Ultimate Guide to Buying Stair Lifts – Everything You Need to Know
Choosing to invest in a stair lift is a big decision. There are a lot of considerations to make before settling on the perfect mobility solution for you, your loved one and your home.
There is much to think about, but ultimately these machines are wonderful for aiding independent movement for someone who has limited mobility or is suffering from an illness. It could be the reason that a person can stay in the comfort of their own home rather than have to move houses or into a residential home.
If you or a family member have decided to research installing a home stair lift, we’ve created this guide to make the process easy for you. We’ll talk you through features of the chairs themselves, stair lift costs, how they can be adapted to fit your property, and everything you need to know about maintenance and warranties.
Browse this guide to feel fully informed before making this big investment: it could change your life! Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or for advice regarding any of our stair lifts.
How Do They Work?
Stair lifts – also sometimes called chair lifts – help those who have trouble getting up or down the stairs to reach all areas of the building they are in safely. The user simply sits in the seat and the motorized chair lifts them up or down the stairs. Most machines come complete with footrests, armrests and seat belts for comfort and safety.
Most standard machines plug into standard wall outlets and contain no circuits, most have battery reserves in case of a power outage, allowing them to make dozens of trips off of the battery reserve. Mains-operated lifts like our SL350 model draw only 6.5 amps of electricity when in use – that’s less than your vacuum cleaner. If you’re worried about the energy consumption of electric stair lifts, this could ease your mind.
Types of Stair Lifts
There is no one-size-fits-all lift chair. Their design and installation will depend heavily on factors like:
- The height of the staircase
- The width of the staircase
- Whether there are any landings that the chair needs to traverse on its way up the stairs
- Whether the staircase is straight or curved
- Material of the stairs (wood, concrete, metal, etc.)
- The weight or special needs of the primary user
Below, we’ll list the main types of stair lifts that we stock here at Jameson Medical.
A standard, straight track stair lift does what it says on the tin: it takes the user up and down a straight set of stairs. Of course, it will come equipped with all the necessary safety features like auto-switch off and pressure button controls but won’t necessarily come with any additional features or extras.
Standard chair lifts are the best option for people of average weight with no other special needs except for limited mobility. They will only be applicable if your house has a straight staircase. Standard devices are on the lower end of the price scale unless you request extra attachments or modifications.
Curved Stair Lifts
A curved stair lift will be necessary if your staircase turns a bend before it reaches the top. These are usually more expensive due to the more precise design and customizations needed to fit them into the home. To make sure a curved stair lift fits properly in the home a special machine is brought in that takes computerized measurements down to the millimeter. The track is then hand made to fit the exact staircase specifications of each individual’s home and/or business.
The chair mechanism will work in the same way as any ‘standard’ stair lift. The user will simply sit in the chair and use the controls to move themselves up or down floors.
Split Staircase Systems
Split staircase chair lift systems are needed when there is a small landing or ‘split’ in-between sets of stairs. If your staircase plateaus in the middle, the machine’s track will need to be adapted to accommodate this.
The most efficient solution is usually to install two independent stairlifts. The user simply switches from one seat to another on the landing. Having two chairs installed comes at a higher cost than one stairlift, but is often cheaper than a curved lift, but this is the safest and best way to help the user get up their stairs.
High Capacity Stair Lifts
Jameson Medical stocks bariatric chairlifts. Our Nautilus HD stair lift can carry up to 600lbs (272kg) and features a 90° swivel seat for comfortable and safe access.
Grease Free Stair Lifts
Many stairlift models need to be regularly greased to allow their mechanisms to work smoothly – some up to every 90-120 days. Rack and pinion systems, which use a grooved track and wheel method of propelling the chair up and down the stairway, need to be greased frequently.
There are drawbacks to having to grease your stair lift, including the fact that people with reduced mobility may not be able to do it themselves and that grease can easily end up on your carpets, walls and clothes.
Jameson Medical stocks a range of grease-free models for ultimate ease, the Medallion and Nautilus models that we carry are some of the best no-maintenance lifts on the market - they’re the only models I would put in my house. Please contact us if you are unsure whether the system you want to buy requires greasing.
