Do you have a mobility or stair lift related question?
Frequently Asked Questions Answered By Dr Neil Stirling MB ChB
Are you just researching stair lifts at the moment and are not sure if one is even necessary for you or a family member?
If the above describes you then this first section is for you.
How could a doctor help?
A doctor can advise you if your mobility around the home could be improved by using daily living aids like walkers, perching stools, bath lifts or of course a home lift. They can arrange for you to be assessed by an Occupational Therapist by making a referral through to the local Social Services Department on your behalf. In this way you can find out if a mobility aid can help you to live more independently and more importantly keep you safe on the stairs. Ask me any question.
Is a stair lift really needed?
As discussed previously an NHS or even a private appointment can be arranged for an OT assessment to find out if a lift is definitely needed. The OT will advise on preventing a fall in the home and warn of other dangers to ones well-being from common hazards such as loose rugs, ill-fitting slippers, trailing electrical cables or inadequate lighting in corridoors or on the stairs.
Perhaps a relative or health professional has recommended that a lift might be required at some point in the future, that is if you want to continue living in the same property. Of course some people do move house to be nearer to relatives, but the demand for warden controlled apartments and bungalows far outstrips supply, and that assumes that your own home will be quick to sell.
Most people who go on and buy a stair lift from us love their homes and the memories it has. This together with knowing their neighbours and the convenience of local shops makes them stay put for as long as they are able to.
What is a stairlift?
For the answer to this question go here.
What types are available?
There are straight lifts for straight stairs, and curved ones for curved staircases. Also there are new and reconditioned lifts and a choice of outdoor or indoor – all from different manufacturers. For the overview answer to this question go here and you can download our comparison chart.
Could I get one for free?
Can we get a stair lift from the council?
It is possible to get one from the council if your needs are great, and you meet all their criteria for a Disabled Facilities Grant. Unfortunately in our experience the waiting lists for a Local Authority installation are approximately two years, depending on whereabouts in the country you are.
When you are assessed you usually need one there and then, so if budget is an issue we would recommend looking for a reconditioned lift or buying one with zero percent interest to quickly make the stairs less of a problem for you. Call me to find out more on 0800 007 5050
How long would they take to fit?
A straightforward 13 step straight stairlift without moving radiators or installing extra power points can be installed in around an hour. A curved installation will take a morning, afternoon or in some urgent cases our fit teams can fit one in the early evening ready for a hospital or respite discharge cases.
How soon could one be fitted?
In most cases we can install a new straight stairlift within 24 hours. A curved lift could be 2 or 3 days between order and installation.
We will do our utmost to get an urgent installation completed quickly, safely and reliably with the same attention to details and customer satisfaction as any of non-emergency installations.
Is there any mess, decorating or structural alterations involved?
Each chair lift sits on a rail. The rail is fastened to the treads of the stairs only, so no mess is involved. The rail usually has 3 or 4 brackets with 4 screws in each one which will go through your carpet into the wooden stair treads below. Our installers take a hoover with them so that any stray dust particles from the fitting of the lift can be cleaned away.
People often think that they fasten to the wall or the bannister somehow but these can all stay as they are in most cases. Some people have a double bannister so very occasionally we will remove one of them in order to fit the lift tighter to a narrow staircase, but it is entirely up to the customers own wishes as to what they want left as it is.
Structural alterations are again very rare. If your choice is for a through floor lift then this would need some alterations, but the vast majority of our installations are for straight or curved indoor lifts, which as explained fasten to the existing staircase.
How do I measure my staircase for the lift?
Our surveyor can easily measure your staircase when they visit you to answer your questions and to find out what is the best one to suit you.
So that you know what will happen at the appointment, once we have gone through your requirements, we will take measurements of the stair dimensions. Firstly we measure from the ground floor up to the lip of the top step. This will give us the travel for the main rail. Next we take a measurement of the width of the stairs. Narrow staircases can sometimes pose a problem, but as long as there is a width of 700mm then we should be ready to proceed with yours.
Deciding which side of the stairs to have the chairlift can be based on where your doorways are at the top and bottom or whether there is a need to move a radiator. Any minor movements like this and we can recommend a local joiner who can also install grab rails or build up steps for you if needed at the same time.
If the rail overhangs at the top or bottom too much then we can opt for a shorter track, and there may also be a requirement to have a hinged track that swings up out of the way once the chair is on its charging point.
Your landing area at the top or bottom of the staircase must have a minimum safe width of 660mm so that the chair and rider can safely sit on and get off the chair lift without being too cramped.
Another measurement we take is whether there is a power point within 8 metres of the top or bottom of the rail. Your stairlift runs on rechargeable batteries, but they get charged up by being connected to a nearby electrical socket. It isn’t a problem if your nearest socket is further away than this as we would arrange for a local electrician to install one for you.
Will it fit on my stairs?
We will ensure with our measuring process that your stairlift will fit both you and your stairs. If the staircase is narrower than our recommendation or you have open plan stairs or another complication then there would have to be some building and joinery work to accommodate that unless you were opting for a home elevator instead.
Do I need permission to have a lift fitted?
If you own your own home then you don’t need permission from anyone. Stair lifts only require some kind of permission if they are being installed in a Listed property, so you would be best advised to consult the local conservation officer in the planning department of your local council for consent for this.
If your property is rented from a private landlord or housing association then you would need permission, especially if there is a shared hallway staircase, on which the rail will be installed. A simple letter to the landlord outlining your request and anticipated installation date is usually sufficient in most cases to let them know.
What happens to the lift when it is no longer needed?
Depending on the age and condition of the lift, and the make and model, it is possible to get it professionally removed and for you to receive a cheque in payment for it on removal. If the lift is older and therefore possibly an obsolete model, then we would suggest you try to sell the lift privately as otherwise it’s removal would be chargeable.
How should I obtain the best value for money quotation?
To get the best price for a lift on your stairs we suggest you follow the advice at this article which details the best strategy for getting the lift of your choice at the right price. The contact details are mine in that article, so do please come back to me so that I can help you.
How much do they cost to run?
Your lift will cost literally pence to run. The rechargeable batteries are trickle charged from your mains supply and because most people won’t be constantly up and down the stairs lots of times a day, then the usage of the electricity is really rather low. The estimate for them is around the same power as boiling a kettle once per day. Another approximation is that on trickle charge it uses around a third of the same electricity as a standard 60 watt electric light bulb, so you can see it is very economical.
How long will a stairlift last for?
We have known certain models to be still going strong decades later. The longest lasting we personally know of was for a Stannah stairlift that we were asked to recycle and that particular model was not even regularly serviced.
How long are they guaranteed for?
Your lift will be guaranteed for a minimum of 1 year for Brooks and Acorn lifts, whilst Minivator and Stannah Lifts have a 2 year warranty as standard.