Stair Lifts: Types, Benefits and Prices

Imagine living in a multi-level home that you love and being forced to move because mobility issues prevent you from safely navigating your stairs. Each year, thousands of people are faced with a difficult decision: move to a single-story home, or install a stair lift.

Safety and mobility are two of the main factors that prevent seniors from remaining in the comfort of their own home. Stair lifts are an answer to both of these problems, providing a safe way to get up and down the stairs. Stairlifts can be the perfect solution that will allow you or your loved one from having to move to a single-story home, allowing them to enjoy their golden years in the comfort of a home they love. Let’s explore the different types of lifts, stair lift prices, and the benefits of each type. 

Types of Stair Lifts

Stairlifts are categorized according to function and according to how they work. In each of these categories, the types of stair lifts have advantages and disadvantages. The type of lift and type of drive affect stairlift prices and which one might be most suitable for your home. Now, let’s explore the different types of stairlift designs. 

Straight Lifts

straight stair lifts for seniors
Straight LIfts

Straight stairlifts are the most common type of lift found in most homes. The types of lifts have a standard rail that is cut to fit the exact length of your stairs. Most of them only take a few hours to install because of the straightforward design. It fits in most homes and these stair lift prices are relatively inexpensive. 

Curved Lifts

curved stair lift
Curved Lifts

Curved lifts are a little more expensive than straight ones. They can be customized to fit a staircase that has a curve or spiral. These types of lifts can be built to go around the bottom of the stairs to make getting in and out of the seat easier. You can have a wheelchair or walker ready and waiting where you need it. They take longer to install because of the amount of customization involved, 

Outdoor Lifts

outdoor lifts
Outdoor Lifts

Outdoor lifts are an excellent addition to those who like to enjoy the outdoors but must navigate difficult stairs to do so. These lifts are made to withstand extreme temperatures and all types of weather conditions. They can be attached to a patio, deck, or other raised porch. These types of lifts come straight and curved types. They are an excellent choice for making it to and from transportation. As one could expect, they are one of the more expensive options because they must be able to withstand harsh conditions. 

Commercial Lifts

commercial lifts
Commercial Lifts

If you have a business, installing a lift can be an excellent way to make your building accessible to anyone. Commercial lifts are heavy and more durable than those made for home use and are made to accommodate up to 400 pounds. They have extra-large seats and footrests and are made to accommodate larger individuals. This is an excellent idea for churches, schools, civic groups, and other businesses that serve a diverse or aging community. Installing a lift can help reduce the potential for falls on your property. 

Seated Lifts

seated lifts
Seated Lifts

This is the type of lift that most people think of when they think of a mobility device for stairs. They have a seat, backrest, footrest and can be adjusted to fit. The user sits on the seat and presses a button to operate the lift. 

Standing Lifts

standing lifts
Standing Lifts

Some people have difficulty bending their knees or have issues with sitting. A standing lift has a platform instead of a seat. The person holds onto the sides of the lift. This type of lift takes up less space than a seated lift and can be an excellent choice for small spaces. They tend to be around the same price range as chair lifts. 

Types of Stair Lift Drive Systems

Another way that stair lifts are categorized is by the type of drive system and mechanical system. They fall into two types: winding drum and worm gear. Let’s explore these two types of systems. 

Winding Drum Drive

Most older stair lifts are winding drum type lifts. This type of system has a motor at the top of the stairs that slowly turns a wire spoon. The chair is attached to the wire. The drum unwinds to lift the chair down and winds up to raise the chair. 

Winding drum lifts are simple, but they require a lot of maintenance. The cables stretch and must be reset over time and the cable can come off the spool. They are inexpensive, but they are heavy and difficult to install. Only a few manufacturers still offer this type of system. 

Worm Gear Drive

Newer lifts work using a worm gear drive. This system is similar to the rack and pinion steering system on your car. A gear matches up with teeth in the track. They offer a smoother ride than a winding drum drive system and they are easier to install. 

There are no cables to fray, stretch, come off the spool, or break. They can run on battery power so that you can use the lift even when there is a power outage, which is not the case with most winding drum drives. They never need lubricated and they require less maintenance than drum drives. 

Options and Safety of Stair Lifts

Many lift manufacturers include safety systems that are an excellent-added benefit. Most lifts now contain safety sensors that will look for obstacles in the path. They will automatically turn off the lift and will not allow movement if any obstacles, such as items left on the stairs are detected. Winding drum drives often use aircraft cables or cables made to hold up to 4,200 pounds to ensure that they will not break when you are using the device. They also have pressure-sensitive controls, and the lift can be stopped by simply letting go of the button. 

You can call the lift to the top or bottom of the steps if it is in the wrong position. You can turn the lift off when not in use to save power, and you can choose a joystick or button control. Most of the seats swivel for easy access and allow for conversation. Some units have a seat that folds up and can convert to a standing lift. You have many different options available with today’s lift manufacturers. 

Final Word

Installing a stairlift is an excellent option for people who can’t walk, have trouble bending their knees, or with heart or lung issues. They add an extra safety factor for those who are at risk for falls. Installing a lift can be the answer to allowing you or your loved one to remain independent as long as possible and to enjoy a happy life in familiar surroundings. 

David Goldstein
David launched Boomer Buyer Guides with his wife Alice to provide Baby Boomers with trustworthy, well-researched information about products and services that Baby Boomers buy. Learn more about David Goldstein