Cargo-Chair Lift Combos
Want to be able to lift furniture, luggage and shopping up and down the stairs as well as yourself? That’s no problem with a specialized cargo-chair lift combo system.
These handy systems convert between a chair and a platform for placing items and goods to be transported. It can be controlled remotely from the top or bottom of the stairs, preventing seniors or those with limited balance and mobility from carrying heavy items on the stairs and risking an accident.
Outdoor Stair Lifts
Outdoor stair lifts are the perfect solution for people whose properties have sets of outdoor stairs to reach the house or garden. These systems are specially adapted to work in outdoor environments but otherwise work in much the same way as indoor machines. They attach to the steps themselves rather than outside walls or rails for safety purposes.
Outdoor systems come with weather guards, fold-up arms to easily tuck away the machine when not in use, and key locks to ensure the device cannot be used by anyone but the owner and people they trust.
Are stairlift prices the only thing preventing you from making the investment? While we don’t typically have any in stock due to people holding on to their lifts, Jameson Medical does sell used and refurbished systems for this purpose. We understand that the cost of new machines may not be realistic for everyone but believe that anyone that could benefit from a chair lift should be helped to access one.
Our used and refurbished stair lift systems still meet all required safety standards and are only sold if they work as good as new. The only difference is a few possible cosmetic signs of wear. Buyers can save significant amounts of money by choosing a pre-loved system. If you are looking for a used or refurbished model, give us a call as we’ll have to check inventory over the phone.
Customization & Extra Features
Most of the stair lifts stocked at Jameson Medical offer optional extra features so buyers can personalize their machine precisely to their needs. Below is a list of common additional features:
Power swivel seats: These mechanisms allow for comfortable, easy and safe access. The seat can be ‘swiveled’ up to 90° so the user can sit and disembark without having to turn their body.
Wrap-around track: The track taken by the chair can ‘wrap’ around a bend in the wall to make it easier and safer for the user to get on and off the seat. This performs basically the same function as a swivel seat, but one solution may be better for certain home designs than others.
Hinged/folding rail: Some models, like the Nautilus Grease Free, offer optional hinged or folding rails. This means that the bottom of the track can be folded away when the machine is not in use. This is handy if you have a hallway or door at the top or foot of your stairs and means the track won’t cause an obstruction.
Flip-up arms: If the seat is for a wheelchair stair lift user, flip-up arms are a must. This allows for a smooth transfer from stair lift to wheelchair.
Grocery carrier: An additional basket to help you transport goods with your stair lift. This is different from a cargo combo lift, which converts from seat to carrier – it’s more like a basket that can transport items alongside the chair.
Seat size: Some chairlifts offer different seat sizes for larger people or those who prefer a wider seat.
Key locks: Some machines (like outdoor models) have key locks as a standard feature. With other models, they come as an optional extra. These prevent unauthorized use of the machine. If you want to stop children playing with the seat and potentially injuring themselves, installing a lock ensures only you can use it.
Jameson Medical also offers extra parts for some models to help with self-installation and maintenance. Manual hand cranks, LED lights, motor brushes, replacement motors and much more can be purchased on our website.
Safety & Special Needs
Stair Lift Safety
The safety measures you need will depend on the mobility of the user. Someone with poor balance will greatly benefit from waist belts, safety rails and swiveling seats. These are also great ‘just in case’ measures for anyone who wants a stair lift chair.
Another safety consideration is who can operate the machine. If you have small children or grandchildren, you may want to install a key lock so that they can’t turn it on and injure themselves when you’re not watching. For example, this may also be necessary if you are the caregiver of someone with dementia. Keeping the key with you means they can’t operate it and potentially hurt themselves without someone to assist them.
Most stair lifts come with pressure controls, meaning that the machine will only move when the user is actively pushing a button. Once pressure is removed from the controls, the machine stops instantly. If the person were to fall off the chair or they suddenly need to stop the device, the chair will cease moving and won’t cause further damage. Some chairs also have footrest sensors, which stop the machine if they encounter an obstruction. Most models automatically switch off once they reach the top or bottom of the track.
