Decorating a stairwell safely

As the first priority, always make sure that the working platform is secure when decorating a stairwell. This makes it possible to decorate both the head wall (the highest part of the staircase) and the well wall (the wall next to it) with complete safety.

Start by taking up the stair carpet and then rest a ladder against the head wall, making sure that it is positioned at a safe working angle. Wrap cloths, or place old socks, around the tops of the ladder to prevent damage.

If there is only one landing stand a hop-up or strong box on it – testing that the box will take your weight – and lay a plank from the hop-up to the ladder. If there is more than one, place a step-ladder against the well wall on the first landing and screw a batten to the floor to stop it slipping. Finally, stand a hop-up or a box on the top landing. Lay a plank from the hop-up to the step ladder and then lay another one across to the head wall ladder. In both cases, place a second scaffold board over the first if the distance between the main supports is greater than 1,800 mm 6 ft. This removes the risk of the single board bouncing when it is walked on.

If papering the stairwell, remember that there is a danger that the weight of the paste may damage the long lengths of paper needed, so always work with a helper supporting the paper from below. Turn the first length of paper about 12mm from the well wall on to the head wall. If painting the wall, treat each area separately. Start off with the upper part of the well wall and work downwards to complete it. Then tackle the head wall. Try to complete the job in one operation so that there will be no join lines in the finished paintwork.

The correct order for papering a stairwell

Start papering a stairwell by hanging the longest length of paper first; this is usually the length positioned immediately next to the head wall. Work up the stairs from this length before hanging the shorter lengths over the foot of the stairs. Paper the head wall last of all.

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