Stairlifts, Frequently asked questions

Do I need a stairlift?

Many people who find it difficult to climb the stairs introduce a stairlift to their home to help them get from one floor to another more easily. Stairlifts are much safer than trying to climb the stairs if you have poor mobility. They allow you to live more independently in your home, keeping the energy you would have used climbing the stairs for more interesting pastimes like gardening or playing with grandchildren!

How do stairlifts work?

Stairlifts consist of a rail, a carriage and a seat. The carriage contains the motor which powers the lift up and down the rail which fits directly to the treads of the stairs (not the wall). The seat sits on top of the carriage and the controls are usually built into the arm.

Which stairlift is right for me?

There are a number of options when it comes to choosing the right stairlift. Your stairs will need to be assessed by an expert, if you have a straight staircase you will be offered a straight stairlift, while stairs which have a bend in them will need a curved stairlift. There are even stairlifts for outside to help you get into your house or garden.

Should I buy or rent?

Renting is really only cost effective for a short time e.g. a few months. Discuss your needs with the assessor at the home visit and they will advise you on what is best for you. If you use a British Healthcare Trades Association – BHTA -member they will not sell you something that you do not need.

Do I have to pay for my home demonstration?

No, home visits and demonstrations are free of charge with no obligation to buy. Having a home visit is the only way to get an accurate cost, as everyone’s house is different. Our partner understands this and is always happy to come out and assess your needs with absolutely no obligation to buy.

I have arthritis in my hands. Will I be able to operate the stairlift controls?

Stairlifts are designed to be operated by those with limited mobility, and so all the controls are super-easy to use. At the home visit the assessor will discuss all the options that are right for you.

I struggle to bend my knees. Can I use a stairlift?

There are perching seat options available. This type of seat means that you do not need to sit fully down to use the stairlift, making it a good alternative for those who find bending their legs a problem.

Are stairlifts easy to control?

Yes stairlifts are designed to be really easy to use. The control options need the lightest of touches and can be controlled by hand, wrist or arm, helping those with the most limited of dexterity.

Will I fall off the stairlift?

The stairlift has an integral seatbelt that is easy to put on and take off. You will feel very secure while using the stairlift.

What happens if there is a power cut?

Stairlifts are powered from rechargeable batteries, this means that in a power cut the stairlift will use its stored energy to continue to function for as many as 6 journeys.

How fast will the stairlift travel?

Stairlifts are designed to glide steadily and slowly up and down your stairs. They tend to travel at around 0.10 metres per second to 0.15 metres per second (29 ½ feet per minute or 0.34 miles per hour).

How much does a stairlift cost?

Prices vary greatly because products are tailored to each customer’s specific needs. See our ‘Guide to buying a stairlift’ article for more details.

What happens if the lift has been left upstairs, and I’m downstairs?

This can happen when two or more members of your family use the stairlift. In this situation your assessor will advise you to have two controllers – one for upstairs and one for downstairs.

What happens if something gets in the way of the stairlift while it is moving?

Stairlifts have several safety sensors built into them so they will automatically stop if an object is detected in its path.

What is the maximum weight that a stairlift will carry?

A stairlift must only carry one person at a time and the weight limit varies according to the type of rail and chair but 21stone (135kg) is usual.

How much does a stairlift cost to run?

Stairlifts are economical, they run from a normal plug and are equivalent to the cost of boiling your kettle.

Will I still be able to use the stairs as normal if I have a stairlift?

As long as your staircase is not particularly narrow you should be able to use your stairs as normal.

How will my stairlift be powered?

Stairlifts are powered from rechargeable batteries and use a regular 13 amp plug socket for it’s charge.

How do I know if I’m buying a stairlift from a reputable company?

We recommend only using a company that is a member of the British Healthcare Trades Association – BHTA – this organisation subscribes to the Trading Standards Institute’s code of conduct. If you use a company registered to the BHTA you will have peace of mind that the company you have chosen has pledged to not use pressure selling techniques, will only sell you what you need, and will act in your best interests at all times. The BHTA have produced an independent guide to buying a Stairlift. Call them on 0207 702 2141 for your free printed copy or download a copy here:

I’m worried that I won’t remember what is said at the home visit assessment.

It is always best to have someone with you when you have the home assessment. It will give you someone to talk through what was discussed after the visit. If you choose a British Healthcare Trades Association – BHTA member – you will not experience pressure selling, and will not be made to feel you need to make a decision to buy on the day of the home visit. You will be given a detailed quote which will allow you to consider your options and choose in your own time, if you want to go ahead.

What safety standards should my stairlift have?

The main UK stairlift standard you should look out for is BS 5776:1996 – British Standard – ‘Specification for powered stairlifts’.

Is the stairlift noisy?

No, they are very quiet. You will be able to use the stairlift day or night without disturbing anyone else in your house.

How long does it take to install a stairlift?

It should take no longer than two to three hours to install a basic straight stairlift and four or five hours to install a curved stairlift.

Will my stairlift come with a warranty?

All reputable companies who are British Healthcare Trades Association – BHTA members – offer warranty and servicing packages – and these options will be discussed at the home visit by the assessor.

Will my stairlift need regular servicing?

We would recommend that you have your stairlift serviced once a year. When you have your home assessment ask about the cost and terms of any maintenance or servicing contracts available.

What happens if I no longer need my stairlift?

Most reputable companies will remove and dispose of your stairlift if you no longer want it in your home. There may be a charge for this. If your stairlift is fairly new it may be possible for parts of it to be recycled as a reconditioned model, in which case you may be able to recoup a small percentage of the original cost.

Can I rent a stairlift?

Yes. Several British Healthcare Trades Association – BHTA members – offer rental schemes which allow you to have a stairlift installed and pay monthly. However this can be more expensive than buying a stairlift if you rent for more than a few months. If you only need help to get up the stairs for a short while you may wish to consider a stairclimber instead.

Do I have to pay VAT on my stairlift?

If you meet the government criteria for VAT exemption you will not need to pay the VAT on your stairlift. This will be discussed at the home visit.

Who can be VAT exempt?

VAT exemption is for those who suffer from a disability and/or a chronic or terminal illness. VAT exemption cannot be claimed for a frail senior person who is otherwise able-bodied or any person who is temporarily disabled or incapacitated for example, they have a broken bone.


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