There are many ways in which stair lifts are designed to be fully safe for elderly or less-abled users. Make sure to carefully read the details of all safety features offered by a chairlift before deciding to buy.
Feel free to call us at 855-333-0400 to be clear on any of the equipment’s features.
The Primary User
When considering buying a stair lift, you probably have one person in mind for its use. Sure, other family members and house visitors can use it too, but it should be customized for the specific needs of the primary user.
If you’re researching stair lifts for a loved one, sit down with the person, their primary caregiver, or their doctor to be clear on the features it should have. Does it need a secure waist belt? Simple controls if they have limited dexterity in their hands? A grocery basket to carry items between floors? Does it need a widened seat and the ability to lift someone over 300lbs?
Also, consider the future needs of the person. It’s best to equip the stair lift with everything they will possibly need when it’s installed than have to pay for modifications later. If they have a chronic condition like arthritis or Parkinson’s, consider whether they may lose the ability to use controls in the future.
When buying chair lifts for seniors, you might need large buttons and clear labelling suitable for impaired sight. Think about safety measures like seat belts and swivel seats to help the user stay in the seat while it’s moving and enable them to get on and off easily.
Stair Lift Installation
It’s absolutely essential that stair lift systems are properly installed. Ideally, it should be done by a professional who is specially trained in fitting them. A botched installation could lead to injury to users and structural damage to property.
When you purchase a stair lift, you have a few options regarding how to install it into your home.
You can choose to self-install, meaning either you, someone you know, or a local contractor you’ve chosen yourself will install the system.
Jameson Medical Installation Service
Alternatively, you can pay for Jameson Medical professional fitters to install your system for you when you buy your machine. We can fit your machine quickly and efficiently.
Installation costs will depend on the system being placed and the material it will be fitted to. For instance, installing a straight stair lift into wooden steps will cost less than installing a curved stair lift into concrete.
Most installs we handle do not require any additional modifications to be made, but please note that installation by Jameson Medical DOES NOT include any staircase modification or electrical work. If anything electrical need to be reconfigured, or the staircase must be amended to fit the device, this should be done by a local contractor BEFORE your stairlift is installed. Please call us and we can help answer any questions you may have. Our techs will do a consult with you to identify if anything extra is needed in your home and we can schedule your installation.
Stair Lift Warranty
Being clear on the warranty conditions before making a big investment is crucial, especially one as complex as a stairlift.
There are a few possible types of warranty offered with your stair lift purchase. Each model will vary.
Some stair lifts come with a full lifetime warranty on their parts, which is obviously a huge benefit. This means that if anything were to stop working on the device, an engineer recommended by the manufacturer or Jameson Medical will come to inspect and replace any broken or faulty parts no matter how long you’ve had your machine. The Nautilus and Medallion Grease Free Stairlifts are two models that come with a full lifetime warranty.
Other systems are assured by a manufacturer’s warranty. Our AC-350 stair lift, for example, has a five-year factory warranty included in the price. Buyers of this model can opt to pay extra for a lifetime warranty but should be aware that the cost of labor is not included. It is important to note that Limited Warranties are typically limited in the favor of the manufacturer, not the consumer.
Some models require an extra fee to ensure lifetime warranty. Check the details of each machine to know whether the warranty is included or costs extra before you buy. There may also be an extra fee for labor when fixing the machine.
Contact us today to learn more about stair lift warranties.
All stairlifts we stock are designed to require as little maintenance as possible. The Nautilus and Medallion are two models that require the least maintenance due to their grease free drive mechanism. However, if you should need an engineer to service your machine, Jameson Medical can help. Call us to find out what we can do in the event of a faulty device.
We also stock replacement parts for many of the models we offer. To find out if you can buy a replacement part through us, Give Us A Call: 855-333-0400
How Much Does a Stair Lift Cost?
