How To Use A Step Ladder

This post will look at how to use a step ladder – a step ladder is a very common ladder used when house painting as it allows easy access to areas that are usually just out of reach, additionally the step ladder does not need to be supported by a wall or other object making it very versatile and useful for reaching areas directly overhead. A typical application of the step ladder when first “cutting-in” the room; providing easy access to where the ceiling meets the wall.

A step ladder just about exactly resembles the shape of the letter “A” as it has a cross bar that holds both sides in position and two diagonal sides, one side has steps and other a simple metal support. This allows a person to easily climb up the side with steps. It’s important to note that the top rung or apex of the step ladder should never be used to stand on as the ladder can tip over very easily.

Steps to follow for proper step ladder safety

When considering how to use a step ladder a person should follow these steps:

  1. When opening the step ladder you should always open it up to its maximum width. Only when it is fully open will you be able to push the spreader brace into it’s proper position to support the ladder. Remember to push the shelf on the front of the step ladder down as far as it will go.
  2. Be sure that you have the ladder positioned flat on level ground. Be cautious if the area you are working in has debris on the floor or nearby. When stepping off the ladder, always be sure that you are stepping onto level ground and not an object that might tip or cause you to lose your balance. Be certain to use a rubber mat or other surface such as a rug if the floor is slippery to ensure the ladder will not slide or slip around.
  3. When climbing the step ladder always hold the upper steps with both hands while climbing. It may seem like a good idea to hold the side rails but the safest technique is to hold the steps in front of you.
  4. Again, never sit or stand on the very top rung of the ladder or the step immediately below the top, this is very dangerous. The ladder is not intended to be used this way as it has very little stability to provide when you are perched at the top, tipping the ladder over in these circumstances is not out of the question sending you to the floor!
  5. Never use the bucket shelf to support you in any fashion – this part of the step ladder is strictly for tools.

Step ladders come in a variety of sizes ranging from baby sized 3-foot step ladders to massive 20-foot ladders. For most house painting work a typical 6-foot step ladder will be all that’s necessary. How to use a step ladder should never be overlooked especially for someone who is inexperienced with ladders or painting in general. Play it safe and if you remember to follow the above rules you should have a safe and productive experience using a ladder.

Interior House Painting Tools – The Basics

Interior house painting requires a variety of painting tools – here are some of the ‘must-have’ basics.

House painting certainly requires its share of tools; but before you start your project make sure you have the basic interior house painting tools together. Starting a job without having the proper tools can quickly lead to frustration and time wasted heading back out to the paint or hardware store. Let’s take a look at the absolute must-haves you should always keep close at hand through-out your entire painting project.

5-in-1 Painters Multi-tool

Okay, you can find these tools in many formats, 3-in-1, 4-in-1, and probably 8-in-1! Basically just make sure you find one that can act as a crude scrape, has a sharp or pointy corner you can use to dig out holes in the wall or pop open paint cans, and also has a half-moon style paint roller squeegee. This tool has a lot of uses and I’ll probably write up a post on this tool alone someday.

Multi-Tip Screwdriver

Use this to remove face plates, remove hardware, open cans in a pinch, and unscrew anything else you might run into. Usually you’ll find a screwdriver with a good variety of bits inside of the handle or attached somehow. I cannot stress how important it is to get a good screwdriver; this will see a lot of use even when you’re not painting. Maybe some of you folk out there never lose a bit but it seems no matter how I try, I’m always losing at least one and it’s usually the bit I need at any given moment is the one I’ve lost. So it’s not a bad idea to buy a screwdriver that where the bits retract from the handle, this’ll save you the major hassle of losing or misplacing bits.

Small Hammer

Okay, I am no carpenter so I can’t really give a good analysis on hammers. But occasionally you’ll run into a situation where you need a hammer to give something a good whack. It might be something that’s been stuck together with paint, or something that’s well stuck to a surface. Either way it’s a good idea to keep a small hammer around just in case the need arises.

Measuring Tape

Use to measure surfaces for paint coverage, plot lines for designs, and probably a few other uses that have slipped my mind. Again you never know when you’ll need a measuring tape for a last minute change in plan or to double-check your intended plan. Plotting out designs to mask off will be virtually impossible without some kind of measuring device and a tape measure obviously works wonders. You can also use your tape measure to plan out your drop cloth placement or protective plastic usage if you are very unfamiliar with their dimensions.


Use this for cutting a wide variety of things such as painters tape, protective plastic, and anything else. You can use your knife to dig out cracks before you fill them and also cut a good clean edge out of drywall holes before you patch them. There’s always something that needs cutting open – caulk tubes for instance.

Sanding Block

A sanding blog is a good instrument to wrap sandpaper around. This will help you to achieve an even flush surface when sanding down patches on your wall. Make sure you pickup a few packs of good quality sandpaper. I suggest you buy a few different packages; 80-grit, 150-grit and something 180-grit or above. With a good variety of grits you’ll be able to tackle any surface you might find. This is also a good item to attack extremely stubborn stains with.

