How to Whitewash Faux Brick: German Schmear Tutorial

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A whitewashed faux brick wall with a desk in front of it

Hey, friends! I’m so excited to finally be sharing how we transformed our faux brick wall using just two materials. Figuring out how to whitewash faux brick with a German schmear took this spot from being a dark, dreary space to a dream space. Well, at least for an office area! 

But in all seriousness, I still can’t get over how joint compound and a putty knife got the job done. Here’s a great German schmear before and after to show you:

the original faux brick wall paneling in our home
the transformed brick wall after we figured out how to whitewash faux brick

We let this wall sit here for almost a year after we installed the faux brick paneling. Mainly because I didn’t know how I wanted to transform the wall.

If you do some research into how to whitewash faux brick paneling, you’ll notice there are multiple different ways you can give a faux brick wall a white washed or German schmear makeover. For example, you can use chalk paint, watered down paint, joint compound, plaster and the list goes on.

We went with joint compound mainly because we had some left over from our guest bathroom renovation. It ended up being a very easy, messy, but easy project. If you have a wall in your home that you’ve been wanting to try this on, well, today is your day. I’m spilling all the details and secrets on how I created this German schmear on faux brick using joint compound.

Before we jump into the whitewashed faux brick tutorial, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.

What Is a German Schmear?

If you’ve never researched a faux brick wall makeover before, then there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of a German schmear before. German schmear is a masonry technique that involves applying mortar (or in this case, joint compound) to bricks and partially wiping it off. The process gives the brick a textured and aged appearance, exposing parts of the brick and leaving other parts fully covered.

If you’re looking for a way to give a faux brick wall (or real brick wall) a makeover, it’s a great technique to try!

Is German schmear permanent?

Yes, German schmear is considered permanent because it involves smearing mortar or joint compound onto brick surfaces. Once this has dried, it’s super durable and stays put for many years to come. 

This is great because it means your hard work will last, but I also found it a little nerve-wracking before doing it for the first time! Thankfully, this is a surprisingly simple project.

Is German schmear hard to do?

Creating a whitewashed German schmear on faux brick is actually kind of fool-proof! Because it’s meant to look imperfect and aged, you don’t have to worry about paying attention to a ton of tiny details. As long as you follow the instructions and be careful not to make a mess of your floors or surrounding walls and ceilings, it’s almost impossible to screw up!

What is the difference between whitewash and German schmear?

German schmear is really a way of whitewashing faux brick, and both techniques make the brick look white and aged. The main difference is that traditional whitewashing uses thinned white paint to cover the brick, while German schmear covers the brick in mortar or a similar material.

Both techniques provide the look of whitewashed faux brick paneling, but German schmear provides more texture and a longer-lasting finish.

Materials to Whitewash a DIY Faux Brick Wall with Joint Compound

1 gallon of joint compound
Small and large putty knife
Drop cloth
Paper towels

a bucket of joint compound

How to Whitewash Faux Brick with a German Schmear

Since we already had our faux brick paneling up, I didn’t get any pictures of the install. It’s very simple but keep in mind it’s a two person job! You’ll simply cut the panels to fit your wall using a jigsaw. Then attach them to the wall using a brad nailer where the studs are. That’s it!

Before we get started with the joint compound German schmear, you’ll want to place a drop cloth down in your work area. This is a messy project from all the scraping we’ll be doing so this will help with an easy clean up.

Step One: Fill Your Seams

If you installed more than one panel like we did, your first step will be filling in the crack where the two panels meet. Place a little bit of joint compound on your small putty knife. It’s easier to work with smaller amounts for this part. Push the joint compound into the crack and scrap outwards. You don’t want a lot of extra on the outside of the crack so think of it like feathering it out.

a DIY faux brick wall with joint compound on the seams

Your main goal is to fill the crack in so when you go to do the whole wall, it will easily blend in. You have a few minutes to work with the product before it starts to dry so you can easily remove the joint compound if you put too much by scraping it away.

