Installing a Stair Lift

Published by Stephen on October 4, 2008

There are many areas around the home that can be very dangerous, but accidents on staircases are one of the leading causes of serous injuries. As a person ages, the likelihood of having an accident on the stairs increases and among seniors, these accidents are the number one cause of serious injury.

To prevent falls on the stairs and the serious ramifications of an accident of this nature, many people decide to purchase a piece of home medical equipment called a stair lift. Stair lifts, in many cases, allow for a cost effective way to ensure complete access to a home. They are used to carry a person across the distance of the stairs, most frequently using a chair, and safely deposit them at the top or bottom.

Those that have a curved staircase or a staircase that is very narrow, will probably not be able to install the lift on their own, and will want to compare the price of a lift with that of a residential elevator.

If you have a straight staircase, installing a stair lift is very cost effective and can be done in only a few hours. This post describes how to install an AmeriGlide Stair Lift onto a straight staircase. These instructions are not meant to be a substitute for the installation instructions that come with the lift, so make sure you completely read the manufacturer instructions before attempting the installation.

***This Guide is not meant to take the place of the instructions that come with the lift. Completely read the instructions before attempting to install the stair lift. If after reading the instructions, you do not feel comfortable doing the installation, seek professional assistance.***

This Guide is Divided into 3 Parts:



  1. Jerry(an Elevator Salesman) on 08 Sep 2010

    The above printed article should not be taken as a recommenedation for an enduser to install their own lifts. In fact, most reputable manufacturers highly discourage it. The accesibility Equipment Manufacturers Association put out a position paper where there clearly state “AEMA does not support the concept of self-installation!”

    However, many internet sales sites and “direct” sales site have marketing that cleary suggests not to trust a certified dealer can calls them middle men.

    We work in Washington DC, Virginia and areas of Maryland known as DC suburbs. We get numerous calls from people installing their own lifts. Some find that the manufacturer won’t support unless the item was installed by a certified tech. Direct equipment companies never want to make good on warranties. In fact they make it hard to return.

    In Maryland, I ran into a customer that had a moonlight lift installed. They had roof problems which dumped water on the unit. They hoped homeowners insurance would cover damage. They reported the that their claim was denied based on a non certified install.

    I have seen well intentioned general contractors install lifts themselves, only to ask what all the extra parts or for as according to them, the lift was moving fine. It turns out the extra parts were the safeties.

    In this economy, I get the savings and attraction of self installing and direct sales. I really do. But time after time, there are too many first hand reports of the diservice brought to the endusers. The difference of a few hundred dollars can’t be worth the headaches and aggrevation. People with mobility needs are better suited knowing they have a reputable technician that is certified and does on going continuing ed training on service and equipment. They are better suited knowing their technician is licensed, bonded, and there to help them when they need it.

  2. Steve on 09 Sep 2010

    Thanks for your input Jerry.

    I understand as an elevator salesman, this does cut into your bottom line. You are also right, most companies that install stair lifts or sell stair lifts that can not be self-installed, don’t like do-it-yourself elevator kits. It is not good for your business, sort of like how the major automobile makers where instrumental in killing the electric car.

    I also agree that it is very important to consider whether the stair lift can safely be installed and to understand your own limitations before attempting a self-installation.

    However, I have personally installed stair lifts before, as well as helping to maintain and repair them. Most of the do-it-yourself stair lift kits are relatively easy to install and can be done safely by most people with basic handyman skills.

    Part of this involves not removing parts and following all directions that come with the lift, which is seems is the cause of most of the problems you describe.

    Regarding things like water runoff on an outside stair lift, this is a very legitimate concern and something that is discussed in this article addressing Wheelchair Lifts.

    Water run-off and drainage are very important factors to consider when installing an outdoor stair lift or wheelchair lift!

  3. Jody, Another Salesman on 10 Dec 2010

    Hey Steve,

    It is misleading to leave out potential legal pitfalls for your readers. You’ve forgotten to mention that in many states it is ILLEGAL to install your own stair lift or elevator. [Marketing Fudd, if not outright lie, see response below]

    Please note that many states have strict fines associated with installing your own lift product. I believe that it is prudent for people to follow the laws of the communities in which they live. Don’t you?

    Additionally, not all “lifts” sold on the internet are approved in all states. I live in Michigan. ANY lift product that is allowed to be installed in Michigan MUST be first APPROVED by the State of Michigan’s Elevator Safety Division, installed by a licensed elevator installer and then inspected by the State of Michigan. All three criteria need to be met to be a legally installed lift product in Michigan. I know other states have similar laws.

    Please mention to people that it also matters where your lift is manufactured. People should buy their lifts from well-known companies with good track records. Additionally, I would recommend that lifts come from manufacturers that reside in countries with safety regulations and standards. Wouldn’t you?

    For a moment, forget that it may be illegal to install your own lift equipment and ask yourself this question? How would my homeowner’s insurance view having an illegal lift product installed in my home? Perhaps people should call and find out. I think they may just be in for a huge surprise.

    FYI…I am part of an organization called [Removed Advertisement]. We offer legal products and services to help people create their Lifetime Home. We have licensed installers, we are fully insured and we make sure that we offer our clients reputable products at value pricing. And yes, we stand behind our installations.

    Explain this to me again. I think I missed something. What is wrong with well-respected companies offering clients a legal product, providing legal, quality and safe installations of reputable products at a fair price?

    Question? Steve do you hold the proper licenses and insurance for this type of work? Let’s forget about you for a moment. Do you realize that you may be opening your clients to unnecessary financial risk if you don’t follow the “rules”? You are installing this equipment yourself? Do you carry worker’s compensation on yourself and any helper? If not, those clients of yours who are looking to save pennies, could spend thousands taking care of you if you injure yourself at their home. Do they know this?

    As the saying goes…Buyer beware. In this case, beware of less than forthright advice.

  4. Steve on 02 Jan 2011

    Jody, thanks for your input on installing a chair lift. I appreciate your concern.

    I certainly agree that Buyers should beware of less than forthright advice, which is why I removed the above advertisement for a “well-known companies with good track records.” Convenient how you just happen to know a reputable stair lift retailer that fits this bill.

    Your comments are also highly misleading.

    I understand an integral part of your business model involves scaring people into thinking they have to pay to install a stair chair. However, installing your own staircase lifting devices is NOT illegal in “Many States.” This is at best disingenuous.

    You are correct, however, that there are a few states, most notably Connecticut and Washington, that have setup some regulations regarding installing a stair lift. CT and WA tend to be the strictest of the handful of states with additional regulations, classifying all types of lifts, including vertical platform lifts, as elevators. As a result in CT and WA, in addition to having stricter building code requirements, you will also require regular inspections and maintenance, including on those installed by “well-known companies with good track records.”

    Like any home modification, you should always check your local building codes before doing any work. Usually this is as simple as making a call to the local city hall. In the handful of cases where there are additional requirements, it is still not illegal to install a do-it-yourself stairlift in your home, simply more steps.

    “Question? Steve do you hold the proper licenses and insurance for this type of work?”

    I think you may be confused, which isn’t surprising given the content of your comment. I have installed stairlifts for family/friends/documentation purposes I have also been involved in a number of other aspects of the home medical field. However, I do not own a business that installs stair lifts. My goal is to provide useful information about the different types of stair lifts available, so my “clients” are probably a good deal different than you envision.

    Thanks again for your comment!

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