Stair Lift Requirements

Before deciding what kind of stair lift you need, you should first take a moment to determine if a stair lift is the right solution for you. Here are some important things to think about when considering the possibility.

User Capability

Oddly enough, this is a consideration that is often forgotten when people go shopping for a stair lift. Although a stair lift is designed to help people with reduced mobility, a minimum level of physical capability is still needed in order to use it (even with assistance).

The test is simple: if the potential stair lift user can at least stand up and sit down without too much difficulty, you should be fine. If not, you should probably think about upgrading to a more capable accessibility system such as a wheelchair lift or a home elevator.

Curves And Landings

Despite what you might think from looking at it, the shape of your staircase is rarely an insuperable obstacle to installing a lift. It doesn’t matter how many floors are involved, how many curves, and how many landings. These are all things to note when you start shopping for a stair lift, as they will definitely influence the final price. None, however, should prove a show-stopper from an engineering perspective.

Space Requirements


The most important dimension is the width of your stairs. In order to accommodate a lift, stairs need to be at least 28″ wide at the narrowest point – the narrowest point usually being defined by a handrail on the side or doorway at the top. If your stairs are narrower than this, it may prove difficult to fit a stair lift while still allowing the stairs to be used normally.

Space At Top

At the top of staircases, we often find a door that could interfere with the ability of the passenger to get on and off the lift. This top “landing” area, which usually involves a six-inch rail extension above the top step, is important for safety. However, all is not necessarily lost just because you have a door in an inconvenient spot. Some stair lifts have ways to safely accommodate these situations better than others. A good stair lift contractor can explain all the options to you.

Space At Bottom

Landing room is also required at the bottom of the stairs, but in our experience there is typically more flexibility here. The rail normally runs about eight inches beyond the bottom step, but less room is required for getting on and off safely because we’re at the ground level.

Structural Strength

We have very rarely encountered a stairway that is “too flimsy” for a lift. Even if your stairs are a bit shaky, the installation of a stair lift rail can actually stiffen the staircase itself, making it sturdier and safer for walking as well.

Power Requirements

Normally, a stair lift simply plugs into a regular 110/120V wall outlet, regardless of the drive type used. A dedicated outlet is not generally required, but may be needed under certain circumstances. Keep in mind that a proper modern stair lift does not run directly off the wall outlet, but instead runs on batteries that are continuously charged. More on that in the next section. The stair lift power outlet needs to be on the same wall where the rail will be mounted, at either the top or bottom of the stairs. The power cord must be able to reach the outlet without crossing the stairs, a doorway, or a hall, where it would present a tripping hazard. The cord cannot be routed under a carpet, as this is extremely unsafe and will likely cause a fire.

Carpet Considerations

Contrary to popular belief, a stair lift rail does not bolt to the wall. Instead it bolts to the tread of the stairs. This is an important point to consider when installing a stair lift, particularly if you plan to remove it again at some point. Most carpet doesn’t recover well from being drilled and screwed, though the best grades can sometimes be brushed over after the lift is retired.