There’s no reason to live in ‘half your home’ when a lift can restore your domestic mobility.

Disabled people don’t want to be exiled to certain parts of their home. Our buyers’ guide to lifts and stairlifts shows how different parts of the home can be made accessible.

Many people have found out the hard way, that stairs are dangerous. The NHS treats over 100,000 cases involving injuries relating to stairs every year – with the most common injury being a broken hip. Aside from the physical injury and inconvenience some people experience psychological consequences such as anxiety or a loss of confidence.

It’s also the case for other disabled people, that stairs can be very tiring to climb or distressing for people that become breathless after exertion.

One solution might be renovating your home to incorporate a downstairs bedroom and bathroom, perhaps in an extension but of course this is time consuming, disruptive and costly – and besides, does not solve the problem of you being unable to reach the entirety of your home. Similarly, moving home altogether is also complicated and stressful.

Here is our brief guide to thinking about domestic through floor lifts and stairlifts

Stairlifts

Space
Stairlifts take up no extra space in rooms, making them arguably more sensible in smaller homes. The stairs can still be used as normal, though the rail and seat may mean that the passage space is narrower.

Convenience 
Factors to consider include space at the foot of the stairs for mounting and dismounting as well as the top. Similarly, some staircases are simply too narrow and would prohibit others using the stairs with the stairlift rails in place. Additional problems can be caused by radiators or cupboards. 

The user, even with a carer’s help, must have a degree of tolerance to the seating. Although there will be straps and arms to keep them in position, they’ll need to show stability, cognitive ability and be able to transfer off and on to the seat.  

Safety
Stairlifts usually have an automatic safety cut out function and battery backup.

Stairlifts can pose challenges when transferring from a wheelchair, in terms of the amount of space necessary, as well as the difficulties. This is especially the case at the top of the stairs. Another question is how do you get your wheelchair to the other end of the staircase – or do you use two?

Futureproofing is a difficult consideration. A stairlift might be fine today but is the condition of the user likely to deteriorate in the near future, to the point where they can’t use the stairlift at all?

Installation
Unlike with lifts, there’s no building work to do. Your stairlift can usually be fitted in a day, depending on any complexities such as curves or corners which may take a little longer to deal with. 

Costs
The cost of a stairlift will also depend on how complicated the fitting is. A straight stairlift can cost between £1,200 and £2,400 whereas a curved stairlift can cost up to around £5,000.

It may be worth considering a reconditioned model which could cost less than half of what a new model would.

You don’t need to move house…

If you’re thinking of moving because the stairs have become an obstacle, don’t contact an estate agent, contact Vivid Lifts. Fitting either an incline wheelchair stairlift or a vertical lift can prevent you needing to go anywhere – except upstairs or downstairs…

An S6 and S7 Incline Platform Lift will have a standard capacity of 225kg (34.5st) and can easily carry a seated wheelchair user, while the heavy-duty model can lift 300kg (47.2st) giving you the ease of a stairlift but far more versatility due to its capacity.

Or you might opt for one of their vertical lift solutions with standard or bespoke specifications to suit. A home elevator makes it easier to move between floors. In addition to moving people, the elevator can transport groceries, vacuum cleaners, heavy storage boxes and other objects. It may be a smarter investment than you realise. 

With either choice, Vivid Lifts offer a free survey and drawing, fully project managed installation, 24/7 technical support, as well as parts and service.

Visit: www.vividlifts.co.uk

Vivid Lifts Ltd are associated members of CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers).

Lifts

Compact lifts do not take up too much space at all and because some are designed with clear ‘walls’ they aren’t as intrusive in the space as you might think. Some have a footprint of less than one square metre (though this will depend on your needs). 

Some models will travel on slim rails either side of the lift ‘car’. This means that there doesn’t necessarily have to be any attachments to supporting walls. It also means that, depending on your chosen dealership, you may be able to purchase a ‘through car’ model that will enable entrance or exit from either side, rather than say, a wheelchair user having to roll in forwards and exit backwards.

Convenience
Electric lifts are really quiet, with no hydraulic or vacuum systems, as well as being relatively quick. It takes around 30 seconds to ascend in a straight vertical direction from floor to floor. 

Wheelchair users will not need to transfer to use a lift as they would on a stairlift. There is also no need to consider the ability to sit still or balance when using a lift – now or in the future as conditions change.

A lift can also be operated via remote control. This means that it could be used to carry other items or by carers – who will meet you on the next floor. 

Installation.
Reputable lift companies will survey the space before commencing the build. This is a good opportunity to ask any questions you might have.

You’ll firstly need to have the aperture cut in the floor. This is done before the installation of the lift takes place just in case any difficulties are discovered, which is rare. The installation of the actual lift can usually be done in a day. 

Safety
Most lifts will have a half height or full length door. Other features will include ‘hold to run’ controls and light curtains that stop the lift if the light is broken by person or object, obstruction sensors, auto stop sensors and emergency telephone.

Battery backup as well as keylock systems to prevent unauthorised usage, such as by children, are common.

Costs
Prices start at around £11,000 including creation of the aperture and installation.

Choose both solutions – in one!

If you are looking to make your home more accessible without having to carry out major alterations, consider the FlexStep. This ingenious product, invented by Danish company Liftup, provides both stairs and a wheelchair lift in a single solution. 

With a touch of a button, the FlexStep silently transforms from a flight of stairs into a platform lift. Built-in safety features and intelligent design ensures risk-free operation for users and smooth travel between levels. FlexStep can travel up to 1,250mm and has a lifting capacity of 400kg.

This brilliant 2-in-1 space saving solution provides a flexible alternative to having a flight of stairs and a separate lift. It comes in different step widths so it can be easily integrated into both new builds and existing properties. Provided there is a level floor at both access points, the FlexStep can be installed within a three-day period without having to make structural changes to your home.

As well as overcoming floor level differences inside a property, the FlexStep is also suitable for external environments. For example, steps leading up to a front door or down into a garden can be neatly replaced. 

The design possibilities are endless; customers can choose from a wide range of colours, step insert materials and finishes to match existing floor materials or blend in with a modern or traditional décor. 

FlexStep is available in the UK from the Platform Lift Company who provide installation by qualified engineers as well as ongoing service and maintenance. 

Please visit: www.platformliftco.co.uk for more information. 

General tips and advice

Get quotes
Talk with several different companies and compare quotes. Build in any service plans or warranties.

VAT 
If the lift is needed as the result of a medical condition or disability, the purchase can be VAT exempt. For the same reason VAT is not applicable on stairlifts.

Maintenance contracts
You should have your equipment inspected/serviced annually. This might be as part of a maintenance contract, or you could get an extended warranty. These can start from around £250 per year but are often cheaper per year, if covering longer periods.

Grants
You may be able to get help with funding from your local council in the form of a Disabled Facilities Grant or DFG. If you live in Scotland you can’t apply for a DFG, but you may still be able to get money towards the costs of adaptations to your home, either as a loan or a housing grant.

Find your local council via: 
www.gov.uk/find-local-council