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Stairlift FAQs

There are many great reasons to purchase a stairlift. But why should you choose A+ Stairlifts of Pittsburgh to help you with this important decision? We have plenty of answers to that – but here are the top 12.

What is a stairlift, and how does it work?

A stairlift is a motorized lift used to move riders between levels within a home or business. They have been manufactured for over 100 years and are both safe and easy to use. While many different drive systems have been used over time, more than 90% of today’s models feature a rack and pinion drive system, which has proven itself to be quiet, reliable and also low in maintenance.

Does a stairlift attach to the wall or the stairs?

Stairlifts attach directly to stairs using bracket systems of varying designs. Some stairlifts require as few as three brackets, while more complicated curved staircase may require as many as 10 brackets. It all depends on the model selected and the design of the staircase.

Will installing a lift ruin my stairs?

We hear this question a lot, mainly because many people envision large lag bolts being drilled to their stairs. Fortunately for us all, this is not the case. Generally, the brackets used for track support are secured using relatively small (approximately 3/16-inch) standard wood screws. It is important to note, too, that modern stairlift designs will spread the weight load across the staircase, eliminating those ugly lags from the scenario altogether.

Can other people still use the stairs?

Yes, of course! Stairlifts can be folded out of the way when not in use so that others can go up and down the stairs as they need. Just to give you an idea: straight stairlifts range between 11.25 inches and 13 inches from the wall when folded up; curved lifts are larger units, and thus can take up a few inches more (depending largely on stair type).

Are there special electrical requirements?

Many of today’s stairlifts are low-voltage DC units; in fact, over 95% of units currently sold worldwide are DC-powered models. Electrical requirements for a DC unit are very low. In most cases, an existing outlet can be used to power it. A+ Stairlifts come with 25 feet of low-voltage wire, giving you plenty of room, and no dedicated line is required. So you can cancel that electrician’s visit!

I want to be in my chair and moving as soon as possible. How long does the whole process take?

The answer greatly depends on the type of stairs being fitted. Looking at our most common request, straight stairlifts, they are usually in stock – they just need cut to fit your stairs. After an evaluation at your home, which is conducted about a day or two after you request one, installation can be completed within 24-48 hours after an order is placed in many cases. If installation is needed urgently, we can even install the same day – just let us know.

Looking at curved stairlifts, however, keep in mind that these are more custom in nature and usually require a longer timeframe from order to use. Preparation is more involved, including detailed engineering drawings and the use of a complex photo survey system. Because of this specialized design, turnaround time for curved lifts is about 3-4 weeks on average.

Does Medicare or private insurance pay for stairlifts?

Neither Medicare nor private insurance (Highmark, Blue Cross, Aetna, and others) currently provide coverage for stairlifts. There is Medicaid funding in some states under special programs, but these programs are often difficult to qualify for. So the easy answer to this one is no, or at least probably not.

One bright spot is Long-Term Care insurance, or what the insurance industry calls LTC. If you or your loved have an LTC policy, don’t delay – call them today, as many policies will fund stairlifts through a “Home Modification” benefit. Keep this in mind: insurers’ employees are programmed to say no to these requests. If your claim is denied, we suggest you opt to appeal (you may get paperwork with the denial detailing how the appeal process works). Stress to the company that the only other option may be a nursing home or assisted living facility – with such an expensive alternative to a stairlift in front of them, that may help you to get your point across.

How do you get off a stairlift at the top landing?

This might be the most common question we receive at A+ Stairlifts of Pittsburgh. Many of our customers are concerned they need to step into the stairs to get on and off at the top landing. Fortunately, this is not the case.

With the changes in lift design over the years, we’re happy to tell you that all chair models in production today have a seat swivel. In other words, the rider can easily swivel the seat at the top and plant their feet on the top landing, not on a stair. The seat is also a barrier for fall prevention.

Custom-built curved stairlifts can be created with an additional top bend at the landing and finish on the landing or hallway, but this feature is only available on curved lifts. Curved lifts are typically 3 to 4 times the cost of straight lifts, so going that route might be impractical.

My mother had a stairlift. It was loud and ugly! Please tell me that they are better today.

We’re happy to tell you that they’re indeed less noisy than yesterday’s chairs. Like many other products manufactured today, stairlifts have certainly come a long way. They are surprisingly quiet, and the space-hogs from many years ago have been replaced by space-saving, sleek units that no longer carry that oily smell.

As to the “ugly” question – well, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We hear lots of comments over and over, customer after customer. One of the most common? “We should have done this sooner!”

Stairlifts seem so complicated to operate. Will my grandkids or young neighbors need to help me learn about it?

We often hear this concern from potential customers. Having a chair with controls that are simple to understand and to read is an important factor in the decision to buy.

To answer that question: yes, lifts being manufactured today are very intuitive and easy to operate. First, hold the drive lever until the lift stops at the top landing. Second, swivel the seat so you can dismount. That’s it! Some riders elect to install an optional seat motor to perform the swiveling automatically; ask us for more information.

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