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Stair Lifts: General Information

Learn more about stair lifts features, types, maintenance and costs

Stair lifts are motorized chairs that travel along a rail mounted to the treads of stairs. The rider should be able to get on and off the chair independently, or with assistance in the form of a walker or cane only. Typically, a stair lift is not a good solution for someone in a wheelchair.

A stair lift is also called a stairlift, a stair chair, a chair lift, a stairway lift, or by trade names such as “Stair Glide.”

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Stair Lifts Types

Straight Stair Lifts | Curved Stair Lifts | SILVER CROSS

There are two basic types of stair lifts: straight and curved. A straight stair lift is installed for a single, straight flight of stairs that has no turns or landings. A curved stair lift is installed for stairs that feature a turn or curve, an intermediate landing, any change in direction or angle of incline, or when out-of-the-way parking at the top or bottom is desired.

Straight stair lifts are stock items requiring little to no customization for the home. Curved stair lifts are most often “made to measure.” This means that the rail is built by the manufacturer to follow the exact curve and size of your stairs. This ensures the best fit to the stairs.

Stair lift rails are usually made of aluminum or steel, and feature a chain drive mechanism to move the chair up and down through rack and pinion motion. The chair is motorized, usually via a battery system that is charged automatically either through the rail itself or in charging stations mounted on the rail at the top and bottom landings. The benefit to the battery system is that the lift can be operated a few times even during a power failure.

Stair Lifts Features

Modern stair lifts include safety features such as a speed governor to ensure the chair does not move too fast, especially when descending, and obstruction sensors to stop the chair when it meets an object.

Stair lift Retractable Seatbelt Savaria | Silver Cross

Stair lift with a retractable seat belt for added safety.

A retractable seat belt provides added safety and does not let the belt dangle in the way when not in use. Always use the seat belt when riding.

Plan vacations often? Look for a unit with a “vacation mode” so that you can prevent the unit from unnecessarily charging while you are gone.


The manual lowering feature allows you to operate the lift manually if necessary (e.g. battery has been drained). This requires the power to be disconnected from the carriage: just follow the instructions in the owner’s manual.

Stair Lift with Key Operation | Silver Cross

Stair lift with key operation.

An optional keyed operation allows you to control when the lift can be used, for example, to prevent children playing on the unit.

Stair lifts are operated using constant pressure control. This means that you need to continuously press a button for them to move and when you release the button, the unit stops.

Most stair lifts are operated using buttons on the armrest, and some include a remote control as well. The remote control allows someone to “call” the unit from one level to the other, making it convenient for homes with two users of the product.

Stairlift Rail Mounting Stair | Silver Cross

Stair lift mounted on stairs.

Stair lifts are generally quite fast to install as they are simply mounted to the stairs with little to no construction needed in the home. An electric outlet will be required near the lift.

There are outdoor stair lift models available, but it is best to check this in your location because availability will depend on the harshness of your climate.

Some regions require this product to be installed by a specially licensed installer, and some areas also require government-regulated inspection before use. Your local dealer will know what is needed in your region.

Stair Lifts Maintenance

High quality stair lifts are generally quite durable and long-lasting. Yearly maintenance checks will include checking if the batteries require replacement and that the gear rack is lubricated for a smooth, trouble-free ride.

How much does a stair lift cost?

A straight stair lift installed in the home typically costs about $3,000 or more. A curved lift cost varies based on many factors, but prices start around $9,500 and increase with the complexity of your stairs and optional features.

Want to learn more? View our stairlifts 101 video page.