Skip to content
Established 1997

How to Paint Above Stairs: Safe DIY Methods

Indoor wall painting equipment and stairs

When you want to revamp your staircase, one of the easiest ways to achieve this is by painting the wall that runs beside it. Compared with undergoing costly renovation work or disruptive installations, painting your staircase wall is a far simpler way to refresh the area. But how exactly do you go about painting above your stairs?

It does present a unique challenge. It can be hard to get the right footing and calculate exactly how to go about painting the area above stairs, especially when the walls and ceiling are high above you.

We’ve compiled this helpful guide on how to paint above your stairs, so you can safely and expertly redecorate this area without having to hire someone. Whether you need to know how to paint the ceiling above your stairs or how to paint tall walls above stairs, we’ve got you covered.

General Pointers: How to Prepare Painting Above Stairs

There are a few things to prepare before you use whichever method you choose to paint above your stairs:

Ensure the Walls and Ceiling Are Dust-Free

Before you begin painting, you need to make sure the walls are completely free of dirt and dust in order to provide a smooth surface for the paint. Doing this means your application will have a seamless finish. To do this, use a cloth attached to a broom or extension pole to remove any dust and cobwebs. Make sure to wear a dust mask.

Protect Your Stairs and Balustrade

To stop paint from splashing or dripping onto surfaces it shouldn’t, make sure you get appropriate coverings. Cover stair bannisters and spindles with drop cloths or use plastic sheeting and painter’s tape. 

Test the Paint Before You Commit

Often you’ll find that paint can look a little different when it’s actually on your walls than it does on the can. Test the colour on an area of your wall before you commit to a full coat of paint.

Don’t Paint Alone

When you’re using a ladder on your stairs, you need to be very careful. Don’t paint in the house alone in case you fall. The best practice is to have someone there at all times, especially to foot the ladder if you’re painting high walls.

How to Paint High Walls Above Stairs & How to Paint High Ceilings Above Stairs

Rear view of a male painter drawing a wall with paint roller and a separate tank from a large empty space with wooden stairs.

If you have very tall walls, it can be difficult to execute a proper paint job. It’s important to do it safely. Here is our recommended method for how to paint a high hallway above stairs:

Get an Extension Ladder

A traditional ladder won’t do for this. An extension ladder, also called a combination ladder, is your greatest friend when trying to paint high walls and high ceilings. Parts of it can be folded down or into the ladder to give shorter or longer extensions on certain sides, depending on your needs. You can find an extension ladder at dedicated trade shops or online retailers.

The ladder will help you to paint the ceiling and corners of the staircase wall. You can use it in three ways to achieve this:

  • Extend it fully into a traditional ladder with its base at the bottom of the stairs and its top resting against the wall that you see while you’re walking down the stairs, called the headwall. In this position, paint as far as you can reach but be careful not to overreach.
  • You can then form a 90-degree angle with the ladder by folding the top part. Move the bottom of the ladder a little further up the stairs, making sure it isn’t at too steep an angle, and place the top part of the ladder against the headwall. The effect of this is to allow you to paint further along the ceiling line, away from the headwall.
  • Finally, you can fold your ladder so that one side is long and the other is shortened. Place the shorter end at the top of your stairs on the landing with the longer part around halfway up your stairs. Carefully stand on top of the frame you’ve created to carry on painting the ceiling line.

Once you’ve used the ladder for painting the ceiling and wall corners, you can use an extended paint roller for the rest of the staircase wall. 

How to Paint Above Stairs Without a Ladder

Investing in the proper equipment for painting the walls and ceiling by your stairs can be costly. If you’re thinking about painting your stairwell but don’t have the budget for the right kind of ladder, there are other ways to paint this part of your house. 

We wouldn’t advise using the commonly seen method of placing a board between a step ladder and a longer ladder, as this can be unstable and dangerous. If you don’t want to use a ladder to paint your staircase walls, follow this guide:

Extension Pole Method

This is a truly DIY method that is fantastic for lower budgets. All you need is an extension pole, a paint roller, a paint tray, and some duct tape! You can find all of this in any standard DIY or home store. Securely attach the paint roller to your pole and paint away. 

For the edges and corners, you can invest in specialised corner painters and edgers for a low cost and also tape these to the extension pole. Before using the edger, make sure to practice without paint to ascertain how much pressure you need to apply. You can also just use a standard paint brush for this part.

This method provides an easy way to paint the area when you’re painting the walls the same colour as the ceiling.

Be sure to check our other expert guides to painting and decorating this area, including how to paint stairs the right way and staircase wall decoration ideas

Finish Your Home Improvement Project With Our Beautifully-Made Products

If you’re looking for the perfect finishing touches for your staircase DIY project, look no further than Stair Rods Direct. We can supply a range of excellent products that provide flawless finishes to your staircase and hallway. Whether it’s stair rods, door thresholds, or carpet runners, all of our products are made for easy installation and with gorgeous finishes.