Do you ever ask yourself, “Which home mobility aid is right for me,” or “Should I get a stairlift, wheelchair platform lift, or elevator?” At TwinCity Stairlifts, we know that the answer to these questions is not always a simple one, but that there are some things to consider, including cost, available space, what each product can do for you, and what modifications will be required for your home. To help you weigh these different considerations and determine which product might be best for you, we cover each product below.
Stairlifts are by far the least expensive option and involve almost no modification to your home. A stairlift is simply a chair that moves up and down a rail attached to your stairs. Nothing attaches to any walls. If you’re lucky enough to have a strait staircase (no turns or landings) you will spend $3000 to $3500 for a new basic model. It’s possible to spend up to $6,000 or more if you opt for some of the more aesthetically pleasing models with leather upholstery or features such as power swivel, power hinged rail or power footrest. Most stairlifts have a capacity of 300 lbs. although 400 lbs. models are also available.
If you have turns or landings throughout the staircase you could either install multiple strait stairlifts and transfer from one stairlift to another at each landing or install one custom (curved) stairlift. Custom stairlifts start at about $10,200 for a simple 90 degree turn and increase with each additional turn or landing.
Stairlifts are great for people that are still somewhat mobile but are having a hard time with stairs due to either mobility impairment or a lung capacity issue. The main limitation with stairlifts is a person has to be able to transfer on and off of the chair at the top and bottom landings. If you are wheelchair bound but can still transfer safely, then you will need a wheelchair at each level of your home. Click here to view our stairlift Comparison Chart.
Vertical Platform Lifts
A vertical wheelchair platform lift (porch lift) can lift you and your wheelchair or scooter from one level to another up to 14 feet. They can either be installed in an enclosure or as a standalone unit. They are usually rated for 750 lbs. and are most often installed in garages or up against a deck or porch. All platform lifts must be equipped with a constant pressure switch which means you will have to keep your finger on the button the whole time you are traveling up and down or the lift will stop. They can have up to three stops if installed in an enclosure.
They can be installed outside as long as they are rated for outdoors and are covered. Vertical platform lifts cost around $10,000 new if installed as a standalone unit. If installing one inside an enclosure, you will need to add the price of the construction or purchase of the enclosure plus the cost of doors and/or gates. This could double the cost of your platform lift. Vertical platform lifts are great for people that are unable to transfer and need to take their wheelchair or scooter with them from floor to floor. Many people are using them in split entry applications and installing them up to their back deck thus eliminating the need to manage the entryway and stairs in their home in order to get to the upper level.
Inclined Platform Lifts
Inclined platform lifts take you in your wheelchair or scooter up and down a staircase. Some styles attach to the wall and others have rails that attach to the stairs. The two most common limitations are weight capacity and the head room throughout the staircase. Most inclined platform lifts have a weight capacity of 550 lbs. While this might seem like a lot, keep in mind that a power chair could weigh as much as 375 lbs. empty, so if you weigh 175 lbs., you’re already at the lift’s capacity. Some of the stair mounted lifts such as the Butler can be upgraded to 750 lbs. Head room is a very common problem for inclined platform lifts because the platform projects out in to the staircase as much as 48″. The state of Minnesota requires a minimum of 52″ measured vertically from anywhere on the platform to the lowest point in the ceiling throughout the travel. Inclined platform lifts can cost between $15,000 to $22,000 depending on type of mounting, stairway modifications for headroom and capacity of the lift.
Residential elevators are the most expensive option and require the most modification to your home. They generally have a capacity of 950 lbs., and require an enclosure (hoistway) with doors at each landing. The car also requires a gate at each opening. They can have up to 5 stops and have various door configurations. You can expect to pay $25,000 to $35,000 depending on the amount of stops and décor inside your elevator car. Keep in mind this is just for the elevator, installation, and permit. All hoistway construction and doors are in addition to this cost. It’s pretty hard to install an elevator in an existing home for less than $50,000 when you consider all associated costs. It is much easier and less expensive to install an elevator during new construction as the hoistway can be planned for and constructed with the home. Trying to find a 5′ x 6′ area in your existing home that will line up on all floors is hard to do without destroying the flow of some rooms unless it was planned for in advance by stacking closets.
Hoistway-Less or “Vanishing” Elevators
There is one more type of elevator or lift that you may want to consider. Savaria Concord manufactures a Telecab Home Elevator. This two stop elevator has a cab that resembles a phone booth that travels up and down through the floor taking the floor plug with it. When it lowers it drops the floor plug back in place and leaves the area above as usable space. Although a hole must be cut in the floor for the elevator, no hoistway or enclosure is required, so the cost of construction is much less. If you can find a 3′ by 5′ area to install the unit that does not required major relocation of HVAC, electrical or plumbing, you can usually get one installed for around $25,000.