Stair Lift Buying Guide
Whether it's due to age or an injury, there may come a point when getting up and down the stairs is too much for you to bear. While one option is to find a single-story home, a less expensive choice is to install a stair lift on your existing staircase.
Stair lifts are motorized chairs that gently move you up and down your stairs. The chairs are connected to a rail mounted against one side of the staircase. Those in need sit in the chair and push a button or hit a switch to start moving it.
Stair lifts work on all types of staircases, including straight ones as well as those with curves, turns and landings. There are also lifts for outdoors staircases, such as those on decks or front stoops. These lifts are designed to hold up against the elements, including freezing temperatures, snow, rain and hot sun.
The cost of a stair lift can vary greatly. Prices are based on the type of staircase on which they are being used and the included features. Costs for the lift and installation can range from a few thousand dollars for a lift used on a straight staircase to more than $15,000 for a heavyweight stair lift on a curved staircase.
This buying guide will provide more details on the different types of stair lifts, the features they include, pricing considerations, what to look for when choosing a stair lift and some of the top vendors.
Types of Stair Lifts and Features
There are a variety of stair lifts that can serve both indoor and outdoor staircases. In addition, there are stair lifts designed specifically for straight staircases and others made for staircases that curve or turn.
It is important to first understand the components of a stair lift. There are three main parts: the chair, the rail and the motor. To ensure stability, the rail is mounted to the stairs, not the wall. The rail is attached to one side of the staircase, so the person sitting in the chair has enough room to get up and down without adjusting their knees into an unnatural position.
For straight staircases, the rail is measured to match the specific length of the staircase. A single straight rail is needed for these staircases. The chair attaches to the rail and moves straight from the bottom to the top of the stairs and vice versa. This type of stair lift is the cheapest and easiest to install.
Curved staircases, or those with turns or landings, require a custom-built rail. For these, the company you choose will send a representative to take the measurements of your staircase. It will use those measurements to build a lift specifically for your home. While just as easy to use, these lifts are more expensive because of the customization.
Outdoor stair lifts work the same way in terms of straight versus curved staircases. The biggest difference is that they are made to weather nature's elements. All the parts – the chair, rail and motor – can withstand freezing cold or blazing hot temperatures, rain, and snow. They often include a cover for when the stair lift isn't in use.
Some other types of stair lifts can operate both indoors and outdoors and on straight or curved staircases. While most stair lifts feature a chair for the user, some people may have trouble sitting. For those users, a standing stair lift may be needed, allowing the rider to stand while going up and down the stairs.
The weight of a person may impact the type of stair lift needed. A standard stair lift can typically support a person weighing as much as 250 to 350 pounds. For those who weigh more, heavy-duty stair lifts are available to support up to 500 or 600 pounds. These lifts are built slightly differently: Instead of the user riding sideways up and down the stairs, the chair faces the bottom of the stairs.
While the main components of these lifts are fairly similar, there is some variance in the type of seat. Some of the chairs can fold up when they aren't in use, while others have arm and foot rests that lift up and down. Additionally, some chairs can swivel, which makes getting in and out an easier process.
Other features that come with some stair lifts include safety belts, motion detectors that help ensure the lift doesn't hit anything as it moves up and down the stairs, and a button that the user can push for help.
Another important feature pertains to the motor. While the stair lift plugs into an electrical outlet for use, most have a built-in battery backup system. This ensures the stair lift will continue working in the event of a power outage.
Stair Lift Pricing
Pricing for stair lifts can vary greatly depending on the type and length of the staircase and whether a heavy-duty model is required.
The cheapest options are standard stair lifts for straight staircases. These lifts range from $2,500 to $6,500, which includes the cost of installation.
Since they are custom built, lifts for curved staircases are significantly more expensive. The cost of a curved stair lift ranges from $7,500 to $15,000. This also includes the cost of installation.
Most stair lifts come with some type of warranty. Some companies offer one- and two-year warranties, while others provide lifetime guarantees on some of the parts.
For those who don't think the stair lift will be needed for a long time, stair lift rentals are also an option. The cost for rentals typically includes an installation and de-installation charge, as well as a monthly fee. Installation and de-installation fees start at around $500, with monthly costs ranging from $75 to $300.
While stair lifts may often be needed for medical reasons, don't count on insurance to cover a portion of the cost. Health insurance carriers and Medicare do not pay for stair lifts. However, sometimes the cost can be deducted from your yearly income taxes.
Choosing a Stair Lift
When you're choosing a stair lift, there are several factors to consider.
Location: Is this for inside or outside your home? If it is going outside, be sure to select a specially designed outdoor stair lift that can withstand the elements..
