How do I paint hard-to-reach places? These are the tools of the trade that decorating experts swear by

If you need help painting places that are awkward to reach in your home, these experts know the best tools for the job

an entryway with a painted ceiling
(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies. Design: The Vawdrey House)

Knowing how to paint hard-to-reach places when decorating is the sort of predicament the human race is yet to properly figure out. In 2022, many of us still don't know the best way of painting those high areas or awkward spots in our homes without it resulting in a textured and uneven finish. Luckily though, there are some tools out there that can help get the job done. 

When it comes to being creative with your paint ideas, I can safely assume it's these out-of-reach spaces that are restricting you. How many times have you repainted your home only to skip over the space at the top of your kitchen cabinets or overlooked the stairwell walls because of their tricky height? 

Well with some simple tools, I'm pleased to say you can give these spots the attention they deserve without the need to hire a professional. To understand the best options out there, we've asked some painting and decorating experts for their advice on how to paint those difficult spots. This way, you can have the worthy paint job your home deserves, from floor to ceiling and everywhere in between. 

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interiors. She's committed to helping readers make the best choices in their homes through writing practical tips and guides to help inform their design choices. For this piece she spoke with experts in painting and decorating to understand the best way to paint those hard to reach areas that you've abandoned for way too long...

How to paint hard to reach places 

radiator

(Image credit: Little Greene)

If you're not accustomed with how to paint a room, you're probably wondering what kind of hard-to-reach places we're talking about. There are some obvious ones - the ceiling being the main contender - but also less obvious spots; the back of the radiator, stairwell walls, molding crevices to name a few. 

For some of these areas, a simple step ladder can do the trick. In other cases though, even with the help of a ladder you'd need impossibly long and dexterous limbs to reach into the nooks, crevices, and tight spaces. When faced with these challenges, more technical equipment is needed. 

1. Use an extendable pole for ceilings 

Unless you're the kind tall where you could be a contender in the Guinness book of world records (or your ceilings are incredibly low), you won't be able to paint a ceiling without using some tools to help you. 

'An extending pole is probably my go-to, not just for reaching difficult areas but also it's super efficient when painting ceilings and walls,' says Les Kenny, founder of Build Eazy (opens in new tab). 'Obviously you'll need to be confident and comfortable with your painting skills to have a sturdy hand whilst using an extender.'  

There will inevitably be cases where you need to pair two tools together. Using a ladder as well as an extension pole might be necessary for an extra high ceiling. Another good option is an adjustable paint brush holder which can be fitted to an extension pole to help you tackle more detailed spots or cut in neatly. 

For areas like the back of cabinets, you can also purchase extension poles with a mini roller attachment. 'These fantastic rollers have long handles which I use to get to the back of long narrow areas,' says painter and furniture stylist, Claire Hill (opens in new tab). 'It’s definitely a case of perseverance in some cases to achieve some tight recesses and also ensuring a good finish, but you feel good when you’ve achieved it.'

5-12 ft Long Telescopic Extension Pole, Amazon (opens in new tab)
What to buy

5-12 ft Long Telescopic Extension Pole, Amazon (opens in new tab)

This multi-purpose extension pole from Amazon is a must-have for any household. Extending from 5 to 12 feet, the EXTEND-A-REACH telescopic pole will give you up to 20 feet reach when standing, making it easy to accomplish any hard-to-reach task, from painting to dusting. 

2. Add a gooseneck attachment (or a gooseneck brush)

An extendable pole might do the trick for rolling, but they can make cutting in a serious challenge. 'What we do is use a “gooseneck” attachment on the pole to cut in,' explains Tila Lee (opens in new tab) of Pretty in Paint School (opens in new tab). 'The important thing when choosing the right attachment is that it locks into place. This will help give better control in an already tricky situation that will require a steady upper body, not just a hand.'

