How To Paint A Stairwell

Do you have a tall stairwell that you’ve been meaning to paint but aren’t sure how to do it safely? It’s understandable if you’ve wanted to paint your hallway and stairway but are afraid of making a scaffold out of stair ladders for painting.

You may see all the scary pictures and videos of people balancing who hope to get a great finish. Luckily, there are ways how to paint high walls on stairs with and without ladders.

In our guide, you can find out how to paint high stairwell using either method and many more tips to get the best finish. By the end, you’ll know enough to tackle high stairwells and make this a worthwhile DIY project for a weekend. (Learn How Much Does 5 Gallons Of Paint Weigh)


How Do You Paint A High Stairwell Without A Ladder?

When it comes to painting the stairs in your house, here’s the best guide for painting tall walls. Remember, while it can be fun painting your stairs, it is hard work, no matter how you accomplish the task.

Here’s what you need for painting a stairwell without a ladder or scaffolding.

  • Paint (you’ll need more than you think)
  • Paint tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Drop cloths
  • Painter’s tape
  • Extension pole
  • Corner Painter
  • Edge Painter
  • Sponge


All your stairwells, railings, and floors should be covered. You’ll undoubtedly have some drips with this work, so make sure you cover everything.


Dust Walls And Corners

Dust the walls and corners. Your tall walls will contain dust and spider webs no matter how clean you keep your house.

Put a cloth on your extension pole and sweep over the walls and corners to remove dust and cobwebs.

Cut In The Ceiling

Cutting in a high wall without a ladder or scaffolding is a pain, and there is no way around it. One tip is to paint your stairs the same color as your ceiling, which is possibly painted white.

You can often find many uses a special ladder, yet there is a cheaper solution.

You can find tools such as the Shur Line Edger Pro designed to make such tasks easier, albeit on a regular wall rather than your stairs. You can, however, connect these tools to your extension pole.

  1. Load the edging tool with paint. (Disengage the wheels as you load paint)
  2. Before you start painting, remember to re-engage the edger tool’s wheels and clean them with your sponge if necessary. (Note, these tools work best on smooth walls rather than textured surfaces).
  3. Position the tool at the top of your wall, keeping pressure on the wheels. Move it back and forth to cut in.

Cut in Corners

To get to those tall corners, you can follow the same steps and tool to cut in the corners.

You can load the entire tool as more paint helps the tool work better. Although, don’t overload with too much paint as it could drip down your walls.

It makes it a bit easier to cut in the corners of your first-floor hallway, although it can take a while to get the hang of how to do it. (Read Paint Thinner Vs Mineral Spirits)

rolling your wall

Rolling Your Wall

You’ll want to be extra careful not to push the roller too high near the top of the wall. That will collide with the ceiling, leaving an unsightly smear of paint that will require you to repaint the ceiling.

There isn’t much difference between rolling a standard wall to paint a stairwell and rolling a stairwell wall.

As you work your way down or up the wall, the most important thing is to adapt your extension pole to the various heights.

Tip: It may take more than one coat as you may find it hard to maintain the right pressure when using a pole to paint.

How Do You Paint A High Stairwell?

Painting stairwells doesn’t require a lot of specialized equipment. You’ll need the following items besides your normal painting tools:

  • Extension Ladder or Multi-Ladder
  • The Extension Pole
  • Drop cloths
  • Roller Frame and Roller Pad
  • Brush for Cutting 
  • Spackle and Sanding Disc

Prepping Stairwell For Paint

When painting any room in your house, the first thing you need to do is prepare the area for painting.

Remove anything off the stairway walls and floor where you’ll be painting, then sweep or vacuum the area until it’s completely clean.

After you’ve cleaned up the area, you’ll want to set down your drop cloths. These keep paint splatter, splatter, and debris from splattering on your carpet or flooring.

Make sure you have enough drop cloths to cover the entire area without having to move them around. This avoids any drips caught in the drop cloths by pulling it or treading on it and spreading it.

Spackle Wall Imperfections

Now is the time to fix any holes, dents, or defects in your walls with spackling paste (drywall mud) so they can dry.

Sand Stairwell Walls Smooth

You’ll want to sand your walls smooth after the spackle has had time to dry.

Use something such as a 360 circular sanding disc on an extension pole. Unlike a rectangle sanding pole, these discs do not damage the walls. They also connect to extension poles, allowing you to sand your stairs to the ceiling. (Learn How To Fix Drywall Seams After Painting)

Clean The Trim

When you’re finished sanding, shop vac any sanding dust from your baseboards to ensure that your tape adheres properly.

Tape Your Baseboards

One of those procedures that can make or break a paint job is taping off your baseboards. Paint can bleed through to your baseboards, and a bad tape job might result in an uneven line between your baseboards and walls.

