How to Install a Chair Lift

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How to Install a Chair Lift

Chair lifts, also referred to as stair lifts, are designed to help people with disabilities get up and down staircases with relative ease. A track is placed at one side of the staircase, and a person sits in a powered chair that moves along the track between floors. There are controls on the chair, as well as call boxes on each level to move the chair to the user.

Indoor chair lifts are available in straight, L-shaped, and curved models for the different staircase styles. Additionally, homeowners should measure the length of the stairs to determine how much track they need. In order to mount chair lifts, buyers also need to purchase installation kits. Many chair lifts can be installed by homeowners, but curved styles generally require professional installation. Chair lifts and installation kits can be found at medical supply stores and on some commercial websites like eBay.


Types of Chair Lifts

The type of chair lift needed depends on the shape and placement of the staircase, with the exception of a wheelchair lift. Curved, straight, and L-shaped models are available for indoor chair lifts. Outdoor chair lifts are installed for people who have steps leading up to the front or back door. Wheelchair lifts are the only type of lift without a built-in seat since these lifts move both a person and a wheelchair from floor to floor. Buyers should only purchase chair lifts with foot rest sensors to detect objects on the stairs. The chart below offers additional information about the various types of chair lifts that are available.
 

Type of Chair Lift

Description

Straight Chair Lift

Straight chair lifts are designed for staircases that go straight up and down. These models are the most popular and, therefore, have many options and features. Straight chair lifts are readily available in electric (AC) and battery (DC) models, and they have options for left-handed or right-handed control panels. Straight chair lifts can usually be installed by homeowners.

L-Shaped Chair Lift

L-shaped chair lifts are essentially two straight models designed to fit together to fit a staircase with a 90-degree angle. L-shaped models are often more expensive than straight models, and they can often be installed by homeowners.

Curved Chair Lift

Curved chair lifts are used in conjunction with staircases that have bends, curves, or odd angles. Because the track must be custom fitted to the staircase, curved chair lifts generally have to be installed by professionals. The custom nature of these lifts makes them the most expensive option.

Outdoor Chair Lift

Outdoor chair lifts are used on steps leading up to front or back doors. Since these chair lifts are meant to be outside, they are designed with weatherproof fabrics and durable parts that are capable of enduring the elements. These chair lifts should undergo routine maintenance and inspections on a frequent basis.

Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair lifts help individuals in wheelchairs get up and down stairs. There are options available with guard rails and tall side rails. People should only buy wheelchair lifts that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


In addition to choosing a chair lift that best fits a staircase, shoppers have the option of choosing AC-powered or DC-powered models. AC models, which are also called electric chair lifts, rely on the home's electricity for power, and if the power is off, the chair lift does not work. AC chair lifts are the least expensive option, and they are perfectly suitable in areas where the electricity is always reliable.

DC chair lifts, or battery-powered chair lifts, are also plugged into the wall, but they have batteries installed that allow them to operate, even when the power goes out. DC chair lifts cost more upfront, and the batteries have to be replaced every 12 to 18 months, which makes them the more expensive option. However, if a person completely relies on a chair lift for mobility, it might be best to invest in a DC-powered model.


How to Install a Chair Lift

Before buying a chair lift, homeowners should measure the entire length of the staircase in order to buy the correct amount of track. Chair lifts are almost always anchored to the side of the stairs against the wall, not the banister and railing side. When purchasing a chair lift to install, buyers also need an installation kit and a manual. Although most chair lifts can be assembled using the same basics steps, it is important to consult the manual before beginning the installation process. All parts of the chair lift and installation kit should be removed from the packaging and separated.

The lower track is the first piece to be installed. The first step is to lay the lower track along the length of the stairs. The brackets are then attached with the screws from the installation kit. The chair lift could become stuck in the middle if the track is not laid evenly, so it is important to ensure it is level. Installers should look for the brackets that are designated for the top and bottom of the stairs.

Once the lower track is bracketed to the wall, the call box wiring should be run under the track. Some models have clips underneath the track to secure the wires. The call boxes should then be secured in easy to reach places.

Once the wiring and call boxes are installed, the upper track is aligned above the lower track. The base of the seat is placed between the upper and lower track, and the second set of brackets is attached with screws.

The next piece of equipment to install is the chain and pulley mechanism. With the chair at the center of the track, the chain should be fed through the track, half on the left and half on the right. The power cable for the seat should be slid through the track slot. The cable moves in conjunction with the chair, so it is wise to ensure it does not jam.

The last piece of equipment to assemble is the seat to the base. Using the screws from the installation kit, the seat is put together with the user's size in mind. The screws must be fully tightened before having the user test the chair, and adjustments should be made after testing, if necessary. The power cable is then plugged into the end of the track and the electrical outlet.


How to Buy a Chair Lift on eBay

Once you have measured the length of the staircase and determined which model you need to install, it is time to begin your search for a chair lift in a medical supply store or on the Internet at a site like eBay. On eBay, be sure to check in both the auction section and in eBay Stores to view the largest selection of options. Type in either "chair lift" or "stair lift" to see a broad range of results. Include additional keywords to narrow the results. For example, "Acorn stair lift" is a good start, but "Acorn stair lift 120" narrows the results even more. For additional help producing the best results, look at eBay's Search Tips page.

eBay allows buyers to custom sort their results, which means bargain hunters can arrange results from lowest price to highest price. eBay even factors in shipping charges to ensure customers are seeing accurate prices. Because a chair lift is a physically large item, shipping costs can significantly increase the overall price, which means sorting by distance from the seller in order to arrange item pickup might be a good idea.

After you have found a chair lift that fits your needs and budget, there are a few more steps to complete before making a bid or purchase. Read the item listing in its entirety, including the terms and conditions, to determine if the seller offers a money back guarantee or an exchange policy in case there are issues with the lift. Next, take a moment to look into the seller's eBay history, and pay close attention to his or her approval rating and feedback score. Only buy from sellers with a high rating and positive comments. For a quality buying experience, look for one of eBay's top-rated sellers. Identifying icons are located next to sellers' usernames.


Conclusion

Chair lifts make it possible for people with disabilities or trouble walking up a flight of stairs to live in two-story homes. With the exception of curved chair lifts, chair lifts can usually be installed without professional help. Buyers need to make sure they get installation kits along with the lifts in order to successfully complete the process. Before installing a chair lift, homeowners must measure the length of the staircase in order to purchase the correct amount of track.

Although all chair lifts are a moderate investment, AC chair lifts are typically less expensive than DC chair lifts. DC-powered lifts, however, are always capable of working, even when the power goes out in a house.

Chair lifts are not toys, and they should not be used for fun. Users should keep children away from lifts and unplug them when they are not in use. Buyers can find everything they need, from chair lifts to replacement parts to installation kits, at specialty medical supply stores and at online marketplaces, such as eBay.

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