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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 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.

Hallway with lots of colors

If  you haven’t seen a convertible (aka “multi-position” or “multi-fold”) 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):

Multi-fold ladder

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.

Multi-fold ladder

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, but it doesn’t fold in on itself like this does – still allows for multiple positions) or at your local home improvement store.

UPDATED: Little Giant is multi-position, but doesn’t do all the funky accordion folding like Dad’s ladder. There looks to be a few versions of this ladder on Amazon that does a similar job – and bonus, some are reasonably priced less than $100! (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:

Accidental hole made by ladder

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.

In progress

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).

Attic access panel

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?

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    1. Yours looks even cooler than mine! I considered just going for it with the phone in reach, but I kept going over a falling scenario in my head, and I knew that my luck would mean falling in a way I couldn’t reach the phone. I figured since Dad was over anyway, I might as well play it safe. Nice job on your stairs!

  1. We, well mostly my hubby, painted the foyer and area over the stairs this past weekend as well. We have one of those things you put on the stairs so you can put the ladder across two steps, works like a charm. Also, we painted our drop down ladder the same color as the ceiling which makes it less obnoxious. I also replaced the pull string with an eye hook and made a wooden dowel with a hook on it to use to open it so the string doesn’t hang down! Good luck with all of your projects!

    1. See, I want to paint it all one color, but I have this other project in my head that makes me want to do something a little different. We’ll see if it actually gets done or if I just go for the white to get it to disappear. But I love the dowel/hook idea. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Who knew they made such a fun ladder!? I’m glad I found this because the ceiling above our basement stairs is insanely high and currently a hideous yellow, decorated nicely with a few spider webs (we JUST got the keys to the house)! Thanks for the tip!!

    1. Glad I could help! And FYI, I found a better ladder that more closely does what my Dad’s does, so I updated a post with those search results.

  3. Agghhh! I couldn’t read anymore after I saw the reeeaaalllly tall ladder setting up against the reeeally tall ceiling! Seriously, good call on having dad there and on having the (ya know) to get up there and do that. No way could I ever! My step-father-in-law did our high ceilings many years back in another home. He has had his own drywall biz since he was 18 and was walking the wood between scaffolding like he was walking down a sunny lane! Freaked me out the whole time. I had to leave so I wouldn’t get him worked up with my fretting!

  4. NO! No way, sorry, NO. My husband had to have surgery on his back after a fall involving ladders and stairs at another house. Our current place has a stairway like yours that hasn’t been painted in probably 40 years, and it isn’t going to get painted by him or anyone in our family.

  5. “I have basically all rooms in this house at some type of percentage of completion” – same here. Was just having a discussion with myself about this last week. I SHOULD spend a few more hundred dollars, and completely finish the 3/4 bath, and it would be D-O-N-E!! But that bathroom is to a ‘good enough for now’ point so what am I going to do this weekend? Going to start on the main bath, which has been driving me NUTS since I bought my house a year ago. I’ll get back to the 3/4 bath eventually (as in 10 yrs or so when I’m getting ready to sell the house, then I’ll be kicking myself for not finishing it up now! lol).

    1. Hey, whatever works to keep the DIY momentum going, right? Sometimes that’s what you really need!

  6. That ladder at the blue DIY store doesn’t fit LD/bend like your dad’s ladder. We own that one, and I was quite disappointed two weeks ago when I found out… But now I’m interested in what someone else said about a thing that goes over two steps so you can put the ladder on the steps. That would be perfect. Need to look that up.

      1. I knew what ya meant ;) I’ll update that link with something else, thanks for pointing that out. But I’ve heard good things about the Little Giant and that one converts a little bit (though not bend completely backwards like Dad’s). I’ll look for another link so there are other options to consider :) Good luck on finding a solution that works for you!

  7. Hey, did I miss something? Are you no longer relocating for work? Buying more art for your stairway?!

  8. I’m a flitter too and since my ground floor is pretty much open plan it looks like a bomb hit…

    I’m also a little clumsy on a ladder but since I don’t have anyone close to “help”, I devised a safety net with a few friends… ALL work on a ladder is done with my phone in a pocket, and I text my “safety advisor” at least once every 30 minutes (whilst I’m on the ground of course!) If they don’t hear from me they in 30 minutes then they text/call and if I don’t answer or text back they are to call the emergency service….

    Hasn’t happened yet (thankfully) but I feel better knowing that if I do fall I won’t languish for days.

    Oh yeah, and I make sure the front door is unlocked so they can get to me without busting it in :-)

    1. Now THAT’s a plan! I’ve considered calling a friend to catch up on speakerphone while I go up and down the ladder… that way, the minute I stop responding, someone would know. But I like your plan too!

  9. I have painted the area above the stairs and it looks good. I followed the same trick with a ladder which worked like a charm. I was reluctant to do this on my own, but after watching some DIY videos, I was confident of doing all this stuff.

  10. Great to find your info on this! A work crew just declined to work on my area above my stairs. They didn’t have the right ladder. How tall was your dad’s ladder? I’m thinking about buying one and doing the job myself.

    Would love to see before and afters of your house.


    1. Hmm, I’m not sure the exact height. Maybe 22 ft? Maybe 16? I have a few links in the post with some names to search for (“multi-position” or “telescoping”), but here is a link to one that looks like it has lots of flexible positioning.

      As for before and afters, you can find a bunch on my House Tour pages!

      Good luck!

  11. I’m on Year Six of renovating my tiny two-bed cottage! Why? Well I kind of lost interest after the first six months and getting anything done is like pulling teeth. I’m now trying to paint the stairwell with a long handled roller – it’s great, apart from cutting in. After reading this post though, I’m going to hunt one of these multi-ladder jobbies down! Thanks for posting – I hope you got finished eventually! x

  12. We had our attic pull down replaced shortly after moving in a couple of years ago. Just primed and painted it. Being a skip around project person also, I would tell you to go ahead and paint the attic door now. Then, while you get to the other project, it will look nice in the meantime.