CHOICE membership

Adding a lift to our 2 story home

My husband and I are retired and we would like to add a residential lift to our property. While we are mobile now, we may not find the stairs so easy in the future. There are so many varieties of lifts and many different prices - we can’t afford one that is too expensive. With people wanting to live for as long as possible at home, it would be good to have a comparison from Choice and to get feedback from members on the right lift for us. We have been Choice members for years. Thanks.

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Hi @JanetN, welcome to the community. As the population ages and more aged care support is provided in the home, many like yourself will be looking at things to prolong staying in one’s own house.

There are many types available from a chair lift retrofitted to stairs to a traditional building type lift.

Things to consider are…

  • what will be lift be used for (persons or anything including moving furniture/shopping).
  • what is your budget
  • what are the capital costs and ongoing operating and maintenance costs of each option
  • where will it be installed, the installation costs and impacts of its location (such as in the way or highly visible/block a view).
  • what would future house owners think of the type installed and ease of removal, if necessary
  • Is the lift the best option…are alternatives feasible such as changing house configuration to live on one level…downsizing and moving to single storey etc.
  • What approvals (e.g. council) are needed and what are potential impacts on insurance.

I am sure there is more, but this might get the ball rolling…and these questions can only be answered based on your own conditions/house/needs.

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Is the lift required to be internal or can it be external?

There are some lifts that that can be externally fitted to allow people to get into high set houses that may be a better option than fitting an internal lift due to space restrictions that may exist. The external lifts can still allow movement between ground floor and second floor but are just fitted to an external wall. These can be a recirculated water lift where a tank of water is pumped to raise the lift and is returned to the tank when wishing to descend…

Perhaps getting an architect or similar to look at the premises for designing access and fitting might be a worthwhile investment.

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I have no personal experience but I know two cases where people had inclinators who were not happy. The short version is in those cases the equipment was prone to breakdown. One was in the house up an existing staircase, they said it was unreliable and they had the mechanic out frequently to fix it. The other was outside on a very steep block where going up the long front steps was equivalent to an ironman event. The inclinator just sat there and was never used. They said they got sick of paying to repair it.

So my advice is look carefully at warranties and get references to installations that have been in place for several years before you decide.

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If Choice is able to look at elevators etc, should Choice first look at the scenarios typical of aged care and special needs?

From our most recent experiences there are specialist support services in aged care and disability. In particular the areas of OT and home modification to suit the needs of older Australians. It is likely these know many of the needs and issues in more detail than Choice at present.

Have you considered the alternative of moving to a single story (near to ground level) residence with ramp access? That would appear to be common advice, rather than remain in a two story.

Our experience with our older family members suggests the solution depends on the problem. It’s difficult to double guess what the future holds. A single story house designed with wider access, and bathing/toileting for us older Australians may be a less restrictive and lower cost solution.

Can you upgrade an existing property to be old age friendly? Needs may be more than just getting between floors. One unknown is whether you will need to get out of the house on a hurry or difficult circumstances. EG a fire event or on an ambulance stretcher. Being reliant on a two person lift/elevator or stairwell chair lift might not be the best. Staircases with turns or tight entries/exits just make the ambo’s task that bit more difficult. The idea of an external build on elevator might be better if it is close to where you live or sleep on the upper story.

What if you are wheel chair bound? Will it be manual or electric. The latter tend to need more room, and your bathroom needs to accomodate the wheelchair, as does any elevator.

One of the extended family has a chairlift on a stairway. It is a straight path from bottom to top with landing room at both ends that does not block access. Does it breakdown? Yes.

P.S.
If budget is not a constraint, there are certainly numerous examples of Sydney harbour-side houses with external glass enclosed lifts as inspiration. And mobility solutions listing on the web to consider.

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Thank you Mark M - your quick response is appreciated.
“If Choice is able to look at elevators etc, should Choice first look at the scenarios typical of aged care and special needs?”
While we’re looking for a lift that will keep us in our home longer, I agree that there are some with aged care and disability requirements that would also benefit from a lift. When Choice provides a review for members, it does so for rich or poor and caters for a wide range of tastes. I’m thinking that a column on the review that suggests the lift specs fit a wheelchair or suit other disabled needs would be very useful.
We have bought a beautiful home to retire to and would like to ‘future proof’ our home as much as possible, rather than move to another place. We will be making a few renovations so want to consider the possibilities. Thanks again.

PS - Good point also regarding making the whole place aged /care friendly such as wider entry points to the showers. I agree with the chairlift solution not being feasible as i’ve also heard dodgy reports about them. We know lifts are expensive, - in the vicinity of $20,000 upwards, but would like a good value one at the bottom end of the market to suit our needs. Cheers!

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Hi Syncretic, Thanks for your inclinator thoughts. I have definitely heard similar stories with inclinators and that’s why we’re looking at lifts as they don’t inspire confidence and i wouldn’t like one at home.
Good point re the warranties and reviews/references. Will do.

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Hi grahroll,
apparently the external ones are cheaper but internal suits our need - so we don’t have to go outside your house at night for example. I think external ones are great for accessing the house (like a Queenslander) that doesn’t really have downstairs rooms - you just access the whole house via the lift.
We are going to consult with an architect, but even they may not be abreast of the latest and greatest versions - particularly as their clients are most likely to not have to worry about money. Appreciate your help.

