Do-It-Yourself Stair Lift Installation
Given the relative expense of a stair lift, it is not surprising that people are interested in cutting the cost through self-installation. DIY stair lift installation is a really bad idea for a number of reasons, but the most oustanding for many people is this: ironically, it often ends up costing more instead of less.
As a prominent installation and service contractor for stairway lift systems, we get calls all the time from DIY-ers in the throes of an installation gone awry. Often they find that the DIY company didn’t supply enough track, or that parts are missing. We’re happy to help these folks out as best we can, but the end result is often a lower quality stair lift at a higher total price than they would have paid by coming to us in the first place.
Hazards To The Installer
Installing a stair lift is not as easy as it looks. In point of fact, it doesn’t even look easy if you’ve ever actually seen it done. Even the best stair lift installation tech can occasionally mess up and get hurt or damage the unit, but the situation is far worse when a homeowner or inexperienced handyman tries to tackle the job.
Shear And Sharp Hazards
Once a stair lift is properly put together and running, it’s a smooth, safe machine. But while it’s going together, there are exposed parts that can bite. One of the most dangerous stages is the mating of the gear and rail systems on a rack-and-pinion or worm gear drive.
Physical strength is required as well as care and skill; the techs must be able to hold a minimum-80-pound unit in mid-air while making the connection. It’s disturbingly easy to get your fingers caught in the gears while doing this, or to lose your grip and drop something in a way that could cause serious injury.
Rail Installation Hazards
A stair lift rail is one long piece, and holding it in place correctly during installation is no small feat. It requires a team of technicians who know what they’re doing and how to work together.
While you’re rushing up and down the stairs trying to hold the rail in place and mate the gear system while keeping everything lined up, it’s easy to fall prey to the most basic of stair-related hazards – slipping and falling to the bottom of the stairs. One such fall can leave you needing much more than a stair lift for a very long time.
Hazards To The Unit
Even if you manage to come out of a DIY stair lift installation unscathed, the unit itself may not be so lucky. Some of the most common – and expensive – errors are related to the electrical system. One wire hooked up wrong can give you a nasty electric shock, fry costly components, or even destroy the unit. An incorrectly configured trailing cable can cause a dangerous arc flash, damaging the unit and possibly your home as well.
Hazards To The User
Even if a DIY stair lift is installed correctly – which is a big if – there are certain systemic weaknesses common to most DIY lifts that can put the user in danger. A good example is the landing configuration of many DIY lifts, which has the user entering and stepping off the lift in mid-staircase. This is a huge safety no-no that could easily result in the user falling down the stairs.
Another common DIY lift issue is a lack of battery backup. Should power fail while the unit is in operation, the user could be left stranded in mid-staircase – or worse.
What you’ve read here is not idle speculation. We have been in this industry for a very long time. We have watched the rise of DIY stair lifts, and we’ve seen the results. In light of this experience, we can only urge you, don’t go there. Even if you’ve done your own plumbing, painting, and electrical, don’t be fooled into thinking that a stair lift will be easy to do yourself. Stair lifts are a completely new game, and you need an experienced team to keep your family safe.