As you age, moving around in your home can become a challenge. Stairs in particular pose difficulty when seniors develop mobility issues. Choosing the right stair lift ensures that you have maximum mobility between floors in your home.

Why Use a Stair Lift?

A stair lift helps you navigate between different levels of your home. The best stair lifts offer a sturdy seat and smooth operation, so you can move upstairs or downstairs while remaining seated. Whether you need to navigate up to bedrooms on a second story or want convenient access to a refinished basement, a stair lift makes it easier to age in place.

curved stair lift

How do I choose a stair lift?

Picking the Right Kind of Stair Lift

Stair lifts come in two forms, straight and curved. If your stairway is a simple set of steps in a continuous straight line, you need a straight stair lift. Curved stair lifts are designed for use with a curved or turning staircase. They can also handle landings and changes in direction if you need a stair lift that maneuvers between multiple sets of staircases. Curved stair lifts also give you the option of moving the seat around a corner, transfer positions, or park out of the way between uses. Stair lift options from Savaria and Harmar include both curved stair and straight stair versions.

In general, straight stair lifts are less expensive than curved stair lifts, and the overall cost depends on the length and complexity of the unit you choose. Customized stair lift options let you adapt your lift to the specific design of your staircase.

Indoor and Outdoor Models

Major manufacturers such as Bruno make both indoor and outdoor stair lift models designed to handle various conditions. If you already have plans to install an indoor stair lift, consider whether you also need an outdoor model to help you navigate stairs leading to your porch or down hillside steps near your home.

Space Considerations

The width of your stairway may determine what models work in your home. The rail for a stair lift attaches directly to the steps, not to the wall or railing, so you need space for the attachment and the chair itself. Most stair lifts take up about 25 inches of the stairway when in use, so your staircase should be at least 32 inches wide to accommodate it. The length of the staircase also might affect your choice. Some models work with stairways up to 75 feet long, while others are designed for staircases of 16 to 30 feet long.

If you have a narrow stairway that doesn’t fit a stair lift, you might want to consider other options, such as a personal elevator, to move between floors, or if possible, choose a different set of stairs for stair lift installation. The incline of your stairs may be another consideration if the steps are particularly steep because some models can handle steeper inclines than others.

Body Type & Disability Considerations

The particular stair lift you choose might also depend on the size and shape of your body. Heavier individuals need a stair lift with a larger weight capacity. Typical weight limits for a stair lift tend to range from 250 to 400 pounds. Models designed to hold more weight are often referred to as heavy duty stair lifts. Some stair lifts come with different seat size options, so you can choose a wider seat if needed. You can determine the width of seat you need by checking your favorite dining chair and choosing a stair lift with a seat in a similar width.

If you are tall, you may need a stair lift seat heightened to fit your body and prevent your feet from touching the floor as you ride. If your household includes both tall and short individuals who plan to use the lift, then you might want a model with an adjustable-height seat, so everyone feels comfortable whenever they ride the lift. With other specific disabilities, we’ll need to understand what the user cannot do on their own and what they need the lift to do for them.

Convenience and Safety Options

When choosing a stair lift, comfort and convenience are paramount because you are likely to use the device daily. Look for a padded seat that swivels to let you easily mount and dismount from the lift. Intuitive onboard controls let you easily operate your lift, and a seat belt keeps you securely in your chair as it moves between floors. Obstruction sensors automatically stop the lift if something gets in the way. Stair lift models with onboard diagnostic capabilities alert you when anything goes wrong and let you monitor the status of the battery, so you know when the chair needs to be recharged.

If the bottom of your stair lift ends at a high-traffic doorway or hall, you might want to consider a model that has a flip-up rail. This feature lets you flip the rail out of the way to conserve floor space and reduce obstructions when the lift is not in use. You simply flip it back down when you’re ready to use the stair lift. This can be done either manually or automatically.

Choosing a Comfortable Ride

Some stair lifts come with adjustable components designed to make the ride more comfortable. If comfort is a deciding factor for you, consider a model with adjustable-width arms and an adjustable footrest. Luxury stair lifts feature padded seats and seat backs to cushion your body as the chair glides smoothly along the rail.

If you use a wheelchair, you might want to get a wheelchair lift instead of a stair lift. To use a stair lift, you will need to transfer from your wheelchair to the lift before going upstairs or downstairs and transfer to another wheelchair once you arrive at the destination level.

Seats, arms, and footrests that fold up when not in use minimize the profile of the stair lift chair between uses so other members of your household can walk up or down the stairs comfortably without bumping into the lift.

Battery Capacity

Most stair lifts include an internal battery so you can operate the unit even during a power outage. If your home experiences frequent outages or you need the absolute assurance of consistent operation during an emergency, make sure to get a model that has a battery and can get you up or down the stairs no matter what occurs.

Models that charge all along the rail keep the battery constantly ready for use while other models plug into a charging station at the base, requiring you to return the chair to the base after use. Some stair lift models are AC power only, so they plug into the wall and don’t use a battery at all. These stair lifts do not operate unless power is available, so you could get stuck between levels if the power goes out. Battery-powered models give you between 10 to 20 trips up and down the stairs during a power outage, so you can easily get to another level if necessary.

Stair Lift Styling

While performance, safety and comfort might be the most important considerations when choosing a stair lift, you might also want to think about the look of your home when making a final decision. Some models offer different upholstery styles for your stair lift’s seat, so you can match the design to your decor and other furniture in your home. You can also custom upholster certain models by providing your own fabric.

Maintenance and Service

Most stair lifts are easy to maintain, but even the best models can sometimes break down unexpectedly. Buying from a dealer that offers on-call service ensures that your stair lift gets up and running quickly so you don’t have to go without it for long periods of time.

With so many options available, narrowing down the alternatives to find the right stair lift for you can be a challenge. Day Elevator and Lift can help you find the ideal model for your needs and can design a custom option if your home has specific requirements. Fill out our online contact form or call us at (800) 758-5438 to learn more about stair lifts and which stair lift will work best for your home.