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How to buy the best stairlift

Different types of stairlifts

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Different types of stairlifts

Discover the different types of stairlift available, from the most common - 'straight' and 'curved' - to those that are a little more unusual.

Though 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 are 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 disabled living centre or at a local mobility centre or manufacturer’s showroom.

Find out what our customer satisfaction surveyed revealed to be the best stairlift brand.

Seated stairlifts for straight staircases

If you have a straight staircase, it should be fairly straightforward to install a stairlift that runs along a straight rail. These most commonly have seats (fixed or drop-down) attached. Installation only becomes problematic with straight staircases if your stairs are especially narrow, or if there are any doors at the top of the staircase that could be obstructive – though this does not normally pose a serious problem.

If the layout of your staircase is straight for the most part, but curves right at the top, you may be able to buy a straight stairlift plus a ‘bridging platform’ to enable the lift to reach the landing.

If you decide to buy a straight stairlift you will need to decide where it will be parked – ie at the top or the bottom of the staircase. Stairlifts normally run on batteries that recharge automatically, but this will only happen if the stairlift returns to its parking spot and charger.

Because straight stairlifts are the easiest type to install, they are also the cheapest.

Seated stairlifts for curved staircases

If a stairlift goes round a corner, it is classified as curved. Curved stairlifts are more complicated products than straight ones, requiring bespoke curved rails to fit the exact shape of your staircase. For this reason, they are more expensive products – as a rough guide, each corner doubles the initial price.

To find out more about stairlift features, visit our guide to using and maintaining stairlifts.

Less common types of stairlifts

Standing stairlifts

Standing (or ‘perching’) stairlifts are often installed when the user has a particularly narrow staircase that won’t fit a seated lift. However, the headroom of the staircase has to be high enough to fit your whole standing body.

Standing stairlifts are also more suitable than seated lifts if you have problems bending your knees. Some standing stairlifts have a small ledge to help you keep your balance.

Standing lifts are not appropriate for everyone, however. If you sometimes get dizzy spells, for instance, or don’t have enough physical strength to stand for a few minutes, then it could be dangerous to use one (even though most have grab rails attached).

Vertical ‘through-floor’ lifts

Vertical lifts take you from one floor of your house to another by moving vertically through a hole in the ceiling/floor – for instance, moving directly from the living room up to the bedroom. The track of the stairlift attaches to the wall.

This type of stairlift is normally only installed if your staircase isn’t suitable for an ordinary stairlift – for instance if it’s too narrow, or if it’s a spiral staircase. They are more common for wheelchair users who are not able to transfer to a stairlift seat.

However, the fact that building alterations are required to create a flap in the ceiling make this type of stairlift the most expensive to install.

Outdoor stairlifts

Outdoor stairlifts are stairlifts installed on the outdoor steps leading to the front door of a property, or down to the garden. These are essentially the same as indoor straight and curved stairlifts, but are made of weather-resistant materials.