I’m not too afraid to tackle nearly any DIY project, but painting a steep stairwell is not for me or my weak stomach. I enlisted the help of my husband for this step-by-step tutorial on how to paint high walls on stairs, but I promise that if you are just a smidge braver than I am, it really isn’t that hard!
When we did our renovation last year, we completely opened up the stairwell walls and removed the doorways that had been at the bottom of them. That means we were left with lots of unfinished drywall on the ceiling.
You can see in this before picture how we primed and painted the ceilings on the first floor, and that paint kind of wandered up into the stairwell. But we never actually painted the stairwell, so it was just these weird splotches of paint.
But, I just didn’t wanna do it. There was nothing appealing about painting walls that were that high. I had myself convinced that this job was soley on my husband’s shoulders, because of the height issue and that there was not much I could do to help.
As it turns out, I did help out with all the lower parts of the stairwell walls. I managed to do all the edging and probably closer to 2/3 of the way up the walls without my feet ever leaving the steps.
The key is the length of the Paint Stick EZ-Twist.
The paint gets suctioned up into the sleeve of the easy roller. What this means is that the roller is at it’s longest point when it is full of paint.
So as soon as you fill it with paint, start rolling as high up on the wall as you can reach. You’ll have the greatest extension at this point.
As you start twisting the handle to empty the paint onto the roller, the length continues to shorten. This means that by the time you’ve worked your way down the wall towards the baseboards, your stick is at its shortest point.
Also a great help since you’re working in a tight stairwell space with your back close to the opposite wall. It makes it hard to do with a long paint stick, so you’ll want to save this part for when the stick is nearly empty of paint and at its shortest.
Supplies to Paint Stairwell Walls
- PaintStick EZ-Twist
- Quick Mask Poly with Tape
- Purdy Angled Paint Brush
- Extension Pole
- Extension Ladder
How to Paint High Walls on Stairs
- You know what I’m going to say. The prep work is always first. It’s also the least fun, so go ahead and get it out of the way early. Make sure you tape off your banister. It’s a bit of a pain getting behind it, so the chances of hitting it are high. I covered it with Quick Mask Poly with Tape. It’s pretty much my favorite painting tool ever.It works perfectly because it’s such a thin drop cloth (so I could still easily paint behind the railing), plus it has tape on the one end so it self-adheres to the railing. You could also use this to easily tape off your baseboards, however, since we were painting the walls, baseboards and door trims all the same white, it wasn’t necessary in our case.
Be sure to also use a broom to clean up any cobwebs that are lurking up near the ceiling. It’s a dark place that humans never get near… there are going to be cobwebs. Don’t be embarrassed, just clean them up.
- Using an angled brush, you need to trim the area you’re painting. One of the reasons we decided to paint our stairwell white was so it would be the same color as the ceiling.
There is no easy way to trim where the wall meets the ceiling when it was that high up (at least not without renting scaffolding), so by painting the wall and ceiling the same color, you don’t need to be quite so careful with your trimming.
We used packaging tape and very securely taped our angled brush onto the end of an extension pole. We were able to stand on the steps and still reach the very top edge to trim.
On the highest wall, we did have to go a few steps up on the ladder to reach. We used a multi-position ladder that we wedged between one of the steps and this wall. We never moved it from this spot, and there was no chance of it shifting because of the way it was wedged in. We were able to reach everything from just this one position.
- After your trimming is done, it’s time to start rolling. Assemble your PaintStick EZ-Twist following the easy directions on the package.There’s no need for a paint tray, because you fill your PaintStick with the paint directly from the can. Just make sure the switch on the handle is flipped up as you are filling and then flip it back down once you’re ready to paint.
- While painting, you will be turning the handle of the PaintStick in a clockwise rotation to dispense the paint into the roller. Make sure you do this slowly and smoothly so you get an even application. I was able to cover quite a bit of wall in between twists of the handle.When you’re first starting, you will need almost the entire first fill of paint in order to saturate the roller. After that, you only need to twist it as needed (until you see small bubbles appear on the roller to indicate fresh paint is coming out).
- Remember, since we were painting such high walls, the best tip I can give you is to start high. It’s so good that even though I shared it earlier, I’m going to repeat it.Your roller will be filled with paint, which means it’s as elongated as it’s going to get and that is your best chance to reach the high spots. As you are emptying your roller, the PaintStick will get shorter and shorter. That is the time to get the low spots between walls so you aren’t bumping into the opposite wall as often.
- The roller comes with a shield attachment. Just a note that this can be flipped to allow you to reach the opposite corners. We didn’t realize this at first and weren’t sure how to get opposite corners away from the handle. It was like a lightbulb went off when we realized that it easily just flips in the opposite direction for those opposite corners!
It looks so much brighter in this tight space that is normally filled with lots of shadows! And now when I’m standing on the first floor, I don’t have to see the awkward splotches of primer heading up the stairs anymore!
It flows perfectly with the white paint of the ceilings, and it only took a day for us to complete! One of those jobs that we shouldn’t have put off for so long!
Do you have a stairwell that needs some attention?
Be sure to pin this post so you’re ready to go when it’s time!