Painting Stairs Walls


I painted our living room last summer and I ran into trouble when I had to paint the walls above the stairs. Our living room wall is 16′ high so painting the wall along the stairs is a pain in this daddy’s behind. Anyways, I did manage to paint the walls above our stairs and I thought I would share some options with you do-it-yourself dads and moms out there.

Painting Stairs Walls Options

  1. If you’ve got the money, save yourself the trouble and hire a professional painter to paint the high stairwell for you.

  2. Rent a scaffold from a place like Home Depot.

  3. Purchase a ladder leveler for $90.

  4. You can place one end of a plank on a step ladder and the other end on the stairs.

  5. Place the extended legs of a folding table on the lower part of the stairs and the folded legs on a higher part of the stairs (see photo below).

Painting stairs walls with folding table and extension ladder

I didn’t choose the first three options because those options cost money and that’s goes against the Frugal Dad’s creed. I thought about using a step ladder and a plank, but I would need a long plank for my stairs. That would make the plank too springy. Plus I wasn’t sure if the plank could hold up the weight of the ladder with me on it.

I went with the folding table option because a table is sturdy and wide. Plus I have a folding table so it didn’t cost me anything extra. However, I did have to build a platform from scrap lumber to level out the table for the extension ladder (see photo below).


  • Use a sturdy table that is supported by a metal frame (underneath the table).
  • Check the underside of the table for loose screws. Three screws popped out while I was standing on the table. I was lucky the table didn’t collapse.
Painting stairs walls with a do-it-yourself scaffold

26 thoughts on “Painting Stairs Walls

    1. It’s a good thing I didn’t mention my step ladder on top of a folding table, which was on top of another folding table on the stairs. I used that method to repair a 8′ vertical crack at the edge of the wall. That method was an accident waiting to happen.

  1. This is not an appropriate use for a folding table. This is VERY dangerous practice. While it looks very creative, this is going to lead a lot of people to try this. If you have a 200 lb. person on the ladder, each leg of the ladder is going to bear about 100 lbs. The point load on the table top, while initially standing the strain, will eventually give way.
    DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE THIS METHOD FOR LEVELLING YOUR LADDER. If you can’t do it safely, don’t do it. It is not worth risking your life to save a buck!

  2. A scaffold by design can hold the entire weight strain. A folding table, while overall has a high strength factor, has weak points ( your mentioning the 3 screws falling out is a major point of this ). Those metal framed folding tables don’t use bolts or screws that go THROUGH the top and anchored with a stress-spreading washer or large head. By relying solely on the wood-cutting threads to hold the metal frame to the wood top, the strength then is only what weight stress each screw THREAD can hold. And that ain’t much! If you’re spreading the weight over the entire table surface, that’s one thing. A ladder is putting the stress on two points, not far apart. That’s totally different. If you replace your wood-cutting screws with through-bolts and washers ( that will detract from the tables use and smoothness for picnicking ), it would be safer, and more like a scaffold. But by relying on those often tiny wood screws, you’re setting up for a potential disaster. I like your idea, and hadn’t thought of that. But I weigh 240 lbs, not a light-weight, and add to that a ladder and paint or tools, and I would probably fold that table up as is! But with some enhancements, such as additional cross-bracing and through-bolts, I may try that to one of the many tables I own, and improve it’s use for something like that. The broad top surface is definitely safer than a skinny 12″ wide 2-by to stand on, or put a ladder on.

  3. STUPIDD! Your risking your life or paralysis over those little 3/4 inch screws that screw into the bottom of the tables?? Ive seem those collapse from someones standing on them while camping! They sell adjustable feet for ext. ladders for $40ish a pair.

  4. So glad I found this post! We have been touching up our house and wanted to paint the walls but this has been holding us back, it’s such a pain to get up there! Thanks for the ideas!

  5. And I thought my husband was just being ridiculous when he said he needed scaffolding to paint along stairways and up to vaulted ceilings. He, too did some sort of balancing trick with the ladder and stairway (no table hack though) and managed to get everything painted.

  6. I think the metal-legged folding table looks very sturdy. I’m 115 lbs and do most of the diy house stuff around here. My husband’s the tech and I was raised in a contractor’s house. So – I have been searching the last few days for tips on building diy scaffolding with the few pieces I have around the house to finish painting this wall. I think this is MUCH sturdier than the idea of planks between steps on ladders. If the plank isn’t 2″ thick – it sounds like a year’s worth of chiropractor’s appointments and stories that start off with “I thought it would be fine but…” So – I say that to say – if there is a rough wooden platform (the scrap) holding those table legs and they’re locked – I honestly don’t see what the nervousness is here that folks are throwing out. It seems less nerve racking than the plank between extension ladders. And with this stairwell I need to finish – there’d be NO fitting a rented scaffold in their anyway. Kudos! I’m bookmarking your site for tips! Way to be resourceful! Thanks!

  7. Personally, I would have used 3/4 ” plywood ripped it down and used 2/4’s AND screwed it down. No way would I ever have gotten on a particle board folding table.

  8. I painted my walls and ceiling white, from the off white that came with the house I bought. The house is a split level with high ceilings over the entry stairwell. . Using an extension pole to do the walls was easy but getting the edges was a challenge until I put a cheap dollar store broom head on the extension pole. Wouldn’t work for two color s unless you brought the ceiling color down.

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