How To Paint High Walls (Easy Tips and Tricks in 2023)
Putting a fresh coat of paint is one of the best and easiest ways to freshen up your space or give a room a new character and personality.
Plus, fresh paint almost always looks better than older faded colors, even if you’re using the same color.
But, the prospect of repainting can be a lot more challenging if you have to paint tall walls to get the job done.
High walls are harder to reach, more difficult to ensure an even coat of paint, and often attract a lot of attention.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult to paint tall walls.
In this post, I’ll explore how to paint high walls, some tips to easily paint high walls, and much more. Let’s get started!
In This Article:
What Counts As A High Wall?
Before we get too into the details here, the first thing you need to know is what counts as high walls.
For most purposes, high walls can be anything 10-12 ft tall or higher.
Why 10-12 ft?
Well, mostly because that’s the height where things tend to get difficult.
Standard ladders aren’t going to work as well starting at this height, and this is when you’re going to need more tools for painting walls this at this height.
The good news is that there are a lot of tools available to make painting tall walls a lot easier, so you just need to be prepared with the right tools to get the job done.
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What Tools Do You Need To Paint High Walls And Ceiling
Painting always takes the right tools to get the job done, but painting tall walls is a little more difficult and requires more equipment than a shorter wall.
You can usually use the same tools to apply ceiling paint, even on high ceilings, so this equipment is multi-purpose.
Here’s a short list of what you will need.
- An extension ladder (Little Giant Ladder is a good brand for painting ladders)
- A bucket hook
- A 3-gallon bucket
- Enough drop cloth to cover at least 6ft of flooring on all sides + additional cloth to cover any furniture, railings, or other architectural features.
- 1-2 paint rollers per person painting
- 1 3-5 inch paint brush per person
- A 6-9 ft extension pole
- Painter’s tape
- Paint trays
- Ladder levelers (if you’re working over stairs at all)
- High-quality latex paint (don’t worry if you have a latex allergy, latex paints should still be safe to use. Check if the hardware store or paint store will let you get a sample if you’re not sure if the paint is safe for you.)
- Scaffolding (for some walls)
How To Paint High Walls
The trick to painting high walls is to get as close as possible to the wall.
The more you’re reaching or having to use potentially instead extension poles to do the work, the harder it’s going to be to get a consistent even coat of paint (not to mention the added danger of falling).
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use an extension pole, you should just also be using an extension ladder to help get closer to what you’re painting at the end of the pole.
Depending on how high the walls are, it can be helpful to use scaffolding instead of an extension ladder to get closer to the wall or ceiling.
Most people have either seen a paint roller extension pole, but you can also get extension poles for paint brushes. It’s recommend having both to help get an even paint job.
Some parts of the paint job, like cutting in the ceiling and finishing up painted edges, are just better done with a brush than a roller.
Set up your extension ladder near the wall you’re going to be painting. Stabilize the ladder and then climb up to see if you can reach the areas you want to reach safely before you try and bring any paint up.
Once you’re sure the ladder is in the best position for this part of the wall, you can bring paint up and start rolling.
Remember, prep work should be done before you get the paint out.
That includes putting down drop cloths and using painter’s tape to line any edges and protect anything you don’t want to paint this color.
It’s always better to use more drop cloths and painter’s tape than you think you’ll need.
Once you’ve ensured the prep work is done, it’s time to get started.
If you’re wondering “can you can use exterior paint inside“, the simple answer is “no”!
How To Tell If High Walls Are Ready For Paint
Before you get started, even with painting prep work, the first step is evaluating the existing paint and whether the wall is ready for painting.
Ask yourself these three questions before you get started.
Is It The Texture I Want?
If the texture isn’t right you might need to sand the walls or apply a different finish to the wall before you get started. Checking on this before you get started is one of the best ways to make sure you’re happy with your finished walls.
Is The Color One I Can Cover Easily?
If you’re working with a darker color or a brilliant gem tone you might need to prime the walls before you paint them a new color.
Alternatively, you might want to get a color opposite the one currently on the walls to help cancel out the bright tone before you apply your final color.
Are The Walls Clean?
A lot of people think that they can just paint over first, scuff marks, and other signs that the walls are dirty, but all that mess can affect the final paint job.
Even worse, grease and dirt can sometimes soak through the new paint and create permanent dark patches you can’t really clean up later.
If the walls are showing any signs of dirt, it’s a good idea to give them a quick wash and let them dry before you apply new paint of any color.
Cutting In The Ceiling
Cutting in the ceiling is one of the first things you should do when you’re painting high walls, and it can be one of the most difficult parts of home painting projects.
At the same time, do this part well and you’re a lot more likely to get a professional-looking paint job.
Cutting in the ceiling is painting the corners where your walls and the ceilings meet.
You want to use a paintbrush for this step, it helps make sure the paint color is fully saturated and you don’t miss part of the wall. A little tape applied to the ceiling before you start will help create a crisp even edge.
