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Realistic DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster Treatment (Distressed Exposed Brick Walls on a Budget!)

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Intro by Robin Steps by Ed

Our DIY faux brick walls look so real! They give our basement pub the exact distressed exposed brick look we were going for – and was really cheap to achieve.

They look like they’ve been there for decades and give exactly the rustic aged charm and character we were looking for in our basement wet bar area.

But do you remember our plan for our basement pub and hobby room?

This crumbling, aged plaster brick wall treatment was not what we planned. Originally we were going to do a real brick wall.

So why the change?

DIY faux brick and plaster wall treatment looks real

Well, it’s the same answer to lots of questions about things in 2020. A little thing called a global pandemic.

With staying a home being mandatory for safety we were not willing to risk driving the hours necessary to pick up the brick tile we found a great deal on. And we weren’t willing to pay the price of the only ones we could get locally.

We were stuck.

We considered using the same faux brick method we did in our basement Guest Room Library – you can see how to make brick paneling look real in that room. We also did the same treatment on a faux pillar that’s part of our DIY media cabinet.

But I had my heart set on the Chicago brick red colour. I wanted that character and warmth in this room.

I poked around on Pinterest looking for a different kind of wall treatment that would work. It didn’t look promising, unitl I stumbled upon these…

Faux Brick Wall Inspiration Photos:

Note: both of these happen to be wallpaper murals if that’s more your speed – just know that they won’t have the physical texture of our method.

Brick? Check! Warmth? Check! Character? Check!

I showed these photos to Ed and he said, “I’ve got ideas. Leave it with me. I’m going to try something. If you hate it we can take it down.”

He scurried off and happily worked away in the basement. And I fretted constantly hoping I would love it and not need to break his will to DIY.

I didn’t love it…at first. I stared at it for days and it didn’t sit right for me. I didn’t know what to say to him.

But then we figured out what exactly the problem was and how to make the panels of fake brick look real – it was so simple! (Hint: it’s the grout lines.) And you’ll see that in Step 7 below. So without further ado we present to you our DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster!

Faux brick and plaster wall treatment basement bar
This brick wall treatment is the perfect backdrop for our home brewery’s custom bar sign!

This DIY Faux Brick Wall Treatment was cheap! Here’s the cost:

This project was $20 all in for us. We used scrap materials – so we really just bought drywall compound.

If you needed to buy the supplies, here are the approximate costs:

  • Off cut pieces from a faux brick panel (maybe $30 worth if you had to buy material)
  • Mortar mix – 1 bag of whatever is cheap and will let you feather a thin edge ($7)
  • Drywall compound (lots) $20
  • Other material to fill in around brick (optional, but saves on the drywall mudding) ($15-20)
  • Misc. nails, construction adhesive ($10)

Total: $87 for a large faux brick accent wall

DIY Faux brick and plaster wall treatment how to

DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster Treatment

Materials:

DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 11
Get a big box of compound. You will appreciate the freedom to cover as much as your heart desires and it is, like, $20 a box.

DIY Faux Brick Wall How to Steps:

Step 1: Arrange Your Faux Brick Panel Pieces

DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 1
Work from an image or images that reflect what you want your wall to look like.

I had a few different inspiration looks. I really liked the look of a brick wall that had layers of cement, mortar or plaster built up and chipping off in various degrees.

Hang up your brick panel pieces in haphazard, asymmetrical ways using construction adhesive and nails or screws in areas (like edges) that will get covered in plaster.

Step 2: Fill in Gaps with MDF Filler Pieces

DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 3
I was working with a limited selection of material, but if I were to do this again, this is the step I would add more MDF filler pieces.

Ideally, fill in all the areas around your brick panel with material to bring the depth up even (or close) to the panel edge.

Step 3: Tape Your Seams

DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 2
Tape all the seams with drywall joint mesh or tape.

I did not have enough extra material, so I ended up building things up with lots of extra drywall compound. This still works, but the dry times and extra labour are killer.

Step 4: Cover Gaps with Skim Coat Cement

DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 4
Mix your skim coat cement and apply it to edges.

This is the first layer of realism, because few sane people randomly smear concrete on perfectly good walls.

