We most likely want to do every painting job ourselves, but when it comes to painting a stairwell or even learning how to paint stairwells, we shy away from it.

This is understandable because regular stairwells are incredibly high, most stairwells do not have an even surface, so you can’t slide a brush or roller from side to side.

Stairwells also have angles, corners, and crevices that are hard to reach; it is for this reason that you should only paint stairwells with adequate knowledge and information.

In this guide, I will take you through the processes of preparing to paint a stairwell and the items and equipment you will need to paint a stairwell.

In addition, you will learn how to paint stairwells with ladders and scaffolding, how to paint stairwells without scaffolding but with ladders, and lastly, how to paint stairwells without both stairwells and scaffolding.

How to Paint a Stairwell

Can you Paint Stairwell By Yourself?

This is the first question that comes to mind because most people believe that painting hard-to-reach areas like a stairwell require a professional.

While this is partly true, it is not entirely correct because any DIYer or beginner can paint a stairwell alone.

All you need is the right knowledge and guide to put you through the process. However, the only thing that should not be taken with levity is the preparation process and the safety guidelines.

What Paint Should I Use to Paint Stairwell

Choosing the right paint for your stairwell is not a problem; using the same type of paint you used for other interior walls is safer.

Although you have different brands of paint you can use to paint your stairwell, water-based enamel paint is the best type of paint you should use to paint stairwells.

Water-based paints contain a less volatile organic compound (VOC), so they are less toxic, carry less odor, and are straightforward to clean.

These properties are why they are the best options for painting stairwells.

How to Paint Stairwell

The first step to follow in your quest to paint your stairwell is to get the proper equipment and tools and put in other preparation and preventive measures.

Items Needed

Drop Cloths
Plastic Sheeting
Painter’s Tape
Angled Brush
Extension Pole
Extension Ladder
Ladder Box
Pad Edger
Safety Gears


You should get water-based enamel paint with high gloss.

Paints with extra gloss tend to be durable, and since you are dealing with water-based paint, you can be sure that it will dry fast, and in the case of spills or splashes, you can easily clean it with soap and water.

For the size of the paint, you should get One-gallon can or more if you are only covering the wall.

If you also want to paint the ceiling, I strongly suggest getting a 5-gallon can of paint.

If you have any leftover paint, you don’t have to worry; you can always store water-based paint.

Safety precaution: Before delving into the procedures to follow when painting a stairwell, it is important that you put your safety first.


Wear Overalls and Gloves

You are working with paint, so there is a high chance of getting spills or splashes all over your body.

Exposing the paint to your skin is dangerous as adverse consequences, such as skin irritation, may occur.

This is why you should wear overalls and gloves before painting your stairwell.

Wear a Respirator Mask and Safety Goggles

The only thing more dangerous than having paint spilled on your skin is having it spilled in your eyes or inhaling its fumes.

Most paints contain a toxic chemical called volatile organic compound (VOC); this chemical is very toxic and should neither contact the eyes nor be inhaled.

Wearing a respiratory mask and safety goggles before is the only sure way to avoid this catastrophe.

Paint in A Ventilated Area

Coupled with wearing a mask, goggles, overalls, and gloves, you want to ensure your painting area is ventilated.

Painting in a stuffy area is never a good idea, so make sure you open the windows and if feasible, put on the fans to make the area aired.

How to Paint Stairwells with Ladders and Scaffolding

The most popular and general method of painting stairwells is ladders and scaffolding, although many people shy away from this method because of its dangers.

Items Needed

2 Ladders (One regular and one extension climb ladder)
An extremely long piece of wood, approximately about 12 to 15 ft. (Long enough to run through the entire stairwell area)  
Angled Brush
Roller Shield
Roller Screens
Painter’s Tape
Drop Cloths
Plastic Sheeting
Stir Stick


Step 1Prepare the Paint
Step 2Drop the Drops Cloths
Step 3Position the Ladders
Step 4Position the Scaffold
Step 5Cover Safe Area with Tape
Step 6Paint Ceiling
Step 7Lay Plastic Sheeting unto the Wall
Step 8Paint Walls
Step 9Tidy Up

Prepare the Paint

This is the first step in every painting project.

Ensure your paint and primer are thinned and thoroughly stirred before proceeding to paint.

You should also pour the paint into the roller screen and proceed to the next step.

Drop your Drop Cloths

Before anything else, laying down the drop cloths should come first.

The purpose of the drop cloth is to catch any spills or splatters made while painting with rollers.

Even though there are several ways to prevent paint splatters when using rollers, having a drop cloth on the ground ensures the utmost safety.

