Guide to Stair Lifts: What to Know Before You Buy

home stair lift

Continue your independence with a stair lift

Obstacles are everywhere – jumping through hoops at work, avoiding a crack in the sidewalk, swerving your car to miss that cute squirrel running across the road. Our homes should be a safe haven from the world’s daily hurdles. However, mobility issues limit how we move inside our own homes. Aging, disabilities, and injuries will quickly halt normal life. Finding the right solutions to keep you moving freely is key to continuing your independence.

What is a stair lift and how does it work?

Stair lifts are a gateway to regaining independence if you or a loved one has mobility problems. They allow anyone the ability to go up and down the stairs without the worry of falling. From long staircases to short, curved to straight, indoor or outdoor, and everything in between, a stair lift can be installed to help you or a loved one navigate the stairs without any help.

Curved Home Stair Lift
A great example of what a curved stair lift might look like in your home.

Stair lifts are comprised of a chair-like seat which sits on a track that is attached to your stairs. Straight stair lifts can quickly and easily be installed with simple measurements of your stairs. Curved stair lifts, however, must be custom-made to fit the angles in your spiral staircase or if you have landings. Because they require a curved rail, each company must manufacture a specially-made rail to the exact measurements of your staircase. Lifts are battery powered and require a power source near the staircase to keep them charged.

Transporting people with mobility issues up the stairs

Stair lifts are typically installed for people who have trouble balancing or have limited movement when walking. Even if someone has the ability to walk up and down the stairs but fears falling while carrying items, it allows that person to ride safely with their items in-hand.

What are factors you should consider when buying a stair lift?

Buying a lift is an investment. If living independently is your goal, then installing one or two is well worth that financial cost. The cost of a stair lift varies based on the model you choose and the type of stairs you have (spiral, landings or straight). Cost should not be the only factor when considering whether to buy or not. 

Continuing independence in a multi-level home could mean bringing bedrooms and bathrooms to the ground floor. If walking up and down the stairs is the main concern, it might be more cost effective to install a stairlift rather than remodeling. Remodeling to create a new bedroom and bathroom on the first floor can run $50,000 or more. A stair lift is a fraction of that cost — even at the most luxurious levels. Plus, family members will have peace of mind.

Concerns Associated with Stair Lifts

Your decision to install a lift may come with concerns. Clients often ask:

  • How much electricity does a stair lift use?
  • How long will stair lift batteries last?
  • Will a stair lift damage my walls?
  • What is the maximum weight a stairlift can carry?

Let’s start at the top. At Home for Life, we install Harmar stair lifts (among other brands). This brand generally uses a 24 volt battery. The outlet requirements to keep a charge are 120 volts or 240 volts AC. Batteries should not overcharge as Harmar includes a cutoff feature on their charging points to turn off when the battery is fully charged. 

Their track is also designed to have the charging points at each end of the rail, allowing you to easily keep your chair’s battery charged at all times. Keeping your batteries charged while not in use is essential to making sure your lift is ready to move when you are. Batteries typically last about three years. If you’re using your lift more than a couple of times a day, that number may vary.

A stair lift will not damage your walls. It is installed by mounting the track to your stairs. No matter if they are covered in carpet or other material, a lift can be installed. 

The maximum weight a standard stair lift can carry is 350 pounds. If you are in need of a lift that carries more than 350 pounds, we recommend looking for a bariatric stair lift. These lifts are heavy duty and can carry double the weight of a standard lift.

Bariatric Patients

Each company has their own product made for homeowners who need a heavy duty stairlift. Harmar features the Pinnacle, a commercial-grade lift that holds up to 600 pounds. When looking for a company offering bariatric lifts, make sure the maximum capacity nears the 600+ pound mark.

Safety Features

Stairlift Northbrook IL
A stair lift like this one has charging points at the top and bottom of the rail.

Every stair lift you consider needs to have safety features. We recommend ones that include (but not limited to) a seatbelt, emergency stop, obstruction switch, constant pressure controls, safety edges and seat swivel. 

The seat swivel will make you feel more secure when disembarking your lift. It allows you to turn toward your landing while remaining seated until you are ready to stand. We also recommend installing a grab bar at the top of the stairs to help you keep your balance when standing or sitting.

Installing Your New Stair Lift

Whichever brand or model you decide on, you will need to have it installed. Stairlift installation costs and timing will depend on your installer. Curved stairlifts take the longest to receive and install because they are unique. The brand you choose will need a several-week lead time to custom-make your rail. 

After that, consider the time it will take to ship from the company’s warehouse to your installer. For a straight stair lift, your dealer may have what you need in stock, cutting down on your wait time. Your installer will then need to work with you to find a time that fits your schedule. Once at your home, expect them to be there all day to install your new stair lift. Installation can take anywhere between four to eight hours. A small sacrifice for a lifetime of mobility.

Lasting Thoughts for a Long Life of Mobility

Stairlifts are an accessible, cost-effective solution for maintaining your independence. Here at Home for Life, we offer the ability to buy and install your stairlift in one swoop. If you already have a stair lift but need it installed, we are certified to install Harmar, Acorn and Handicare USA lifts. Need to explore before you buy? Visit Oswald’s Pharmacy in Naperville, IL to see their showroom, which includes lifts and other aging-well products.

About Us

Here at Home For Life Advantage, we pride ourselves on being the leading provider of ADA accessibility equipment in the Greater Chicago area. Serving people with disabilities and seniors desiring to remain independently living in their homes. We also supply and install accessibility equipment in commercial buildings.