If you’re thinking about installing a stair lift, there’s a lot to consider before you make a final decision about what to buy. Factors such as the length of your staircase, the weight the lift has to carry, and even the amount of power you can afford to use each month all influence your choice of lifts. Because no two homes are the same, and because no two people have exactly the same needs, every stair lift installation is unique. Remember to consult with a qualified installation expert before you settle on a specific lift model for your home.
- Is a Renovation Really Needed?
Most stairlifts are designed to fit on a staircase with a clear width of 30-32” depending on the size and disability of the user. Your home itself is the first major variable to consider when you’re looking for a stair lift. The space you have available to you may be a major limiting factor — in some homes, stairwells are narrow and can’t accommodate a full-sized lift unit. If your space is limited, you might want to consider a compact model. Otherwise, it may be necessary to widen the well and make room for a new stair lift.
Even if you have the room for a lift, your house might still need some work before you install a new lift. Your home electrical system, for example, likely runs on AC power, but some stair lifts exclusively use DC power. This does not make the lift incompatible with your home wiring, but it might call for the installation of a converter before your lift can be hooked up to the wall power in your house.
- What Are the Dimensions of Your Staircase?
Most stair lift models have a maximum length, listed in the brochure, which is roughly the length of the rail they ride on. As a rule, any straight-track stair lift should be able to handle the average length of a flight of stairs up to 16′, though anything around 20 feet could require extra installation work.
The width and height of your stairwell also make a difference. Though models vary, you should have at least 30-32″ inches of open space for your stair lift. Generally, if you can stand on one side of your stairs and fully extend your arm to the opposite wall, you probably have enough space for a standard lift. Unless your stairs are covered by a vaulted ceiling, remember to ask your installer about headroom along the entire length of the track. It is sometimes necessary to make extra space for riders’ heads under a low overhang.
The geometry of your staircase matters, too. Straight staircases are typically simple installations, and the crew is often finished in just a few hours. Curved staircases are another matter. Because every curved staircase is unique, these spaces call for a pre-installation evaluation and measurements by a licensed installer. After your consultation, you should have a solid quote for both price and installation time, as well as a list of the lift tracks that can be installed in your available space.
- What Is Your Budget?
An essential part of any home improvement project, your budget will set the parameters for your stair lift selection process, so it’s important to know what to expect in the way of costs.
Basic stair lifts with simple installations on a 12- to 14-step staircase generally cost between $2,500 and $5,000. This price is all-inclusive and covers basic labor costs for installation. You can expect to pay something close to the bottom end of this range for basic, no-frills models of lifts, while compact and heavy-duty lifts generally fall near the top end of the price range.
Curved lifts generally cost more than straight stair lifts. Because curved installations are usually customized to each space, costs generally start around $10,000 and go up from there. Factors affecting the final cost of a curved lift include the size and complexity of your stairwell, how many landings you have, the total length of the rail, and whether extra work needs to be done to fit the system in.
Paying for a new stair lift can be a challenge for homeowners, especially if the disability that limits their mobility develops suddenly or unexpectedly. But it can be helpful to keep the cost in perspective. With the average national cost of assisted living at $4,051 a month, anything that lets you remain independent in your own home is likely to quickly pay for itself.
- Does Your Insurance Cover the Cost of a Lift?
Some people who need stair lifts are able to get help paying for the installation from their insurance company. Many privately issued policies, and several managed-care Medicare Advantage plans, cover some or all of the cost to install a stair lift. These plans vary by state and by company, so it’s a good idea to speak with an insurance rep about whether your insurance has a provision to pay for home improvements and/or mobility modifications. Some state and local governments also chip in through low- or no-cost home modification programs for seniors with limited mobility.
- Should You Buy New or Used?
Buying a new stair lift is many people’s first choice, though it is also the most expensive option you have. If you don’t need a custom lift system (meaning one which has to be built for you using special requirements), you might look into buying a used stair lift. Buying a used lift can often save you between $500 and $1,000 as compared to the same or similar model bought new, and almost all used lift models offered for sale are in like-new condition. Many also come with a warranty for service.
There are drawbacks to purchasing a used lift, however: Because a typical lift stays in the house where it was first installed for several years, any used one you may purchase is likely to be an older model that lacks some of the more up-to-date features, such as smartphone controls. Selection is also generally very limited for used stair lifts simply because they are sold as they become available, limiting your ability to get the used model you want.
- Should You Buy or Rent a Stair Lift?
The decision of whether to rent or to buy a stair lift is not usually a hard one to make. In general, renting a stair lift makes the most sense when your disability is only temporary, or when you expect to move out of your house soon. If you only need a stair lift for three months, for instance, you might wind up spending around $200 a month, or $600 in total, for a simple straight-track lift. This is significantly less than the cost of buying even a used lift and installing it in your home.
If you expect to need a lift for much longer than this, then leasing a stair lift may not be the most cost-effective option. For instance, if you need a lift for at least 12 months, then the $2,400 minimum you can expect to pay on the lease might have been better spent buying a lift that you own yourself.
Bear in mind, too, that some homes are not suitable for stair lift rentals. Homes with curved or spiral staircases require custom installation work, which makes them generally unable to accommodate a rental unit that has to be returned someday.
- Which Company Should You Choose?
There’s a lot to think about when you’re buying a stair lift for your home. Apart from the space, you have for the lift and the specifics of the lift model’s design and cost, you also want to work with a reliable company to install your stair lift.
Day Elevator & Lift offers a wide selection of excellent stair lifts for many different homes. We offer expert advice to help you make a wise purchase, as well as inspection and maintenance services for all the lift models we sell. Call us today at (800) 758-5438 for a free consultation, or set up a home inspection through our online contact form, and learn all you need to know about installing a new stair lift in your home.