Amazingly, under UK building regulations, there’s no minimum width for domestic staircases. There are rules on widths for disabled access and direct fire escapes but unless your property was built specifically for disabled access there’s no guarantee your staircase will be wide enough for a stairlift.
Properties built later than 2010 generally have a minimum of 800mm clearance which is usually wide enough for a stairlift to be fitted, depending on the user, which we’ll come onto later.
So what if you live in an older property?
One of the most frequently asked questions by those living in smaller and/or older properties is whether their narrow staircase will be wide enough fit a stairlift at all.
What is the minimum width for a stairlift?
As a rule of thumb, to fit a stairlift comfortably, a straight staircase should be at least 700mm (~27.5 inches) wide. If the staircase is curved, the minimum width will increase to 800mm (~31.5 inches) wide.
However, those with narrow staircases need not worry. It's 2023 – there's likely to be a solution for you.
Stairlifts can typically be fitted to almost all-width staircases; however, the narrower you get, the fewer stairlift models you will have to choose from. Therefore, those manufacturers charge a premium.
Since stairlift manufacturers became aware of the problem, they've been engineering some pretty ingenious solutions. For example, Handicare now provides a solution for curved or tricky staircases as narrow as 690mm wide. thyssenKrupp offers a stairlift for the narrowest of staircases, down to just 630mm wide.
But first, let's understand the problem
When sitting in a seated position, side-on to a staircase, the distance between your spine and knee (or feet) may exceed the width of your staircase, once the width of the stairlift is factored in.
Compact designs and folding parts maximise space and efficiency. Folding arm-rests and seats, a folding footplate and a slim rail enable compact stairlifts to be neatly folded away when not in use, ideal for both the user and other members of the household who will be able to use the stairs as normal.
Whilst it's great to know that some slimline stairlifts can fold away nice and neatly to assist other stair users, this isn't dealing with the concern of how a stairlift-in-use can traverse up and down narrow stair cases.
The ideal solution (and it's not necessarily a technical one)
Let's go back to the problem...
If your spine-to-knee (or spine-to-toe if you can't tuck your feet back further than your knees protrude when sitting down) measure more than the width of your staircase, we have a problem.
Now, consider this...
If you're able to stand or sit on a higher seat, perched slightly on the edge, your knees would not protrude out as far! Standing stairlifts could be the answer.
However, it does rely on you being able to comfortably sit/perch in this position for the duration of the chair lift journey. If that's something you're able to do, or would prefer to do, you have standing options available to you from different stairlift manufacturers as some provide a perch seat option.
This is a great solution for narrow straight staircases, but there's less choice available for narrow curved stair cases.
Handicare manufacture a perched seat stairlift for both straight and curved staircases. Stannah offer The Sadler which is designed to work similar to the perched seat and is available for curved staircases too, however the maximum width is 68cm and the maximum weight for this is 21 stone (133 ks).
If you have a very narrow curved stairs there's really only one stairlift available from a German manufacturer who offer a very clever technical solution.
The clever technical solution
In true German engineering style, Thyssenkrupp have produced an engineering masterpiece to overcome the challenges of narrow curved stairs. Their stairlift, the Flow X, is manufactured and programmed bespoke to your slim staircase.
The software inside the German stairlift is programmed specifically for your stairs and maps every bend and corner. When the carriage (seat part) approaches a bend, it automatically swivels the seat round to point the user's knees 45 degrees down the stairs, thus reducing the space between knees and opposing stair wall.
As you can imagine, this solution is not cheap but is the best solution for narrow curved stairs or narrow staircase where the user can't perch or their spine to knee/toe measurement is wider than the staircase. The Flow X stairlift will fit staircases as narrow as 620mm wide but does have a max weight limit of 19.68 stone (125 kg).
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Mrs Barbara Allen
I needed to get a stair lift for my lovely Mum as she was having difficulty climbing all the stairs in her house. I hadn't a clue what to buy or where to buy it from until I found the Stair Lift Expert website