Ideally, you should have a ladder tall enough to let you get right up to the corners, typically a 16-20 ft ladder will work. But you can use an extension pole if you need one.
Paint any three-way corners (places where two walls and the ceiling meet) and make sure you have enough paint on your brush to cover these difficult corners. Apply the paint in one smooth stroke if you can. Remember, you can always go back and apply a second coat if you need it.
Once this step is done you’re ready to paint any other edges, and then the middle of the wall.
Paint One Wall At A Time
It’s important when you’re painting high walls to think about flashing if you want an even color and texture across the paint.
Flashing happens when the edges of the painted area dry before the middle of the wall. It’s common with tall walls because painting tall walls takes a little longer, so the paint has longer to dry before you finish.
The easiest way to avoid flashing is to paint one wall completely before you move on to the next walls. That way the edges are less likely to dry out, and there’s not as much time between finishing the edges of the wall and finishing the middle.
It can be a little tedious to paint this way, especially if you’re used to painting the edges of all the walls in one color before going into the middle like you can on shorter walls.
Remember, to avoid flashing you’ll need to apply the first coat evenly and quickly across the entire wall, and then repeat the process with the second coat.
Hopefully, you won’t need more than two coats if you’re using high-quality paint and working relatively quickly.
One Coat Or Two?
A lot of professional quality latex house paints advertise that they are paint and primer in one and that you only need one coat to get a good finish.
In most cases, while you can get a reasonable-looking paint job in one coat, it’s still recommend using a second coat.
For one thing, having two coats helps cover any micro spots the paint roller might have missed on the first pass. For another, it helps create a deeper more resilient color that will resist fading.
Lastly, a lot of paints don’t actually look their best in a single coat. If you want a color more like the one on the can, you’ll need two or three coats to get the job done.
As a general rule, the darker or more saturated the color you’re using is, the more coats you’ll need to apply.
Painting High Walls And Ceilings Over Stairs?
This is where you’ll want a ladder that can adjust to have one side longer than the other, ladder levelers, and a couple of extra people on hand to brace the ladder.
Painting over stairs can be tricky, but as long as you have a ladder that’s tall enough, and well-braced enough to be steady on the ground, you can use the same techniques you would for the rest of your home.
How To Paint High Walls: Tips And Tricks
Now that we’ve talked a bit about the general techniques you should use to paint tall walls, let’s talk about some of the details and tips and tricks you can use to get a better result when you’re painting.
Paint Brush Or Paint Roller?
For almost all indoor painting you’re going to need both a paint roller and a paintbrush. The trick is knowing when to use each, and what they’re best at.
Paint brushes are best for small areas, edging and detailing the paint job, and working around light switches and fixtures.
But they don’t do as well for the bulk of the job since they can apply paint slightly unevenly, and it takes longer to apply the paint.
A paint roller is good for the bulk of the work since they apply even coats of paint quickly across large areas.
But they aren’t good for more detailed work at the edges of the wall or around light switches and other architectural features.
Extension Ladder Or Extension Pole?
Ideally, you’re going to use both of these tools, but the extension ladder is probably the more important of the two.
Even if you can paint the whole wall with an extension pole, you won’t get quite as good of a finish if you don’t have an extension ladder helping you get closer.
Can’t afford both? Get an extension pole. You’ll be able to do most or all of the job with it, just expect that the details won’t be perfect.
How Should I Protect The Floor?
Drop cloths are the most common way to protect flooring. If you’re painting tall walls you want to protect the flooring out to about 6ft away from the wall.
What About High Ceilings?
If you’re painting high ceilings the process is actually remarkably similar to painting tall walls, except that you need to protect the entire floor instead of just part of it.
Painting Around Light Fixtures
Drop cloths can also be taped into place around light fixtures to help protect them from paint and drips. Alternatively, a double layer of painter’s tape may offer enough protection.
How To Protect My Furniture While Painting High Walls?
If you’re painting in a room it’s best to remove all the furniture, but that isn’t always an option.
Consider piling the furniture in the middle of the room and covering it if possible. If some of the furniture can’t be moved, drop cloths taped into place works almost as well.
Avoid Choosing Too Many Different Colors
In today’s world of contrasting colors and attention-getting walls, it’s tempting to choose a lot of colors for a single space.
However, the reality is that working with more than 2-3 colors isn’t just impractical, it probably won’t look as good as you think it will.
When you’re painting high walls, try to stick to as few colors as possible.
That will minimize how much edge work you need to do, as well as minimize the number of details you have to get right for a professional-looking finish.
Final Thoughts on How to Paint High Walls
Painting tall walls can certainly be challenging, and sometimes dangerous if you’re not careful.
It’s important to have the right tools and equipment to paint safely and get the best finish possible.
This means, you’ll want to have extension ladders, extension poles, and sometimes even scaffolding to stand on while painting.
If you don’t feel comfortable painting yourself, you can always hire a professional painter to do the work for you.