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How stairlifts work and other key information

If you have now decided that investing in a stairlift would definitely benefit your level of independence – or that of a family member - you may well want to know more about how the unit itself will work. Buying an item that will have such a big impact on your day-to-day life and be such a visible presence in your home is not something which should be done lightly, so learning as much as possible about your prospective purchase is important. If you’re interested in discovering how much a stairlift costs, check out the guide to financing a stairlift.

Below, you will find a number of details you may not have known before about how stairlifts work and are successfully installed. Hopefully, the following information will leave you better informed and equipped with all the knowledge you need to make that final decision and choose the right stairlift for you.

How do stairlifts work?

The question of ‘how are stairlifts powered?’ may not have crossed your mind a great deal in the past, but it may be something you are considering now – especially if you have the responsibility of arranging the purchase of a stairlift for a relative who may be feeling apprehensive about one being installed in their home.

Essentially, there are three components which are vital to ensure the smooth running of any stairlift: the motor, the battery and the gear. Here is a little more information on where each component can be found, and the roles they play:

  • Motor – The motor is usually found within the base of the stairlift and powers the unit’s movement.
  • Battery – The battery, also located within the stairlift’s base, powers the motor and is responsible for maintaining maximum comfort and reliability. Please note that high-quality stairlift batteries are extremely long-lasting and should not need to be replaced regularly.
  • Gear – The gear (which is turned by the motor) is connected to a geared strip and helps to propel the stairlift in either direction. The strip is built into the track which the unit travels up and down.


Other typical stairlift components are as follows:

  • Remote controls – In the past, it was often necessary for stairlift controls to be fixed to the wall near the base and top of the staircase that was being used. Nowadays, however, the more advanced models benefit from simple remote controls, making stairlifts much easier and more convenient to move.
  • Seat – Depending on the stairlift you select, a number of seat choices will be available to you. Swivel functionality, adjustable height, a range of colours and the option of a powered seat which tilts to enable easier entry and exit are just some of the available features to consider.
  • Seatbelt – A discreet but important feature, the seatbelt is a requirement that ensures maximum safety and peace of mind with every stairlift.

How to measure for a stairlift

When it comes to how to measure for a stairlift, there are two parts to the process: deciding which side of the staircase the unit will be placed and taking the measurements themselves.

It may seem obvious to you at one glance where your stairlift should be placed, but don’t forget that there are a couple of important factors which need to be considered before any work is undertaken. Firstly, be aware that a little extra ‘overhang’ room will be required at both the top and bottom of your stairs to accommodate the ends of the track and the stairlift itself. Secondly, take careful note of any potential obstructions to the stairlift’s path of travel, such as windowsills, radiators and doorways; this may sound like very basic advice, but it is amazing how easy it is to forget even very large objects in your home when people are used to seeing them every day! With this in mind, there are a number of different options which are perfect for a variety of different stairs, including those that would need a narrow stairlift.

When it comes to taking the actual measurements for your stairlift, there are four figures which need to be noted down: the length of the staircase, its width, the amount of clearance at the bottom and at the top. One important point to bear in mind is that some staircases vary in width; to be sure that the stairlift will fit, the width should be measured at the stairs’ narrowest point.

Handicare PhotoSurvey 4D

If you’re wondering how invasive the installation process of a stairlift is, then you needn’t worry. Handicare PhotoSurvey 4D is a quick and effective service that allows your stairs to be measured in ten minutes. The lightweight device means that there is no need for markers to be placed on your walls and can factor in any obstacles that your stairlift may face. PhotoSurvey 4D is also extremely helpful if your home has several flights of stairs, as the device can measure up to four flights continuously, with 100% accuracy. With this service, your at-home appointment with one of the advisors can be used to ask any questions that you may have, with more time to talk about your needs, something which many people find beneficial.

Using technology called photogrammetry, PhotoSurvey 4D takes several photos of your stairs with the pointer markers placed on them. As each picture is processed, a model of your stairs is created, allowing you to visualise what the stairlift will look like on your stairs. Whether you have a straight stairlift or a curved stairlift, this technology will give accurate measurements in order to ensure that your new stairlift is the perfect fit.

PhotoSurvey 4D is also great if you’re having difficulty visualising what the finished stairlift will look like in your space, and if you’re wondering whether it will suit your current décor, the useful service can show you! This can be a great comfort to many, as pictures in brochures can sometimes be hard to translate into your own home. 

If you are now wondering how wide stairs need to be for a stairlift to operate comfortably and safely, this really depends on which model you choose. Additionally, it should be emphasised that the most reliable way of gathering the correct measurements for a stairlift is to let an expert stairlift provider do it themselves. The team at suppliers like Handicare can take care of every aspect of this process and are vastly experienced at making sure every stairlift they install is fit for purpose and built to last.

It is also worth noting that the stairlift user themselves should also be measured prior to installation to ensure they are provided with the correct seat size, especially if considering a reconditioned stairlift. It goes without saying that sitting on a seat which is not the appropriate height or width could be extremely uncomfortable, or even make use of the equipment impossible. For further information and guidance on this or any other matter related to stairlift installation, please contact the experts at Handicare.


If you have recently invested in a stairlift, you may be wondering how they work. To ease any anxieties about your purchase, take a look at the guide.

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0800 910 0240

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