How to Paint Safely Using a Ladder (12 Effective Tips)

paint roller placed on a stepladder

Whether you’re painting walls or doing an exterior makeover on your home, ladders are essential for reaching high and tricky places. Safety should always be the top priority when using them for painting tasks. Here’s how you can paint safely using a ladder. 

1. Choose the Right Ladder

Ladder with painting supplies on the floor and against the wall
Photo Credit: Blue Bird / Pexels / License


Ladders are made of aluminum, wood, or fiberglass. 

  • Aluminum ladders are the most common because they are durable and lightweight. However, they conduct electricity, so choose wood or fiberglass ladders to paint near electrical wires. 
  • Wood ladders are sturdy and don’t conduct electricity, but they are heavy, making them difficult to move around. 
  • Fiberglass ladders are durable, lightweight, and non-conductive. But they are more expensive than aluminum and wood. 


Ladders are categorized as grade 3, 2, 1, and 1A, with 1A being the most durable and 3 being the least. Here’s the weight limit of each ladder grade. 

  • Grade 3 ladders: 200 pounds
  • Grade 2 ladders: 225 pounds
  • Grade 1 ladders: 250 pounds
  • Grade 1A ladders: 300 pounds

Grade 2 ladders are the best choice for residential painting projects. They are rigid while being easy to move around. They can hold up to 225 pounds, so even if you carry a lot of tools and a gallon of paint, you’ll be well within the limit.  

Grade 3 ladders are suitable for painting surfaces up to 20 feet tall, but they have a low weight limit. Grade 1 and 1A ladders are heavy and designed for commercial use. 


The different types of ladders include:

  • Step ladders (or A-frame ladders) are self-supporting and consist of two ladders joined together with a hinge at the top. They are non-adjustable and have a spreader bar that locks them in place when opened. Step ladders are suitable for interior painting and range from 4 to 20 feet in length. 
  • Platform ladders are similar to step ladders except that they have a platform to stand at the top. They are suitable for interior painting and range from 2 to 18 feet in length. 
  • Straight ladders are the conventional form of ladders. They are non-adjustable and usually used for exterior painting. Straight ladders range in size from 10 to 40 feet.
  • Telescoping ladders are the easiest to store, adjustable, and portable. They are suitable for both interior and exterior painting. Telescoping ladders range from 8 to 16 feet in length. 
  • Extension ladders are adjustable in length and consist of two or more sections that slide into one another. They are portable and suitable for both interior and exterior painting. Extension ladders come in many sizes, ranging from 16 to 40 feet in length. 

2. Inspect the Ladder

Imagine you’re standing on a ladder with a broken rung. Well, you get the picture. To prevent such mishaps, inspect the ladder thoroughly before use. Here’s all you need to check your ladder for: 

  • Rung and side rail damage
  • Ladder stability 
  • Slippery materials on the rungs
  • Loose bolts
  • Rubber feet wear

If you spot any of these issues, hold off on the project till you fix them or replace your ladder. 

Note: When painting outdoors, check for overhead obstructions like power lines. 

3. Place the Ladder on a Stable Surface

The ladder should be on a stable level surface for proper stability. Use a ladder leveler if the ground is uneven. If you’re working in wet soil or grass, dig a hole to secure the ladder’s feet and prevent them from slipping.

4. Position the Ladder Correctly

Position the ladder at a 75-degree angle from the ground for optimum stability. If measuring the angle is difficult, use the 4:1 rule (for every four feet of ladder height, move the base one foot away from the wall). 

Stand on the bottom rung and gently shake the ladder to check its stability. If it doesn’t feel sturdy, readjust the positioning.

5. Lock Step and Platform Ladders

Step and platform ladders have two sides joined with a hinge at the top. Most of them have spreader bars to lock two sides in place, preventing the ladder from closing accidentally. 

6. Secure the Ladder’s Top

Securing the ladder at the top prevents wobble and protects you from falling. Here are some tips to secure the top. 

  • Never rest the ladder against doors, windows, gutters, or anything that can move or break. 
  • Attach a ladder stabilizer to the top rung to increase stability. It also increases the gap between you and the wall, making it easier to paint. 
  • Attach a ladder lock to the ladder and clip it to any base, such as gutters. You won’t need this if you use a ladder stabilizer. 

7. Maintain Three Points of Contact

A good rule of thumb is to keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times, which means having both hands and one foot or both feet and one hand on the ladder. Ascend and descend the ladder slowly. 

Note: Do not stand on the top two rungs of a ladder because they can’t support your weight. 

8. Secure the Paint Can and Tools

Person using paint roller and tray on ladder
Photo Credit: Blue Bird / Pexels / License

Climbing the ladder while carrying a paint can is risky. You won’t be able to maintain three-point contact with the ladder and may lose balance or drop the paint bucket, creating a new cleaning project for you to tackle (see “How to Clean Up Spilled Paint” in case an accident happens). 

Attach a swivel hook to the side of your ladder to hang the paint bucket. Use a tool belt to carry paint brushes and other tools. 

Pro tip: Dipping the paint roller or brush directly into the paint bucket can overload it and cause drips. To prevent this, attach a paint tray holder to your ladder. You can get it from The Home Depot or Amazon. 

9. Use an Extension Pole

Using an extension pole is safer and makes painting easier. Without it, you’ll have to stretch yourself to paint hard-to-reach areas like the top corners of the wall, which can lead to accidents. 

Remember that getting down and moving your ladder for better reach is better than losing balance by overreaching and falling. 

10. Take Breaks

Painting from a ladder is physically demanding. Take regular breaks to rest and stretch to prevent fatigue. Overexertion can lead to accidents, so give your body the rest it needs. 

11. Choose the Right Day for Painting Outside

Painting outside on a windy or rainy day can lead to mishaps and spoil your paint job. Check the weather forecast and postpone the project if conditions are unfavorable. Moderate temperatures and humidity are the best weather conditions for painting.

12. Wear Safety Gear

Safety should always come first. Here’s all the gear you need to paint from a ladder.

  • Non-slip shoes
  • Safety glasses 
  • Gloves
  • Hard hat
  • Dust mask or respirator

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when painting using a ladder. 

  • Using a damaged ladder
  • Overreaching from the ladder
  • Standing on the top two rungs
  • Distractions 
  • Exceeding the ladder’s weight limit 
  • Placing the ladder on an uneven surface
  • Not using a ladder stabilizer or ladder lock 
  • Rushing the work


What should I do if it unexpectedly rains while painting outdoors?

Descend from the ladder immediately and secure your equipment. Resume painting once the weather improves. You may need to repaint or touch up the areas washed with water. 

Do I need someone to hold the ladder? 

While not necessary, having someone hold the ladder improves safety.

Can I paint from the top of the ladder? 

No. The top two ladder rungs can’t support your weight, so avoid using them. 

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

The ladder safety tips in this article will make your painting much safer. Use the right ladder, position it at the correct angle, and secure it at the top and bottom.

Painting from a ladder is a risky and time-consuming job. If you don’t have experience working on a ladder, avoid risking yourself and hire a professional painter. Paint Gnome connects you with the best painting companies in your area that can assist you with everything related to painting.

Main Image Credits: Ivan Samkov / Pexels / License

Abdul Wadood

Abdul Wadood enjoys painting and is currently on a mission to help homeowners transform their living spaces from boring to beautiful. When he's not painting, you can find him exploring the world.