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stairlifts for narrow stairs

This article was last updated on 1 August 2020.  

Stairlifts for narrow stairs

When a person is dealing with mobility issues but would like to maintain their independence, stairlifts can be an invaluable source of help. Stairlifts provide freedom for many to continue living in homes that would otherwise prove challenging. 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 stairlifts for narrow stairs specifically designed to address this problem.

This article will layout the main options when looking at stairlifts for narrow stairs. It will also address queries about limits on the length and width of a flight of stairs, and the weight of the user affects your stair lift options.

Topics that you will find covered on this page

1—Can you fit a stairlift to any staircase?

In most cases, narrow staircases 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 staircases. 

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 staircase. Surveyors from reputable companies will visit your home in person before deciding on the best stairlift for narrow stairs that will be safe and practical for your home.

2—How wide do stairs have to be for a stair lift?

Though there are many models of stairlifts that can be fitted to a narrow staircase, it is possible that your stairs are simply too narrow to safely fit a lift for staircase. A good rule of thumb is 73cm: this is the minimum width required for most stairlifts.

Stairs that are any more narrow than this minimum width pose a safety risk.

Even with narrow stairlifts, there would be a risk that the seat collides with the wall or banister, and other users may be prevented from walking past the stair lift. 

However, some types of chair lift for narrow stairs can be used in even narrower stairs. These will be outlined below.

In the meantime, here is a video about stair lifts and how they operate on a narrow staircase.

3—What information will the surveyor use when recommending a stairlift for narrow stairs? 

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 find bending your knees to be a challenge, 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 in order to make an informed decision. 

4—What will the surveyor look for when assessing the stairs?

  1. The surveyor will check the accessibility of the staircase. One common obstacle is blocked access caused by a doorway or passageway at the top or bottom of the staircase.
  2. They will check the suitability of the bannister— an open bannister or bannister with spindles is a safety hazard. A stairlift user could slip on the footrests and fall between the gaps of the spindles.
  3. They will confirm if any minor alterations will need to be made, such as moving or adding a bannister or handrail, or perhaps installing an extra electric socket.
  4. They will also check if the staircase is too narrow even for narrow width stair lifts, as outlined above.

Looking at how you can pay for your stair lift and modify your home? Equity Release coud be an option. Try the calculator and see how you much you could receive.

chair lift for stairs

5—What are the likely recommendations for narrow stairlifts?

Curved stairlifts

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. A curved stairlift can be more expensive than other stairway chair lifts.

Standing stairlifts and perch stairlifts

For clients with narrow stairs who have problems with bending their knees or restricted movement in their hip joints, perch stairlifts or a standing one could be a great solution. A perch seat allows the user to remain in a partially standing position, allowing the user to avoid bending their knees, while taking some of the weight off their feet, supported in their perching position by a seatbelt. 

A perch seat or standing platform is narrower than an ordinary stairlift seat, and therefore reduces the minimum width requirement of the stairlift, so these are ideal stairlifts for narrow stairs. 

Users that opt for standing stair lifts must be able to remain standing or leaning on the perch seat for the entire journey up and down the stairs. Staircases must have adequate headroom for the stairlift user to safely stand throughout the duration of their journey; long staircases may also cause the stairlift user to become fatigued during their journey. If this is likely to be a problem, opting for a stair lift with a perch seat might be a better option.

Perch stairlifts and standing stairlifts tend to have a lower weight capacity. They cost less than curved stairlifts but are pricier than a straight stairlift with a seat.

6—Can a stairlift be shortened?

Chairlift rails need to reach far enough so that the chair can sit securely at the top or bottom of the stairs: users are then able to get on and off it with ease. Though narrow staircases with little room at the top or bottom of the stairs require adjustments to stairlift tracking to fit well, stairlift suppliers provide a number of alternative stairlift models to suit your narrow stairs.

stairlift for narrow stairs

There are a number of features which will shorten the length of your stairlift and the reduce the amount of space that it occupies:

Customised tracks

Some models feature a customised stairlift track design that can be lifted up at either end of the stairs, clearing the way for other people to use the staircase without any barriers. Such models have the advantage of providing convenience for the whole household. This hinged track ensures free access for a door at either end of the staircase.

Fold away seats and footplates

Some stair lifts for narrow stairs provide a foldaway seat. 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. Foldaway and swivel seats and footplates are convenient features of many narrow stairlifts, allowing easy passage for family members.

7—What about bespoke stairlift options?

Alongside models with a customised track (or ‘stair tread’) and foldaway seat  and curved stairlift options, some companies manufacture bespoke stairlifts. These are custom-made and come with features that address the limitations of your home. In this case, there would be no need to shorten the stairlift to fit your narrow staircase.

8—Can second-hand stairlifts be shortened?

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. It is a good idea to ensure that this process is carried out by a trained engineer to ensure a safe, reliable stairs chair lift. Stairlifts installed or modified by dodgy, untrained engineers may be unsafe.

