How To Paint Stairwell – With/Without a Ladder (How-to guide)

If you have a stairwell in your home, you might be thinking of giving it a makeover by painting it in a different color. Perhaps to match the style of the house a bit better, for a change of aesthetic, or maybe because you’ve already painted the rest of the house and it’s just the stairwell left to do.

For a lot of people, painting the stairwell is a daunting task to avoid, and it is also where many do-it-yourself fans draw the line, thinking that it’s best to call a professional. And sure, a professional will be able to do the job better and more safely. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t do it!

In fact, you can paint a stairwell yourself, without much of a problem, and whether you have a ladder or not. Yup, we said it. You just have to follow the right steps and have the right tools, and you’ll see that it isn’t that scary a job after all.

Let’s get right into it, and we’ll explain exactly how you can do it.

Why is painting a stairwell harder?

Before we start with the step-by-step guides on how to paint your stairwell, you might be wondering what we meant when we said that a lot of people find painting a stairwell hard. Why would it be harder?

Well, more than harder, we’d say that it’s more challenging. There are a few different reasons for this, here are the main ones to consider:

  • Stairwells aren’t an even surface, so it’s not as easy as sliding a large brush side to side, there are many surfaces to consider and many levels.
  • Stairwells contain a lot of angles that are hard to reach, as well as many corners and crevices that are easy to accidentally forget
  • As a general rule, stairwells feature some pretty high walls that can be hard to reach, and you will usually need a ladder or special tools

These are all complications, but with the right amount of patience and effort, and the right tools, you can overcome the obstacles and get the stairwell painted to an amazing and professional finish. Let’s move on to how exactly you can do that.

How to paint a stairwell with or without a ladder:

The easiest way to paint a stairwell is with the use of a ladder to help you when it comes to the higher walls that are tricky to reach. However, you can also paint without using a ladder, it just makes the process slower and harder.

Nevertheless, the use or non-use of a ladder only really comes into play when we get to the high walls and ceiling of a stairwell. Let’s go step by step.

Preparing the stairwell for painting:

  1. Start by removing all furniture and items from the stairwell and surrounding area. You need it to be cleared and prepped for the painting job.
  1. Protect yourself and the surrounding area. Make sure you are wearing old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and paint on and lay plenty of drop cloths on the floor and surrounding area so that floors are protected from possible paint stains.
  1. Correct any imperfections in the stairwell surfaces, such as filling in holes or cracks with the right product and allowing it to dry with plenty of time.
  1. Sand down the surfaces you are going to paint so that all the walls are even and smooth.
  1. Clean the stairwell thoroughly. Remove all dirt, debris, and leftover dust from the sanding process. It’s important that all the walls are clean before you start painting, or else imperfections will appear in the end result.
  1. Use masking tape to tape the borders and edges of the areas you are going to paint, to avoid the paint from spilling over to a surface you don’t want to be painted.

Painting the stairwell:

If you want an idea of what you will need, here are the main materials you should have:

  • A ladder or extension pole
  • Drop cloths
  • A roller frame and roller pad
  • A cutting brush
  • The paint of your choosing

Now, let’s get into the steps you need to follow to paint a stairwell, with or without a ladder:

1. Cutting in the ceiling:

You can do this in two different ways, with or without a ladder. Let’s look at both options:

With a ladder:

This is the best and easiest way to paint the higher part of the stairwell, and it’s definitely the recommended course of action. However, not all ladders will be suitable for this, as the stairs are an uneven surface that might make using a ladder a bit too risky.

We recommend using a multi-use telescoping ladder, as they can be set up in different ways and can compensate for the uneven surface they are set up on.

However, it is very important that you are extra careful when using a ladder on a stairwell, and that you take as much time as needed to 100% guarantee that it has been set up safely and that it is stable and won’t buckle or move as you step upon it. Falling off a ladder is always dangerous, but even more so while on a stairwell!

Without a ladder:

Without a ladder, the job is a lot harder and the process a lot slower, but it is still possible. You will need an extension pole upon which you attach a suitable brush, and then you hold that up to indirectly reach the high walls and ceiling. It might make your shoulder hurt after a while, and it means you can’t be precise while painting, but it will slowly get the job done.

2. Painting the walls:

This is pretty easy and standard, use the roller to paint the wall surface and apply as many layers as needed.

For the higher parts of the wall, you can use the ladder, or opt for the extension pole.

3. Finishing touches:

Once everything has been painted, go over it all to double-check for imperfections or mistakes. Make sure everything is fully done before putting away the entire setup.

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