Learn how to install faux brick paneling, create the German smear technique, and whitewash brick.
Who doesn’t love some good brick? Even though I love a pretty brick house, we don’t have that. We have a standard house with siding and limited charm on the outside.
Don’t get me wrong, I love our little home, but the character and warmth that brick provides is something that we just don’t have with our exterior. Even though we couldn’t have a brick exterior, I wanted to find a way to incorporate it into our home.
We found the perfect place where it adds a design element and is also functional. This faux brick wall lives in our game room and protects the drywall from holes from darts. I’m REALLY bad at darts, so the whole wall is at risk!
The ONLY tools you need to DIY
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When we started thinking of how to finish the brick, I wanted it to look as real as possible, but I knew we couldn’t have real brick ($$$ and weight). Home Depot does a pretty good job with their brick paneling, but I wanted to step it up a notch.
German smear adds texture, so the faux brick looks more realistic and you can hide the seams between the sheets of brick paneling. We heard about German smear (like most people) from good ‘ol Chip and Joanna on Fixer Upper.
I loved how it turned out and wanted to give it a shot myself, but without real brick, we had to modify the official instructions a bit. So here you are–a faux German smear tutorial!
Let’s start DIYing!
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- Electric Nail Gun
- 1.5-2.5″ Finishing Nails
- Drill (If you have outlets you need to cut around)
- Sponge (We used a kitchen sponge because I didn’t want to run to the store for a big sponge)
- Measuring Tape
- Stud Finder
- Painter’s Tape
- Caulk Gun
What You’ll Need
- Spackling (~1/2 gallon per brick panel if you want the same coverage as us. We used both DAP Alex Plus Spackling and DAP Dynaflex Flexible Spackling. Keep reading to decide which is best for you)
- 2 – 3″ Spackle Knife
- Brick Wall Panel (We used 3)
- 1 Quart White Paint (We used Sherwin Williams Extra White in a flat finish)
How to install a faux brick wall
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First, we’ll install the brick. If you already have brick in place, you can skip to the next step.
Step 1: prep
Tape your baseboards and ceiling. Technically, you might want to remove your baseboards and then put them back on top of the brick. If you don’t remove them first, your brick will end up sticking out past the baseboards a wee bit.
If you end up removing them first, check out this post on how to easily remove trim.
Locate studs and mark them on the tape.
Measure your wall in multiple places (one side of our wall was 0.5″ shorter).
Step 2: cut your “brick”
Mark the size of your wall on the brick. Tape the brick along your marks. The tape will help prevent splintering and help you cut in a straight line. You can also clamp a board to the brick to serve as a cutting guide.
Cut your brick using a wood cutting blade on a jigsaw or a circular saw.
Check to see if the brick fits by placing it against your wall. Make adjustments if needed.
Step 3: sand
Quickly sand the edge of your brick and remove the tape. No need to spend a lot of time here, you’re just trying to remove any big pieces.
step 4: account for your outlet
Place your brick panel against your wall a mark where your brick ends on the wall. Measure the distance between your mark and the outlet cover. Measure the distance between the top of your baseboard and the outlet cover.
Remove the outlet cover and use it as a guide to draw what you need to cut out of your brick. You can cut smaller than the cover so that the brick sits underneath the outlet cover. You’ll need to get an outlet extender to bump your outlet out so that it sits on top of your brick.
Tape the outline of where you need to cut.
Drill the corners of the rectangle using a 3/8″ drill bit. You need to drill the corners so that you have a hole to place your jigsaw blade in so you can cut. After drilling, cut the hole for the outlet with a jigsaw. Remove the tape and lightly sand the edges.
Step 5: install the brick
Position the brick on the wall and secure it by nailing into the studs. Beware of the corners! We hit a metal corner brace and the nail popped through the adjacent wall and caused a chunk of drywall to go flying! Luckily, we got heavy duty spackling for the smear!
How to: DIY German Smear technique
step 1: cover the seams
Spackle any seams in your brick. We also added spackle around the outlet covers to cover up the faux brick cardboard looking edge.
