A decent stepladder is a must. Pick a lightweight aluminium type with five treads, a flat top platform for putting tools on (not for standing on) and a top handrail. Make sure its locks are engaged when it's open. Buy two identical stepladders plus a 2.4 m (8 ft) scaffold board (or hire the board from a local hire shop) and you can set up a platform that's ideal for painting walls or ceilings.
When using steps:
- Set them up so that they stand square and level
- If you have to stretch sideways from them, keep your hips within the sides of the steps and keep both feet on the treads all the time
- Don't lean out sideways too far, or you could topple over
- Take care when you step off that you don't trip over power-tool flexes or put your foot in the paste bucket. We've all done it!
The only place indoors where you might use a ladder - or more likely one section of an extension ladder - is when you're painting the stairwell. You can stand the ladder on a tread, facing the opposite way to the stairs, to reach the walls above them. If you want the ladder facing the other way, nail a piece of scrap wood to the tread it's standing on to prevent it slipping as you climb it.
Trestles and staging
If you're undertaking a full-scale makeover that's likely to take a while, it could be worth hiring some access equipment for the duration of the job. For example, if you're decorating a lot of ceilings, some aluminium trestles and a length of aluminium staging make a safe and stable work platform. You can get staging up to 7.2 m (24 ft) long - big enough to span the largest room and make a continuous walkway so that you can paper the ceiling without touching the ground.
Papering the staircase really needs special access equipment. You'll find lash-ups using sections of extension ladders, steps and scaffold boards illustrated in the best DIY books, but for my money I'd rather use something that's built for the job.
It's back to the hire shop again, this time for a cunning contraption called a multi-purpose or combi ladder. This is a four-section, hinged ladder, which can be set up in several different ways so that you can reach all parts of the stairwell safely. It can be a straight ladder, a stepladder with unequal legs, or a flat work platform if used with a short section of staging as a deck. All the hinges lock in place automatically, and when set up, it's still narrow enough for people to squeeze past. Folded down, it's only 1 m (just over 3 ft) long and weighs a measly 12 kg (just under 28 lb), so you can take it home easily in the boot of your car.
From Handy Andy's Home Work by Andy Kane, published by BBC Worldwide. Copyright © Andy Kane 2000.