Cutting In The Ceilings Of A Stairwell

Cutting in stairwell ceilings is the most challenging and complex task of this painting endeavor. It entails getting to the point where you can use a paintbrush to reach the corner where the walls meet the ceiling.

It’s time to use your new paint to cut in the walls along the ceiling of your stairs now that you’ve reached the ceiling.

Brush your paint down about 6 inches from the ceiling, according to one suggestion. This provides you more room to roll out your walls, so your paint roller doesn’t unintentionally hit the ceiling.

Rolling Out Walls In Stairwell

You’re ready to roll out the paint on the walls now that you’ve cut in the ceilings with your fresh paint.

There are two ways to do this, both of which are acceptable and depend on your tastes.

You can use a multi-ladder arrangement and a 1/2 nap roller pad attached to a 2′-4′ extension pole to roll out the walls.

Although this needs a few trips up and down the ladder, it also helps keep a better control of your roller while painting.

You can use the same roller pad and frame to roll out the walls; simply connect to a 6′-12′ extension pole. With a 6′ reach, most individuals should be able to roll out a 16′ high stairwell wall with ease.

You may be surprised at how much paint you need to apply to get good coverage. Once you are done, you may also be surprised how good it feels with a fresh coat of white paint up the upstairs hall. It can brighten the dimmest of areas.

Is There A Ladder That Can Be Used On Stairs?

When painting a stairwell, you may not feel confident using an extension pole or climbing a regular ladder.

Ladders can make things easier, yet you need some thought about what type of ladder will be suitable.

Which Ladder To Choose for Stairs?

Something like a Little Giant Revolution can be a great option if you’re in the market for a new ladder and have the funds.

Ladders like this come with ratchet levelers, which let you adjust the legs to your needs. You may also use it for various other things, as this multipurpose ladder offers 33 unique configurations.

A cheaper alternative could be something such as Toprung. They are adaptable, safe, and durable when stair climbing.

If you have a ladder already, there’s no reason to purchase one just to paint your stairwell. You can find many stable ladder levels and enable you to place your regular ladder on a solid footing on your stairs.

No matter the option you choose for your painting project, ensure you follow all safety precautions to avoid accidents.

One thing to remember is, when you paint stairs using a ladder, tenure your drop cloth isn’t bunched up or can slip in your hallway as you climb your ladder.

painted stairwell

How Do You Paint Upstairs Stairway?

Here are the final tips you can follow for your stairs painting project. Using these tips with the above, you can have the best painted tall stairwell walls, and then all that’s left for your project is to save the trim to be painted last.

Step 1

  • Cutting around the ceiling, corners, and along the stairs. If you don’t use an extension, you’ll need a ladder instead of a scary scaffolding hack.
  • You can use painter’s tape for a nice clean edge, although an angled brush can be as good if you have a steady hand.
  • Paint a two-inch strip around the ceiling line and corners, including along the trim up the stairs.

 Step 2

  • Next, you’ll work on painting the stairwell walls. Again, it’s an excellent recommendation to use paintstick for the entire wall, although depending on the size of your stairs, painting at an angle can be tricky when using such a long handle.
  • One recommendation is first to paint the lower parts of the wall with a regular paint roller.

Step 3

If using a paintstick for the tall parts of the wall, such as the Paintstick EZ-Twist. You can quickly fill the tube directly from the paint can. It takes one full twist, and your paint roller is ready.

On the first fill, it can take a lot of paint to fill the roller, and you’ll be surprised by how much paint it holds and how much time it saves by not dipping a roller in your paint tray or needing to climb up dodgy scaffolding.

Step 4

Now paint your stairwell. You’ll be surprised at your speed. Paintsticks can be used as conventional rollers on walls. Twist the handle to reload the roller cover with paint.

The paintstick’s long handle allowed us to paint to the ceiling without a ladder! I was stunned! And if I can do it with a big pregnant tummy, anyone can!

Step 5

If you run out of paint, return to the can, reconnect the paintstick to the fill tube, and refill the handle. With only a few quick replenishment breaks, you can complete painting the stairwell wall. (Learn How To Remove Sticker Residue From Metal)

Even with this, once you have painted your first coat, it is advised to give your hallway a second coat for full coverage. Wrap your paint roller in plastic wrap to keep them moist between coats.

Steps 6

It was also a breeze to clean up after your job. Almost everything on the paintstick is detachable and can easily be cleaned with warm water after your painting process.

It’s surprising how much a fresh coat of paint can liven up an area.

Regardless of your painting method to do your hallway, you need to consider your safety. Stairs are at an angle, and even doing the edges or the trim, you won’t be painting on a flat surface.

In addition, it can be easy to trip over your drop cloth in your dreaded stairwell, so you want to hope you don’t do this from the top of your stairs, or you will need more paint than you expected.

How To Paint A Stairwell (1)

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