Hello friends!! This is one of my absolute FAVORITE projects we have completed in our home – our DIY faux brick fireplace! It’s a time consuming but SUPER easy and affordable way to pack a huge design punch in your home, and it adds SO much character!
Full disclosure: I did this project after watching an Instagram video tutorial from Jessica Jelly over at @the_rusticpallet. But I wanted to share my experience here with you guys, including a few tips and tricks I learned along the way that might make things easier for you! As of January 2019, I changed up the brick into a german schmear look, so I’ll describe that below for you too!
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Full disclosure 2: This is NOT a one day gig – it’s not even a weekend gig. You probably need 3 days minimum because there is a lot of drying time involve between steps.
What you’ll need:
- 3-5″ putty knife – how big is really your personal preference – I used a 4″ one
- Pre-mixed joint compound (you WILL use more than you think, and this stuff is dirt cheap – so if you are doing any kind of sizeable project, I suggest just going for the 5 gallon tub, or even two of them)
- Primer (I suggest Zinser Bulseye 123 Primer)
- Matte Polycrylic Clear top coat or a Satin Spar Urethane (non-yellowing water based) top coat if doing this project in a bathroom or kitchen
- Basic Acrylic paints in a variety of browns and greys OR traditional reds/oranges and browns for the german schmear look
- 3″ paintbrush (for primer and top coat)
- 1″ flat foam brushes and small stencil paint brushes
- 3/4″ paint brush for grout lines
- Chalk Paint in Old White or Linen White for the grout lines (we used old white because I wanted a more worn look)
- Linen White Chalk Paint to white wash
- Old tshirt/flour sack towel (you can wash these if you rinse them really well, but I just threw mine out afterwards)
- Small bucket to mix white washed paint in
- Paper plate or small paint easel
- 1/2″ – 3/4″ masking tape (I used masking tape from Target that actually measured 0.70″)
- Blue Painters Tape
- Plastic or Brown paper to cover your workspace floors
- Large 5 gallon bucket
- Ladder or step stool depending on how tall your space is (we even had to rent scaffolding to reach the top of our chimney!)
Measure out your bricks (mine are about 7.75″ by 2.75″) on your wall (or whatever else you are faux bricking). I used a level to first draw the horizontal lines with a pencil, and then used it to draw the vertical ones. This is by far the most tedious part of the process, and the least fun. But hang in there and the end result will be well worth your effort!
TIP: After you draw ONE horizontal line, use your masking tape and tape either directly above or below the line. Your next horizontal line will be measured from the EDGE farthest from your pencil mark of that tape (otherwise you have to calculate your brick measurements PLUS the tape width – not as easy)!
TIP: Your bricks absolutely do not have to be exactly the same size – mine most definitely aren’t! They actually have more variation than I even realized (some are 2.25″ wide, others 2.9″!). You won’t notice once it is all completed, though! Besides, real bricks have tons of variation, so it will only enhance that real brick look!
As you can see, I did a vertical row of bricks directly above the fireplace opening – honestly I kind of just estimated those – I knew I needed them so go a certain distance across, so I taped the ends and then estimated the bricks in between – again, it’s not an exact science!
Also be sure you tape off any outlets or switches you might have on your wall, as well as the edges and floor! I highly suggest putting down plastic tarps or large butcher paper on your floors – this will get messy!
TIP: Leave some “tails,” if you will, of masking tape at the edges (floors, ceilings, etc) so that its easier to find the ends of the tape after all the joint compound is on!
Slap on that joint compound! Literally! Use your putty knife to spread the joint compound all over your wall/space. Experiment with the putty knife in different positions to get the texture you want (smoother, bumpier, etc – personal preference here as well).
The joint compound dries fairly quickly, but you do have some time before you need to peel the tape up, so don’t feel like you have to rush to get everything done super quickly. Just move at a steady pace and you should be fine. That said, if the space you are working with is large, I would break it up into pieces. I did the left top and side first, then the front face, then the right top and side. When we tackled the entire chimney space in January 2019, I broke it up into about 8 different sections.
TIP: If you can, try to buy joint compound that starts out pink and dries white – I couldn’t find it, so I just got the normal white to white one. But, it definitely does start out kind of a grey white, and it dries to a bright pure white. So you should still know when it’s dry! DON’T start priming until your joint compound is completely dry!
TIP: Because I know how hard it is to wait out that drying time, I suggest trying to get your joint compound up at night before you sleep – this way, it can dry overnight and the waiting time is less painful! You may still have to wait a couple hours the next morning before getting started, but it goes by much quicker! The thicker your faux bricks are, the longer it will take to dry! That said, I think the thicker they are, the more realistic they look!