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Wow Phb, you have a very organised approach to the problem. It’s primarily for aged people (us in the future) and we need it big enough to take a wheelchair. Budgets are the big unknown as the lifts can vary from $20,000 upwards.
We have sussed out your questions (we’re doing renos so the builder / the providers of the lift will together install the item). We have a good place based in the internal garage and going up. The lift should add to the value of the home for some buyers at sale time, and plans are going to council - but good point about advising insurance when the time comes.
I wrote my post in the midst of speaking with sales reps from some firms, and i thought (and still do) “wouldn’t it be good if someone/Choice had already done this footwork” - just as we appreciate getting the best/cheapest version of fridges, tv’s and irons from Choice.
PS - want to help us organise our renos? you sound like you have a handle on all the difficult questions. :grinning:

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PS - thanks for the community welcome - We love Choice peeps - they care!

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My Grandfather had an external lift that opened both internally and externally on the ground floor and only internally on the upper floor. It was colourbond steel and weatherproof (cyclone country Townsville) with colour to match the house with a lockable door to the outside. It was a long time ago so I don’t remember who fitted it but it worked well. Both he and Grandma were mobility impaired in their later years so the lift was required to allow them to access the ground floor and to get in and out on shopping days. The house didn’t really have the space to fit one internally. He also had a chute fitted to drop clothes to the laundry as that was located on the ground floor as was his workshop, garage, and guest sleepover.

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That would have prevented an unfortunate mishap.

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Aye but he did have a verandah where it was fitted so could have opened to that but he chose to only open internally due to cyclones…he was very cautious about un-necessary openings that weren’t cyclone proof.

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Sounds like a good solution. I like the idea of using it as a ‘dumb waiter’ - for laundry and even cups of tea and coffee. J

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Hi @JanetN

My mother had a lift installed in our house. It cost in excess for $40,000 to go one floor down from the entry level.

Sorry to say the lift will NOT add value to you home, unless you are lucky enought to find someone who is looking for a home with a lift (very rare). We looked at a few houses for sale with lifts and none were more expensive because of the lift.

You will need an architect to supply your council with plans for building approval. It is likely there needs to be room under the floor of the lift car at the lowest level for equipment. You may need to have a stronger concrete pad than the garage floor for the lift to be built on. Also check with the architect because any structural supports such as floor joists for the first level will need to be relocated/resupported if the lift shaft goes through.

If you have a lift, you are legally required to have an emergency phone in the car. This used to be connected to your land line. If you have NBN this won’t work. How will the lift seller provide you with the required emergency phone?

If you are looking to the possibility of using it for a wheelchair specify that you want a ‘disabled access’ lift that can carry the wheelchair occupant and at least one or two others.

Consider wheelchair access from the front door through to the lift, and from the lift upstairs to where-ever you will be going (bedroom, bathroom, etc.) Make sure there is enough space where you are planning to put the lift for the lift door to open and still have enough waiting room for the wheelchair and others.

Make sure you are happy to lose a fair chunk of floor space where the lift will be. It may also obscure light from passing through unless you have glass walls.

The lift manufacturers will make you the lift, but the builders will need to make the shaft to their specifications. The almost completed shaft will need to be left open and accessible at the ground floor level for the lift to be inserted and installed.

If you live near the ocean, you will need to have aluminium componentry as metal rails etc will rust in not time.

Try to buy from a large business who also do commercial lifts. They are likely to be staying in business and have extensive experience with lifts. In our case the manufacturer sold the business without liabilities, and we have no recourse to the new owners for the problems and faults that had not been fixed.

Ensure you have a warranty for at least two years. If they are not willing to do that they don’t have faith that their lift will last, and you will have it as part of your home for a LONG time.

Make sure the lift you get can be serviced by other than the manufacturer if needed. We can not find anyone else to service ours and we are captive to a mercenary business,

Do not sign that you accept the lift till you have thoroughly tested it, preferably for some time, and are completely happy there are no faults, or niggles etc.

Do due dilligence before purchasing. Get the names of at least 5 existing owners and check with them about their lifts. Of course the business will only give you the names of happy customers. Ask if they have had any ‘lemons’ - it is important you go and talk to those people and find out what went wrong!

Only sign when you are completely satisfied. It’s not like a car that you can easily sell if you aren’t completely satisfied. You will be stuck with it while ever you live there.

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It is a pleasure. I have helped out 90+ year olds still living at home and have discussed such options with them. I also have project management background and am used to dissecting problems and working out key issues need to be resolved to move forward.

@meltam and others have given some great practicable advice and considerations as well.

Good luck and let us know your final decision, why you made it and how the experience is if you do install one.

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Thanks for your detailed response meltam. You raise a good number of points: Structure and support - This will be addressed with renovation plans. It is a lift specification that all ones with doors (i didn’t realise there were lifts without doors!) require mandatory phones but it’s also good to ensure that it’s included in the cost. I believe our local council only requires to see plans if the lift is external but will revert to architect on that one.
Wheelchair access for the rest of the house - good point as corridors as well as showers will need to be part of the plan. And you’re right about losing a chunk of the floor space - not just for the lift but in the overall home design.
Servicing and quality - the warranty and service agreements, the reviews and when to sign. Noted - tick.
Are you able to mention the brand name of your mother’s lift?
Thank you so much for your comments.

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Thank you Phb,
Your views and support are definitely helpful and appreciated.

“let us know your final decision, why you made it and how the experience is if you do install one”

At this stage i’m doing my own research pre-architect, pre-council plans and pre-builder - to see if/what we purchase/ or whether we can afford one at all. So it will probably be one to two years before we finish, so we go into our reno with a clear view and instruction for the builder.
Once again though, Choice still seems to be the only place to come for help and support - and such a great community!
But i must admit - i still believe that it would be worth a Choice spreadsheet of lift types/costs/warranties/issues maybe for future buyers. :slight_smile:
All the best to you.

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