I’m always looking for ways to add more character to our newer build. As many of you know we designed and built our home back in 2013, and although we put a lot of thought into the finishes and details, we couldn’t have it all. We were newly married and fresh out of college so had to stick to a budget.
I’ve always loved the details that are in older homes but adding that to a new build can be very costly. Luckily there are items we can add to our house slowly as time and money allows to make it exactly what we want. I’m a firm believer in loving the home you are in and if that means making changes to it that you can afford and that make you happy, I’m all for it!
One spot in our home that I felt needed some help was our upstairs fireplace. When we were building I was really into a more modern aesthetic, with a clean and simple design. We went with a linear fireplace and opted to go without a mantle or surround. Basically the fireplace was just floating in the corner of our living room. I lived with it for a few months but felt like it was missing something.
We ended up adding a mantle that we stained to match our island and banister. That helped me like it more but I always wished that I had centered the fireplace on the opposite wall vs placing it in the corner. This was not something that I was going to be able to change at this point so I wanted to do something to it that made it more interesting and stand out rather than just an after thought tucked away in the corner of our living-room. I toyed with the idea of tiling around it, painting that wall a different color, or adding a fireplace surround but none of those seemed fitting. Finally I settled on 2 options that I felt worked well for the whole entire space and would work with what I was planning for the rest of the living/dining area.
Option 1: adding a whitewashed or German Smeared brick from floor to ceiling
Option 2: adding white shiplap from floor to ceiling.
I really loved the look of both options but the brick ended up winning out. The main reason was the texture it added and how it would work with the future of the living room space. Our next project will be adding wainscoting to the entire upstairs and I felt that the brick paired with that nicely. Now that we decided on installing brick, we had to pick one out to apply. At first I thought that we would buy thin bricks to apply to the wall like tile but as I was browsing The Home Depot’s website I found these faux brick panels. I was skeptical at first, I mean how can this look or feel like real brick? So we decided to go to Home Depot and check them out for ourselves. Unfortunately the location 5 min away did not carry it so we had to drive 30 min out of our way with 2 kids at 8 pm. Lots of bribing happened on this trip. Anyways, they had several color and “stone” options to choose from. I knew I wanted a standard brick shape and the color didn’t matter much to me because I was planning on covering the majority of it up. The nice thing about them was that they were large panels, 48″x96″ and 1/4 ” thick, and they were pretty affordable at $25 per sheet. Due to the size of the wall we were covering, we only needed 3 sheets. We purchased 4 just in case we made some poor cuts or the bricks didn’t line up correctly, knowing we could return any unused panels. The employee recommended that we buy some liquid nails to apply to the wall. We also planned on nailing the panels into the studs but liked the idea of a little extra security. The next morning we were ready to get started. First we had to remove the mirror and the mantle, I wiped down the wall with a damp microfiber cloth, and we called in the babysitter, aka grandma. Brandon’s dad came over to help also which was a lifesaver.
Tools and Supplies Used
2 tubes of liquid nails
1 and 1/4″ brad nails
nail gun and air compressor
drill w/ spade bit (needed to drill a circular hole for our gas line shut off)
white latex paint
small paint brushes
We laid out a couple of the panels to decide the best way to cut them so the brick pattern would look seamless. Next we measured where to cut our first panel. On this piece we had to account for the fireplace and the gas shut off so would have to cut out a circular hole to allow access to our gas valve. For this we used a drill with a spade bit to make a nice clean circle. Once we had our piece cut we set it on the wall to make sure all of the cuts were accurate and that it would fit.
We also had some corner baseboard detail that we needed to account for. As you can see in the image above, we needed to make small L-shaped cuts to the bottom corners of the panels to fit the raised corner trim pieces. We then decided to cut the next few panels before we secured this first piece. We did this in case we needed to adjust it to make the others fit since walls are never perfectly level. Now that we had the next few panels cut we were ready to apply them to the wall.
We applied the liquid nails directly onto the drywall, then placed the panel on top. We used our nail gun to nail the panels to the studs (we used a stud finder and marked our studs ahead of time) for extra security. Once we had all of the panels cut and attached to the wall, it was time to caulk all of the seams.
We had both vertical and horizontal seams. The horizontal seams were easier to mask since it followed the grout line but some of the vertical seams intersected bricks so would need to be scraped off the surface once the caulking dried.
The next morning I decided to paint all of the grout white. It was a dingy grey and I was afraid that it would be harder to mask once I applied the mortar to the surface of the brick. I just took a small paintbrush and painted line by line not being to cautious of the brick since I wanted a little paint to get on that as well. After painting a small section I took a damp cloth and wiped some of the excess paint that got on the brick. Not to remove it completely but to spread it on the bricks a bit. This created a white haze on the surface of the deep red brick and made it look a little white washed.
I lived with this for a few days just to make sure I didn’t want to stop here and leave it as is. Just as I thought, I didn’t want to stop at this step! I wanted less of the red to show through and I also wanted to add more texture to it. I really love the look of a German smear and had everything on hand to create this look so I went for it. I used some left over pre-mixed mortar that we had from when we applied our basement tile last year.
I decided to do a test patch first on a scrap panel just to see how the stuff spread. I wanted to make sure it would work before I applied it directly to the actual wall.
Once I decided I was comfortable enough with the application, I scooped some mortar onto my spatula and started applying it to the brick somewhat haphazardly. It was pretty easy to apply and I was able to control how thick or thin of coverage I wanted on each brick. I chose to go heavier in some areas and lighter in others. I wanted some of the brick to still show through and figured if I didn’t like a specific spot I could always go back in and add more mortar as needed. I did 1-2 sq ft sections at a time. Then I went back and cleaned out the grout with my finger and smoothed the grout lines out to accentuate them. In the above photo (test patch) I did not go back and smooth out the grout. I decided I liked the look of it better when I did.
Now that I had all of the mortar applied I had to wait for it to dry to make sure I was satisfied with the application.
Now we just have to reinstall the mantle and decorate! A part of me wants to sand down the mantle and re-stain it a lighter shade, but I think for now we will leave it as is and see how we like it. We can always take it down and change the stain in the future.
We absolutely love how it turned out! It changed the entire look of the space, adding texture, warmth and interest.
How Long it Took
We worked on this project over a 4 day period for a few hours a day when we could squeeze it in. Applying the panels took the longest amount of time. We probably spent 6-7 hours doing this. We wanted to make sure everything was straight and we were very strategic with our seam placement. We also wanted to avoid having the vertical seams going down the whole wall in the same spot so we staggered them. This way you wouldn’t see a drastic line all the way down the wall. We also wanted to avoid wasting as much as possible so measured, measured, and measured again. The caulking of the joints probably took us 1 hour. Painting the grout took about 4 hours and applying the mortar took me around 4 hours. So 16 total hours of work! not too bad especially for something that looks like it was laid brick by brick!
How Much it Cost
Since we do so much around the house we have acquired many tools and supplies over the last 6 years of home ownership. We had most of our supplies on hand already and only had to purchase a few items to complete this project.
Brick panels- $25 each x3
Liquid Nails- $3 each x2
Brad Nails- $4
So our total cost for this project was around $90 dollars. I love that we are able to do things in our home that make a big impact on the look without making one on our wallets.