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Installing a stairlift

A stairlift can help you live more independently at home – but it is a big investment. Find out if it's the right option for you.
3 min read
In this article
How a stairlift may be able to help you  Is a stairlift right for you?  How to buy the best stairlift
How much does a stairlift cost? More from Which? Wheelchair lifts

How a stairlift may be able to help you 

Although stairlifts can be relatively expensive, they are a good solution for people with limited mobility, as they help them to stay living independently in homes with stairs and may avoid having to move the bed downstairs.

Stairlifts are designed for people with limited mobility who struggle to walk up and down staircases – for instance, people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis, and those who have had hip replacements, as well as those who have significantly reduced strength and flexibility, simply from old age or following an operation.

If your home is on more than one floor, stairlifts can enable you to have continued access to the whole property and retain your independence.

Is a stairlift right for you? 

An occupational therapist (OT) can initially assess whether a stairlift would be suitable for your needs. And if it's a case of when, not whether, then they can tell you when it’s the right time to get one installed.

A stairlift may be a good option if you struggle with the stairs – maybe because of a medical condition, hip replacement or pain – and want to keep using your whole house. However, they are not right for every condition or lifestyle, and it's important to think this through before going to the expense of getting one installed. 

Consider the following factors before making a decision: 

  • Think about whether you’ll have sufficient mobility to get on and off the seat.
  • Do you have enough dexterity to operate the controls? Or do you plan to have someone available to help whenever you want to use it?
  • Most stairlifts have maximum weight capacities – if you weigh more than a certain amount, they may not be suitable.
  • Some staircases may be unsuitable for a stairlift – if they are too narrow, for example. Also consider whether a stairlift could obstruct other people living in the same property.
  • For some health conditions, it may be better to keep exercising your joints to prolong mobility. In such cases, it may be best to wait before getting a stairlift.

If your home is on more than one floor, stairlifts can enable you to have continued access to the whole property and retain your independence. 

How to buy the best stairlift

Although there are lots of different types available, stairlifts basically fall into two main categories: straight and curved. The latter are the more bespoke products, with the stairlift rail having to fit around the shape of your stairs.

Most stairlifts’ controls are easy to use, and can be set up on either side of the lift, depending on whether you’re right- or left-handed. The best way of familiarising yourself with the different types available – and how they work in practice – is to arrange to try one out at a local mobility aids shop or independent living centre (you can find some listed here), or a manufacturer’s showroom. 

How much does a stairlift cost?

Stairlifts are expensive, costing between £2,000 and £6,000 (or more) when bought new. For information about possible funding options available, read our advice on how to finance home adaptations.

More from Which?

Wheelchair lifts

A stairlift isn’t compatible with wheelchairs, but it may be possible to fit a wheelchair or platform lift instead. These are specifically designed for domestic environments, usually travelling from the ground floor to the floor above. Installing such a lift will almost certainly require a degree of home adaptation and will take up space on both of the floors it travels between.

You can find information about some vertical lift providers on the Living made Easy website.

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Further reading

Stair safety

Guidance on avoiding common hazards on stairs and stairways, plus tips on reducing the risk of falls on the stairs.

Grab rails

If you’re having difficulty at home because of poor balance or decreased mobility, consider installing grab rails.

Ramps for the home

If getting in and out of your home is a challenge, fitting a ramp could help. We explain the different options.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2020