Step Two: Start Covering the Faux Brick

Once the crack has fully dried, you can now begin on the entire wall. My biggest tip for this is don’t hesitate, just go for it! Using your large putty knife, be a little more generous with how much joint compound you place on it. I found it easiest to dip my small putty knife in the joint compound and then scrape it onto the large putty knife.

scraping joint compound with a putty knife

Next is the fun part! Take your putty knife and apply the joint compound on the wall by smearing it in a small area. Work it into the grout lines, spreading it out. I found it best to work in small areas.

applying joint compound to a faux brick wall

Once you work it in the grout lines, take the putty knife and run the edge of the knife across the bricks. This is will spread the joint compound out even more, take off some of the excess and start to give it the distressed look.

applying joint compound to a DIY faux brick wall

Step 3: Focus On the Grout Lines

Now you’ll want to focus on the grout lines. You don’t want them the same height as the bricks because you still want the brick to have some dimension when you’re done with the wall. Therefore, you’ll run your finger along the grout lines while applying slight pressure to remove some of the joint compound. Just make sure you’re leaving enough behind so the black doesn’t show.

using a finger to smooth out the grout lines on a faux brick wall

Tip: The extra joint compound that forms on your finger, you can wipe it on the putty knife so that you don’t waste any! The paper towels also come in hand during this part so you can wipe your hands when you need to.

Step Four: Touch-Up Bricks

At this point, the joint compound covered a little too much of the brick and wasn’t distressed enough for me. To fix this, I used my small putty knife and scraped away the joint compound where I could to expose some of the brick. You want to work quickly because once it starts to dry, it gets harder to scrape away the joint compound. This is why it’s best to work in smaller areas.

applying a german schmear to a DIY faux brick wall

Keep repeating these steps until you’ve completed the whole faux brick wall.. You’ll notice once you’re done that the wall is very uniform. If you like this look, then you’re done! If you want it to look more like a traditional German schmear, here’s what you’ll do.

Step 5: Add More Joint Compound to Some Bricks

You’ll take your small putty knife and start adding a second layer of joint compound brick by brick. These will be the areas where you want more of a solid look. Make sure to scrape away just a little bit of the joint compound and leaving it thicker in some areas of the brick.

DIY faux brick wall German schmear

My best advice for this part of the project, since you won’t be covering all of the bricks with a second layer, is to take a step back to look at your wall every couple of bricks. This will help you visualize where you want to apply more joint compound next and the areas you want to leave alone. Take your time and you’ll be fine!

the finished wall after we figured out how to whitewash faux brick

Once the joint compound dries, you can step back and admire your amazing new brick wall! Hopefully, you’ll also be amazed knowing just joint compound, a putty knife and a little bit of your time transformed your DIY faux brick wall.

If you’re a visual person, here’s a quick video showing you how I applied the joint compound on our wall.


the completed office with german schmear faux brick wall
a closeup of our whitewashed faux brick wall

How long will German schmear last?

This was one of my primary questions when I started researching how to whitewash faux brick paneling. If I was going to put in the effort to do this project, I wanted to know that it would last a good, long time! Thankfully, German schmear is basically permanent.

While any home project can see some wear and tear over time, using this technique to whitewash faux brick with joint compound should keep your wall looking white and wonderfully aged for many years to come!

We completed this project back in 2019 and this faux brick accent wall is still a favorite feature of our office space today! 

If you try this in your home, I’d love to see how yours turns out!

Let’s keep in touch! 

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  1. Vicki Frye says:

    I purchased my panel from Home Depot and used the compound recommended. The red of the brick is pulling thru the white. Anyone have these issues and if so how did you fix it?

    • WithintheGrove says:

      Hi Vicki! My joint compound turned into an off white because of the brick but didn’t pull the red. Try applying more joint compound in those areas or you can try applying a white wash over the entire panel.

  2. Charlotte says:

    Hi. Are you in Debary, Florida? I’m in Eustis – about 30 minutes away. I would love to meet likeminded people. There do not seem to be many adventurous DIYers near me. Lol

    Thanks for the tips! My husband just put our panels up in the kids’ bathroom and I’m about to get started. Wish me luck! 😉

  3. Where did you get the brick paneling? Thanks

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  6. Jessica says:

    Could you white wash this for a similar look?? Instead of using joint compound??

  7. Patricia Truel says:

    I did this yesterday, and the mortar portion of mine turned Yellow.

  8. Taylor says:

    This looks awesome. When it dries do you put a coating over it so it doesn’t feel chalky? If not will it rub off on furniture, clothing, etc?

  9. […] German Smear wall: See the tutorial here […]

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