Staircase: The type of staircase you have, whether it is indoors or outdoors, and its width will play a major role in the lift you need. If you have a straight staircase with a normal width, you will be fine with a standard stair lift. If you have a curved staircase, the stair lift company will need to visit your home to take precise measurements so it can custom-manufacture the stair lift..
Some users prefer the stair lift not rest right at the top or bottom of the staircase when not in use. Even if you have a straight staircase, those owners may want to consider a curved option, which will rest to the side when not in use.
In addition to the type of staircase, you need to factor in the width of the staircase. Make sure that those not using the stair lift have plenty of room to get up and down the stairs once it is installed.
Weight: The size and weight of the person using it will determine whether a heavy-duty stair lift is needed. Typically, a standard stair lift can support up to 250 or 350 pounds. Anything beyond that usually requires a heavy-duty model.
Seat: One area that typically offers a lot of choices is the seat. There are often different upholstery options, as well as flexibility in how the seat moves. Some seats can be folded up when not in use, while others can swivel to make sitting down and getting off easier. It is also important to consider the height of the chair, ensuring it isn't too low or too high. It shouldn't be a struggle for the user to sit down or get up from the chair.
Battery:You don't want a power outage to make it impossible for someone to get up or down their stairs. Make sure the stair lift includes a battery backup to power the stair lift until the electricity is restored.
Warranty and maintenance:Be sure to request details on the available warranty when getting price quotes. Also ask how often routine maintenance is recommended and how much those service visits typically cost. Be sure to factor in all costs involved when making a final decision on which stair lift to purchase.
Provider:There are several stair lift providers that serve users worldwide. Be sure to choose a reputable company that has experience in this industry and will stand behind its work. It is also a good idea to shop around. Don't be afraid to have multiple vendors provide a bid on the project. This will give you a feel for what each company offers and allow you to compare prices.
You can read more about some of the top vendors below.
Stair Lift Vendors
There are many national and multistate stair lift companies you may want to consider. Here is a list of some and what they offer.
Bruno: Bruno is a family-owned company that has been serving people with limited mobility for more than 30 years. The company offers a wide selection of indoor and outdoor straight and custom-curved stair lifts, as well as a full line of scooters, powerchairs and wheelchair lifts.
Acorn: Founded in 1992, Acorn is an independent company that specializes solely in the manufacturing and installation of stair lifts. The company offers indoor and outdoor stair lifts that can fit either straight or curved staircases. Acorn is headquartered in Florida, but it has a network of stair lift surveyors and engineers across the U.S.
Harmar: Headquartered in Florida, Harmar is a designer, manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of mobility and accessibility solutions, including stair lifts, auto lifts, platform lifts and pool lifts. Harmar offers a wide range of indoor stair lifts for both straight and curved staircases. Its products are distributed through a variety of channels in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
Stannah: Stannah designs, manufactures and sells stair lifts in more than 40 countries. Its lifts are designed to fit all kinds of staircases – straight, curved, narrow or wide. Stannah offers both new and reconditioned stair lifts for purchase or rent. Its stair lifts come with various features, such as powered swivels and automatic footrest folds, as well as a wide selection of upholstery.
Handicare: Headquartered in Sweden, Handicare offers solutions and support to increase the independence of the physically challenged or elderly. These include a selection of straight and curved stair lifts. Among the available features are hinged tracks, slide tracks, body harnesses, swivel options and folding options. Other products Handicare offers includes transfer, lifting and repositioning aids; vehicle accessibility products and solutions; and medical equipment. The company's products are manufactured and assembled at six sites distributed across North America, Asia and Europe.
Savaria: Savaria offers stair lifts for both straight and curved staircases, with features such as 90- or 180-degree parking, top or bottom overrun, keyless access, emergency stop buttons, battery backup, and obstacle sensor systems. Other products Savaria offers are home and commercial elevators, wheelchair lifts, ceiling lifts, and van conversions.
101 Mobility: 101 Mobility designs and installs a wide range of mobility and accessibility solutions, including stair lifts. Its lifts are available for indoor and outdoor use and can be installed on straight or curved staircases. 101 Mobility also offers platform lifts, wheelchair ramps, patient lifts, residential elevators and bath safety solutions.
AccessNSM: AccessNSM, a division of National Seating & Mobility, offers products such as stair lifts, wheelchair lifts and vehicle lifts. During its 30 years of service, the company has installed thousands of stair lifts in homes, businesses and public places. It carries a full line of lifts for indoor and outdoor use, and both straight and curved staircases.
AmeriGlide: AmeriGlide is a national retailer of mobility and disability equipment, including stair lifts. The company offers indoor and outdoor stair lifts for use on straight or curved staircases, including heavy-duty options. New, used and reconditioned lifts are available. AmeriGlide offers measuring and installation nationwide, as well as an option for homeowners to do it themselves.