There comes a time when getting up and down the stairs isn’t as easy as it used to be. Everything from mobility challenges to medical conditions that cause dizziness can result in the stairs being out of bounds. When a person cannot use the stairs, it creates huge barriers to independence.
While some opt for a bungalow to eliminate stairs in the home, this isn’t a viable option for everyone. For those who don’t wish to leave their beloved property, or perhaps cannot afford to move, a stairlift could offer a welcome alternative option.
Stairlifts provide a comfortable seated ride taking users from the ground floor to the first floor of a property. As with most mobility aids, stairlifts are an investment purchase that require careful consideration to land on the most suitable model and format.
For those new to the stairlift buying process, here are all the top aspects that need to be considered before making a stairlift purchase.
Stairlift Manufacturers UK
- Acorn Stairlifts
- Age UK
- Bison Stairlifts
- Brooks Stairlifts
- Companion Stairlifts
- Dolphin Mobility
- Handicare Stairlifts
- Platinum Stairlifts
How Much Is A Stairlift?
The average cost of purchasing a stairlift and having it installed ranges from £1,800 for a straight stairlift up to £4,000 for a curved stairlift.
The actual price will depend on the stairlift make and model, along with the complexity of the installation. Maintenance should also be expected over time, which will add some additional expense to the cost of a stairlift. Although, the good news is that stairlifts are quite economical to run, and only add a nominal amount to an electricity bill.
Funding may also be available to obtain a stairlift from the Disabled Facilities Grant. So it’s certainly worth checking whether you or your loved one qualify before purchasing.
Also, most people are exempt from paying VAT on stairlifts. If someone is considered disabled or has a chronic mental or physical illness, they may be entitled to a 0% VAT exemption, meaning they pay zero VAT.
An additional reduction where the VAT is reduced to just 5% is also available for those aged over 60, who do not qualify for the complete 0% reduction.
Similar to mobility scooters, there are lots of different types of stairlifts. Aside from price, the main differences with stairlifts are the direction they can travel, which is based on the configuration of the staircase itself.
Additional options exist for narrow or outdoor spaces. In addition, a specialist type of stairlift can be used if the user would exceed the typical weight limit which is usually around 18 stone.
It’s also possible to find all types of stairlifts as new or reconditioned models. Purchasing a used stairlift may be a good option for those on a tight budget, who also do not wish to move into more suitable stair-free accommodation.
➤ Straight Stairlift
A straight stairlift is also known as an ‘up and down stairlift’. As the name suggests, a straight stairlift only moves in one direction, meaning it can take the user to the foot of a landing but cannot curve round. Although, for staircases which do not have a curve to reach the upper floor adequately, straight stairlifts will often suffice.
The main advantage of straight stairlifts is that they are cost-effective, both due to the straightforward design and ease of installation. Also, they can provide unobstructed views when in use.
Ensuring the highest possible safety, including making any future safety modifications is also easier with a straight stairlift.
➤ Curved Stairlift
A curved stairlift adapts to any curvature a staircase may have. They offer the perfect solution for spiral staircases, staircases with landings along with staircases that have multiple floors.
Therefore, if a straight stairlift wouldn’t travel far enough, or isn’t suited to the shape of a staircase, then a curved stairlift offers a customized solution.
One consideration with curved stairlifts is that they typically cost far more than a straight stairlift, and can also be more difficult to both install and maintain.
➤ Narrow Stairlift
In 2010, building regulations for staircases changed. The new regulations require a wider minimum width for stairs that provide a fire escape, along with any other sets of stairs that offer general access within a building.
If a property was built before the 2010 regulations came into place, it may contain stairs that are too narrow to accommodate a traditional stairlift. In this case, a narrow stairlift can be used instead.
With a narrow stairlift, the main design consideration is avoiding clash points. Plus, the ability to install a stairlift in a tight space may be limited if regular use of the stairs is also required, especially if those stairs are classed as a fire escape.
However, a specialist stairlift installer may be able to find a suitable solution that is fully compliant with safety regulations, even for narrow staircases.
➤ Heavy Duty Stairlift
The weight limit of a typical stairlift can sometimes present barriers to owning a stairlift.
However, it is now possible to purchase heavy-duty stairlifts, which are capable of safely lifting users who exceed the weight limit of typical straight or curved stairlifts. Depending on the model, a heavy-duty stairlift can be capable of transporting users up to the weight of 31 stone.
As well as having increased power capabilities, a heavy-duty stairlift also features a broader seat, along with armrests which extend longer than the armrests of a typical stairlift.
Although, something to consider with heavy-duty stairlifts is whether or not additional help is needed to manoeuvre in and out of the chair. This is especially the case given most heavy-duty stairlifts are built to a straight style, meaning they cannot wrap around corners.
