How to Paint a Tall Hallway Above Stairs

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… one room at a time is for suckers.

At least, that’s how I justify skipping around from project to project like I do. I don’t seem to have the ability to simply focus on one room at a time, and it’s often to my detriment. Instead of one room being finished, I have basically all rooms in this house at some type of percentage of completion. And that means living in my own personal brand of hell chaos.

But, in my defense, sometimes it’s a matter of circumstance. I’ve committed myself to finishing off the dining room this week, so there’s no getting out of it. And even though I’m incredibly tempted to paint it (I have the paint, which is like 99% of it), I’m taking the slow and steady approach to make sure the finish is perfect.

But while skim coats are drying, I find other things to do. And that’s how I found myself precariously perched on a wobbly ladder on my stairs this weekend. Plus Dad was over, so I felt comfortable being on it while there’s someone in shouting distance to dial 9-1-1 if I fell.

But let’s backtrack a bit to four and a half years ago to when I bought the house (wow, time flies, doesn’t it?). At the time, one thing was clear: just about everything was going to need cleaning and painting if I wanted to sleep at night.

No, really – this was the kitchen ceiling when I moved in:

kitchen ceiling

kitchen ceiling

And the living room had outlines of pictures that had hung on the wall. Like a haunted house. The Monster Mansion ride at Six Flags comes to mind, actually.

living room before

But luckily, with some elbow grease and a few volunteers, things were painted all over the place. One thing that I had a tough time getting to though was the hallway ceiling above the stairs. While every other square inch of ceiling was painted white, this was the only spot in the house I didn’t take the opportunity to get to. And, four years later, I’m still looking at a single yellowed ceiling and wishing I’d completed my project.

So, that’s how Dad found himself sitting on my couch all afternoon while I climbed up and down a ladder (and sometimes providing some extra support at the bottom). I didn’t really need his help for painting, but the whole falling thing is a bit irksome to me, so I didn’t want to be the dumb girl who knows she’s clumsy and yet let herself fall on the stairs with no one within shouting distance. It’s a self-preservation thing.

My goal for the weekend was just to do all of the cutting in. That, and actually figuring out how to reach each of the corners on the stairs in a way that didn’t feel like a high-wire act. Thanks to Dad’s old convertible ladder, I think we’ve now found a way.

If  you haven’t seen a convertible (aka “multi-position”) ladder in action before, I’ll save you a bit of time with your overall impression: if you have stairs, you really should get one. The gist is that these things have a series of ladder pieces that can bend in either direction from each other. You can pull the whole thing straight, like so (forgive all of the iPhone pics; the dark walls make photographing not so great… when I actually get the room finished, I’ll take better shots):

Or, you can bend one or more pieces to a configuration that works better for your space. In the photo below, I was using one of the ends to push myself further off of the wall, which let me get to the midsection of the tallest part above the stairs. While the ladder, when straight, could lean against the wall perfectly fine, that only allowed me about three feet on either side to cut in. Since I needed to stretch out further, the L-shape created from the ladder pushed the entire center of gravity right where it was needed. It may look a little dangerous, but having the ladder like this was actually very sturdy.

This one in particular is very old (and heavy steel), which is why I’m not linking to one just like it. But you can find similar aluminum versions of this ladder online (Little Giant is one I’ve heard of) or at your local home improvement store (like this). (affiliate links)

As for the top of the stairs, I folded one of the pieces all the way back (as in, doubled up on itself), which shortens the ladder, and leaned it against the far left wall. There’s a half wall at the top that divides the upper hallway, which created extra support (since the ladder leaned directly onto this piece and gave me leverage). I don’t quite have a pic of that (picture me, out of breath, misplacing the phone, and just wanting it done already), but I do have a pic of the damage putting my full weight against an unsupported spot of drywall does:

Guess I had better get a few more yoga classes in this week. And at least I can reach that dent easily, no ladder needed (it’s right at the top of the stairs). At any rate, I got ALL of the cutting in done, including the ceiling, which just leaves the rest of the walls to tackle. Which is a lot easier and doesn’t require as much precision.

As you can already tell, the new paint is going to make a significant difference in the light bouncing around in this space:

hallway ceiling

And as projects do, cross one thing off, add another: I’ll have to paint the attic hatch as well (I have an interesting project in mind for that, haven’t quite decided yet).

So in between my arm workouts from sanding, I now have something to do this week to get another long-awaited project crossed off my list. In anticipation, I even bought a few more prints off Etsy. This hallway screams gallery wall (like this), don’t you think?

Latest: House Tour

new stairs

Latest: Project Gallery

moscow mule

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laundry room tile backsplash

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moscow mule

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