For people with mobility issues, independence at home is a top priority.

And with a shortage of bungalows being built in the UK, having access to a lift at home is often the only solution that can give people that independence.

If you’re thinking about an access lift for your property — or you’re working with a client that needs one — there’s a big decision waiting at the first step:

Do you need a stair lift, or a through-floor lift?

We can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer. But we can help you understand the benefits of each — so you can make the best decision for your home or your client.

Here’s what you need to know:

Stair lifts are good for: 

  • People who can seat themselves 
  • People whose needs won’t change  
  • People with limited budget  
  • Smaller homes

Through-floor lifts are good for:

  • People who use wheelchairs
  • People with progressive conditions
  • People with a larger budget
  • Spacious homes

How will you access the lift?

This is a big one — especially for people who need to use a wheelchair.

With a stair lift, you need to transfer from a wheelchair into the seat on the lift. That means either getting help from a carer, or using a hoist system.

For a lot of people, that’s a frustrating additional process — especially if you’re moving between floors several times a day.

With a through-floor lift, you won’t have that problem:

People using wheelchairs can move directly into position on the floor of the lift, and travel on the lift without leaving their wheelchair.

That makes changing floors a seamless process. And for some people, it could be the difference between living independently and needing continual support in the home.

But it’s not just something that wheelchair users need to think about:

With the open access and large platform of a through-floor lift, you can also use it to bring household items with you as you change floors — something that wouldn’t be practical with the seat of a stair lift.

Don’t forget:

If you’re working with someone who has a progressive condition, their access needs might change in the future. A stair lift could be a good option now — but they may later find it more difficult to balance or support their posture.

How much space do you have?

Whether you choose a stair lift or a through-floor lift, you’re going to lose some space in your home.

And while a through-floor lift is usually a bigger unit, that doesn’t automatically make it an obstacle:

It’s about the quality of the space your lift is occupying — and the position of the installation in the home.

With a stair lift, there’s only one place to put it (the stairs!). That means the lift will always be resting at either the top or the bottom. And with some properties, that can make things difficult.

(Think about stairs that end next to a doorway — or stairs that lead up to a tight landing. When your stair lift isn’t in use, it could get in the way.)

With a through-floor lift, you’re looking at a larger installation that takes up more space. But it also comes with more options:

Depending on the layout of the home, a through-floor lift might be installed across two larger rooms with plenty of space (for example, connecting the living room to the bedroom above). So, while a through-floor lift is larger, it can often be more ‘out of the way’ than a stair lift.

Stair lifts:

  • Can be sent away when not in use
  • Are always installed on the stairs
  • Can sometimes be folded away
  • Fit into almost any home

Through-floor lifts:

  • Can be sent away when not in use
  • Can be installed in spacious rooms
  • Always occupy the same space
  • May be impossible in small homes

How will it look in your home?

This one is subjective — but the design of a lift can have a big impact on how the user feels about getting one.

(And if you’re thinking about the future, it can also have a big impact on the value of your home!)

While some stair lifts have come a long way with their modern designs, most of them still follow the same basic design: a chair running on a track.

For some users, this can feel a bit clinical. And regardless of the design you choose, you’ll always have a diagonal track running along the wall of your staircase — which isn’t easy on the eyes.

But with a through-floor lift, you’re getting a design that automatically fits into a home — with doorway shapes that match your other rooms, and vertical tracks that align with your walls and windows.


Need a lift to match your home?

Explore the design options that come with our through-floor Residential Elevator — from marble and oak finishes to custom colours and LED lighting.

See the Residential Elevator

How complex is the installation?

If you’re working with a client where time is an issue, this could be a deciding factor:

A through-floor lift can takes three days to install — while a stair lift can be installed in a day.

So why does a through-floor lift take longer?

It’s because it’s a more complex installation.

With a through-floor lift, you’re looking at structural changes to the property. You’ll need significant building works to connect the two floors, as well as the associated machinery and pumps that power the lift.

That’s why our teams spend extra time on the planning and assessment stage, helping you to find the best position for a through-floor lift in your home — for both your access and convenience, and minimising any disruption or changes to your property.

As well as working with OTs and their clients to help them find the best fit for what they need, we also work closely with architect and designers to create an optimal solution for the buildings we work in.

Stair lifts:

  • Can be installed quickly
  • Don’t need structural changes
  • Can be easily removed later
  • May need multiple installations for multiple floors

Through-floor lifts:

  • Take longer to install
  • Need structural changes
  • Are difficult to remove later
  • One installation can cover multiple floors

What about the cost?

This is another big one — and it can make a big difference to your final decision.

Stair lifts generally come at a lower cost. They use fewer materials, more simple technology, and they don’t require an extensive installation.

But they may need some extra investment — such as buying a hoist system for wheelchair transfers.

(You may also need to think about users with a progressive condition. If their needs change later and a stair lift isn’t enough, they might end up buying twice further down the road.)

With a through-floor lift, you’re looking at a higher initial investment. It’s a more advanced piece of equipment, and it comes with a more lengthy and complex installation.

But it’s also a more ‘futureproof’ solution. If your needs change over time, you won’t have to upgrade or replace a stair lift — and a high-quality through-floor lift could actually add value to your home!


Need some help finding the right fit?

If you’re working with a client that needs better access at home — or you’re thinking about a lift for your own property — we’ve got an expert team on hand to help.

We’ve been installing access lifts for both residential and commercial spaces for over 20 years, helping OTs and residents to find the best possible solution for their specific circumstances and needs.

So, if you’re still not sure whether you need a stair lift or a through-floor lift, start a chat with one of our experts — we’ll be happy to talk you through your options.