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Need to Install a Wheelchair Lift?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Installing a Home Chair Lift

Installing a wheelchair lift or multiple lifts is an important step in making your home accessible, whether you just purchased a home that needs to be retrofitted or someone in your family has recently started using a wheelchair.

Wheelchair lifts are commonly installed near the front entrance of the home to work around obstacles such as steps, and on staircases to provide the wheelchair user access to multiple floors. There are two distinct types of lifts, many manufacturers from which to choose, and varying price points, making the buying process complex. Here, we’ll answer some of the most common FAQs.

What type of lift do I need?

There are two types of lifts - vertical platform lifts (VPLs) and incline platform lifts (IPLs). Vertical platforms, as the name suggests, move straight up and down to provide access from the front porch or garage, or from one floor to another. Some models are completely enclosed units; others are unenclosed but have safety gates. Incline platforms, on the other hand, move up and down on a set of stairs.

Vertical platform lifts are available in indoor or outdoor versions. Outdoors, they might be used to bypass just a few steps near the front door, or to raise the wheelchair user from the ground floor to a second floor deck or patio. Indoors, they look and work much like elevators; however, the price point is usually significantly lower. Incline platforms are also available for indoor or outdoor use.

How do I know which kind of lift is best?

In some cases, one type makes more sense than the other. If you have just a few steps leading up to the front door, for example, installing a fully enclosed lift is probably overkill - it doesn’t make financial sense. If you have a really narrow staircase, you may have to choose a vertical lift because an incline lift won’t fit. In most cases, however, the decision comes down to personal preference and cost. Vertical lifts from one floor to another tend to be less obtrusive and more streamlined in appearance than incline lifts, and they tend to have greater lifting capacities. However, vertical lifts typically cost more to install and require significant space.

Should I choose electric or battery powered?

Lifts can be electric or battery powered. Generally, electric lifts are more reliable and more robust. The only downside is that they won’t work if the electricity goes out. Ideally, you want to choose an electric lift with backup battery power for emergencies.

How much do wheelchair lifts cost?

An incline lift for a full, non-curved staircase usually costs $3,000 to $4,000. Sometimes installation is included in that price, but if not budget an extra $500 or more. Incline lifts for partial staircases often cost $2,000 or less, while custom lifts for curved or more elaborate staircases can cost $10,000 or more.

Vertical lift platforms are more expensive than most incline lifts. An enclosed vertical lift that goes from one floor to another will probably cost you $10,000 to $15,000 or more, including installation. An unenclosed lift designed to bypass just a few stairs might cost $4,000 to $8,000 installed.

Will Medicare or insurance pay for the lift?

Medicare typically does not cover the cost of the lift, but private insurance does in some cases, particularly if use of the wheelchair is related to a car accident or injury. Always check with your insurance just to be sure. Some nonprofits offer programs to help offset the cost, particularly for low-income families.

How long does installation take?

With a basic incline lift or an unenclosed vertical lift, installation can often be completed just a day or two. However, lifts that require more involved home modifications or construction can take several weeks to install. If you’re having a lift custom made, plan to wait up to six weeks.

Can I install the lift myself?

For safety reasons, this is strongly discouraged. Improper installation can lead to accidents and serious injury. There are also local and national codes that dictate how and where a lift can be installed, and some of those codes require that the lift be installed by a licensed and trained technician. Installing the lift yourself to save money is not worth the risk of injury or serious code violations.

Which manufacturer is best?

We don’t recommend specific manufacturers, but we do recommend doing significant background research on any manufacturer you’re considering. Read consumer reviews and check the company’s track record with the Better Business Bureau. Find out how long the company has been in business and how installers are trained. We also recommend getting price quotes from several companies before making your decision. The cheapest option isn’t always the best option, but getting several quotes helps ensure that you’re not overpaying for the lift. As a general rule, eliminate any bids that come in suspiciously high or low.

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