I need to paint the walls and ceiling in this staircase. The ceiling is flat, and does not slope down with the stairs. That means that the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs is very high.

The walls and ceiling will be a different colour, so I need to be able to use a paintbrush to "cut in" under the coving.

How do I safely paint this?

I am in the UK (in case anyone wants to recommend a tool hire company).

P.S. The test colours on the wall are not the colours I'm using.

Bottom of stairs

Looking up stairs

Looking down stairs


There are three ways:

1) Lean a ladder against the lower wall, put boards connecting it with an upper stair, and put a ladder on top of that.

2) Use a baker scaffold. Baker scaffolds can be set up with varying height legs. Then put a ladder on the baker scaffold. This is my recommended solution. enter image description here 3) Use a 2 wheel edging paint pad that will allow you to cut-in using a pole. http://www.decoratingdirect.co.uk/viewprod/f/FDDEDGPD/

If you are really careful, this might even look ok.

  • That scaffold looks like the best way (to me). Half the battle in DIY is knowing what the tools are called (or that they exist!), so armed with my new knowledge I will see what I can hire. Thank you.
    – James
    Jul 6 '14 at 18:02

It may make some cringe, and it is not for the faint of heart, but I would use an extension ladder of the proper height, placed on the stairs so the angle is good for climbing, one of these for either end of the long run of the stair, and place a walk board, a 2X10 or 2X12 (in the US), that is the main work surface. Access to it would be by another item cobbled together a short step ladder and plank on the top level.

I have actually done this a few times and survived

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • When I was editing the pics I did not get the lines all the way to the edge. You will need some imagination to see that the incomplete lines are to go to the ladder on the other side that I drew in the other pic. Also I missed the word safely mentioned a few times in the OP, but working in a stairwell, the word safety is hard to come by. Unless you get real elaborate.
    – Jack
    Jul 5 '14 at 17:30
  • Just because there are no handrails and generously wide places to stand does not make it inherently unsafe. Safety is a product of safety equipment, training, and mindset. It is hard to make up for lack of one with more of the others. For example, a climbing harness connected to something upstairs can break the fall, but the best solution would be to remain well balanced at all times over the plank. Since this is done only for a few hours and the dangers are clearly apparent, it should be adequate for most unimpaired people.
    – wallyk
    Jul 5 '14 at 18:43
  • Last company I worked for had a safety department, it made me really aware of how something could be done safely. Just as you mention, something, being short term, as well as the other items you mention, it seems like, actually a reasonable way to go about it. As mentioned, I have done this before, in my own stair well, twice to paint, once to add crown, and will be doing it again soon in another home to run crown. It works, yes, move intentionally and mindful of every move and a body will get it done.
    – Jack
    Jul 5 '14 at 20:26
  • Thanks for taking the time to answer, and your annotation really made me laugh. However, I'm not sure I'm brave enough (desperate enough?) to try this idea!
    – James
    Jul 6 '14 at 18:01

Painting is easy; scaffold is for when you actually have to get up there and do something like plaster or wiring. Those tiny diameter paint rollers do wonders in the corners (slightly bend/angle the roller's handle). Also, so do brushes taped to a pole: (polesandmore.com, notice some of these are triple length)

enter image description here


I hate when people shill their products/services as answers to forum questions... But I'm going to do it anyway.

Take a look at the Ladder-Aide (www.ladder-aide.com). It lets you set up a regular extension ladder on stairs, so you can paint the walls:

Using a regular extension ladder on stairs with Ladder-Aide

We created it to address this need, which is why I feel OK posting it here. We read lots of painters' blogs and browsed lots of forums. There were a couple of really great DIY solutions that came up often (makeshift scaffolding with 2 ladders and a walkboard, and a custom-built ladder platform). But we figured there was a need for an easy, adjustable product. I hope it helps someone out there.

  • Why don't you guys ship internationally? We have nothing like this in the UK. :-(
    – Jez
    May 30 '17 at 8:03
  • Hey Jez. We don't have a distributor in the UK, unfortunately. We can ship internationally, but the freight charges are usually around $100 USD extra. Wish I had a better answer for you. May 31 '17 at 12:35

I have used many different ladders and equipment to work on the staircase, but one thing I must say, nothing works better than an adjustable ladder. Yeah, you can use a leveler but that too has its limitations and you cannot fully adjust ladder legs on stairs. I always felt some kind of instability while using a leveler.

Recently I used an adjustable ladder from Little Giant to paint and decorate my staircase and it went perfectly fine. I am satisfied with the adjustability and features of that ladder. There are many adjustable ladders available on market. Here is a great list of adjustable ladders I found doing a simple google search.

But do consider your height requirements for the ladder. Not all ladders are the same and You must know what you need before buying yourself a ladder.

  • 1
    Not sure if spam or legit. Please disclose if you have any association with the manufacturer or the website listed.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 8 '21 at 12:27

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