For those with an unlimited budget, a home lift provides an alternative option, as it is capable of lifting up to two people, or one person who exceeds the weight limit of a typical stairlift. It may also be possible to build a custom home lift which can exceed this weight limit further still, although it would come at an increased cost.
➤ Outdoor Stairlift
Stairs can also create barriers to accessibility outside of the home. For instance, when there are steps leading up to the entrance of the home, or even in public buildings. In any case, if it is not possible to add a lift or a ramp, then an outdoor stairlift can provide mobility access.
Outdoor stairlifts are purpose-built to withstand the elements, both in terms of the temperature they can be operated at, along with the materials used for the seat and inner components. When installed in residential settings, an outdoor stairlift can be essential in maintaining independence.
Stairlift Features To Look Out For
A stairlift will be subject to continual use, making it essential to look out for the features most important to you. This is to ensure the best user experience depending on your specific accessibility needs and overall preferences.
While opting for some features may make your stairlift more expensive, your mobility, safety or basic enjoyment of the stairlift mustn’t be compromised. You can also ask your stairlift installer to explain the full range of options available.
∎ Foldable Components
Stairlifts are designed to protect from the hazards of the stairs. However, by installing a stairlift including track and chair within a staircase, may cause additional hazards for those passing by.
As well as opting for a narrow stairlift, it’s also possible to find stairlift chairs that have foldable components, including folding seats and armrests. This means that when the stairlift is not in use, the maximum amount of clearance space can be maintained, reducing the risk of injury by those ascending or descending the stairs on foot.
∎ Power Source
The preferred power source for stairlifts is DC battery power. That’s because stairlifts which run on mains electricity will come to an abrupt stop should there be a power cut. Being connected to the mains also creates potential electrocution hazards.
DC stairlifts run on special power packs that recharge at the end of each trip, and require little to no maintenance over time. Another benefit of DC power is that it provides a quiet ride.
∎ Remote Control
Having a remote control for a stairlift may seem like a fancy extra, but is anything but.
The ability to call a stairlift to meet you at the top of the stairs or come down again is essential.
Plus, a remote is also needed if more than one person needs to use the stairlift at a time, as the stairlift can simply be called back up or down again once the first person has cleared the stairs.
∎ Track Type
A stairlift track is what the chair is connected to, and determines the length of the overall ride.
There are two main track types to choose from which include a slide track or a powered hinge track.
A slide track is the most common type of track for a stairlift. Space wise, the tracks have a typical intrusion into the stairs of around 115mm.
For those who are short on space, a powered hinge track works well in conjunction with folding stairlift seats. It allows for the seat to be folded flush against the track when not in use.
∎ Seat Type
Not all stairlift seat types are created equal, with the two main types including a swivel seat or perch seat.
With a swivel seat, the user can gently turn onto the landing once they complete their ride. Powered swivel stair seats make the movement seamless, offering maximum dismount assistance.
Another type of stairlift chair is the perch seat, which is sometimes called a standing stairlift. It is designed for users who find sitting uncomfortable, including those with knee or hip complaints.
How it works is that the user will have their back against the wall, with their legs almost straight. The user is secured on the perch seat, and is safely transported up or down the stairs without having to sit down.
∎ Seat Upholstery
Although it might seem like an afterthought, the upholstery of a stairlift is another factor to consider.
Firstly, the seat padding of a stairlift and its overall material will affect how comfortable or supportive the chair is.
In addition, the upholstery colours can be chosen with your home decor in mind, meaning the stairlift neatly blends in with your home, rather than standing out.
Top Tips Before You Purchase A Stairlift
- Talk to an occupational therapist or physical therapist about any physical ailments, to help decide on which stairlift would be best. Plus, any additional mobility aids could be of benefit.
- Don’t be tempted by cold callers or those who try to push a sale of their products. Safety, reliability and quality are the most important things. As of yet, there is no accreditation or governing body for stairlifts. Experts are also advising consumers to avoid purchasing stairlifts from social media platforms or auction sites and to only purchase from trusted suppliers.
- If you know someone who owns a stairlift, have a chat with them about their experience, including whether they would recommend the brand they opted for along with their installers.
- Consult your local authority to see if you qualify for a stairlift grant or any other related benefits.
Buying A Stairlift: In Summary
Anyone looking to purchase a stairlift for themselves or a loved one should take time to consider their decision. A stairlift is an investment purchase, and unlike other mobility aids such as a walking frame, a stairlift is not as easy to change, should your choice be unsuitable. But by consulting a professional firm, and considering the above points, you are more likely to make the right purchase.
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