Before & After: How to German Smear Your Mantel DIY

Feb 17, 2020

How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY



How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

How To German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

Okay… this is by far one of my favorite DIY projects I’ve done on our home yet! The moment I saw our fireplace when we first looked at the house I envisioned it being German smeared. I think it is such a rustic, yet clean look that can really transform the entire space. I was totally right!

It definitely brightened our den and completely changed the whole vibe. Especially, since I also decided to paint the mantel itself. If you’ve been thinking about doing the same thing in your living space I wrote this post just for you!

I had been on the fence about this project and did quite a bit of research on it. Kirk wasn’t a fan of the idea at first. He loved the color of the brick as it was. The mantel was also custom created, carved, and antiqued for the previous owners of the home, so it was quite unique on its own as well. I think it looked okay, but could definitely be updated.

I just had to look up some great photos to started planting the seed in Kirk’s head. I sent him some before and after photos of other people’s DIY German smeared fireplaces and he finally gave me the go ahead. Kirk is a visual guy and needs to see the idea before he makes cosmetic decisions like this.

I ran right over to Home Depot to grab the supplies. I was SO excited to finally be doing this! Here are some things you’ll definitely need to take on a job like this.

Shop Materials for This Project Here!

  • Tiling gloves (you’re going to use your hands more than you think)

  • Drop cloth to protect floors and mantel from grout drippings

  • Tape for drop cloth to stay put

  • Grout– get the pre-mixed-ready-to-go stuff with the appropriate color you want. I wanted true white color which was already mixed in as well. There is also an off white for a more aged look. A 1 gallon bucket was just enough for me, but consider how deep your grout lines are.. you may need extra to fill them in.

  • Sponges

  • Spakling knife

  • Clear drop downs– these came in a roll that you can cut and tape down to prevent getting the grout mixture on the floor and mantel.

  • Small bucket for water- I’ll explain later

  • Paint for the mantel if you’re painting it- I am an Annie Sloan Chalk Paint fanatic, so that is always my paint of choice for furniture and decorative pieces. I used the color “Graphite” for this mantel.

This project shouldn’t take more than several hours to accomplish depending on the size of your fireplace and how deep your grout lines are.

Steps to German Smear Your Fireplace DIY

  1. Tape down your drop down tarp or coverings. You definitely need this because I found that this project was pretty messy!

  2. Dust off your brick with a brush. I had read you should actually go through with cleaning the brick with water as well, however, I skipped this step because my brick bled color from it when it got wet. Our brick was reddish in color matching the exterior of our home. I was worried about getting it all wet down first, but looking back I wish I had done it. You’ll see why in a bit.

  3. Fill in your small bucket of water. I used the water to dip my spakling knife into it, then grabbed the grout. The water made my grout much more pliable and stick to the brick so much better.

  4. Get your tiling gloves on and your sponges ready to use. Open your grout bucket (there are special instructions on how to open, so read your bucket) I literally struggled with this until I used a hammer and flat head screwdriver to hammer the end of the screwdriver down into the indicated markers on the lid.

  5. You’re ready to start spakling grout onto brick! Grab a modest amount with your knife and smear onto the brick. When I first started it didn’t act like it was going to stick very well and rolled off the brick. When I dipped my knife in FIRST and then scooped the grout to apply.. the grout stuck like magic. You need to apply a couple times and can even use your hands to smooth the grout into the grout lines to really get used to it and create a work flow. You’ll get the hang of it quick.

  6. Apply to the entire surface of the fireplace until all the brick is completely covered. You can use as much or as little as you’d like. German smear is just what you make it. Some like more brick to show through while others like it looking more covered with only a little brick showing through. I liked more grout vs. brick because I wanted a more dramatic effect in our den. It all depends on your taste, so do some Pinterest researching before you get started to see what style will work best for your living space!

Why It is important to clean your brick beforehand with water

SO, as I mentioned a bit ago.. I wish I had fully cleaned the brick off. I was worried when I started to see red water drip down from the brick, so I skipped this step.. I should have just washed the brick until it no longer had any coloring come off.

Because I didn’t do this beforehand as I used water to apply the grout onto the brick the stain from the brick was dying the white grout into a pink color. NOW I was really getting worried. Fortunately, I got enough grout to where I just went over the pink areas with more grout for a second coat, and it was completely fixed. Test your brick with water beforehand. If the color comes off in the water it is better to get it all off before starting.

Painting your mantel with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

If you’re interested in painting your mantel with Chalk Paint follow these steps:

  1. Dust off your mantel from all the wetness and grout than may have gotten on it. Even with the drop downs I still had debris.

  2. Once it’s clean begin painting the mantel. No sanding required with Annie Sloan! I chose a mod contrasting look with a darker color called, ‘Graphite’. I am now completely obsessed with this color. It dries like a flat black/slate color, and I just painted my outdoor mantel as well.

  3. Make sure to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Wax on it after it has dried to keep it protected!

Fireplace Mantel Decor Ideas

Here are a few decor ideas I love for a pretty mantel! I’ve linked them all here!

Final Words

This project was so completely worth it! I used my hands to smooth out areas a lot more than I thought I would, but I achieved the look I was going for in just a few hours! The grout dried quicker than I thought it would as well, which was also a plus since…well…. kids.

Please please send me photos of your mantels when you finish your German Smear DIY project! I would love to see them and I will happily display them on the blog as well!

Email me or comment below with any questions!





  1. Nichole says:

    Cleaning a issue afterwards to keep it looking fresh. Also will it feel rough or flake off

you said:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *