What is a Stair Elevator?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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A stair elevator or lift is a motorized piece of equipment designed to help the elderly and disabled live comfortably within a multiple floor dwelling or gain access to a raised entrance. The most common type is the stair lift. In some situations, such as with a tiered deck or a home with a large, open second floor loft area, a stair elevator or wheel chair lift is more convenient.

A stair lift is basically a seat that runs on a track installed directly to the staircase. Most staircases, whether curved or straight, can accommodate a stair lift. There are many different types of stair lifts to suit different needs. Some are more compact and offer a folding feature to maximize space when not in use. Some have wall mounted controls and others have chair mounted controls, while still other models have wireless hand held controls.

A stair elevator can best be described as a residential elevator installed directly next to a set of stairs. In open areas within the home or outdoors, a stair elevator provides an easy way for people to travel between floors, but some floor plans simply do not allow for an elevator. Where possible, residential stair elevators can accommodate a wheelchair just like an open wheelchair lift, but they are enclosed. They operate just like a commercial elevator, only on a much smaller scale.


It is not standard practice for medical insurance or medicare to cover the expense of a stair elevator or chair lift, but certain circumstances may warrant partial coverage, so check with your insurance or medicare representative. Before purchasing any type of stair elevator, obtain a few referrals to good dealers from a local medical supply store or ask your insurance company for information. Also, consider the user’s specific needs including his or her ability to easily and independently operate the equipment, the elevator's weight capacity, and whether you need or prefer permanent or temporary installation. A residential stair elevator requires permanent installation, whereas a stair lift can be moved and reinstalled elsewhere if need be.


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