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How to Paint a Room with High Ceilings

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These how to’s will show you how to paint a room with high ceilings the easy way!

Tips for Painting Rooms with High Ceilings

Yesterday, I posted our living room reveal and was so tickled that you guys liked the paint color as much as I do!! It is gorgeous at all times of day and is such a true gray!

There were 2 things that I was stressing over leading up to this project:

1) Picking the right color

2) How we were going to paint these walls ourselves given that our ceiling peaks at about 18′

We absolutely did not have it in our budget to hire a painter. Even if we did, though, I don’t think I could have stomached that expense, especially knowing that we were perfectly capable of painting 90% of the room ourselves without much effort. I just couldn’t see paying someone to do the entire room when it was such a small portion that was seemingly “out of our reach”.

So with a combination of research and some frugal creativity, I pulled together some tips on how to paint rooms with high ceilings without scaffolding!

Tip #1:

This might come as a shocker, but you will need a ladder! 🙂  Our 8′ one didn’t even come close to reaching, and we didn’t want to have to buy a longer one just for this project. So ask around! Put a call out on Facebook! I think you’d be surprised how many people you know who wouldn’t mind lending you a taller ladder. Think about whether you know any neighbors, co-workers, friends, etc. who might need one for their jobs (think insurance adjustors, electricians or even painters). We were able to borrow one from a neighbor, and I made him cookies as a thank you! Bartering is your best friend!

P.S. Notice the angle that I’m taking this picture from.
I keep my feet planted firmly on solid ground!

If you truly aren’t able to find one to borrow from somebody, call your local hardware store and see if they rent them. I checked with ours and it was a very reasonable rental fee for a 1/2 day rental, which is all we would have needed! But don’t make people talk you into splurging on scaffolding. Unless you’re painting a ceiling it really isn’t necessary. You’re painting walls, so just lean that ladder against the wall!

Tip #2:

Buy yourself an extension pole for your paint roller. They are inexpensive and work well. Yes, if you have a ladder, then you might not technically need this. I still recommend it, though, because it feels a lot better to stand with both feet on the ground than it does to stand on ladder rungs for hours. It also will go faster to paint from the floor using this extension pole when you can easily refill from the paint tray on the floor. Painting from a ladder is a lot of up and down every time you need to refill your roller.

Personally, I love it because I am a little bit ridiculous when it come to heights of any kind. By using the extension pole, I can paint quite a bit of the room myself without having to wait for my husband to get home to paint the highest peaks. We have an old wooden pole that’s been in my husband’s family forever, by I really recommend a newer one because it fits all the standard rollers plus some of the edgers as well. Our neighbor who is a painter has this extension pole and said he uses this one on his professional jobs.

painting high ceilings with sherwin williams

Tip #3:

I used packaging tape to tape a paintbrush to my extension pole. This allowed me to get all the corners (and I even climbed up a few steps on the ladder to get the reeeeally high spots) even though I’m only 5’4″.

how to paint high ceilings purdy brush

You could really do this with any brush, but if you use a high-quality one and have a steady hand, you could even edge up high using this method. I have a very steady hand (thanks to all my years of cake decorating!), and used this method quite a bit in this room on the sidewalls where they met the ceiling. I wasn’t able to get the main peak of the living room ceiling, because I was still too short, but my husband was perfectly capable of that with the ladder. I wouldn’t attempt edging like this with any old brush, though. I love these angled ones from Purdy (and I’m not affiliated in ANY way with them). The bristles stay together and don’t fan out, and I always get a nice, crisp edge.

painting high ceilings

Tip #4:

Use a high-quality paint! I know some of you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking this is true no matter what height your walls are, and what does this have to do with painting in rooms with high ceilings!! I’m here to tell you that it matters! We chose Sherwin Williams paint for this room and it was so thick, that it didn’t splatter at all! Honestly! When you are rolling with that extension pole and the actual roller is so far away from you, it’s VERY easy to get splatters and drips as you move it around.

I have painted before with a brand that we won’t mention, that was a much thinner consistency. I chose it because it was cheaper. In the end, I ended up with so many splatters and drips that I wasted time having to clean all of them and ended up spending more money replacing things that got paint on them! When you’re painting at this height, spend a little bit more for a quality paint that will go on smoothly and not cause any extra headaches!

Tip #4:

While you’re picking your paint, look for one that has primer built in and one-coat coverage. Again, I’ve used this before in other rooms, but with different brands, and have ALWAYS done a 2nd coat. This was my first time using Sherwin Williams paint and the ONLY time in my life I have ever stopped after one coat!! A pretty big deal considering I am a chronic painter! We touched up some spots that we had edged with the brush, but not very many, and we never rolled twice.  We both walked around the whole room numerous times trying to find spots that would warrant a 2nd coat, and there were NONE! It went on so smooth and rich, that we truly only needed that one coat! HUGE time-saver and cost-saver, especially in a room this size!

sherwin williams emerald paint worldly gray

The first time we painted this room, we used over 5 gallons of a different brand of paint. This time, we barely even touched the 3rd gallon of Sherwin Williams paint! We balked a little when we were shopping at the cost of Sherwin Williams, but in the end we saved money because we only used half as much! In a room of this size, the time savings is amazing! Plus, that means you really only do have to rent that ladder for half a day! Get that first coat done on the upper half of the walls and go return your ladder!

Tip #5:

If you can, pick a color that is close to your ceiling color. When you’re painting up that high, it’s inevitable that your edging won’t be as clean as it is on shorter walls. If you pick a color that’s close in shade to your ceiling color, it will barely be noticeable that it’s not a clean edge. Especially when you’re looking at it from 18′ away! We used Sherwin Williams Worldy Gray #7043.

Living room fireplace wall in worldly gray

Check out all of the before and after photos in this post:

Before and after living room makeover

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive complimentary paint from Sherwin Williams. The opinions are 100% my own.



Tuesday 30th of July 2019

Hi Natalie, thank you so much for the tips,I have 13’ ceilings and a 12’ ladder, but I noticed you did not tape. Do you think that’s necessary?


Friday 23rd of August 2019

I do not tape when it's that close to the ceiling because it's just too hard for me. And normally, unless you're really up close or make a huge mistake, then you won't notice if the paint line is off just a little. Of courses, you're welcome to tape if you think you can, but I wouldn't stress about it too much!


Saturday 31st of March 2018

I'm 5'1" and need to paint my 19' wall. I have put it off for years but can't imagine paying someone to paint what I can normally paint, also. Your tips are great and I feel empowered. I just recently got a super deal on a 13 foot ladder so with that and an extension pole I feel very hopeful that I can do this project. I also work slow but sure and I think this will work to my advantage.

Thanks, Cathy


Tuesday 3rd of April 2018

You sound exactly like me! I'm 5'4" and don't like heights. I put this project off for way too long! When I finally buckled down and did it, it went much smoother and faster than I anticipated. I hope you have the same experience! Good luck!


Saturday 3rd of February 2018

Love these tips!!! We just bought a home and I’ll degintiley use your advice . Thank you!

diane @smartmoneysimplelife

Thursday 2nd of April 2015

Great tips! I've never thought of taping a brush to an extension pole before. How did I not think of that?! I have 12' ceilings and I'm 5' 2" (on a good day!) so painting is ALWAYS a challenge.

Ashley @ Simply Designing

Thursday 12th of March 2015

Your new color is beautiful! Thanks for the tips!