Step Up and Live in Your Home: All of It

By HomeAdvisor

Updated March 1, 2018


Persons with limited mobility – from old age or disability – often feel compelled to move into a ranch-style house. Sometimes they continue to live in a multi-level house but confine themselves to living in just one story. They may go years without seeing the refinished basement that was a source of daily recreation in the past. While most people are aware that stair lifts are out there, they are frequently unfamiliar with the number of viable options available to them. The fact is stair lift chairs are often the key to bringing access of the entire house to those with limited mobility.

Options for Stair Lifts

As the population ages, installing stair lift chairs is becoming more and more popular. The popularity of any device obviously leads to more options for those who wish to purchase it, and today, installing a stair lift is a project that can be custom tuned to your specific needs. Though there are many styles, makes, and models to choose from, the layout of your home, your personal tastes, and, of course, your budget will greatly narrow the field of choices.

The first, and probably most important factor, is whether or not your stairs are curved. On a straight stair, chair lifts are relatively easy to install; lift chairs for curved stairs are much more difficult and much more expensive because the design often needs to be customized. Lifts are powered by either AC or DC power, with the latter being the most popular. DC powered stair lifts are considered more reliable and, ultimately, safer.

The operating system of your stair lift chair is another consideration that can have an effect on its price and performance. Cable, chain, screw, and rack & pinion lifts are all available, but most modern stair lifts use the rack and pinion drive motor. The gear and tooth design enables it to move smoothly and comfortably up and down. (The other three kinds of motors are now used for heavy-duty models). Since exposed gears can be dangerous for children, most models are designed to leave the gears hidden within the lift structure.

DIY Stair Lift Chair Installation

If you’re working with a curved stair, lift chair installation is almost certainly going to be performed by a professional. However, when your stairs are straight, you have the option of do-it-yourself installation. While DIY installation is going to cut down on costs, the delicate nature of this operation (and the consequences if it is performed improperly) is a bit intimidating, typically making professional installation a better route for less-than-handy homeowners.

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Cheaper Stair Lift Installations

In some cases, insurance may help reduce your out-of-pocket costs for installation. However, it should be noted that newer models have left a surplus of used stair lifts that homeowners can purchase for considerably cheaper prices. Though they won’t be as flashy (and are sometimes more noisy or jerky), used lifts are definitely an option for those who are on a tight budget.

Residential Elevators vs. Stair Lift Chair Installation

While residential elevators definitely cost more than a stair lift, they offer several advantages that are swaying a lot of homeowners to opt for the additional investment. Like a bathroom or kitchen remodel, residential elevators can add significant resale value (up to 10%) to your home. As a new phenomenon, they are expected to increase in popularity over the next few decades. They use less space than a stairwell, are less of an eyesore than a lift, and provide convenience for the young homeowner and mobility for the older homeowner. Several different designs cater to new homes or existing homes. Cost will vary depending on size and design, but a typical elevator will run in the neighborhood of $15,000.

Though convenience is certainly a big benefit of opting for an elevator rather than a stair lift, many simply like the idea more. Since an elevator is useful for many reasons and can be appreciated by people of any level of mobility, its appearance in the home is not an indicator of aging or disability. Not only does this allow those who install residential elevators the option of using it for other tasks (like moving items other than people to a higher floor), it also leaves a home with a feeling of luxury rather than necessity.


  1. dee, June 21:

    This article doesn’t give enough information. Home elevators are expensive to maintain and you must be SURE to get 24 hour service should an interruption happen. The same is true of chair lifts. Either one isn’t suitable for a senior living alone.

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