Stairlifts 101: Everything To Know
Before You Purchase

Your 2020 primer on this popular mobility equipment.

Where to start! As stairlifts come in many shapes and sizes, and are developed for specific staircases and disability circumstances, a broad definition is as good a place as any.

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What is a stairlift?

A stairlift is a powered or manual mobile device that transports people with disabilities up and down stairs using preinstalled rails or textured tracks. A stairlift can be mounted to a wall, affixed to straight and curved railings, or physically maneuvered by a caregiver.

Through convenience and ease-of-use, a stairlift grants people with disabilities or balance issues more freedom in their own home. In addition to helping with daily activities, there are a number of other notable situations in which a stairlift proves its movement mettle.

For example:

  • Outings are less of a chore because spontaneous trips require
          less planning.
  • Should an emergency occur, a stairlift aids in quick, efficient
          evacuation.
  • Emergency teams outfitted with mobile stairlifts can move and
          treat more people in an emergency situation.
  • Many stairlifts are safe for children and can be used in school
          facilities and on school grounds.

We’ve only scratched the surface. However, before we go into greater detail, we’d like to establish upfront that we offer mobile stairlifts catering to the above needs. But in the interest of helping you find the stairlift that’s perfect for you or your loved one, we’ve created this informational resource to help guide your decision.

Who Are Stairlifts For?

In the 1920s, a Pennsylvanian entrepreneur and self-educated engineer named C.C. Crispen developed a device to assist his mobility-impaired friend to move from floor to floor. His prototype was called the Inclin-ator and was believed to be the first of its kind. However, in 2009, Doctor David Starkey uncovered compelling evidence to the contrary: after being injured while jousting, England’s King Henry had a chair that used a block-and-tackle system developed to transport him between floors. Thus, the monarch is now thought to be the original inventor of the stairlift. 

Today, stairlifts are widely used by people with varying degrees of mobility impairment, as well as professional teams such as emergency first responders.

People with permanent disabilities

A person in a wheelchair depends on the help of others to get up and down stairs. A stairlift makes moving between levels easier and aids in effective evacuation in the event of an emergency.

People with balance issues

While walking aids such as crutches and frames are effective on level ground, they are more cumbersome than helpful when ascending or descending staircases. A stairlift fills this mobility gap, reducing the stress of having to navigate floors with only a railing as support.

Temporarily disabled people

Injuries suffered due to sport or vehicular accidents can put us out for weeks, if not months. Mobile stairlifts that don’t require installation are great investments for short-term recovery from injuries that impair movement.

Emergency personnel

First responders are often tasked with evacuating multiple people from a building within a short timeframe. A lightweight mobile stairlift fits neatly into an ambulance and can be quickly deployed and transported to aid emergency teams in extremely stressful situations.

Educators and children with disabilities

Stairlifts can be installed in schools to give learners and educators who have mobility issues more freedom to navigate school grounds.

The elderly

Many seniors struggle with their mobility, which can lead to isolation and depression, or an over reliance on assistance. This can make them feel like burdens on their loved ones or caregivers. Having a stairlift installed in their home or aged care community can relieve much of this stress and grant those in their later years more independence.

Caregivers

Taking care of a person with a disability is a lifelong commitment. Part of that commitment is finding a stairlift that balances both their needs and your own. We’ve written a helpful blog post on how to find that balance here.

Loved ones of people with disabilities

It also helps a disabled person and their loved ones adjust to life with mobility impairment. If you’d like to learn more, read this blog post about how a mobile stairlift helped the Luogo family regain their freedom.

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Types Of Stairlifts & Their Unique Features

From straight stairlift models to curved stairlifts, there are many options, each with a different set of mobility and safety features developed for specific lifestyles and locations. The difficulty, however, lies in choosing the stairlift that’s right for you or your loved one’s unique circumstances.

The below information is intended to inform and guide you to the purchase decision that’s best for you.

Standing / perching stairlifts

Features and key components

A perched stairlift is for those who can walk to the stairs without help and stay upright as the device moves between floors. Though users will need to bear the majority of their body weight, additional support is offered by a raised seat, a footplate and armrests/guard rails that allow them to ‘perch’ as the stairlift moves along the tracks.