Step 2: german smear
Create a German smear effect using your spackle and 2″ spackle knife
Fill the grout lines
Start by filling in the “grout” lines. If you have a large spackle knife, this is its time to shine. If not, the 2″ will work just fine. Put a lot of spackle on the knife and run it down your brick wall with a lot of pressure.
Adding pressure will prevent too much spackle from getting on the bricks and it will remove some of the spackle in the grout so that it isn’t flush with the bricks.
I originally started without much pressure on this step and went back over the grout lines with my finger to remove excess.
The pressure + holding your knife almost parallel to the floor will get you enough coverage without adding too much where you can skip this extra step. I also thought the areas that I didn’t run my finger through the grout looked more natural.
Cover your brick
Once you cover all the grout lines, work in small sections. I focused on about 10-20 bricks at a time.
Using your 2″ knife, work in a “y” pattern, overlapping your strokes and crossing in different directions. Use lighter pressure on this step to avoid lines from your knife.
To add more texture and clean up any knife strokes, hold your knife almost parallel to the wall and lightly go over the spackling with the back of your knife. You don’t need to wipe off excess spackling from your knife or add additional spackling during this step.
Vary your texture by using different pressures. If you want lighter areas, you can scrape off the spackling using your knife.
We scraped almost all of the dark bricks so that those were barely covered. In the areas that we wanted more brick to show through, we didn’t make an effort to cover every area of the brick.
The great part about German smear is you can decide how much variation you want and how much brick you want to show through!
Take a step back
Take a step back every once in a while to make sure everything looks right. Determine what areas you want to be lighter and where you want to add more spackling.
All of the above techniques were just tips to get you started. Don’t stress out over the German smear instructions. This isn’t a perfect science, so you can’t really mess the spackling up!
What type of spackling should I use?
The type of spackling you get matters. You’ll want a heavy duty spackling that takes longer to dry. The higher density will be easier to work with and will take longer to dry, meaning you will have more time to work.
We ended up getting 2 different types of spackling. We bought too little initially and then went to Lowe’s vs. Home Depot on the second trip and they didn’t have the same selection.
The first was Alex Plus Spackling. This stuff was a dream to work with. It was thick and held my texture really well. The problem…it dried a really light pink! I thought this was because we didn’t wipe off our brick wall first, but the Dynaflex Flexible Spackling we used dried white. It dried the perfect color but was less dense, so I thought the texture was more difficult to accomplish because it just wanted to be flat.
I spent more time on getting the right texture, but less time on the whitewash. So you choose. Would you rather spend more time on painting or on smearing?
How to whitewash faux brick
Time to whitewash! Since we used spackling (and because half of mine dried pink), we needed to “seal” it with a whitewash. This will avoid the chalky texture of the spackling from rubbing off when touched. A real German smear doesn’t involve any paint, but it was needed for the spackling. Read more about German smear and 4 other ways to finish brick.
Step 1: mix your paint and water
First, determine your ratio. We ended up using about 65% paint and 35% water. We were very scientific (not really) and measured using grooves on plastic cups. Mix your water and paint well and remember to mix as you go along. It’s going to get messy, so you’ll want to put a drop cloth down!
Step 2: Paint
Paint using a sponge. I tried both a brush and sponge, but the sponge ended up being faster and looking better. Instead of brush strokes, the sponges adds more texture and blends better with the smear texture.
- Dip just a corner or edge into the mixture rather than the whole sponge. Wipe over the heavily spackled areas and then dab lightly to add texture. For the lighter areas, just dab lightly with the sponge.
- If you get paint on an area that you didn’t want to cover, quickly wipe it off with a paper towel. Squeeze your sponge to remove excess paint and light dab to cover streaks left from the paper towels.
Work from top to bottom to catch any drips along the way.
Finishing your faux brick wall
Finally, remove any remaining tape and then caulk along the ceiling, corners, and bottom of your brick. Lightly run your finger over the caulk to make it a smooth texture.
You did it! We can’t wait to see your pictures and where you have brick in your home. Did you decide to go with a more covered look? Or do you have a lot of brick showing through?