Single leg squats with a paintbrush…

Some of my bits of ‘finishing off’ last week meant that I could finally get round to painting the walls of the steps by the kitchen – the last job that needs doing before the kitchen floor is laid.


I admit, this has been another one of those procrastinating ‘I’ll do it next week jobs’. Not because I don’t like painting; I do as a rule – it isn’t difficult or fiddly, and it’s quite rewarding in the sense that the results of your efforts are immediately visible.

In theory. But of course, with my barn nothing is ever that straight forward.

Anyone who read my last blog about painting will remember the issue I had with how to reach the top of the 5 metre high walls and the vaulted ceilings. The answer was a 12-rung stepladder balanced on some boxes of slate and a paintbrush on a stick…

This time it’s the same high ceiling, but with the added issue that stepladders don’t work on stairs.

Or at least, they don’t work without a bit of creative ladder work…..

IMG_1069A ladder needs a flat surface to be be set up safely. Stairs aren’t flat – obviously. The answer? A folding builders bench, a some left over bits fence posts, and a few random lengths of decking with which to build yourself a level surface.


We are only talking about six steps up into the kitchen. So by constructing two different platforms, one at the top and one at the bottom of the stairs, I could set my step ladder up in a way that pretty much allowed me to cover all of the walls.

Pretty much…. But the top edge of the wall/ceiling was still out of reach. Which left me no other option – I would have to stand on the dreaded ‘top step’; you know – the one that all the ladder manuals say should not be used other than for resting your paint pots on…

Actually, I’ve never really understood why not. If you’ve got a reasonable sense of balance and your stepladder is safely set up on a flat surface (which mine was – albeit a flat surface created from aforementioned folding bench, leftover fence post and bits of decking) and you’ve got something to hold on to, I can’t see what’s wrong with standing on that top step – carefully. Admittedly it’s probably not an option for anyone who suffers from vertigo.

IMG_1068Fortunately I have no fear of heights. So duly armed with loaded paintbrush I made that final step. Up on to the dreaded top step so I could get to the top of the walls. It wasn’t quite enough. Even from the top step, and leaning backwards as much as I dared, there was a 15cm strip at the top of the wall I couldn’t reach. The paintbrush on a stick had to come out of retirement.

At last every inch was painted. All I needed to do now was get back to solid ground safely. You see the problem with the ‘top step’ is not the getting up. It’s the getting down. Surrounded by pristinely painted but still very wet walls, and with your hands full of paintbrush, there is nothing to hold to keep your balance as you manoeuvre your way back down the ladder.


The answer is all in the thigh muscles. Take one foot off the ladder and standing on one leg, execute the perfect single leg squat. Until your free foot finds the next rung down. Repeat the exercise a couple more times and then you’ll be able to get your hands on the ladder too. The rest, as they say, is history….

Thank god for the personal trainer and his single leg squats, that’s all I can say. (So grumpy as I can be at the gym – I love you really!)

Bit of a paint job…..

It’s amazing what a bit of plasterboard can do. Suddenly I had rooms that felt like they might one day be habitable. So now I get to think about the exciting stuff. Paint, colour, tiles, curtains….. Well almost. One step at a time.  I’d opted not to plaster skim the boards –  partly on the basis of time and expense, but actually because I couldn’t face the hassle of finding a reliable plasterer.

As long as plasterboard is decently jointed, the board gives an acceptable surface finish ( well isn’t that the point of it??)  Okay, it’s not quite that super smooth, sharp, shiny finish you’ll find in an ultra modern posh pad in the city, but let’s face it, there is nothing super smooth and shiny about the barn, so why be different with the walls.  But  I did decide to put a decent basecoat on before I got down to the pretty stuff. I mean, one extra coat – couldn’t take that long, could it?

So I sat down to work out how much paint I needed to buy. And promptly fell off my chair.  If my calculations were correct, the combined paint area of the ceiling and wall was almost 1000 m² – 25 buckets of basecoat. I think I know how those guys painting the Forth Bridge feel… Yet another job I wrongly assumed I could get finished in a weekend!

But area of wall/ceiling to be painted was actually the least of my problems. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but some of my rooms have very high ceilings. My main living room is almost 5 metres high. The music room is even higher, because it’s vaulted.

When I started my paint job I had a bog-standard 6-rung stepladder. I found myself standing on the very top rung, with a paint roller on an extendable pole, that was in turn attached to a long bit of wood, trying to paint that living room ceiling. Painting the forth bridge would have been quicker. I went out a bought a bigger ladder – the largest I could get was a 12-rung beastie. With a height of 3.7m it got me closer to the ceiling, but I still needed the roller on an extendable pole.

Did I mention the vaulted ceiling? The only way to reach that, even with my extendable pole fully extended was slightly problematic:
(Don’t try this at home…)

And a roller won’t actually get right into the angle of the ceiling. So I also had a paint brush on a very very long stick.

And there’s worse. My architect decided it would be really trendy to have a sloping corridor through the middle of the house, rather than putting steps in. A sloping concrete floor, a ladder, a 5m high ceiling and a tin of paint is not a good combination. And before any smug genius out there suggests I should have just hired a scaffold tower, well they don’t work on sloping floors either!

I have (not so) fond memories of standing on the very top rung of an extension ladder, extended beyond the recommended safety point, leaning practically vertical against the wall, paintbrush in one hand, tin of paint in the other. Precarious is a good word to use here. It’s probably just as well I don’t have any pictures to share of those particular ladder tricks – I would probably be put forward as a potential trainee candidate for the Darwin awards!

Though it does have to said, a basecoat of paint made another huge difference to the appearance of the building.

But the thought of having to do it all again with at least two coats of colour was a depressing thought. Somehow, ‘decorating’ had lost some of its appeal! Fortunately, the colour seemed to go on a lot quicker than the basecoat. And completely changed ‘the look’ again. It’s almost starting to look like a normal house!

But I have a confession. To this day there remains a small but very awkward part of the living room ceiling that has defied even my acrobatics to reach with a paintbrush. I think I shall have to leave it as a talking point, see if anyone notices and just call it contemporary art.