Installation

A standing/perched stairlift is easier to install than the standard seated stairlift. It’s a relatively simple procedure that can be completed within a day by a qualified technician.

Maintenance and service

A standing/perched stairlift will need to be serviced by a qualified engineer annually. Warranty varies greatly, and depending on which brand you choose, you could be looking at anything from a lifetime warranty for motors and gearboxes, and two-to-three years on stairlift parts.

Use cases

  • A standing/perching stairchair is a great option for narrow 
         staircases, especially if it features a swivel chair.
  • An ideal choice for people with flexibility issues and knee or            hip joint problems that make bending or sitting painful.
  • Can be installed outside. For example, to a stairway that’s
          adjacent to a steep driveway, or patio steps leading to a
          garden.

Safety

  • Retractable safety belt provides safety and stability.
  • Brakes to manually halt the stairlift when needed.
  • Sensors will stop the lift if any foreign objects are detected on
          the stairs or rails.
  • Many standing/perching stairlifts come with a foldaway or
          swivel feature to ensure that embarking and disembarking are
          painless.
  • A remote control to call the stairlift to the floor the person is
         on.

Stairlift cost

  • A perched stairlift for a straight staircase of between 12–14 
         steps will cost between $2,000 and $5,000.
  • For installation on a curved staircase, you’re looking at a
          starting price of $8,000, extending to $14,000 and above.

Straight-seated stairlifts  

Features and key components

AA straight-seated stairlift is the most common form of multi-level mobility in a domestic setting with uncurved staircases. This type of mobility equipment is for people who cannot walk unaided and require the assistance of a caregiver, or struggle to stand for prolonged periods of time. This type of stairlift features:

  • A switch panel situated in the armrest to control the stairlift’s 
         movement.
  • A swivel seat to get in and out of the chair easily. Some have a
         mechanical swivel function for people who struggle to move
         the seat manually.
  • Textured footrest to mitigate slippage.
  • Call-send panel on either end of the staircase.

Installation

The time it takes to install a straight seated stairlift depends on the level of customization required. If it’s minimal, you can expect to have a working system within a day or two, but if the technician has to shorten or make additions to the rail, it will take longer.

Maintenance and service

Once installed, it will need to be serviced by a qualified technician annually. With regards to warranty, be on the lookout for companies that offer free yearly servicing and round-the-clock emergency call-out. As there is no fixed industry standard for warranty and coverage, make sure to read the small print to see what the contract covers.

Use cases

  • Negating the need to relocate to a single-level structure, a
          straight seated stairlift is ideal for independence in multi-story
          homes.
  • Suited to elderly people who want to maintain freedom of
          movement, and people with permanent and temporary
          disabilities.
  • This type of stairlift typically requires 27 to 29 inches of space.
          While this is suitable for most contemporary abodes, if you
          have a particularly narrow staircase you may need to make
          structural adjustments or opt for a perched/standing stairlift.
  • As with the perched/standing stairlift, the seated variant is a
          great option for freedom of movement outdoors.

Safety

  • A safety belt offers security and stability during transportation.
  • Brakes to manually halt the stairlift when needed.
  • Many feature sensors that halt the lift if any foreign objects
          are detected.
  • Swivel seats reduce the strain of getting in and out of the
          chair. If you struggle with manual activities, consider a seated
          stairlift with a mechanized swivel feature.

Stairlift cost

  • A starting price of between $2,000 and $5,000 for interior
         straight seated stairlifts.
  • Owing to additional factors such as climate, an outdoor stairlift
          is slightly more expensive, ranging from $3,500 to $6,000.

Curved seated stairlifts

Features and key components

This type of stairlift uses a curved rail system to map the bends of a staircase and navigate corners smoothly. As they can be customized to travel over landings, a curved stairlift is a great option for homes with more than two levels. Its key components are:

  • Most curved stairlifts are battery-operated with charging
         points at either end.
  • Levelling functionality for balance as the chair navigates
          bends.
  • The majority have footrests and folding arms.

