Non-painting Tools

Painter Lake Stevens

for the Painter.

Most painting jobs require some sort of repair and prep work before you actually apply the paint. For these jobs, you will need an assortment of putty knives, paint scrapers, sandpaper, and sanding blocks, as well as spackle, drywall joint compound, and in some cases, epoxy wood fillers. Some tools can help you speed repair work. For example, if you are going to paint a room that has new drywall or if there is a number of drywall fixes, use a pole sander. The sander extends your arms so you can cover a large area while standing in one spot. It also extends your sanding stroke, making the sanded joints consistent. See below for other tools needed by painters.

Eye Protection.

Wear goggles during sanding or scraping, or any other prep work that sends debris flying. In addition, paint flecks that fall into your eyes hurt, and cleaning oil paint out of lashes can be very unpleasant, so it is a good idea to wear safety glasses while painting (especially when using oil based paint).

Ladders and Scaffolds

A great deal of painting takes place while standing on a ladder of some kind. As with any job, safety should be of paramount importance, especially when choosing, placing, and working from a ladder. There are three kinds of ladders: stepladders, fold-up (articulated) ladders, and extension ladders.


Stepladders are only stable on level surfaces. You should never use one on a slope. Plus, the higher you go, the more unstable the ladder becomes. If you find you’re working with your feet on or near the top three steps, you should probably move to a scaffold, work platform, or extension ladder. A stepladder can be used for work up to 15 feet above the ground, depending on the size of your ladder.

Articulating Ladders.

Articulating, fold-up, ladders are ideal for working mid-distances, between 4 and 12 feet off the ground. These ladders are handy because you can configure them in different ways:

Extend the ladder, and lock it straight to act as a standard, one-section ladder.

Lock it in an “A” position to act as a stepladder.

Place two together to form a sturdy base to support a work platform or low scaffold.

Extension Ladders.

Extension ladders are used mostly for high outdoor work. Depending on the performance rating you use, these ladders can be quite sturdy and support the weight of a worker plus material (paint, tools, or one end of a plank). Extension ladders are available in a wide range of sizes, typically from 20 to 50 feet.

Ladder Materials.

You’ll find each kind of ladder in metal (usually aluminum) or fiberglass, and many stepladders and extension ladders are made of wood. The type you’ll choose depends on the work you’ll be doing and how much you want to spend.

Wooden Ladders.

These ladders are not only heavy, but they also wear out, crack, and splinter with use. However, wooden ladders have two advantages: they are relatively inexpensive; and they do not conduct electricity, so they can be used when working around power cables.

Aluminum Ladders.

Inexpensive and lightweight (depending on the grade), aluminum ladders are adequate for most jobs when you place them properly. The longer the ladder, the easier it is to use if it is aluminum. Most fold-up, or articulated, ladders are aluminum. Never use an aluminum ladder near wiring.

Fiberglass Ladders. If you’re buying for a long-term investment, get a fiberglass ladder. It may cost more, but a top-of-the-line fiberglass ladder is extremely durable, strong, noncorrosive, and nonconductive.

Ladder Ratings.

Ladders are rated for the weight they can hold. You will see a sticker on most ladders identifying their “type.” Type III ladders are light duty and can carry 200 pounds per rung or step. Type II ladders are medium duty and can carry 225 pounds per rung or step. Type I ladders are heavy duty industrial ladders and can hold 250 pounds per rung. Type IA ladders are extra heavy duty and can hold 300 pounds per rung. For most painting jobs, a Type II ladder will serve your needs just fine.

Ladder Accessories

A ladder stand-off is a U-shaped bracket that attaches to the top of the ladder. Rather than have the side rails of the ladder in contact with the building, the stand-off is in contact. This allows you to set the ladder in the middle of a window so that you can reach the entire area.

A ladder leveler consists of two legs that you can set to different heights. It allows you to have a stable ladder on a sloped surface. Don’t use rocks, plywood, or scrap lumber to prop up a ladder’s legs. It’s unsafe.

Often it is more practical to work from a platform rather than a ladder when painting. You can create a sturdy work platform using various kinds of brackets, called jacks, attached to a ladder, the roof, or 4×4 posts.

Ladder Jacks.

These are nothing more than heavy metal brackets that hook onto ladders. Ladder jacks provide a stable, level place to hold 2×10 wood planks or an aluminum platform. To use the jacks, you need two ladders, one for each end of the plank or working surface. There are two kinds of ladder jacks: inside bracket and outside bracket types.

Inside ladder jacks suspend a plank or working platform beneath the ladders as they rest against a structure. Outside ladder jacks support a plank on the front face of the ladders as they rest against a structure. Either way, the jacks hook onto the rungs of the ladder or at the junction of rungs and rails.

Pump Jacks.

Part of a system for lifting or lowering a work platform made of wood or metal planks, pump jacks are metal L-shaped brackets that travel up and down 4×4 or metal posts. The vertical part of the “L” hugs an upright, and the horizontal part supports a plank or working surface. Other brackets, which you attach to structural members such as rafters or studs, hold the uprights to the structure. To raise the working platform, you pump the L-shaped jacks with your foot. To lower the platform, you turn a crank.


The most efficient way to protect against falls when you’re working high up is with a personal fall-arrest system, which consists of a full body harness with a ring at the center of the harness’s back. One end of a lanyard, or tether, clips into this ring. The other end of the lanyard clips into an ascender type rope grab. The ascender is a one way clamp that grabs the rope if there is any downward pull, so you can go up but not down. You can release the ascender, however, during a controlled descent. To use an ascender, clamp it onto a rope, and clip the rope into an anchor that’s securely nailed into a strong framing member. If you fall when wearing a personal fall-arrest system, the ascender will grab the rope, and you’ll fall only as far as the slack of the lanyard and rope will allow. These fall-arrest systems offer excellent protection and cost around $350 for a starter kit, which includes all you’ll need for a residential job. Buy only OSHA approved systems to be sure you’ll be safe.

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