Despite many options, there is an easy way to paint a stairwell or a wall with a high ceiling without expensive tools – and I’ll tell you how to do it!
Painting staircase walls can seem like a really challenging task.
Not only are the ceilings high, in order to paint them, you also have to stand on stairs!
Instead of fashioning some dangerous makeshift contraption, or renting scaffolding to be able to reach the high spots, check out how to paint your staircase walls or rooms with vaulted ceilings EASILY!
Why I Needed to Paint my Staircase Walls
A few years ago, my husband and I purchased a home that had great bones but needed some updating.
We were going to be selling that home (for sale by owner) within a year, and had a ton of DIYs on our list.
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First on the list was to freshen up the paint.
The ceiling in the stairwell was so high though, and I was terrified of getting on a ladder on top of the stairs.
There didn’t seem to be any easy way to do it.
Since we were painting the house with colors from this color scheme with the most amazing neutrals, I knew I needed up get rid of the tan color that was there though.
So, I determined that we had to tackle the project to get the look I wanted for the home.
Here is how we painted those tall ceilings – easily!
These are the three tools you need to get in order to paint a staircase wall or a room with a high ceiling.
These are the best and cheapest options I’ve found, so check them out!
First, if you need to paint staircase walls or walls with high ceilings, you have to get an extension pole.
This particular extension pole is a good one because it extends to 20 feet.
Those extra few feet can really come in handy when you have a super high stairwell or a room with a vaulted ceiling.
Extension poles are actually useful for a variety of tasks, too.
You can use them to knock snow off a roof, to scrub siding, to remove cobwebs, and more!
But my favorite use for them is to paint stairwells.
The long arm has a place at the end that you can twist your paint roller brush onto it.
Most paint rollers have a screwing end if you look inside of them, but if yours doesn’t, here is a great option for a new paint roller.
Second, get an edging tool to paint your staircase walls.
These tools also screw onto the end of an extension pole, making it really easy to get right up to the edge of the wall.
They come with plastic rollers on the top edge, so they roll right along the ceiling.
As they do this, they only deposit paint on the wall and leave the ceiling clean.
When we first tried the edging tool out, I was skeptical.
I invisioned us having to rent scaffolding and was terrified at the thought of erecting it on the stairs and having to paint that high up.
To my relief, the edging tool worked perfectly!
Here is the edge between the wall and the ceiling.
This was after the first coat, and still required a second coat. But, you can see how it made a good line and didn’t get paint on the ceiling.
An edging tool isn’t just for extra tall spaces though.
If you lack a steady hand, or are nervous to edge a room free hand, pick one of these up. They make edging any room easy!
Third, get a corner tool.
While the edger can get the top edges, it is made to leave a tiny space on the edge.
For the corners, you need something to get right into that space.
With the corner tool, you screw it onto the extension pole, roll it in paint, and put it right up to the corner.
Then roll it up and down, depositing the paint right in the corners of the walls!
If you prefer, this two pack comes with a corner tool and an edging tool, and two extra paint pads, too (though, if you wash them out well, you can definitely reuse them!).
Those are the only tools you need to paint your staircase walls!
There are other ideas for how to paint a staircase wall, such as ladder leveling tools.
These are made to create a level space on stairs for you to put your ladder.
But they are expensive if you only plan on painting one stairwell.
All of the tools listed above cost under $60 total!
And the best part is, you don’t have to risk life and limb climbing onto a ladder, in a stairwell!
Tips and Lessons Learned Through Painting Many High Ceilings
Since painting that first staircase, I’ve used my extension pole to paint many times.
Since you can use it with an edging pad, it is helpful for even normal height walls.
But I have learned a few things since that original paint job.
First, the edging pads work really well on smooth ceilings.
They are harder to use on heavily textured ceilings.
I used this method on my current stairwell and, while it worked well, it was much more laborious to complete.
You have to use a lot of strength to move the wheels on the edging pad across the textured ceiling.
Once you get going though, eventually you end up knocking some of the texturing off the ceiling (which is actually just fine and unnoticeable).
This will enable you to get a good coat on the wall and, ideally, a straight line.
Second, be sure to check your edging wheels each time you put more paint on the pad.
Wipe off any paint you see to make sure you don’t end up getting paint on the ceiling,
Third, this method works awesome with light colors.
Because stairwells are typically sort of dark, painting the walls a light color is a good idea anyways.
But, doing so also has the added benefit of making any mistakes (places where the line isn’t as crisp as you would hope or smudges on the ceiling if you get some paint on the wheels) much less obvious.
Fourth, it can be helpful to have someone standing at the bottom of the stairs so get the paint on the edging pad for you.
This eliminates having to pull the pole the whole way up to the top each time to apply more paint, or having to go down the stairs yourself to put paint on it.
Don’t worry – you can absolutely paint your staircase walls or high ceilings without a partner, but it can make it a bit easier.
Good luck painting your staircase wall or room with a high ceiling!
Truthfully, these tools can be used to make painting ANY room easy.
Need more painting tips? Check out these posts!
How To Paint A Room – The Easy Way!
Fast and Easy Trim Painting
Choosing a Paint Finish
The Best Sherwin William’s Paint Type
Painting an Accent Wall: How To Get A Perfect Corner!
Paint is the fastest and cheapest way to refresh your whole house. I hope you enjoy this easy DIY home improvement project as much as I did!
Friday 22nd of January 2021
I just moved into a 30 yr old two story and every room has to be painted including the trim work. I’ve been sweating bullets on how to paint the stair well. I’ll be going to the store tomorrow for my tools. I’m so excited to get these dirty walls looking nice and fresh!!!
Saturday 23rd of January 2021
Hi Ellen! That is exactly how I felt until I took the plunge and tried this method! I would recommend using a light color - then if it gets on the ceiling it isn't very noticeable! Good luck!
Friday 16th of October 2020
I'm a first time home owner and have a bad back, so I hired a painting contractor to come out to paint my staircase walls and ceilings. This is such a great blog post though and you make painting the staircase actually seem possible to do yourself, I'll definitely be sharing this!
Monday 31st of August 2020
What about when you have a crown molding at the high ceiling?
Tuesday 1st of September 2020
Hi Denise! Great question! If your crown moulding has a thick enough bottom edge (about an 1/8 of an inch or so should be good), you can still use this method. If it doesn't though, you may be stuck getting out a ladder and cutting in with a paintbrush. So sorry if this method won't work for you!
Tuesday 4th of August 2020
you didn't say how to get the paint on the pad or brush with a long extension pole in small spaces like entrance ways or stair ways where there is not a lot of room to move.
Cindy S Kennedy
Wednesday 20th of October 2021
@Lauren, Hi Lauren, I just tried this method on my son's wall. I used a paint brush to add paint to the pad that way I didn't get too much paint on the pad and kept it from getting on the wheels.
Wednesday 5th of August 2020
You're right, Jim! I didn't! I usually pick up the paint tray and manuever it to the pad or brush, instead of bringing the pad or brush to it. It's easier to do that way (though does take a bit longer than normal painting because sometimes it means going up and down the stairs several times). Hope this helps!
Monday 29th of June 2020
Still not sure how I am going to stand on the stairs and move that pole and brush around. Might have to get an professional
Monday 29th of June 2020
Hi Tina! It does take a bit of strength to move the pad along the top edge, but it's doable! Good luck on whatever you decide!