McCauley Tools Paint Brush and Roller Extender, Amazon (opens in new tab)
What to buy

McCauley Tools Paint Brush and Roller Extender, Amazon (opens in new tab)

The revolver extender tool from Amazon comes with a ridged brush extender and 360° rotatable paint roller. Together this painting system allows you to paint high and hard to reach areas with 50% less ladder time. What's more, it securely holds any size and handle style of paintbrush, and easily changes to 8 different positions. 

3. Use an adjustable stair ladder

In some cases a plain old step ladder might suffice, however, when you're painting the high walls on stairs or other awkward spaces, you'll need an adjustable stair ladder, like this one from Amazon (opens in new tab), to make the task safer.

'The wall and ceiling above a staircase are probably the hardest to reach area in most homes and should be approached with care,' says Claire Douglas (opens in new tab). 'Adjustable stair ladders are super handy and often have platforms that can be erected to provide a stable working area whilst painting the hardest to reach areas. That said, I’d be reluctant to recommend using one unless you are both comfortable with heights and an experienced DIYer.'

PiViT ladder tool, Amazon (opens in new tab)
What to buy

PiViT ladder tool, Amazon (opens in new tab)

If you don't want to splash out on a designated adjustable ladder, the PiViT ladder tool, available at Amazon, might be what you need. It's compatible with almost any ladder and can be used to instantly level it if on an uneven surface. The PiViT even doubles as a stable platform that will hook onto ladder rungs, helping to keep you safe. 

4. Use a paint pad 

When it comes to tight gaps, a paint pad might be a better option than a brush or roller, especially when it comes to how to paint behind a radiator. 'If you can't take a radiator off the wall but need to paint behind it, use a mini roller or paint pad to access the wall behind,' Claire advises. 'You can pick up small, long reach, paint pads in most DIY stores, or failing that you could fashion your own by gluing a thin sponge to the back of a kitchen spatula.'

She also points out that paint pads can be useful for tackling ceilings, too. 'Their lack of bristles can be an advantage over a paintbrush, although they aren’t quite as good for precision though in my experience.'

Paint pad set, Amazon (opens in new tab)
What to buy

Paint pad set, Amazon (opens in new tab)

For those tighter gaps, this pant pad set from Amazon might be the best option. Painting pads are lighter and easier to use than a roller or brush as the fabric pad delivers a smooth even paint finish. This set includes an edge painting tool, an angled corner pad and an attachment for your extension pole.

5. Use a curved rolled for frames and moulding 

'If you’re making a mess where your walls and ceilings meet, or around moulding, door and window frames, you may want to consider investing in a curved roller,' says  Joan Gair, designer at House Tastic (opens in new tab).

Unlike regular rollers, curved varieties are designed to be small and narrow, allowing them to be more precise when it comes to straight lines and small, hard to reach spaces. It also helps you to paint a room faster, too. 'Simply remove the excess paint from your curved roller, and lightly roll over any areas that are causing you trouble,' Joan adds. 

Corner Paint Roller kit, Amazon (opens in new tab)
What to buy

Corner Paint Roller kit, Amazon (opens in new tab)

This curved corner paint roller is ideal for cutting-in, corners and painting around pipework. The high pile roller attachment has great paint absorption to help with application, making it faster and easier to use than a brush. 

Avoid makeshift 'hacks' 

For the more crafty minded among you, you might be reading the words 'extension pole' and think you're up to the challenge of making your own. Take it from us - as effective as a paintbrush taped onto a broom handle may sound, it won't produce the same reliable results. 

'I've seen a fair few TikTok hacks for painting, including one using a broom covered in paint for high areas,' says Les. 'I wouldn't recommend most of these "hacks" as whilst they're effective when dealing with high areas, they don't give an even coat of paint and can actually cause further work further down the line by the poor practice.' If you aren't willing to invest in the proper tools for the job, it's finally time to make that phone call to a professional. 

Lilith Hudson
Junior writer

Lilith Hudson is the Junior Writer on Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news articles for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration that you need in your home. She discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. Lilith now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London (a degree where she could combine both) and has previously worked at the Saturday Times Magazine, ES Magazine, DJ Mag and The Simple Things Magazine.