Creating the Faux Brick Wall: German Schmear Style
It’s Week 4 of the One Room Challenge, and I’m talking all about our new faux brick wall, german schmear style.
“Are you sure you want to put the feature wall on this wall…the one with all the windows?”
Hubs tried hard to convince me that one of our other walls–one without 12 window corners and six trim sets to cut around–might be a better choice.
“Yes, I’m sure. The feature wall needs to be the focal point when you walk into a room.”
Famous. Last. Words.
If you missed last week’s update, I had shown a glimpse of the wall–one piece that had gone up relatively easy. I also mentioned that it was all uphill from there.
Step 1: Prep the Space
- Take everything down…art, curtains, rods, any hanging nails, or screws. Everything. You won’t actually need to do much “prep” work, since you’ll be covering the wall up.
- Remove the baseboard at the bottom. If you plan to reuse it, set it aside. We planned to use a piece of shoe at the very bottom.
- Paint the window trim if you plan to do this. Trust me. Do it first. Thank me later.
Step 2: Gather Your Materials & Tools
You’ll want to measure your space to decide how many wall panels to buy. We had to do a bit of math for ours, since we had windows to work around.
- Brick Wall Panels (we used about 7 of these)
- Liquid Nails (1/every two full panels approximately)
- Finishing Nails (18 gauge, 1.25\”)
- Shims / Craft Sticks
- Joint Compound
- Clean Rags
- Containers (for water, joint compound, paint solution)
- White Paint
- Nail Gun
- Caulk Gun
- Oscillating Tool or Jig Saw
- Circular Saw
- Paint Brush
- Drywall Knives
In general, these faux brick wall panels are not difficult to work with or install, unless you’re required to do a lot of cuts. Because I just *had to have* the feature wall be the wall you see as soon as you open the bedroom door, there was no way around it.
Step 3: Establish the Process
It’s important to understand the process for each new section.
*This is a job for two people. These pieces are 8’x4′, and there’s glue and nails and leveling involved. I wouldn’t try to do it alone.
This is the standard process:
- Take length/width measurements
- Make the cuts
- Dry fit in place to check for level
- Lay piece flat on the floor (right side down)
- Apply liquid nails to the back
- Back up into position, moving around slightly to smush the adhesive
- Check for level again
- Use shims to slightly lift in spots to get level
- Use nail gun to fasten in place
Step 4: Make Custom Cuts
If you have a standard wall with no windows, you may not need this step. But, in case you’ve chosen a wall with lots of trim work, like I did…this is where it gets fun.
When you’ve cut the height, dry fit the piece as well as possible, making sure to also check level. Using a contoured gauge, and a sharpie marker, we were able to mark the notches.
Use an oscillating tool or jig saw to cut where you’ve marked.
Step 4: Hang the First Panel
We wanted the first wall panel to be “centered” on the wall. This isn’t mandatory, but in general, finding center will help with the way the finished look appears.
Our “middle” piece was the only one that we made the least amount of custom cuts to, only using the circular saw to cut it to fit the height of the room, along with one small notch for window trim.
We cut it to height. Then, held it in place to mark the custom notch, checking level before marking. We used the oscillating tool to make the notch. Placed it back on the wall, dry fit it to see if everything was correct, checked level. It was ready to install!
We followed the process in Step 3, above.
Step 5: Prepare for Mistakes
When you do a DIY project by yourself, or even worse–with your significant other–mistakes are part of the process.
- Plenty of Coffee
- A “Good Vibes” Sweatshirt
- A Truckload of Patience
Because we had so many custom cuts, while the “standard process” is pretty straightforward, that wasn’t our reality. Our process looked more like this:
- Carry materials up and down the stairs 1,000 times
- Curse frequently
- Face palm when you’ve cut it wrong
- Roll eyes when arguing with partner
- Blow out the fuse with power tools
- Curse more
- Measure incorrectly just for the fun of it
We did all of that, but we made it through! For the record, we are still happily married, and I love this wall, but *sheesh* was it a bear. You can see the process we went through, with pictures and videos in my IG story highlights.
In all seriousness, there are some challenges you’ll face with these faux brick walls. Especially if you’re cutting around windows, doors and outlets. You can totally face them, but you have to know what you’re up against.
Some of the pieces are not manufactured level. There. I said it. Bringing it home from the store, not yet cut, just eyeballing it, you can see the piece was actually made at a slant–it’s so frustrating.
Start at the top. One way we made sure there was a uniform look was to keep the tops aligned, level and with a similar look. The rest will fall into place.
