Home > Disabled Access > Renovating to Give Access to Upper Floors

Renovating to Give Access to Upper Floors

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 11 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Renovating To Give Access To Upper Floors

Stairs form a common access problem for disabled or elderly people so it's no surprise that a number of domestic solutions have arrived on the markets to service this need.

Different Access Solutions for the Upper Floors of a Home

There are basically three different sorts of mechanical aid that give access to the upper floors of a house without climbing the stairs. The first is the stairlift, a chair which runs on tracks up the side of an existing staircase and folds up against the wall when not in use. The second is a traditional lift, where a complete box is raised and lowered vertically between floors. Not many homes have the space for one or can afford one, as they are the most expensive option.

The third access solution is the platform lift, a cross between the two. The mechanism can be either a straight vertical lift or an inclined lift like a stairlift. The main difference is that there is a flat platform at floor level so that a wheelchair user can roll straight onto it rather than getting off onto a seat. This has the added advantage that the wheelchair goes upstairs as well as the person in it, so someone who is unable to get around without their chair will now be able to access areas of upper floors as well as the ground floor.

Traditional Lifts in the Home

It's important to decide on the best access solution early on in the renovation stage. Lifts aren't common in houses because of the space problem, but if you would prefer to install a lift, an obvious solution is to completely replace the staircase with it, something that might well fit in with your renovation plans if you are moving or otherwise altering the stairs anyway. But a staircase often plays a structural role in the house so you will need the advice of a structural engineer about replace the missing strength.

Also you need access space upstairs as well as down; there needs to be space for wheelchairs to get in and out on both levels. Many staircases simply don’t allow the width for a lift, single flight ones in particular. With a two flight staircase which has a turn on a half-landing, it's more likely that there'll be space for a lift. However, the staircase is often the only access method for getting furniture upstairs, so that needs to be considered if the staircase is to disappear completely.

Wheelchair Lifts

The vertical platform lift is perhaps a better idea for access to upper floors in a home. Many of them are some self-supporting and can be installed in a corner of a room to simply go up or down through a hole in the ceiling. Installation is easier as the lift doesn’t need any support.

The difficulties come from finding a corner of a room downstairs which corresponds to a corner in a room upstairs where the person using it actually wants to go. If you have space to put one in a hall which comes out on a landing and still have room to keep the staircase, then that's probably the closest to a perfect solution.

Stairlifts – the Popular Solution

Stairlifts are less of an issue all round, but the mechanism does intrude on the staircase to a certain degree. The track is fixed to the wall on one side of the staircase and is custom-made to fit the curves and rises of each staircase. Stairlifts are quite common now as they are the most cost-effective access solution, with prices starting from just over £1500 for a short, straight staircase. Obviously the more complex the staircase the more expensive the stairlift.

Many companies rely on the buyer measuring the staircase but it is suggested that it might be better if you select one where the company sends someone out to make those measurements.

This might cost more, but it means that if there's a problem fitting the stairlift then the installation company has nowhere to hide. If you make the measurements it can be blamed on you.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Dav
    Re: Adding A Porch
    Hi I've build a porch to the front of my home, it a detached house with a garage that comes out 600mm passed the front of my house which is included…
    13 January 2019
  • Mitch
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    @Vicky - you won't get a grant for this sort of revovation. No one is going to pay you to renovate your own home, sorry. Not these…
    17 September 2018
  • Dan
    Re: Adding A Porch
    Hi I’m thinking of building a porch on the front of my house and I was wondering if I can join it to my next door neighbors house because I’m in a…
    16 September 2018
  • Vicky
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    Hi I am looking for funding to reinstate a farm house that is over 100 years old and has been derelict for 30years. Do you know who I…
    15 September 2018
  • woody56
    Re: Adding A Porch
    I am looking at building a porch within the 3 metres guidelines so not needing planning permission. It will have approx 750mm brick base with…
    8 August 2018
  • Ingrid
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    Hi. I'm making an enquiry on behalf of my elderly parents who live in a house in Scotland, built circa 1894. They are both on state…
    3 July 2018
  • Roget
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    @Aims - I don't think you can get grants for this sort of home improvements. Grants are much more scarce these days. A can of white…
    12 June 2018
  • Aims
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    Hi I am a lone parent to 2 children and have always worked long hours as a nurse in the NHS, I simply can't afford to redecorate my…
    12 June 2018
  • Seiyune
    Re: Adding A Porch
    I need a side shelter/porch, partly for storage, partly for shelter and partly to protect a lobby that's freezing in winter and boiling in summer.…
    21 May 2018
  • buddie
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    i am in the process of having my late mothers house left to me...its about a hundred old house but in need of a lot of work as not…
    25 April 2018