  • Carefully lay down the drop cloths on the stairs; you want to smoothen the surface of the drop cloth on each stair to ensure that the ladders do not slip.
  • After laying down drop cloths, you can proceed to the next step.

Position your Ladders

This is a crucial stage, and you should follow my instructions carefully.

  • Place the extension climb ladder firmly against the stair riser at the bottom and raise it to the top of the stairs.
  • High enough to reach the surface but not too high, so there is room for you to paint.
  • Place the regular ladder on the opposite side of the extension ladder and right on top of the staircase.
  • Make sure you carefully lean both ladders against the wall and ensure they stand firm before you continue.
  • To be on the safer side, you want to find two people to hold the ladder firmly against the wall while you wish.

Tip: Cover the tip of the ladders with paint.

This way, you reduce the risk of damaging the paint on the wall.

Position your Scaffold

Now that the ladders are in place, it’s time to position your scaffold.

  • Slide a 2/8 board through the ruins of the extension ladders and rest the other end on the step of the other ladder.
  • You can place the other end of the board on the staircase step and use only one ladder.
  • The only danger is that the board may slip because of the drop cloths on the staircase.
  • Pick a point of the ladder that is equally high; find a location on both ladders that directly face each other.
  • Ensure the position you picked is high enough to paint from.

Cover Safe Areas with Painter’s Tape

While you may be looking to paint every nook and cranny of your stairwell, there are some areas that you would not want to paint.

  • For instance, if you want to paint your ceiling and walls in different colors, you must protect the wall while painting the ceiling.
  • In addition to that, you may want to use painter’s tape or masking tape to tape the lights on the ceiling and smoke detectors, if there are any.

Paint Ceiling

It is safer to paint the ceiling first before the wall than the other way around.

This is so because if you paint from the bottom to the top and not from top to bottom, you risk damaging the paint you just painted.

This is why you should begin from the ceiling downward.

To paint the ceiling;

  • Cover the roller with a painter’s shield to prevent the paint from splattering all over, and also wear a hat, to prevent the color from spilling on your head.
  • Use an extension pole with a roller so you can cover more surfaces.
  • Dip the roller into the paint and begin to roll.
  • Ensure you roll slowly and apply minimal pressure on the roller.
  • Only go one coat at a time.

Do not attempt to use rollers to paint the corners and edges; the angled brush will take care of that.

Lay Plastic Sheeting unto The Wall

Before painting the ceiling, ensure you protect the walls.

Use painter’s tape to mask the top of the plastic sheeting to the edge of the wall.

Then carefully smoothen the plastic sheeting all over the wall.

Paint the Walls

For the edges, use the angled brush to paint the edges.

When using the roller, you can begin to paint the walls.

Gently paint the walls and add as many coats as needed to paint it.

Tidy Up

When you are done painting, gently remove the painter’s tape before the paint completely dries up.

Put the ladders back in the garage or wherever you took them from, and thoroughly wash all the paint items you use with warm soapy water.

However, using oil-based paint, you will need paint thinners to remove the stain.

You must dispose of any remaining oil-based paint because most oil-based paints are flammable.

 How to Paint Stairwell with Ladder without Scaffolding

Using scaffolding is nice, but if you don’t have a wooden board available, that doesn’t mean you should give up on your painting project.

Simply follow the steps I will show you shortly to get it done.

 Items Needed

Extension Pole
Extendable Ladder
Ladder Box/ Ladder aid Pro
Angled Brush
Roller Screens
Plastic Sheeting
Drop Cloth
Painter’s Tape


Step 1Prepare your Paint
Step 2Lay Down Drop Cloths
Step 3Set Ladder Box
Step 4Position your Ladder
Step 5Paint the Ceiling
Step 6Paint the Walls
Step 7Tidy Up

Prepare your Paint

Before any paint project, the first thing to do is prepare the paint.

If you are working with water-based paint, thin your paint with water; however, if you are working with oil-based paints, you will need a solvent to thin the paint.

For every 3-part paint, add 1-part paint thinner.

After thinning your paint, stir it well, then pour it into the roller screen.

Lay Down Drop Cloths

In case of paint spills or splatters, there is a need to protect the floor.

Laying down drop clothes is the best way to do that.

  • Carefully lay down drop cloths on the stairs and ensure you smoothen the surface of the drop cloth to ensure the ladder does not slip on it.

 Set Ladder Box

Instead of a scaffold, a ladder box will be our alternative when painting the stairwell.

Place the ladder box on the area you intend to stand the ladder on and make sure it is standing firm on the ground.

