Types of Home Lift: A Comparison Guide

Installing a lift is a great way to keep the home accessible for elderly or disabled people. Mobility impairments can make getting up and down the stairs impossible. So, a home lift can help restore independence and allow someone to enjoy their entire home!

However, choosing the best type of home lift can be tricky. There are a lot of different options which make it difficult to know which kind of lift is right for you.

In this guide, we have compared the differences between stairlifts, platform lifts, and through-floor lifts. We’ve also weighed up the pros and cons of each to help you choose the best type of lift for your home.

Stairlifts

A stairlift is the most common type of lift used at home. Thousands are installed each year. The stairlift is fitted onto the existing staircase, so you won’t need to change the layout of your house.

Stairlifts are the best type of home lift for older people who are still mobile but struggle getting up and down stairs

They consist of a rail and a seat. The rail is fitted alongside the edge of the staircase, and the seat can then be moved up and down the rail using a remote control.

It is important to remember that a stairlift is not suitable for someone who is immobile.

Stairlifts are popular among older people who are still able to stand and walk but struggle to manage the stairs. However, you have to perform a standing transfer to get onto a stairlift. This means they are not appropriate for individuals with no, or severely limited, mobility.

Pros and Cons of Stairlifts

ProsCons
No building work required to change house layoutNot suitable for individuals with severely limited mobility
Quick installation – a straight, simple stairlift can be fitted in a few hoursNot suitable for individuals who cannot support themselves whilst sitting
Relatively affordable – reconditioned stairlifts are widely availableNot suitable for individuals without the motor/cognitive skills to operate the controls
Can be removed easily if no longer neededObstructs the staircase making it difficult for others to use them safely
Not wheelchair-friendly – a wheelchair would need to be carried up/downstairs separately, so wheelchair users cannot use stairlifts independently

Platform Lifts

A platform lift uses a platform which can be lowered or raised to help someone to move between floors.

Platform lifts are often used for wheelchair users in public places, but can also be used at home

They are commonly used in public buildings, like schools or libraries, but you can also have a platform lift installed at home.

Both unenclosed and enclosed platform lifts are available for domestic use.

An unenclosed platform lift is much cheaper and easier to install than an enclosed platform lift. However, they can typically only travel up to 3m. So, if the distance between the floors in your home is more than 3 metres, an unenclosed version probably won’t be suitable.

An enclosed platform lift can comfortably cover a couple of floors. But constructing the structure to enclose the platform is more costly and time-consuming. Installation can take up to 5 days.

Looking at an enclosed and unenclosed platform lift side-by-side, you can see that they look very different. The enclosed platform lift travels within its own structure.

Pros and Cons of Platform Lifts

ProsCons
Wheelchair users can travel in their wheelchairUnenclosed platforms only use half-height barriers – there is a risk of serious injury if someone leans on the side/puts their arm over the edge when the lift is in use
Options for enclosed or unenclosed lifts to suit different needsThe industrial design can feel intrusive in the home
Doesn’t obstruct the stairs for other members of the householdCan be noisy
Temporary unenclosed platform lifts are available if you’re looking to a short-term solutionThe bulky platform takes up floor space – can be a trip hazard
Unenclosed platform lifts can only cover short distances
Enclosed platform lifts require preparatory building work
Travelling on a moving platform makes some people feel anxious

Through-floor Lifts

A through floor lift is different from an enclosed platform lift because the user travels between floors in a cabin/lift room with walls and a ceiling rather than on a moving platform.

This makes a through floor home lift feel more like the standard passenger lifts you’d use in a hotel. Of course, the size and speed are scaled down to better suit home use! This sense of familiarity makes many people feel safer and more relaxed when using the lift.

Traditionally, through floor lifts have consisted of an enclosed cabin which moved through a hole in the floor. The cabin can either standalone or be contained in a lift shaft.

A problem with this design is that it leaves a gap around the cabin. This can make it harder for a wheelchair user to access the lift cabin. Critically though, it can also be an entrapment hazard. People were concerned about the risk the gap posed to users.

That’s why we specialise in a modern version of the through floor lift – the UltiLift.

Modern Ultilift Through Floor Home Lift
The unique design of the UltiLift means there are no gaps between the passenger car and the floor/ceiling

The passenger car of an UltiLift feels more like a standalone room than an enclosed cabin. This makes moving between floors more relaxing and reduces the risk of accidents.

Not only does the UltiLift have the latest safety features, but it’s also a lot sleeker and more stylish than a traditional through floor lift! The doors, flooring, and interior can all be customised to give your desired look.

Pros and Cons of Through Floor Lifts (UltiLift)

ProsCons
Travelling in a self-contained lift room makes users feel more comfortableGreater levels of customisation will increase the cost
Quiet & energy-efficientCan only be fitted in rooms with a load-bearing wall
Minimal preparatory building work – through floor lifts can be custom sized to fit your existing space
Controls can be adapted to give users more independence e.g. larger buttons on the control panel
The lift shaft is constructed from partition walls – so it blends into the rest of the room & only takes a day or two to install
Custom design options to suit your individual tastes and style
Can be used to transport care equipment as well as passengers

Stairlifts vs. Platform Lifts vs. Through-floor Lifts

StairliftPlatform LiftThrough Floor Cabin LiftThrough Floor UltiLift
Number of levels covered1 – 111 – 3 (unenclosed);

1 – 5 (enclosed)

1 – 41 – 4
Typical safety featuresSeatbelt, emergency stopAutomatic gates, battery backup power, call stationEmergency stop, interior phone, battery backup powerSoft start and stop, interior phone, backup manual controls, emergency lighting, emergency stop
Drive & Power SupplyBattery-powered motors. Charged via mains electrical supplyHydraulic drive system. Plugged into mains electrical supply.Traction motor, vacuum, or hydraulic drive system. Plugged into mains electrical supply.Hydraulic drive system. Plugged into mains electrical supply.

What’s the best type of home lift?

The best type of home lift really does depend on your individual requirements. For an elderly person who needs help on the stairs but can still move around the rest of their home okay, then a stairlift is likely the right choice. However, for individuals looking to make their home more accessible for someone with disabilities and complex needs, we always recommend a through floor lift.

Innovation in the through floor lift market has led to the development of the UltiLift. Each lift can be made completely bespoke in size, function and style. This ensures that you can find a home lift that meets your practical and safety requirements whilst blending in with the look and feel of your home.

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