Installation

Curved stairlift installation will depend on the specifications of your particular set of stairs. If your staircase structure is complex, it could take a few weeks to receive complete plans. Following this,
a technician will need to customize the curved stairlift to make sure it fits correctly. As installation is more technical than that of a straight stairlift, you’re looking at a few days for installation completion.

Maintenance and service

As with other variants, an annual full service conducted by a qualified technician is necessary to ensure the curved stairlift is running optimally. Before you purchase, however, make sure to go over the warranty agreement with a fine-tooth comb to see what it covers. Some companies offer free annual servicing, which is incredibly cost-effective in the long run.

Use cases

  • As a curved stairlift can travel across landings, it’s ideal for 
          traversing multi-level buildings.
  • Suitable for many different types of stairs, including spiral,
          fan, and quarter and half landings.

Safety

  • Retractable safety belt for security and stability.
  • Safety mechanism to control speed and ensure a smooth ride.
  • Brakes to halt the stairlift when required.
  • Safety sensors will stop the lift if any obstacles are detected in
          the path.
  • A foldaway or swivel feature to ensure that embarking and
         disembarking are painless.
  • A remote control to call the stairlift to the floor the person is
         on.

Stairlift cost

  • More development time is required for a curved stairlift, so
          costs can be anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000.

As expenditure can vary significantly between different types of stairlifts, we’ve created a handy breakdown of the costs here.

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Stairlift Rental

If you require one for a short period of time, then stairlift rental is a potential option. In general, a rental costs significantly less than purchasing one, though you’re still probably looking at fees for installation and monthly services. Some rental stairlift companies may also require a deposit. 

Stairlift rental is most beneficial to those who are temporarily disabled or who will be relocating soon. Cost-wise, you’re looking at between $200 and $500 for a straight stairlift, and in the region of $1500 to $5,000 for a pre-owned stairlift. As curved and outdoor stairlifts require customization, you’ll only be able to purchase those new.

We go into greater detail about the difference between renting or buying a stairlift in one of our recent articles.

Read Article

Mobile Stairlifts

Features and key components

As the name suggests, a mobile stairlift is a typically lightweight and portable device that offers more flexibility, on a variety of indoor and outdoor staircases. It caters to the needs of people who cannot walk unaided, and requires the assistance of a caregiver to set up, transport, and maneuver it. The components of our Mobile Stairlift product are:

  • Lightweight portable frame that makes navigating corners
         and landings easier.
  • Comfortable and retractable belt for security and stability.
  • Anti-slide tread for superior grippage when ascending or
          descending stairs.
  • Battery and charger.
  • 1 year limited warranty.
  • Compact and transportable. 

Installation

The Mobile Stairlift does not require pre-installed tracks, so it can be deployed quickly, as and when needed.

Maintenance and service

Mobile Stairlift warranties our products to be free from defects in material or workmanship for a period of one year following the date of purchase. It’s a good idea to have it appraised annually to ensure it’s always in optimum working order.

Use cases

  • Perfect for homes and buildings with one to multiple levels.
  • Ideal for disabled people who want greater flexibility and
          accessibility within their own home.
  • Easier on a caregiver’s body during set-up, transport, and
          navigation.
  • Is built to navigate any staircase, whether it’s spiral, curved,
          or straight.
  • Our Mobile Stairlift is lightweight enough to be used safely
          in schools.
  • Mobile Stairlift is compact enough to fit neatly in an
          ambulance, with a lightweight construction ideal for
          emergencies and evacuations.

Safety

  • An operator should be trained correctly to operate the Mobile
         Stairlift to avoid unnecessary injuries.
  • Retractable safety belt for security and stability during         
          transport.
  • Footrest, armrests, and a comfortable chair to prevent
         bruising from shifting weight.
  • Anti-slide, thick rubber material with reinforced ribbing on
          tread to prevent slippage.
  • Two foot brakes behind the back wheels.

Stairlift cost

  • The Mobile Stairlift costs $2,995.00, or $112 a month with
          financing.
  • We also have a Lite iteration, which costs $2,795.

If you’d like to learn more about the Mobile Stairlift and what sets
it apart from alternatives, check out this blog post.

What are your Next
(Stairlift) Steps?

If you have any further queries on which stairlift is right for you,
or would like more information on the Mobile Stairlift.

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