 Position Your Ladder

  • Carefully position your ladder on the corner of the ladder box.
  • Make sure the extendable ladder is standing firm on the ladder box.

A ladder aid pro is a sufficient alternative if you cannot find a ladder box.

Paint the Ceiling

It is always safer to paint from the top of the stairwell to the bottom so you won’t damage your well coming back up.

  • Use an extension pole with the roller when painting the ceiling; this way, you can cover more areas.
  • Ensure you roll slowly and use paint covers; also, wear hats and go only one coat at a time.
  • While painting the ceiling, ensure that you mask tape the edges and corners of the wall and use the plastic ceiling to protect the walls from potential paint splatter.

 Paint the Wall

Use the angled brush to paint the edges and corners, and then use the rollers to cover the walls.

Ensure you paint the walls with multiple thin coats.

Tidy Up

Remove the painter’s tape before the paint dries and dispose of it following the paint disposal guidelines in your area.

Also, ensure you clean the brushes and rollers with warm soapy water if you use water-based paint or with paint thinners if you use water-based paint.

How to Paint Stairway without Ladders

As convenient as using ladders are, they are pretty dangerous, and it is risky to fall from them while painting.

It is for this reason that many shy away from painting their stairways.

The good news is that there is another alternative that will take a longer time but is less hazardous.

 Items Needed

Extension Pole
Angled brush
Pad Edger
Plastic Tarp
Plastic Sheeting
Painter’s Tape


Step 1Prepare the Paint
Step 2Prepare the Walls
Step 3Fix Pole, Roller, Brush, and Edger.
Step 4Paint the Ceiling
Step 5Paint the Wall
Step 6Tidy Up

Prepare the Paint

Ready the paint for application by thinning the paint with either water when using water-based paint or paint thinner when using oil-based paint.

After thinning the paint, thoroughly stir it and pour it into a paint tray or roller screen.

Prepare the Walls

Irrespective of how neat and hygienic you may be, the walls may have dust and cobwebs on them.

Make sure you dust the walls and remove the cobwebs on them thoroughly before you begin painting.

Fix Pole, Roller, Brush, and Edger

Depending on where you intend to paint first, carefully fix the edger if you want to paint edges and corners or roller if you’re going to paint the ceiling and wall on the extension pole.

Now your shoulders may begin to sprain a little because you are not using ladders, so take a break between your project for relief.

Paint Your Ceiling

When painting your stairwell, it is always better to start painting from top to bottom.

Before painting your ceiling, protect the walls and edges by using painter’s tape to tape plastic sheeting on the walls and edges.

Paint Your Walls

After you have finished painting the ceiling, you can paint your walls.

Applying multiple coats will give you a better finish.

Tidy Up

Once done, remove the painter’s tape before the paint dries.

Use warm soapy water or paint thinner to clean the brushes, rollers, and edgers, and dispose of any other painting item you use that cannot be reused.

How to Paint Stair Hallways

The hallway is the largest area in the house, so it takes effort to paint it.

However, with the steps I will give you now, you will see that the procedures are elementary and straightforward.

Items Needed

Combination Ladder
Paint Brush
Roller Screen
Extension Pole
Paint Brush
Plastic Sheeting
Painter’s Tape
Drop Cloths


Step 1: Extend your combination ladder fully into the traditional ladder.

Ensure the bottom rests on the stairs and the top against the wall you see when walking down the stairs.

Use your paintbrush to cut the corners and edges of the wall.

Step 2: Fold down the top part of the ladder to form a 90-degree angle.

Move the base of the ladder further up the stairs.

Ensure that the angle of the ladder part is not too steep.

This should help you climb up the ladder and cut in the ceiling line.

Step 3: Fold the ladder down to form a short A-frame, with one side long and the other short.

Ensure you cover the tip of the ladder with foam or rubber.

Stand on top of the A-frame to further paint the ceiling line.

Using the same steps listed above, paint the ceiling and walls.

Can You Paint the Stairwell with Carpet

Yes, you can.

Although the carpet may increase the risk of the ladder slipping.

There are two ways to avoid this: having a partner hold the ladder for you or laying down a plastic tarp to cover the carpet.

Final Thoughts

Now the question remains, which method is the best to follow, either to paint a stairwell with a ladder and scaffold or just with a ladder or without both ladder and platform?

The faster and easier way is to paint with a ladder, but the safer way is to paint without a ladder. However, I strongly suggest that if you paint with ladders, have a partner to help you hold the ladder.

This way, any potential accident can be minimized.