Stairlifts Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Straight rail stairlifts
These are the most common type of stairlifts used in private dwellings with straight stairs and have a straight rail (track) which is fixed to the steps of the staircase. Straight stairlifts have a shorter installation and manufacturing time because they require fewer customizations. This generally means that they are also cheaper than other types, since the only variable among different installations is the actual length of the track.
Curved rail stairlifts
These are normally much more unusual and costly than those with straight rails because they have to be manufactured to suit the individual staircase (curved stairs). This sometimes involves careful measurement, design and manufacturing. The installation process usually takes longer than for a straight domestic stairlift. Some of them follow stairs´ standards.
Curved rails have advanced by the creating of a rail system that fits together as a track system. It works by the installer carrying a number of different sections of rail. These are then built at the customers premises following the curve of the stairs. This new system removes the need for a custom rail to be made of the customer premises.
Wheelchair platform stairlifts
These come under the general definition of stairlift and are usually of much heavier construction than a domestic stairlift.
Most platform stairlifts are used in public access buildings or outside private homes.
The platform is large enough to accommodate a wheelchair and its user, and may have folding edge flaps which drop down and act as ramps to allow for variations in floor levels. These flaps also prevent the wheelchair from going over the edge of the platform.
The rails are, necessarily, of heavy construction to support the load and the drive system is usually accommodated within a tubular section rail or aluminium extrusion. Some models have steel cables inside the tube, others have chains; yet others may use a rack and pinion system.
Many wheelchair platform stairlifts are designed and built to order. Others may comprise a standard platform and carriage, with the only special requirement being the length of rails or tracks.
Some stairlift chairs can also be moved and used as indoor wheelchairs.
Outdoor Stairlifts come with seats, perches, footplates or platforms and are sold worldwide. They are similar to indoor stairlifts but with improved weatherproofing.
There is a second-user market for some types of stairlift. This is most common with straight rail domestic types. The rails can be cut to length if too long, or extended with a “joining kit”. Most models allow the carriage to be “re-handed” so it can be used on the left or right side of the staircase.
During the early days of curved rail stairlifts there was no second user market because of the difficulty of matching rails to a different layout. Even staircases built to the same design specification in neighbouring houses have variations, but in most attempted “transplants” there are too many differences to make it practicable. Many owners have had to pay to have unwanted curved stairlifts removed.
More recently, some curved rails have been produced to a modular design so components can be unbolted and used elsewhere, subject to design and safety considerations. In some cases, tubular section rails which are welded during manufacture, are produced by specialist rail companies so they can be used with a pre-owned carriage, controls, and other components. This is, perhaps, like putting an old locomotive on new railway lines. It provides a lower cost solution than buying a totally new system.
Some insurance companies have offered breakdown policies for stairlifts. Manufacturers and installers have offered an extended warranty, rather like those available for domestic white goods and brown goods.
Some manufacturers produce stairlifts with trays instead of seats for moving goods between different levels, usually in commercial or industrial buildings. Some businesses have purchased normal domestic stairlifts purely as goods transporters and put items such as boxes of stationery on the seat.