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Brick Makeover: Limewash vs. Whitewash vs. German Smear

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Brick homes are the epitome of class and style, with many found throughout the Sydney area. Their timeless appeal, sophisticated look and durable, yet eco-friendly design make brick the ideal exterior choice - and perhaps a big draw for many prospective home buyers.

While not as involved as wooden exteriors, bricked surfaces still need a level of detail and maintenance to ensure the finish isn't left raggedy, chipped, and mouldy! Just like any exposed materials, bricks need a protective layer to boost curbside appeal. However, painting bricks is an expensive undertaking. The main drawback is that bricks are porous materials, meaning that trapped dirt and moisture can quickly ruin the job without a thorough clean and proper maintenance. Fortunately, there are many brick finishing options as an alternative to painting, all of which are affordable, natural and low-maintenance. Today we'll discuss and compare three top finishes- Limewash, Whitewash and the German Smear. Let's get right into it!

Differences Between 3 Major Brick Makeover Techniques

Limewash

Limewash is one of the oldest brick finishing techniques used to protect the material and add decorative textures. This inexpensive, environment-friendly limewash formula is a great option for looking for a vintage exterior with a matte finish.

Advantages:

  • Eco-friendly: The limewash technique is a natural, mineral-based solution directly applied to brickwork or masonry. Limewashing is 100% free of artificial solvents and environmentally safe.
  • Adds Texture: With limewash formula, you can give your bricks texture and a matte finish.
  • Personalised Finish: Limewash can be made and mixed right at home with a simple DIY process.
  • Low-Maintenance: Limewash is also considered a low maintenance brick makeover solution. Unlike artificial paints, Limewash will not need to be removed and only retouched every five to seven years.
  • Most Suitable for Masonry Surfaces: Old buildings with masonry surfaces like stone, concrete, and brick are perfect fits for lime wash coating.
  • Antibacterial: Hydrated lime mixture is highly acidic, preventing bacteria, fungus and other harmful organisms (such as bugs) from growing on the surface.
  • Resistant to Peeling and Chipping: Unlike modern paints, limewash solution doesn't blister, chip or peel; it soaks and sticks into the applied surfaces.

Disadvantages:

  • Batch Inconsistencies: One of the very few disadvantages of Limewash is, it might be challenging to get batches of the Limewash with the same stains; hence we suggest mixing the solution in large quantities.
  • Slow-Drying Process: Limewashing coats take a considerable amount of time to dry.
  • Erosion: Limewashing will erode over time, meaning it will need to be retouched every five to seven years.
  • Not Applicable for Painted Brick: Since Limewash penetrates the brick, it can't do so if the surface has already been painted.

Whitewash


While Limewash is a form of Whitewash and used synonymously, the main difference is the active ingredients and if the wash penetrates the bricks. We'll be referring to a half and half mix of water and paint/latex to compare. Sitting on top of the bricks, this provides a bright and smooth finish that can reinvigorate homes.

Advantage:

  • Brightens Dark-Shabby Surfaces: The Whitewash formula will provide full coverage when coating internal and external surfaces. In addition, Whitewash will thoroughly remove the red brick tones for those looking to match fireplaces to the existing walls or liven up their curbs.
  • Smoother Finish: Unlike Limewash, the whitewash formula provides a smoother surface finish.
  • Long-Lasting: Unlike paint, which requires frequent maintenance, Whitewash is low maintenance and lasts for years.
  • Applicable for Painted Bricks: Unlike Limewash, the Whitewash formula can easily be applied on painted bricks.
  • Colour Varieties: The wash's colour will depend on the paint used, giving more choice and variety when applying the wash.
  • Inexpensive: Paint is cheaper to buy than Limewash; as well you can also use existing surface paint when mixing at home.

Disadvantage:

  • Coverage: As the solution sits on top of the bricks, it can be hard to get uniform coverage without a few coats.
  • Consistency: Ensuring the wash is mixed correctly can be tricky, with the paint floating to the bottom. Skipping this step can result in your wash can appearing lighter than intended.
  • Permanent: Once you start this process, it can't be power washed off if you're unsatisfied with the results.

German Smear

German Smear is a timeless makeover style applied to the mortar rather than the brick itself. It's an excellent choice for homeowners looking to renovate their home and add a touch of European sophistication. The technique gets its name from old German heritage walls with their irregular texture and glued together appearance.

The German Smear was initially termed "German Schmear", where schmear is synonymous with spread.

Advantage:

  • Easy Maintenance: One of the best characteristics of a German smear finish is as it uses cement; once applied, it's a permanent change, meaning no upkeep needed and no erosion from brick cleaning products.
  • Adds Texture: German Smear is an excellent choice to add textures onto the wall as it sits on top of the brick.
  • Coverage Control: With German Smear, you can easily control how much coverage the bricks need. It can provide fully concealed coverage and brick exposed, low coverage with thin mortar layers.
  • Rustic Appearance: German smear finishing gives bricks a unique, contemporary yet rustic look.
  • Different Smearing Styles: Distressed, rustic house curb goes perfectly with Sydney's architectural style. With the help of a professional residential painting service, many different smearing types can be created.

Disadvantage:

  • Permanent: Once you commit to this look, there's no changing your mind as the cement will provide permanent coverage.
  • Not Applicable for Painted Brick: Since mortar cannot adhere to painted bricks or surfaces, German Smear is not the right choice for already painted bricks.
  • Labour-Intensive Process: German schmear is a long, exhaustive process requiring substantial time, energy, and professional assistance.

Brick Makeover: Which One is Right for Your Home?


Once you decide to stain, wash or paint your bricks, there's sometimes no going back, especially when using Whitewashing or German Smear techniques. That's why it's important to understand the maintenance, costs and overall finished result before settling on a solution. In addition, Limewash, Whitewash and German Smear- all have unique features that can complement your brick house differently.

Limewash:

Limewash is an excellent alternative to painting, but it erodes over time and requires a recoat. Limewash can be an ideal choice for a surface, with its environment-friendly ingredients, natural tones and ability to remove through power-washing. Overall we'd recommend this formula for a vintage house exterior look on fresh bricks.

Whitewash:

Whitewashing with paint provides a brighter and smoother finish with a range of colour options than a Limewash formula. It can also work on surfaces that have already been painted, but the wash is a permanent finish. Whitewashing for an interior surface such as fireplaces where you may have already purchased the paint for the walls is often a DIY project that can be done within an afternoon.

German Smear:

Use the German Smear to create a sense of cottage style living with its extraordinary texture, finish. Even though traditionally, German Smear uses white mortar over red brick, you can experiment with different mortar tints and brick colours. We'd suggest hiring a professional masonry contractor or Dulux accredited residential painters for the best results as the process is quite labour intensive and a permanent finish.


Here we have it, the top three painting alternative for your brick. Still unsure about what finish best suits you? Then why not give Sydney's very own Premier Painting Company a call, as our team of dedicated, Dulux accredited painters can offer you real advice and answer any questions.
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