Peel off your tape! This part is MESSY. I peeled off the tape small sections at a time and placed it into a large 5 gallon bucket to try to keep the mess as contained as possible. This is where your tarps and/or butcher paper really come in handy! Giant globs of joint compound will inevitable fly places and you will find them later and think “hmm.. how did that get there?!”
While this step is messy, it is also one of the most REWARDING! You will finally feel like you’re making progress!
TIP: If you section off your space as I described above, just tear the tape off where the joint compound ends and the section your haven’t started yet begins.
TIP: The edges of your brick will pull up a bit more because of the tape – you can either leave these harsher edges, or smooth them out with your fingers while it is still wet and pliable – I left some, and smoothed out others that were really obvious.
Let dry! Seriously. This is it’s own step. Don’t skip it.
Now time to prime! I only did one coat on ours, but you might need to do two if you have darker walls behind your faux brick. (Only doing one coat also means it dries very quickly – about an hour or so – and you can get on with your painting!)
TIP: Before you prime you probably will have to retape (I used Blue Painter’s Tape this time) off your edges and the floor space – it’s nearly impossible to keep your edge tape in tact when you are peeling up all the other masking tape and joint compound.
Now is the fun part! Paint! Everyone has different techniques here, so don’t feel like you have to follow mine. I used straight paint (not watered down), and I used a 1″ foam brush to dry brush paint on in horizontal strokes (or vertical on my vertical bricks).
LOOK 1 – WHITE WASHED PAINT:
I used 3 colors (pictured in order below):
- A dark browny black
- A dark grey
- And a combination of the two
You can see the changes as I painted – I also only had 2 foam brushes which were completely destroyed after one color each, so I had to resort to a regular paint brush for color 3. Honestly, though, it’s really your personal preference if you like foam brushes or a regular one – I found the foam brushes put color on a little more randomly and less saturated, which I found better for this technique. But, for the german schmear look below, I think regular paint brushes worked best!
TIP: You can see in the above photo how crisp my grout lines look. That’s because I painted them with White Chalk Paint BEFORE I white washed. I do NOT suggest doing this. Inevitably there will be some transfer of your color paint to the grout lines during the white wash process. So I just ended up having to redo them all at the end.
Next, I white washed! I watered down the Rustoleum Linen White Chalk paint about 1:1 paint to water ratio in a small bucket. I then used an old t-shirt to literally just scrub it on. Try to avoid drips!
I did two rounds of white washing, the second being about 1:2 paint to water (so more watery than the first round). After this, and after everything was dry of course, I used strait chalk paint to add some pure white in a few places because I wanted a bit more obvious white – but again, you can totally skip this!
Then I did one last quick white wash over that, with a solution even MORE watery than the second round. And lastly, I repainted the grout lines.
LOOK 2 – GERMAN SCHMEAR
For this look, I mixed together (randomly each time) red, orange, brown, black, and sometimes a hint of white.
I would then paint bricks randomly throughout the space so that the colors varied. This gives everything a more natural and realistic appearance.
Paint your grout lines with a small paint brush once all your bricks are dry. I used old white chalk paint because I wanted the brick to look more aged and worn.
Once that’s dry, it’s time to smear joint compound on top of your faux bricks! Just as your created your bricks with the putty knife and joint compound, repeat a similar process and “schmear” it on your bricks. The more you add, the whiter the bricks will be. If you want a lot of red showing through, add less.
Once you have schmeared to your liking, allow the new layer of joint compound to dry thoroughly – I suggest at least 24 hours! And lastly, you may need to touch up your grout lines!
And now that you’ve painted your brick in whatever way you like and allowed to dry, let’s finish up the project!
Let dry for awhile, and THEN paint your grout lines with your Linen White chalk paint. It doesn’t need to be super clean, especially if you white washed – you won’t notice a bit of white here and there that might get on the edges of your bricks. Here I used a brush that was 3/4″ – the width of my grout lines – this made it super easy and quick!
Let dry – again, I suggest overnight to really allow for a full dry here!
Use Polycrylic (finish of your choice) and a 3″ paint brush to paint on your top coat. If you’ve done your faux brick in the bathroom, like I did for our Spring 2019 One Room Challenge, you’ll need to use a more waterproof sealer. I suggest a water based non-yellowing Spar Eurethane. You also need to be very aware of drips with this, because it is VERY liquidy! The container suggests 3 coats as ideal, but I only did 2 and I feel like ours has held up wonderfully – you can always touch up as needed in the future if your brick gets a few scuffs or scrapes!
—– DRUM ROLL, PLEASE —–
And here is the final product, both with the whitewashed look and the german schmear!
You can also go check out my post on waxing a reclaimed wood mantel if you are curious to see how I did made our gorgeous mantel POP against the brick!!
So what do you think friends, is this something you would try? I am thrilled with how BOTH versions turned out, despite the time consuming nature of this project. But your time is definitely worth the incredible statement this project makes in the end! Enjoy!