As defined in part K of the 2010 building regulations, all properties built after 2010 must ensure that all internal staircases have a minimum, unobstructed, width of 900mm.
But 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.
Those with narrow staircases need not worry. It's 2018 (nearly 2019) – there's likely to be a solution out there for you.
Since UK stairlift manufactures became aware of the problem they've been engineering some pretty ingenious solutions.
But first, let's understand the problem
When sitting in a seated position, side-on to a staircase, the distance between your spin and knee (or feet) may exceed the width of your staircase, once the width of the stairlift is factored in.
The secret lies in their compact design and folding parts, maximising space and efficiency. Folding arms and seats, a folding footrest and a slim rail enable these compact stair lifts to be neatly folded away when not in use, making them 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 narrow 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)
If we go back to the problem...
Your spin-to-knee (or spin-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 sit on a higher seat, perched slightly on the edge, your knees would not protrude out as far!
Yes, it relies on you being able to comfortably sit/perch in this position for the duration of the chair lift journey, but if that's something you're able to do you will have lots more choice available to you from different stairlift manufacturers as most provide a perch seat option.
This is a great solution for narrow straight stair cases, but is often not the case for narrow curved stair cases.
The reason being, when there's a bend in the stairs, the stairlift rail contours around that bend smoothly, making the corners the narrowest points on the stairs.
If you have narrow curved stairs and you're unable to sit on a perch seat, or the corners are too narrow to allow a perched position, there's one other solution available from a German manufacturer which is a very clever technical solution.
The clever technical solution
In true German engineering style, Thyssenkrupp have produced an engineering masterpiece to overcome narrow curved stairs. Their stairlift, the Flow 2, is manufactured and programmed bespoke to your slim staircase.
The software inside the German stairlift is programed specifically for your stairs and maps every bend and corner. When the carriage (seat part) approaches a bend, it electronically swivels the seat round to point the user's knees 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 spin to knee/toe measurement is wider than the staircase.
Other common concerns
Another common concern with owners of older properties, especially period properties with lath and plaster walls, is whether the walls are strong enough to take the weight of a stair lift.
Stairlifts are never attached to the walls; they are always secured to the stair tread.
The pitch of the stairs in older properties can also be a concern to some.
Will you find a stairlift suitable for steep stairs?
Yes, there's almost definitely a solution out there as most stair lift companies manufacture stairlifts to fit on stairs from the standard 42 degree pitch right up to 80 degrees.
Stairlifts for narrow stairs are widely available with a range of features to suit the user and make the most of the available space.