Staircase Scaffold System: How to Paint Stairways & Access High Ceilings

What is a Staircase / Stairwell Scaffolding?

A Staircase scaffolding is a scaffolding setup used to reach areas that have higher than normal ceilings. The most common place to find these high ceilings is in stairwells. 

A Staircase scaffolding allows you or anyone else to access the ceiling and wall.

This is required when painting the high ceilings near stairs, if stairwell repairs are required, when lightbulbs above the stairwell need to be changed, and more. 

What makes staircase scaffolding unique is that the base on which the scaffolding rests is not level.

Normally this is because the footings of the scaffolding are placed on different steps in the stairwell (which are located at different heights).

How To Setup An Improvised Staircase Scaffolding

Setting up a staircase scaffolding can be an improvised job, depending on the space available, and height you need to reach.

In order to set up a staircase scaffolding, you will need the following items, and maybe more:

  • 2 ladders
  • Plank
  • Tape / Rubber Padding

The idea with a staircase scaffolding is to place one ladder on a lower stair, and lean it up against the wall.

Before leaning the ladder against the wall, it is important to use tape or rubber on the parts of the ladder that will be touching the wall. This is to protect that wall from any damage that can occur due to the bare aluminum from the ladder touching the wall.

Next take a step-ladder, and place it on the flat second level of the building.

Once you have your two ladders in place, place a plank between the two ladders, finding a height that will allow you to reach the top of the wall which requires painting or repairs to be done.

When setting up this stairwell scaffold system, it is important to ensure the system is secure. Depending on the specific situation, it may be advisable to use clamps to secure the plank to the step ladder. 

Watch this step-by-step YouTube tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcdHc7lZjlE

Improvised Staircase Scaffolding Safety

When working on a staircase scaffold system, It is crucial to remember safety.

In many jurisdictions, working at heights (WAH) requirements come into effect once a person is working at heights either above 6 feet or 10 feet (2 or 3 meters).

There is a good chance that the scaffolding will only raise you a couple feet, but it is important to be aware of the dangers and risks of falling.

If the person performing the tasks is heavier than your average Joe, it can also be a good idea to use two planks. This adds extra security, and limits the risk of the worker breaking the plank and falling.

Are there Standardized Staircase Scaffolds?

If the conditions and dimensions of your staircase allow, you may be able to use a scaffolding that is designed to be used on a staircase.

What makes a staircase scaffold different from a “normal” scaffold is that one side has base plates which can be adjusted to fit different heights. 

This allows the scaffolding to be placed on uneven levels, which is common when working on or around stairwells.

The major advantage of using a proper staircase scaffolding is that many of the features, including guardrails which are normal accessories in a scaffolding are present. These safety barriers limit the risk of the worker falling.

What Health And Safety Precautions Need To Be Taken?

Like any task where you or the employee is working at an elevated surface, you always need to be aware of the risk of falling.

Most jurisdictions mandate the use of WAH (Working at Heights) protocols either above 6 feet (2 meters) or 10 feet (3 meters). This will vary depending on your jurisdiction.

Even if you are not working at extreme heights, it is important to remember that simply jumping or falling from just one foot above the ground can lead to health risks.

Therefore when working on a stairwell platform, the most important thing is to ensure that you or the worker can remain balanced when working.

It is also important to ensure that the ladders you use during your setup are stable. You need to make sure that they are sturdy, and oriented in a way that they will not fall.

For example, when setting up the extension ladder, the direction of the ladder should be opposite the direction of the stairs.

Can I just use an extension ladder?

If you only require access to one area, then you may want to consider using an extension ladder.

In order to be able to set up the ladder on a stair, you will need a ladder aid. This will create a flat surface so the ladder can lay flat. 

When using this setup to reach your high ceiling, it is important that the work zone remains close to the ladder.

Reaching away from the ladder could lead to the ladder becoming unbalanced, which could be even more dangerous because the ladder rests on a stair and not a flat surface like a floor.

Alex Neumann
About Alex Neumann

Alex has spent most of his working life in the concrete and cement business. While working in these manufacturing facilities, he worked on several projects, where health and safety was always the biggest priority. Whether it be working on small ready-mix concrete sites at minus 30 degrees Celcius (-22 Farenheit), or working inside large cement manufacturing facilities, working at heights meant requiring scaffolding to reach the hard to get-to places. It also meant working in areas where a fall could be dangerous or even deadly. From these various experiences, he developed an understanding and appreciation of scaffolding.

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