Clean Rags

Clean rags are incredibly diverse and useful. From wiping your brow after an intense session with the paint roller, to cleaning off that ‘oops!’ paint drip you’ll find clean rags come in extremely handy. I suggest you pick one a large package of these as I’ve seen them used up very quickly in the hands of inexperienced painters! Definitely use these to keep yourself clean but be aware of where you are putting your dirty rags as they can transfer paint or dirt to other surfaces! One particular problem is hanging a rag from your pocket; if you happen to get paint on it then you can easily paint other surfaces!

You might not think of these as interior house painting tools but just wait until you absolutely need one and you’ll quickly realize their importance. If you don’t have something on the list go buy it. There is an impulse to skimp on these purchases but the reality is that these tools will be kicking around your house for years to come. Be sure your interior house painting tools are of a high quality and you’ll ensure your investment does not go to waste!

Paint Brushes: Properly Loading Your Brush

Once you’ve found a brush (if you’re looking for a brush read ‘Paint Brushes: Picking a brush.’) the first step is learning how to load paint into your paint brush.   It may seem obvious to some but the important part of loading a brush is to make sure you’ve got enough paint to properly paint the surface. Without a loaded brush you’ll be dry-brushing which is not only a waste of time but also hard on the brush and can leave an undesirable finish. A properly loaded brush will allow you to cut-in easier, finish brush work faster, and provide a better quality paintjob.

Pour the paint!

Let’s start with a basic empty paint can. First, pour about 2” of paint into the can.

Dip, dip, dip!

Next, dip and re-dip your brush in a stabbing like motion, by stabbing the paint with the brush the filaments will spread open and paint will be absorbed into the brush, try not to stab the bottom of the can. Do this a few times and your brush will quickly load up. Now you’ve got your brush full of paint; gently tap the brush against the inner surface of the can (just above where the paint is) removing the excess paint. The majority of paint is held inside of the brush out of view.

Paint control.

Once you’ve got the hang of loading the brush, you can change the way it carries the paint by gently scraping some of the outside paint off using the inner edge of the can. You don’t want to put much pressure on the brush when your scraping it, think glide not scrape. This can be handy when you’re cutting in by removing extra paint from the side of the brush that’ll be making the cut-in line, or if you’ve overloaded your brush you can squeeze a little bit of the paint out of it. It takes experience to get the feel for how much paint you’ll need for different situations. If you’re brushes filaments are starting to separate and ‘finger’, or you’re no longer spreading paint easily chances are you haven’t been loading your brush enough.

Next “Paint brushes” post we’ll take a look at general brush work and cutting-in.

Paint that house!

Paint Brushes: Picking A Brush

Visit any painting store and you’ll encounter a ton of brushes to choose from.  There are brushes ranging in size from super tiny to 4″ for all sorts of purposes.

The first thing to learn about brushes is price does matter, a cheap brush will NOT perform the same as a more expensive professional brush; a good professional brush will carry more paint, spread that paint more evenly, and last longer with proper cleaning and care.

Brush basics

Choosing which category of paint brush you’ll be looking for will depend on what kind of paint you’ll be working with and here we’ll be discussing the most common interior paints.  There are paint brushes for alkyd/oil based paint and brushes for latex/acrylic paint, it’s typical to see the paint brush’s intended use listed on it’s package.

If you’re just starting out painting you’ll get the best results from using a 2 ½” or 3″ angled sash brush for cutting-in walls or general brush work in larger areas and a 1 ½” to 2″ angled sash brush for trim work and hard to reach areas.

With experience comes a liking to a certain brushes and you’ll find a lot of varying opinions on what’s best, occasionally I’ll use a 2 ½” angled sash brush for both cutting-in walls and painting trim work. Expect to spend $20-$30 for a decent brush. My favorite brands are Corona and Purdy.

Brush details

A brush is made up of different parts:

  • The handle

Usually made out of hard wood, cheaper brushes typically sport plastic handles. There are a few different styles of handles that differ from the standard, to name a few; beaver tail, rat tail, and stubby.  Different handles weight the brush differently and work better in certain situations, trying to cut-in in hard to maneuver areas the stubby brush can come in handy.

  • The filaments (aka bristles)

Brushes are made using different material for their filaments, natural filaments are used on oil or alkyd paint brushes and synthetic filaments are used on paint brushes for latex or acrylic.  Using the wrong paint with a brush you can damage the filaments and get poor painting results, an oil brush with latex paint will make the paintjob look like you applied it with a rake!

You’ll want to make sure the bristles are tapered and form an even line when pressed against a surface, this is important for straight & easy cutting-in. If you look closely you’ll see the end of the bristles are ‘split’ this is called flagging and it allows the brush to lay the paint on the surface easier.

  • The ferrule

The ferrule is the piece that connects the handle and the bristles made out of nonferrous or stainless steel on better quality brushes. Inside of the ferrule there are spacers set in-between rows of bristles, this provides space for the paint to accumulate allowing the brush to hold paint.

This should help you look in the right direction for a decent brush, we’ll be covering painting tips on how to use a brush soon.

Paint that house!