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How to Paint High Walls on Stairs

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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!

Tips to paint high stairwell wall

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.

Before stairwell before it was painted

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.

Before painting stairwell_

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.

How to paintstairwell wall without scaffolding

Supplies to Paint Stairwell Walls

How to Paint High Walls on Stairs

  1. 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.Step 1 covering a stair railingIt 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.

    Step 1 dropcloth with tape attached

    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.

  2. 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.Step 2 Before painting stairwell wall
    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.Step 2 how-to-paint-high-ceilings-purdy-brush-720x480

    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.

    Step 2 using a ladder to paint a stairwell

    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.

  3. After your trimming is done, it’s time to start rolling. Assemble your PaintStick EZ-Twist following the easy directions on the package.paint stick EZ twistThere’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.Step 3 paint stick EZ twist for easy painting
  4. 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.Step 4 painting a stairwellWhen 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).
  5. 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.Step 5 painting a stairwell with a paintstickYour 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.
  6. 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!Step 6 How to paintstairwell wall with Paint Stick

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!

How to paint high stairwell wall

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!

After stairwell after it was painted

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!

How to paint high stairwell walls


Friday 14th of August 2020

Hi, Do you have any idea what color the stain is on your banister? I love that combination of the dark banister and white posts and railings. I am doing something very similar and like your color combination it looks great!


Wednesday 2nd of September 2020

Hi! Thanks so much for the comment! The stain on the banister is Minwax DarK Walnut.


Saturday 27th of June 2020

Did you decorate that stairwell at all? Mine is the exact same and I'm totally lost on what to do with it.


Monday 9th of March 2020

Thanks for the tips, Natalie! I have a very similar stairwell I would like to paint. I have a few follow up questions if you don’t mind... Did you decide to hang any art in the stairwell? How is the white staying clean so far? I’m worried about my young ones getting it dirty. Lastly, would you be able to share an ‘after’ picture from the top of the stairs? Thanks so much. It looks great!


Friday 20th of March 2020

Hi there! I did not hang any art in the stairwell, because it's fairly narrow as is and I wouldn't want anybody bumping it. My white stays pretty clean even after a few years, but my kids are also older teens so I don't really have the worry of young hands touching it. I can grab a picture tomorrow and email it to you!


Sunday 11th of August 2019

What color white is this? It looks like a pretty grey-blue in the shadow. Love it.


Friday 23rd of August 2019

Hi Tara! I'm actually not positive about the color of the white because we had it leftover from another project. I do know it was a crisp, true white, though. The grey-blue you're picking up is probably just a reflection from the dark grey doors at the top of the steps and the blue walls at the bottom. In person, it looks like a true white, though.

Judy Coldwell

Sunday 31st of March 2019

One ... I don’t “do” ladders, I get dizzy on a step stool 😩 Two ...I’ll tackle most things but for high ceilings I use a tradesman, worth every penny to save my shattered nerves Three ... have the ceilings lowered, again worth every penny and then you can paint everything easily. Done this .. works a treat