How To Paint A Stairwell

Safety and being able to reach the high parts of a stairwell are the main concerns people have painting a stairwell. This is one area where you really do need the right equipment. We’ll show you what and how.

To paint a stairwell you will need to set up safe scaffolding with ladders, ladder box, and a plank, clean and fill the ceiling and walls then paint with a sash brush to cut in. Paint the broad surfaces of the ceiling and walls with an 18” lambswool roller on a long extension pole. The key is to set up your scaffolding properly for safety and efficiency

Tools To Paint A Stairwell

Roller with a clip lock for hanging on a paint pail  with ½ “ nap Clean rags
16’ or 24 Aluminum Extender ladder (16” is usually perfect for most house stairwells)
3” to 4” roller for cut in Wooster Pelican roller tray  Sturdy old shoes with good soles
Sorbolene cream for your face Plastic Sheeting for walls Roller tray
Roller Extension pole/medium length and extra-long Pivit Ladder Box X 2
 2” firm synthetic brush Step ladder Masking tape
Glasses or goggles Painters plank Coveralls
18” lambs wool ½” nap roller Canvas Drop sheets

How To Prepare A Stairwell For Painting

Brush down cobwebs and dirt that accumulates in high stairwells more than elsewhere it seems.

Assuming that you’re going to use Pivit Ladder Boxes, an extension/extender ladder and a painter’s plank, preparing and painting the surfaces in a stairwell will be the same as for the walls and ceiling in a regular room.

See: How To Repair Drywall For Painting

Pivit Ladder Box

Use a Pivit Ladder Box; an expensive piece of kit but putting yourself at risk is a false economy. You will also be able to get up close and comfortable to the highest reaches of your stairwell, clean, fill, cut-in and roller paint easily and get the finish you want.

Pivit Ladder Box:

  • Nonslip gripping surface works well even on wooden floors.
  • Stable and sturdy – Can hold up to 500 lbs
  • Allows you to concentrate on painting rather than whether or not you’re about to fall.
  • DO NOT use with a step ladder – use only with an extender or extension ladder
  • Check before damaging the label and not being able to return the Pivit Ladder Box that your particular stairwell is not too steep for this product.


Two Pivit Ladder Boxes, a painters plank and a long extender/extension ladder will allow you to reach and paint all areas of a stairwell safely and efficiently.

Equalizer Ladder

An Equalizer extension ladder (by Werner) can be leveled perfectly for work on a stairwell.

You can also place a step ladder on the floor at the bottom of the stairs then place a painter’s plank from a step on the stairs back to a high rung on the step ladder.

IMPORTANT: Stand in one position when painting on a plank. Look down before moving to avoid stepping off the plank. Only one person at a time should be on a plank to avoid bouncing and the risk of falling.

1:4 Rule

IMPORTANT: When using an extension or extender ladder apply the 1:4 rule. The distance from the wall to the ladder at the bottom is ¼ the working height of the ladder. So if your ladder is 3’ from the wall then you can safely stand 12’ up the wall.

Your ladder should be at a 75-degree angle.

Don’t climb higher than the fourth rung from the top of the ladder.

Be sure that someone else is in the house in case you fall.

Use a step ladder on the landing.

Tip: Paint textured ceiling surfaces with a brush to avoid damage, especially previously unpainted surfaces.

How To Paint A Stairwell


Step 1.

Paint the ceiling first. See: How To Paint A Ceiling

Step 2.

Mask all doorways, smoke alarms, light fixtures, air conditioning ducts and skirting boards with painters tape. Cover bannisters and stairs with drop cloths. You will have drips and spills so cover everything carefully.

Use plastic sheets and masking tape to protect the walls when painting the ceiling. Use canvas drop sheets for everything else. Old bedsheets will allow spilt paint to seep through.

Be careful about walking on stairs covered with drop cloths because they are very likely to slip off the step as you walk on it.

Step 3.

Mix your paint carefully with a 1” stirrer.

Step 4.

Cut in with a 2” synthetic sash brush or a 4” roller with a ½” nap. Start at the top and work down the corners of the stairwell. It’s much easier than working upwards and will result in a much better finish. Use a paint/brush/roller all-in-one caddy that you can hang off your ladder. The fewer times you have to ascend and descend your scaffolding or ladder the fewer paint drips, spills and falls you’ll be risking;  it’s just so much easier too.

Step 5.

Load your roller then run over the paint tray rake to squeeze out the excess paint: This will help minimize paint drips.

Use an extension pole with the roller so that you can cover more area without having to rearrange your scaffolding.

Continue painting with a regular roller with a ½” nap on a medium or long extension pole so that you can cover more area without having to rearrange your Pivit Ladder Boxes, plank and extension ladder; you shouldn’t have to extend yourself far at all.

Paint 10’ sections rolling over the brushed cut-in the paint to ensure an even texture. Start at the top corner and roll slowly to avoid paint splatter

(Thank you Renovate world)

Step 5.

Start low and work your way up, adjusting your plank / Pivit Ladder Box/extension ladder system as you go. Always keep the plank level to avoid the system collapsing when you stand on it.


(Thank you

Related Questions

Should I hire professionals to paint my stairwell? We never advocate half measures. We advise people to get the right equipment to do any job because it’s always easier and more cost-effective in the long run. The equipment you use to paint a stairwell safely is the same equipment you would use to clean and paint under eaves, high windows, clear gutters, replace high light bulbs and more. Weigh up whether or not you can do the job safely and efficiently and get the result that you want yourself. Weight up the cost of acquiring the equipment you will need and whether or not you will use that equipment again to paint or for other things. Now weigh all that against the cost of bringing in professionals.

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