Balancing act: how to paint walls on a staircase

Joan Fieldstone

September 24, 2015

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: PaintingInterior Home Improvement

The paint color wars are over. BFF and I finally came to consensus and the painting has begun. Not only is it challenging to pick colors for this open-plan, two-story loft home, it's a nightmare to paint, too. She wanted to start with the bedroom, and I surprised her by insisting that it had to have some serious color while I still live here regardless of potential buyers. So she agreed it would be nice to use a beautiful shade of blue I'd bought months ago for the wall behind my bed. More about that in a later blog. The immediate problem that required some home improv was how to paint walls on a staircase, which is what BFF intends to do now that the bedroom is done.

A friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook the other day of a man perched on three paint buckets to paint high up on a wall, and I jokingly suggested it to BFF, who, in the same spirit, promptly piled up some paint cans on the stair landing to level the legs of the ladder. I couldn't help thinking of the Cat in the Hat perched on a ball, juggling an umbrella and an unhappy fish in a bowl -- or was that Thing One or Thing Two? Fortunately, BFF did not try a balancing act of her own. I would not have been able to pick up her broken body off the stairs.

uneven surface ladder

Being an excellent problem-solver, however, she set right to work constructing a platform out of 2-by-4s and plywood we had hoarded in our adjacent garages. The resulting contraption is sturdy and can be restructured to fit across the other two sections of my U-shaped staircase to paint the other walls.

How to paint from a ladder

After wrestling this rather bulky behemoth into position on the topmost section of stairs and resting the legs on the first landing, she demonstrated how well it held her and the ladder without any wobble. She's able to reach to mask where the wall meets the ceiling without any problem. Painting should be a breeze. Of course, being tall helps, too.

Ladder for uneven surfaces

Later in the evening, she called to tell me that there was actually a better solution than her brilliant contraption -- ladder leg levelers. They come in a variety of styles, but they are like adjustable stilts that attach to the legs of your ladder for painting on uneven surfaces, e.g. stairs. Not that I plan to paint the stairwell again any time soon, but they look like they're an essential accessory for serious house painters or just anyone with a two story home or a staircase or two.

The Ladder Leveler, a set of two levelers by LeveLock, sells for $94.95. Lowe's carries a single Werner Automatic Leg Leveler for $124.12. Of course, the BFF improvised scaffolding didn't cost us anything extra, even if it isn't quite as elegant as the professional solution. On the other hand, it's now standing on end in my hall vanity room along with the ladder, rendering the vanity unusable. I keep telling myself these projects are only temporary…


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