Know your pattern. When piecing this together, you have to keep in mind that some of the bricks are whole, and some are cut–meant to butt up against the other half on the next piece. Triple check it. We cut at least three pieces that fit perfectly, but the pattern was off. (Cue face palm.)
Don’t focus on perfection. I know I just said to triple check. But, after the pattern matches up, don’t be so worried about being an eighth of an inch off in your cuts around shapes or edges in regard to how the pieces fit. The “grout” (joint compound) is going to fill in those gaps if you’re doing the german schmear.
Remember the results. It’s hard–in the midst of any DIY–to focus on the endgame, but if you can muster the strength to get through the tough spots, you’ll love the results!
Time for German Schmear!
The whole reason for doing this faux brick wall was to *schmear* it! I fell in love with this technique years ago during an episode of Fixer Upper, when Chip couldn’t stop accentuating the word schmear. Love those two.
You can watch videos of this DIY on my IGTV.
Anyway. I waited for a day when both boys were in school and I thought Revi could either entertain herself with toys, or talk my ear off while I worked. She is by far the most talkative three year old I’ve ever met–you literally cannot get a word in for hours.
I used joint compound for this–I bought the big box, since the small container wouldn’t be enough, and it’s nice to have some extra sitting around for patching little spots in the house where it needs to be done. (i.e. that hole in the wall that the kids *swear* they have no idea how it got there)
Step 6: Mix Up the “Schmear”
Add joint compound into a container, large enough to fit a big drywall knife. Add water and mix until it’s the consistency of mashed potatoes. You don’t want it runny at all.
Get the White Stuff. We have the pink stuff, (joint compound), but I heard others complain about not liking it, even though it dries white, so I opted to buy the plain color.
Creamy Mashed Potatoes! I watched others mix a little water in, comparing it to creamy mashed potatoes. It went on well like that, spreading easily. For that extra “schmear” look, I added some “schmear” the next day, after the wall had dried, with joint compound that hadn’t been mixed with water. You can do it all at once, but I liked seeing the result of it dried before adding that extra effect.
Step 7: Apply to the Wall
Use the large drywall knife to apply the joint compound to the large open areas. See the next step for the edging.
*A large bowl of water and rag are good to have on hand–wipe up any joint compound that gets on wall, trim and floor right away, and it’s a much easier clean-up than after it dries.
Step 8: Fill the Gaps/Edges
Use a small putty knife to do all the edges by the wall, floor and ceiling, along with the edges where two panels joined together, smushing the joint compound into fill any gaps.
Use your finger! This process is super messy, but it will look amazing. After applying the joint compound, I wiped my finger along the grout lines…working in small sections, like 2×2 foot areas, to just add a little definition to the “grout lines” and work out the bubbles.
Step 9: Finish the Schmear & Evaluate
Once joint compound dries, it has a bit of a “yellow” cast to it. Most people that have done it will recommend whitewashing it with paint, and I am one of those people!
If you don’t mind the yellow-ish cast, you still should seal the wall, since joint compound will crack, crumble and leave dust over time. If you like the coloring and the look, you can use a clear coat. There are matte clear coats out there that will allow it to retain its flat look.
Step 10: Prepare to Paint
I created a paint solution that was 60% paint, 40% water. I’m using a paint with an eggshell sheen, a soft white from Behr called Falling Snow. (It’s the same color as the ceiling, trim and doors in our house)
Paint this solution over two foot size sections of the wall.
Use drop cloths–diluted paint splatters. Trust me.
Step 11: Dry Blotting
You don’t want to be too “harsh” with the whitewashing. I tried a few different techniques, and it worked really well to blot the fresh painted area with a dry rag.
You’ll notice that much of the red is covered in white, and it need to show a bit more color/texture/distressing…
Step 12: Wet Distressing
After waiting a few minutes, I used a wet rag to blot, wipe and distress areas so the red would show through in spots.
You’ll get into a rhythm with this, making adjustments as you work on the wall. You really can’t screw it up, since you can wipe off what you’ve done and try again. If you’re nervous, get started in a spot that might be somewhat hidden behind a piece of furniture. In my case, that was near the bottom of the wall where my bed would be.
The most yellow seems to show up in the grooves of the “grout,” but you don’t want to lose that texture, so as long as that gets whitewashed, you’ll be happy with the end result.
What Do You Think?
I’m so happy with the end result! What do you think? Are you ready to schmear your own brick wall?!? Visit me on Instagram for upcoming projects! Happy DIY-ing!