Sean O’Sullivan, managing director of the Platform Lift Company, asks whether residential platform lifts are becoming more popular than stair lifts and stair risers in the domestic environment.
With Brexit creating uncertainty, buyers and sellers are sitting tight and looking to improve rather than move. Likewise, the trend of ‘future proofing’ a home means there is a market for products that maximise every inch of space, create ease of living and add value to a property.
Most of us now want solutions at the touch of a button and to control our environment with ease, for example, ‘smart home devices’. We also try to create multifunctional homes which serve as an office, gym or spa: it is all about getting the most out of your available space which is why products have become more ‘compact’ to fit smaller environments.
This has opened an opportunity for a domestic platform lift as it doesn’t necessarily need to comply with Part M of the Building Regulations as is the case for a commercial application. This means there is scope to make a vertical platform lift much smaller than the standard 1400mm by 1100mm size.
For example, the Platform Lift Company recently modified its residential style lift to 1100mm by 825mm to take up less floor space within a home. The lift was still able to accommodate a wheelchair which on average is 730mm wide.
A residential platform lift starts at around £12K which in some cases is much cheaper than a bespoke platform style stair riser. The maintenance requirements are the same as a stair lift because they also come under the Machinery Directive – servicing twice a year is recommended (depending on their usage).
Provided there is adequate room, the installation of a residential platform lift can be achieved without major structural changes and installation is typically completed within three days with minimal disruption to the property.
Through the floor lifts can also be installed quickly and offer a degree of choice when it comes to selecting the best position for installation.
The residential platform lift is marketed as elegant, life-enhancing and chic. There are endless design options as the external facing doors can be any RAL colour to match the surrounding décor. You can opt for a glass shaft to give more feeling of space within a room.
So where does this leave the stair lift in the market? Stair lifts won’t necessarily add value to a home but still provide a quick and easy solution which will cost in the region of £1500, unless of course it is a curved staircase then the price increases. Installation is simple as there are no structural alterations and they are cheap to run, plus it can be easily removed.
However, a stair lift has its limitations. It has a maximum weight limit (around 160kg), it isn’t very practical for wheelchair users and you need to be able to hold yourself upright in a chair. An incline platform lift stair riser designed for a wheelchair is more expensive; as mentioned earlier, a bespoke stair riser for a curved staircase can work out more than the cost of a home lift. With a stair riser there is also a requirement that the staircase needs to be 1200mm wide which isn’t always the case within a home.
Aesthetically, the stair lift, and stair riser are very noticeable; no matter how compact they are, the consumer is limited as to where they can fit these products. Although there is a much wider variety of design options available for these products, it is hard to match the consumer experience of choosing a home lift which blends into your home and reflects your chosen style.
There is also the user experience; the operation of a stair lift or stair riser is still far more time-consuming than just getting into a lift and pushing a button. So, does this mean the stair lift market is about to be overtaken by the residential platform lift and through the floor lifts?
Having a residential lift undoubtedly delivers a much more luxurious experience therefore this type of access product will become increasingly popular for those who want to invest in future proofing their home. The residential style of platform lift which comes with additional safety features is also a recognised solution within the housing industry, already in use by local authorities, developers and housing associations.
The stair lift will always have a place in the market but the experience and pricing is totally different to a residential platform lift. Possibly the more vulnerable of products is the domestic platform lift stair riser as the price gap closes between this product and a home lift. However, in the end it comes down to whether the product is fit for purpose; this will always depend on the environment and the user’s needs.