It’s All In The Rigging

When we hang wallpaper in a stairwell, sometimes the rigging is trickier than the hanging. Our two main considerations are access and safety. We want to be able to reach all areas of the wall, and we want to do so without having to resort to acrobatics. The rigging should be tall enough so that we don’t have to overreach, and sturdy enough so that we feel as safe as we would feel standing on a stepladder. Well, mostly, anyway. If you suffer from poor balance, or are unnerved working on a plank that’s more than a few feet off the ground, you probably should stick to ground-level work.


Two-stage Werner scaffolding positioned on steps.


Our favorite rig, in terms of safety, is the baker-type scaffold pictured above. It takes a little while to set up, but with experience it can be erected by two people in as little as five minutes. Its design allows the two upright sections to be offset so that it can be set up on top of any set of open stairs. The deck provides a sturdy standing area, as well as room to set up a ladder, as above. In this case we could have set up an additional section to raise the height of the deck, but I was comfortable on top of the planks as shown.


An all-Werner setup: scaffold, planks, and ladders.


Locking caster-style wheels hold the scaffold in place on the stairs.

Our favorite piece of equipment, in terms of speed and minimalism, is the Werner 5-way ladder, pictured below. Sadly, this ladder seems to have been discontinued. It’s an eminently practical offset ladder, less weighty and bulky than the Little Giant ladders, which weigh a ton and are so wide at the base that they effectively block access to the stairs. The 5-way ladder can be a bit tricky to adjust, and I don’t wonder if its disappearance from the marketplace has got anything to do with litigation from users who were hurt using it incorrectly. I’ve never had the ladder collapse in any way, but I’ve come close to catching a finger or two while opening and closing the offset extension part of the ladder. It just takes some getting used to. The beauty of this ladder is that it can support one end of a plank without having to lean against a wall.


Stew Penn works on a sheet of wallpaper while on a plank supported by the Werner 5-way ladder.


The offset ladder sits on the stairs and supports a plank that extends to the second floor.


From his perch on the 5-way/plank setup, Stew can access both the head wall and the side walls.

This setup works great in smaller stairwells where a scaffold is too large to be practical. Whereas the Little Giant ladder hinges at the top, the offset side of the 5-way ladder slides up and down like an extension ladder from a fixed section connected to the ladder’s folding arms. The result is a single section of straight ladder on which to rest the plank so that it can be mere inches from the wall. It’s a little freaky walking out onto the plank until you get used to it, because it doesn’t seem like the ladder should hold the plank up while at such a severe angle. It’s all physics, though, and it’s a reliable setup that’s worked well for us since I first purchased the ladder in the early 1990′s.

As always, SAFETY FIRST! Careful planning, plus the right equipment, saves time and makes money. Never compromise safety for the sake of production, though.

Bonus Video: Breaking down a scaffold, double-time, Cliff Hayes with Phil Reinhard:

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