stains, wipe clean with a sponge.  Tougher stains may require additional scrubbing and the use of a dish soap and baking soda paste (1 cup baking soda/ 6-8 tbsp of dish soap) applied directly to stain.


2) Mix mortar and water in a 5 gallon bucket, I suggest mixing a small amount at first to get the desired consistency.  To allow for more brick exposure then add more water for a thinner smear application, to cover most of the brick then add less water for a thicker smear application.


3) Once you have determined the consistency of the mortar mix for the finish desired, you will begin at the top of the fireplace applying the mortar with a side to side motion and work your way down or across.  Make sure to apply evenly.

4) Allow 12-24 hours to dry then touch up small areas as needed.

5) Step back and admire your fireplace!  Such an improvement!

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