When people see and touch the cement, it will make the bricks and everything else even more convincing.
DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 5
Work it around and make the perfectly square brick panels look oblong and organic.
DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 8
It was around this time that I realized that it might be good to build up the layers around the brick so I wouldn’t need to do it all with drywall compound.

You can see my feeble attempt to add some MDF sheets we had laying around to some spots. Like I said above, if you can go out and get some cheap material, do so.

It will save hours of drywall fill, wait, repeat, building everything up.

Step 5: Apply Drywall Compound Around Brick Paneling

DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 10
Now is the stage where family members might start to stop thinking you’re ruining the walls! Might.

Apply drywall compound over the cement, pulling it carefully to leave an edge near the brick to make it look like some has chipped off.

If you hate drywalling – Good News! – you actually need to be bad at normal drywall to do a good job at this. You don’t want everything smooth and even. And you want cracks and uncovered spots.

Keep your inspiration photo handy and look at it frequently. You can always add more, but it is pretty tough to take some off (impossible).

Step 6: Smooth and blend to the Rest of the Walls.

DIY Faux Brick Wall with Plaster 12
I used a wet sponge to even out some spots where I didn’t need perfect smoothness, and sanded a bit in others where I did.

Things will be looking pretty finished and real by now, so go with your heart.

Step 7: THE KEY of How to Make Fake Brick Look Real

DIY Faux Brick Wall how to make grout look real
Final Step. It’s essential to getting realistic-looking faux brick – don’t skip it!

Robin finally figured it out: The one really fake-looking aspect of our bricks is the mortar joints.

Use this method to get an authentic brick look that’s about a 1000% better. Approximately.

It looks like a long and tedious process, but it actually goes really quickly when you get the hang of it and it is totally worth it.

1) Mix a small batch of the skim coat mortar.

2) Put it into a sturdy ziplock or cake decorating bag.

3) ‘Pipe’ the joints with a small amount of real mortar.

4) Smooth it with your finger.

And Your DIY Faux Brick Wall is done – and it looks so real!

DIY Faux Brick Wall distressed exposed plaster
The bricks look awesome in low light that highlights the crevices and nicks.
DIY Faux Brick with Plaster Basement Bar 2
Our DIY faux brick wall is the perfect complement to our basement custom wet bar! (It looks less real in this photo because of the extra straight-on lighting to show the other elements of the room. In normal use lighting conditions it looks realistic as heck.)

It plays so nicely with this sexy affordable faucet and our rustic DIY floating shelf with antler brackets.
cozy rustic diy basement wet bar projects
Our basement wet bar projects have turned out so cool and fun – we can’t wait to be able to finally host a party here!

You can find all of our Basement Wet Bar projects here:

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Heidi

Monday 18th of April 2022

Did you seal the whole wall after you were done? Has it flaked off at all?

frugalfamilytimes

Friday 22nd of April 2022

Hi Heidi. Nothing has flaked off at all! No, we didn't seal it. We may still. If we do we will use this product: https://amzn.to/3v4yk2B

Giselle

Tuesday 24th of November 2020

I have seen others use the brick paneling and do similar treatments but to me they still looked fake. Yours is the first where I was really impressed to the point of considering where I could do this in my own house. This is big because I have a huge brick fireplace I’d love to rip out! I think it’s the mortar on the joints that makes all the difference! Genius! I LOVE your bar area and the name of your brewery is awesome!

frugalfamilytimes

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

Oh, Giselle! Thanks so so much for your very kind comment! :)

Elpitha

Monday 23rd of November 2020

Love it!! Very clever.

frugalfamilytimes

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

Thanks, Elpitha! We love it too! :)

Simone Mcloughlin

Friday 20th of November 2020

why did you do the mortar after you did the other steps? wouldn't it have been better to do it before you put all the other applications on? i think the wall looks great! I'm doing a faux wall in our lower level bathroom. i think I'll do this method. but if you could answer that question, i'd appreciate it! thank you! well done!

frugalfamilytimes

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

Hi Simone! You're right - it would be best to do the mortar step first. We didn't because of the way this project evolved - we didn't realize how much the grout dragged the whole visual down. :)