Independent Living - Ask the Stairlift Expert! planning

A stairlift can be a vital ingredient to helping you stay in your own home and remain independent. That's why it is important to make sure you get the right one for your needs. 

We asked experienced Occupational Therapist, Katie Turner, to answer some 'quick-fire' frequently asked questions about stairlifts and her answers are below.

What is the average cost of a stairlift?

Stairlifts are highly individualised units that vary in price significantly.

However, many new base units begin between £2,000 and £4,000. Many options affect this base pricing including length of railing needed, any curves involved, seat upgrades, motor upgrades, seat swivel, seat and foot pedal folding, and power type.

Independent Living - Ask the Stairlift Expert!

The complexity and length of a curved track stairlift will naturally incur higher cost. 

I have very narrow stairs – Is there a stairlift to fit them?

The development of stairlifts has come a long way since they were first commercialised in the '20s. Today, it is very likely that a stairlift exists that can cope with most staircases.

Computerisation within the control system allows the carriage, or seat to constantly adjust the angle to enable safe travel up steep, narrow staircases that were previously definite no-nos.

Of course, everything is subject to the feasibility survey and will also need to take into account the users specifications and other safety aspects.

I can’t bend my knees very well – will a stairlift work for me?

Most stairlifts have a seat with arms and a footrest. Some special models have a stand-on platform also known as a "perch" seat. For users with shorter legs a short seat can be fitted, to make the lift more comfortable to sit on.

The seats commonly travel at right angle to the rail, ie across the staircase, but in some instances this angle can be altered to allow people with longer legs or restricted joints to sit safely and comfortably whilst the seat is travelling along the rail. Seats can even face down the staircase and tailored to suit individual needs. So most shapes, sizes and abilities can be accommodated.

All these options have to be assessed in relation to the user and their home environment.

How do I stop my grandchildren playing on my stairlift?

Many stairlifts are fitted with a key, to allow the user to prevent others from using the lift.

Independent Living - Ask the Stairlift Expert! grandchildren

When was the first stairlift made?

In the 1920s, C.C. Crispen, a Pennsylvania entrepreneur, created a way to enable his ailing friend to travel from floor to floor. Crispin’s idea was to design a seat that could climb stairs and he built the first prototype of the inclining chair. He called it the Inclinator.

Independent Living - Ask the Stairlift Expert! henry VIII

However, prior to this Frederick Muffet of Royal Tunbridge Wells, invented and patented the "An Invalid Chair with Tramway for use on Staircases". Earlier, historians now believe that Henry VIII was the owner of the world’s first stairlift. Listed among a detailed inventory of the King’s possessions was an object described in the royal records as a ‘chair… that goeth up and down.’

Who wouldn't love a stair throne?

This was a block and tackle device and was installed on a 20ft staircase in Whitehall Palace, London.

How fast do stairlifts travel?

Stairlifts normally have "soft" starts so the user is not jerked as the carriage starts to move. Travelling up to a maximum rated speed of 0.15 meters per second (0.34 mph) which ensures a safe, comfortable ride.

As standard the stairlift usually slow down on the curved element of the track and increase speed marginally on the straight.

Where can I see or try out a stairlift?

If you want to see a wide range there are a few options. Some companies have showrooms at which you can see and try different models.

Alternatively, you could find your nearest equipment demonstration centre. These are dedicated places where you can try out mobility aids in a non-sales environment, which can feel more relaxed as you are not expected to buy a stairlift there and then.

However, most reputable manufacturers and dealers do offer a free no obligation home visiting survey. This can be a good idea as it allows the solution to be tailored to your environment.

There are a number across the UK, and you can find a list on the Disabled Living Foundation's Living Made Easy website.

If you know someone who owns a stairlift, ask to try theirs, and talk to them about the pros and cons. There's nothing like sitting on a stairlift and giving it a go for seeing whether it might suit you.

Do I have a choice of colour?

Yes, most manufacturers have a range of colours, and some have different fabric coverings for the seat.

Independent Living - Ask the Stairlift Expert! colour choice staircase

So you can be sure your stairlift will fit in with your décor!

How long does it take to actually install a stairlift?

The exact amount of time the company’s engineers will need to install a new stairlift to the stairs in your home will vary based on the service and the space in your home.

More complex installations will take longer. For example, if you need a radiator removed or relocated, a banister modified, or other home modifications carried out, this will increase the length of time needed to install a stairlift.

A curved stairlift will also generally take longer to install than a straight stairlift, due to the more complex design of curved stairlifts,

A straight stairlift will typically take between 1 and 5 hours- it can easily be completed in a single afternoon!

Can the stairlift be re-used or recycled?

There is a second-user market for some types of stairlifts. This is most common with straight rail domestic types. The rails can be cut to length if too long or extended with a "joining kit". Most models allow the carriage to be "re-handed" so it can be used on the left or right side of the staircase.

During the early days of curved rail stairlifts there was no second user market because of the difficulty of matching rails to a different layout. 

More recently, some curved rails have been produced to a modular design so components can be unbolted and used elsewhere, subject to design and safety considerations.

It’s always worth asking about second hand or reconditioned units when making your enquiries.

Do your homework 

Doing your research now can really help you to get the right stairlift that fits your house and your needs. The right solution is an investment you won't regret and will infinitely increase your quality of life. We hope Katie has gone some way to answering your questions. 

Why not share your stairlift experience in our comments section. We would love to hear from you. 

Photo Credits

Big White Staircase Photo by Tobias van Schneider on Unsplash  

Henry VIII Photo by British Library on Unsplash  

Orange Staircase Photo by Gabriel Izgi on Unsplash  

Children Stairs Image Image by Michal Fošenbauer from Pixabay 

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