Buying A Stairlift – Everything You Need To Know
Did you know that the idea for a stairlift goes back to the 1500s with King Henry VIII? Luckily, stairlifts have moved on a lot from the pulley system used then, and are one of the most popular home adaptations you can get. It’s a big investment though, so we’ve pulled together this guide to buying a stairlift.
We’ve teamed up with Fenetic Wellbeing here to answer all the questions you and your elderly parents may have about stairlifts. They make bespoke stairlifts in the UK, offer three-year warranty as standard and all their engineers have the tick of approval from Which? Trusted Trader.
This is a sponsored article, written in collaboration with Fenetic Wellbeing.
Types Of Stairlifts
The majority of us live in mainstream housing that wasn’t built for a particular age group – there may not be a downstairs toilet, or the stairs may be steep.
If your parent struggles on the stairs (maybe due to arthritis, one-sided limb weakness from a stroke or natural loss of muscle mass) then a stairlift could be the difference between them being able to stay living at home or not.
There are two types of stairlifts: curved and straight. The style that’s right for your parent largely depends on the staircase – is it straight, or does it bend?
Other factors also need to be considered. For example, if there’s a small landing between sets of stairs that needs to be navigated then a curved stairlift may be needed even if there’s no bend in the actual staircase.
How Wide Does A Staircase Need To Be For A Stairlift?
Staircases vary in size, and this can also be a deciding factor in the type of stairlift chosen.
The minimum staircase width for a straight stairlift track is 620mm, whilst a curved staircase will generally need slightly more space. However, if you’re buying bespoke (and not a reconditioned stairlift for example) then the company will be able to create the right stairlift for your parent’s home.
It doesn’t stop at stairlifts – there’s some amazing innovations that make life easier as we get older. Read our buying guide to mobility scooters or find out about our favourite household products and gadgets for older adults.
How Does A Stairlift Work?
A stairlift may be a fairly large home adaptation, but it’s really easy to work! It can be fitted to either side of the stairs (the engineer will take the stair placement, bannisters and dismount into account) and runs up and down on a secure track with charging points at each end.
Your parent moves onto the seat (the armrest can come up for a side transfer from a wheelchair, and there can be an option for the seat to swivel round for easier access and a safe dismount).
The stairlift doesn’t go until they’re ready, using the controls on the arm pad (added extras such as dual controls are a good idea for people with less hand dexterity).
The seat and the footrest can come up when not in use, flush against the wall. This is great if someone is also walking up and down the stairs (a family member, or carer) so they can move around safely.
99% of problems with stairlifts are to do with the device not sitting properly on the charging port (this happens when the individual stops it and gets off at the top of the stairs just before it comes to a natural end). Each stairlift comes with a remote control (or more, one for upstairs and one for down) which can be used to troubleshoot and move it on to the charger when no one is using it.
Stairlift Weight Limit
Most standard stairlifts have a weight limit of 18 stone. It is possible to get a wider seat however, which is where the beauty of a bespoke stairlift comes in. Little changes like this can make the stairlift more comfortable, and depending on the model could accommodate more weight too.
A stairlift is a big mobility aid, but your parent is in complete control the whole time – it doesn’t move until they direct it to.
As an added safety feature, all stairlifts come with a key switch. When the key is turned to off (or removed), it won’t work. So for example, if someone has advanced dementia or reduced sitting balance and can only use the chairlift when a carer is there, taking away the key will remove the risk of an accident.
How Fast Does A Stairlift Go?
Stairlifts are designed to get people with limited mobility up and down stairs easily. It’s a smooth, seamless journey that takes around 8-10 seconds (depending on how many stairs there are) and is fast enough to get them to the toilet on time. Depending on how continent they are, you can always add an incontinence chair pad to the seat for added security.
Choosing A Stairlift
The first step to choosing a stairlift is the assessment. In-home or virtual, it’s carried out by a qualified engineer (in Fenetic Wellbeing’s case, it’s always a Which? Trusted Trader) who will strive to get as much information about:
- The number and formation of stairs: Are they triangular or horizontal? Is there a doorway near the top and bottom which means a curved stairlift is the best option, even if the stairs are straight? How long does the track need to be? For a curved staircase, how many bends are required?
- Power sockets: The stairlift needs to be plugged in at the top and bottom. Where’s the nearest power socket? If it’s far away, is it possible to install a new one or can the wires be mounted on the wall to avoid falls?
They will take photos of the stairway (or ask you to send some ahead of a virtual consultation). With all this information, they make a computerized 3D model and build the stairlift from there.
Fenetic Wellbeing also offer a choice of seat colour so the stairlift can blend in more easily with the décor.
Installing a stairlift is easier than you may think, with no structural changes to the home required. One engineer will come out and oversee the whole process, making sure your parent is happy and safe using it.
All in all, the fitting process takes a few hours maximum (we’re talking 90 minutes for a straight stairlift, 120 minutes for curved stairlifts). The cost for this is all included when buying the model.
Once the stairlift is there, it’s worth noting that the stair carpet can’t be changed without removing the stairlift track. If you go down this route, always get a qualified stairlift engineer to do this.
Fenetic Wellbeing beats most other UK stairlift retailers when it comes to their service and warranty (most only offer one year). They include as standard a three year warranty and three year 24-hour stairlift breakdown cover which will be attended by a Which? Trusted Trader engineer.
How Much Does A Stairlift Cost?
If you’re interested in buying a stairlift, you’ve probably seen a range of prices which can be really confusing.
A straight stairlift at Fenetic Wellbeing costs from £1,599 – curved stairlift costs depend on the number of stairs and other factors. Their costs include the three-year cover and there’s VAT relief available too.
Any added extras (such as changing the seat width or colour or adding dual arm controls) will increase the price, but this British company is still extremely competitive price-wise.
Buying a stairlift can be a huge decision. Not only is it an investment financially, but it’s a big change for your parent and a realisation that they need mobility support to help them stay independent.
We always strive to give detailed information on a topic so that people feel educated and empowered to make their own choices. We hope that this article on choosing the right stairlift for your elderly parents has helped you.