After painting most of the rooms in the house over the past 6 months, we finally decided to tackle painting the halls and stairwell.
Like a lot of people around the world, we spent most of 2020 at home. We had planned on a fairly big vacation back in May, but that all got cancelled. We were fortunate to not lose a lot out on that. So, we instead started doing a lot of projects around the house. We updated the bathrooms, tiled a backsplash in the kitchen, worked in the yard, and more. We also had new carpet installed upstairs, switching to a light gray color (from very worn out beige).
We also (finally) got around to painting almost every room in the house. Some of which, like our bedroom, hadn’t been painted since we moved in. But no where in the house needed painting worse than our halls and stair well. Needless to say, with all our bedrooms upstairs, it’s a high traffic spot. We actually did have it painted about 9 years ago by a professional painting company. But between us, two kids going from toddlers to middle-schoolers, and three dogs, it just got beat up over time.
Ideally, I would have gotten to painting all this before the new carpet. Painting the bedrooms before then was great, because we didn’t care at all about the occasional drip of paint on the old carpet, knowing it was about to be discarded. But I certainly used a couple of drop-cloths upstairs. Honestly, I’d just been putting off painting these halls because I wasn’t at all sure how I’d paint the high walls in the stairwell. At its highest point, the ceiling is about 16′ high over the lower stairs. But I invested in a this 18′ multi-position ladder which tackled most of the issue of height. However, positioning it on the stairs is the trick. I saw a couple of YouTube videos in which painters had built their own stair-step platform for positioning ladders. After struggling I realized that I absolutely needed to build something like that.
So I grabbed some scrap plywood and 2x4s and measured the needed cuts right on the steps. That is, I literally never wrote down a single number; just got the top level and made a mark on one of the 2x4s. I pre-drilled the plywood pieces just to keep the screws straight. I screwed the plywood to the 2x4s using some 2″ deck screws — 2 screws for each end of a 2x4. I was worried that it might be a bit wobbly with only those screws in end grain, but 32 screws apparently was sufficient because it was rock solid. I added block of scrap 2x4 to space the top over the baseboard trim and to provide a place for the ladder foot to brace. I can’t say this is the finest piece of woodworking craftsman ship I’ve ever done, my mom recently told me that her father had been a house painter in his first career. So, I decided in that case, this was worthy of putting his name on my build after all.
I was able to place this step platform on the top step, paint the top trim and high wall. I then moved it down a couple of steps to get to the next section. After that, I could reach everything else from just standing on an 20″ painters platform, which is another investment we made for painting rooms in the house. I had used something similar painting houses with Habitat for Humanity and they’re just tall enough to easily paint ceiling trim work. A couple of other handy painting tools that we use:
- Sure-Line Extendable Pole — we purchased one of these about 17 years ago and still use it to this day. It’s the single most useful painting supply we’ve ever purchased. With the painting platform and this medium (up to 5′) pole, I could get to my top edge with a roller no problem on a 14′ ceiling at our stair landing.
- Wooster Shortcut - this is the best brush for detailed edge work. It’s got nice bristles and the comfortable, short handle is great for fine control. When you’re 14–16′ feet up on a ladder, you want to make sure you don’t have to come back to clean up a bad edge, trust me.
- Sure-Line Edger — this is mostly useful for around door or window casing. You do need to be careful in not getting a paint bead on the outer edge (we went back over that with a small 4″ roller immediately to avoid it). The wheels are too far away from the paint pad to help much with ceiling or floor molding, though. This has threads for a pole attachment, but I found it to be useless when I wasn’t holding it.
My painting supervisor inspecting the carpet quality. Me painting the ceiling trim while Angela watches (she did lend a hand)
Lastly, it’s worth noting that we bought good quality rollers, both 12″ and 4″. More importantly, though, is that we bought high quality paint. The paint is Behr Marquee (from. Home Depot) and I honestly cannot recommend this stuff enough. It’s got amazing coverage even with 1 coat in most of our applications (if over an older flat finish, it required two coats with a roller). It dries to the touch in about 30 minutes but keeps a good wet edge just long enough to prevent lines. We like the satin finish for most of our rooms, but did go with an eggshell for the bathrooms, I think. At $45 a gallon, it’s far from cheap but is money well spent. For reference, we just painted two hallways and the stairs using only a single gallon, with some leftover for touch-ups down the road.
I’ll leave you with this one final thought. As we close the final hours on what has been, at best, an interesting (and at worst, a dismal) year, it’s fitting that I’m writing about wrapping up a project I had dreaded for so long. When I mentioned to my dad a couple of days ago I was taking some time off work this week to do this, he suggested this be my next blog post. I wasn’t sure there’d me much to talk about for just painting walls, but I realized I’d learned a lot about painting this year and have gotten pretty good at it. Further, I realized putting off this project was more than my typical procrastination. I was naturally concerned about safety but also just about getting it done right. We tackled a lot of projects while home this year and I managed to turn that into some real know-how and confidence to do more and more, with finally being ready to paint that billboard-sized wall in our stairs! Knowing that there’s no interior paint job I can’t tackle is a great feeling and a nice way for me to close out another year of DIY projects.
Happy New Year and may 2021 bring us all some joy and many more new, great projects!