Overall, there is no flat fee that we can quote to everyone wanting a stair lift. The price varies considerably, from around $900 for a used or refurbished standard model to nearly $12,000 for a Chariot curved stairlift system.
Here are some things which will influence your stair lift costs:
- Drive Mechanism (whether you need to grease it or not)
- Seat size
- Length of the track
- Whether the track is straight or curved
- Split staircases
- Optional extras like wrap-around tracks and security rails
- The cost of labor and parts during installation
- Whether the warranty is full, limited, comes free, or requires an extra fee
- If your staircase or electrical wiring needs to be changed to accommodate the lift
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and there could be other factors that influence how much you pay.
At Jameson Medical, we aim to be completely transparent when quoting your costs when you buy a stair lift. We’ll gather all the information we need from you to determine how much your desired model and installation will likely cost.
Tips for Choosing a Stair Lift for Your Home
Stair lifts can grant mobility and independence to those who struggle with accessibility in their home. These wonderful devices can turn a house that’s difficult to navigate into a home that fits your lifestyle.
Before choosing a stair lift, however, it’s important to consider the different aspects of the device to choose the perfect one for your unique needs and home.
If you’re ready to be mobile in your house again, keep reading for the most important tips for choosing a stair lift in your home.
Choose The Right Type of Stair Lift
The design and structure of the stairs themselves will determine what kind of lift you will need. Straight and curved stairways have their own requirements for a lift, which is why it’s important to narrow down your search to those that will work in your home.
Straight stairways allow for the lift to be installed on either side, whereas curved stairways often call for a customized device. A bespoke stair lift can be much more expensive than a model one, but when you consider that it’s made specifically to fit your lifestyle and stairway, the cost is understandable.
With so many stair lifts to choose from on the market, here’s how to know what to look for:
Factors to Consider
Some of the most crucial design factors to consider when picking out a stair lift include design, flexibility, user body, size, power source, and reliability.
A chair that simply moves up and down the stairs smoothly is the most popular stair lift design. Generally, you’ll find these with arm and foot rests, swivel seats, and a seat belt. This baseline model can be customized to allow for wheelchairs or standing as well, making them a strong option for those with specific mobility problems.
The ideal stair chair should have swiveling ability in order to make getting on and off the device simple and safe. It’s important to look into the angles of movement for any stair lifts you’re considering. You can even have a professional like those at Jameson come in to inspect the staircase and assist you in finding the right device for your home.
The user or users themselves are another very important aspect to keep in mind when purchasing. Height, weight, body size, and any imposing disabilities are important to prioritize when picking a chair.
The stair lift should never fully take up the entire stairway. It should leave some space for visitors to walk around it comfortably without being obtrusive. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a stair lift that fold up into a compact size to make the area clear for home traffic.
Most stair lifts run on AC or DC power. AC lifts are great as long as your neighborhood’s power situation is stable. If not, consider a DC system which comes along with a backup battery just in case the power was to go out.
Making an investment in a stair chair is no small task. It’s natural to want assurance of support if the device encounters problems later down the road. A good warranty, service guarantee and market reputation will give you peace of mind when making such an important purchase.
People affected by illness, injury or simply old age can find limits on their independence incredibly tough. Mobility aids like motorized stair lifts can greatly improve their quality of life.
One of the top reasons people purchase stairlifts is to enable the user to stay in their own home for longer. Being forced to sell a beloved family home can be extremely upsetting, especially for older people who have worked hard for their home and could become confused and stressed by new surroundings. Adapting the current home can be the key to happy senior years and is less expensive than moving to a new house or residential facility.
If you’re still on the fence about whether a chair lift is a worthy investment, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- If you’re the family or caregiver of an elderly or ill person, would it give you peace of mind to know they can use the stairs safely?
- Would it make everyday tasks easier for the person?
- Could it reduce their pain?
- Could it reduce their risk of falling or injury?
- Will it make them happier?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it could be time to arrange a consultation. Jameson Medical provide no-obligation information and advice for anyone considering a chair lift.