How to Paint High Walls and Ceilings

By Richard Kalinowski
Extension poles let you reach the ceiling without a ladder.

When you're painting a room, ceiling surfaces and vaulted walls pose a significant problem. These high surfaces require some special tools to properly paint, but the task is not insurmountable, even for a novice DIY homeowner. With the right process, you can get an even finish across your high walls and ceiling, matching the paint job on lower portions of the room in quality.

Cover the room's floor surfaces with protective plastic sheets.

Place an A-frame ladder near the wall or ceiling you want to paint. Some A-frame ladders are also called “tent ladders.” A-frame ladders provide stability and extra height without leaning against the wall and scuffing it up.

Climb the ladder and have a friend at the base to hold the ladder firmly. It's never a good idea to climb a tall ladder without somebody at the bottom to hold it steady.

Tape any edges on the surface with 2-inch painter's tape. If you're painting a ceiling, also slide plastic sheeting under the tape to protect walls. One of the biggest problems with ceilings is accidental dripping. When you're dealing with a high surface, gravity plays a big role in creating messes. Painter's tape and sheeting prevents drips at the seams. Climb down the ladder and reposition it as needed while you work; don't risk leaning precariously from the side of the ladder.

Apply a coat of latex paint to the topmost edges of the ceiling or high wall, using a 3-inch brush. It's best to work from the top down, especially for vaulted wall spaces, because then you're dripping onto not-yet painted wall, and you can run your brush over any drips down the wall as you go.

Attach an extension pole to a paint roller handle. With an extension pole, you may be able to reach the ceiling without a ladder. This is ideal, because repositioning the ladder to reach different wall sections is time-consuming.

Paint the rest of the wall or ceiling surface using the extended roller. A foam roller brush is best for high surfaces, because foam rollers don't soak up as much paint as nappy rollers, so they won't lead to as many drips. However, if you already painted other portions of the wall with a nappy roller, use the same type of roller on the high wall parts so the different paint applications are even.

Wait for this first coat to dry, and apply a second coat of paint to the edges and main surfaces if necessary.

Remove painter's tape and the plastic sheeting after the paint has thoroughly dried.

About the Author

Richard Kalinowski began writing professionally in 2006. He also works as a website programmer and graphic designer for several clients. Kalinowski holds a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College and a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.