9—Do stairlifts for narrow stairs have a weight limit?

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.

10—What are heavy duty stairlifts?

Heavy-duty stairlifts, also known as bariatric stairlifts, 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. 

11—How long does it take to install narrow stairlifts?

A straight stairlift can typically be fitted to a narrow staircase in an hour or two, while a curved stairlift will take slightly longer. Installation includes clean up, a demonstration of the features of the stairlift, and the opportunity for users to check that they are satisfied with the finished product.

12—How much does it cost?

Unfortunately, many of the special features of narrow stairlifts increase the costs you can expect to pay. Curved stairlifts are more expensive than straight stairlifts, and bespoke stairlifts- as well as heavy duty models- can also be expected to increase your overall costs.

 

We at UK Care Guide provide an article laying out all the important details on stairlift costs, from purchase and installation to maintenance, and the different costs you can expect to arise from different models of stairlifts.

13—What should I remember when buying stairlifts for narrow stairs?

1) Consider your own comfort needs as well as your narrow staircase

When choosing the right stairlift, the layout of the house is not the only consideration. It is also important that the stairlift provides a comfortable user experience.

For those who are unable to use standing or perch stairlifts and who need a narrow stair lift, a stairlift with a downward-facing seat might be the most comfortable option. Downward-facing stairlifts are designed to avoid clash points, which are points on  staircases where there is a risk that the seat may collide with obstacles, such as walls and bannisters.

Downward-facing stairlifts, like the perch stairlift and other models of niche stairlift, are often favoured by older clients who would like to avoid a standing journey, but whose narrow stair case poses a difficulty for seat stairlifts. A seat belt provides the buyer with plenty of comfort while using these stairlifts.

2) Don’t settle for your first offer

Many websites and stairlift manufacturers 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.

Don’t forget you can also look at getting second hand stairlifts or a used stairlift to keep your costs down.

3) Avoid pressure-selling tactics

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 rental services provide appropriate stairlifts for narrow stairs.

Some companies resort to pressure-selling tactics for extended warranties and maintenance contracts during home visits or over the phone. They may use your first name- by using your first name, they try to seem friendly and pressure you into paying more. It is a good idea not to rush into a decision.

Prepare some questions for the seller, find alternative quotes and consult your family or other advisors before parting with your money. There is a range of narrow stairlifts out there at varying prices, so make sure you use the information and advice we have provided to select one with the right properties to provide solutions to your mobility challenges.

Who offers the best stair lifts for narrow stairs?

At UK Care Guide we have reviewed the main stairlift companies and manufacturers in the UK.

If you are looking for a stairlift, then our recommendation would be for you to use Acorn Stairlifts. This is for the following 8 reasons:

1. History

They have been a major stairlift provider in the UK for over 20 years- longer than most other manufacturers in the UK.

2. Cost

Having reviewed the prices of Acorn and compared them to other providers, we found that they were most often the cheapest.  This combination of value and quality makes them, in our opinion, unbeatable.

3. The World’s Largest Manufacturer

They are the world’s largest stairlift manufacturer, which will help provide you with peace of mind that they will supply you with a good quality lift.

4. British Based

Having a British based company is important as increasingly we are seeing more and more products coming from the likes of China.  Whilst they can sometimes be a little cheaper, we do sometimes have doubts about their quality.  After all, who wants to end up stuck on a stairlift halfway up the stairs!  Acorn are based in Yorkshire.

4. Cost

Having reviewed the prices of Acorn and compared them to other stairlift companies, we found that their average price was often the cheapest for a straight or curved stairlift.

5. Well rated by others

Don’t just take our word for it.  Based on over 1,000 customer responses, they have a 5-star review on Trust Pilot.

6. Speed of Response

The need to get a stairlift can often be urgent, especially if someone has been in hospital and is looking to leave.  Acorn has over 65 UK surveyors and can do same-day assessments as well as a home visit if needed. This help ensures you get the lift as soon as you possibly can.

7. Speed of Installation

Having possibly done an assessment on the day you contacted them, they are also able to complete installation within 3 days in 80% of the UK and within 5 days for the other 20%. Other organisations can take up to two weeks to install your stairlift, causing unnecessary inconvenience.

8. Rent a Stairlift Instead of Buying One

If you find that you are not sure whether you need a stairlift, then Acorn will allow you to rent one of their stairlifts to see how you get on with it.  Not all manufacturers do this and we think this flexibility will be valued by many.

How to contact Acorn

For all of the above reasons, we have no hesitation in recommending Acorn as the best stairlift company for you.  If you do want to buy or rent a stairlift, need a quote, or you have some more questions, you can contact them by ringing –  0800 0169 435.

Alternatively, you can leave your contact details below and we will arrange for Acorn to call you straight away.

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Meet the author

Hayley Kenyon

Hayley Kenyon

Hayley is responsible for writing content on the site as well as managing the social media channels. She has a degree in Art and Humanities. Hayley has been reviewing and writing on products for a number of years and uses her experience to recommend the best products.

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