When a person is dealing with mobility issues but would like to maintain their independence, stairlifts can be an invaluable source of help. Yet many houses in the UK—especially the older ones—have staircases that are narrow, steep or short.
If your house has a narrow staircase, you may worry that it will be impossible to install a stairlift. However, there are models designed to address this problem.
This article will layout the main stairlift solutions available for narrow stairs. It will also address queries about staircase length, width and weight limits.
In most cases, narrow stairs should no longer be an obstacle to finding a stairlift. The best known stairlift companies offer slim designs which specifically cater to customers with narrow stairways.
A good first step is to contact a stairlift expert. They will be able to tell you if a stairlift will work for your narrow stairs. Surveyors from reputable companies will visit your home in person before deciding on a safe, practical solution.
The smallest width required for most stairlifts is 73cm. Stairs that are any narrower could pose a safety risk. There would be a risk of collision with the wall or bannister, and other users may be prevented from walking past the lift.
Before you install a chair lift for stairs, the staircase in question should be measured and assessed to ensure safety and functionality. The surveyor also needs to know about your level of mobility.
They will then draw on their expertise to match the right type of chairlift for stairs to your personal requirements. For instance, if you struggle to bend your knees, a perch seat model may be the best solution.
Finally, the surveyor will provide you with a free quote. It is worth getting two or more different quotes to make an informed decision.
While custom curved stairlifts for narrow stairways are not possible in every case, they can work well. A curved stairlift includes a custom track that allows the seat of the stairlift to be folded away to save space.
For clients with narrow stairs who have a problem with bending their knees or restricted movement in their hip joints, a perch stairlift or a standing one could be a great solution. They reduce the minimum width requirement of the stairlift and so are ideal for narrow stairs.
Users that opt for a standing model must be able to remain standing or perched for the entire journey up and down the stairs. Their staircase must have adequate headroom for the stairlift user to safely stand throughout the journey.
Perch and standing designs tend to have a lower weight capacity. They cost less than curved stairlifts but are pricier than a seated straight stairlift.
Chairlift rails need to reach far enough so that the chair can sit securely at the top or bottom of the staircase: users are then able get on and off it with ease. However narrow staircases with little room at the top or bottom of the stairs require adjustments to stairlift tracking to fit well.
Alongside their ranges of stairlifts for narrow, curved and inclined stairs, some companies manufacture bespoke stairlifts. These are custom-made and come with features that address the limitations of your home: so there would be no need to shorten the stairlift.
But if you are not purchasing a bespoke stairlift, there are a number of features which will shorten the length of your stairlift and the reduce the amount of space that it occupies:
Some models feature a customised track that can be lifted up at either end of the stairs, clearing the way for other people to use the staircase without any barriers. This hinged track ensures free access for a door at either end of the staircase.
These features can also be used to make a stairlift more compact. The seat itself is typically the biggest obstruction on the staircase.
Instead of having a rigid seat which may block access for other stair users, foldaway seats can be flipped up and out of the way when the stairlift is not in use. The same logic applies to foldaway footplates.
If you are hoping to buy a second-hand stairlift, then it is possible that the track and hinge rail (depending on whether your staircase is straight or curved) will need to be shortened to suit the dimensions of your staircase. This process should be carried out by a trained engineer to ensure a safe, reliable stairlift.
Weight limits vary with the make and model of the stairlift. As a rough guide, the maximum weight for straight stairlifts is 25 stone (160kg) and approximately 21 stone (136kg) for a curved staircase.
Heavy-duty stairlifts, also known as bariatric stair lifts, are specifically designed for customers whose needs are not met by standard stairlift weight limits. These stairlifts allow overweight people to avoid putting unnecessary strain on their muscles, joints and heart.
A model by Companion can take up to 31 stone (197kg), which is around 40kg more than a standard stairlift. As a seated stairlift with a wider seat and extended armrests and seat base, this model will likely be unsuitable for extremely narrow staircases.
A straight stairlift can typically be fitted to a narrow staircase in an hour or two, curved options will take slightly longer. Installation includes clean up, a demonstration of the stairlift’s features and the opportunity for users to check that they are satisfied with the finished product.
When choosing the right stairlift, the layout of the house is not the only consideration. A comfortable user experience is as important.
For those who are unable to stand or perch and who need a narrow stair lift, a downward facing stairlift might be the most comfortable option. Designed to avoid clash points, they are often favoured by older clients who would like to avoid a standing journey.
Many websites and stairlift ‘companies’ do nothing more than gather customer enquiries and pass on this data for a commission. Particularly in the case of vulnerable older customers, it is sensible to ask for the support of a family member or a trusted friend when dealing with visiting agents.
It is a good idea to consult the pages on stairlifts at which.co.uk to make sure you are dealing with a reputable seller. Please be cautious when making your purchase. high initial offers followed by discounts and day-long sales are common dodgy sales practices.
If you prefer you can also look at a stairlift rental rather than buying outright.
Some companies resort to pressure-selling tactics for extended warranties and maintenance contracts during home visits or over the phone. Please do not rush into a decision. Prepare some questions for the seller, find alternative quotes and consult your family before parting with your money.