Home Elevator vs Stairlift

Home Elevator

   PROS
  • Flexible installation locations
  • Can be decorative in style
  • Available in a range of designs
  • Makes higher floors of the home accessible
  • Increases home resale value
  CONS
  • Difficult to install
  • Can take up a lot of space
  • Can be loud
  • Needs yearly maintenance
  • Can take several weeks to install
$10,000 - $20,000

(for a 18 sq.ft. pneumatic or hydraulic elevator, installed)

Get free advice and estimates from elevator contractors in your city.

Stairlift

   PROS
  • Installs in hours
  • DIY installation available
  • Available in several widths
  • Quiet
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of space
  • Makes higher floors of the home accessible
  CONS
  • Difficult to conceal
  • Fewer design options
  • Does not increase home resale value
  • Needs yearly maintenance
  • May be difficult to find lifts for narrow stairs
  • Narrow stairwells may require railing removal
$3,000 - $5,000

(for a 15-inch seated stairlift, installed)

Get free advice and estimates from elevator contractors in your city.

For anyone who has difficulty with mobility and lives in a home with more than one level, getting around can be a challenge. For people with injuries, illnesses, or other disabilities that make stairs difficult to manage, installing a stairlift or elevator helps them go from one floor of a home to another more easily. Below, we will outline the differences between the two to help you make a better decision about which one is better for your home.

Appearance

Of the two designs, the stairlift is more evident because there is no way to conceal it, although some do fold up when not in use. The stairlift may have a seat or platform, and some may also have safety bars or straps. The chairs may have different finishes and colors, and the rail 1 the lift attaches to may come in different finishes as well, but most stairlifts are fairly utilitarian in appearance.

Elevators that use a shaft can be concealed from view with different styles of panels or doors on the exterior. The inside also has a variety of style choices. Elevators that do not use a shaft, such as pneumatic elevators, are meant to be in the open. These may consist of a plastic tube or clear glass lift. They are not typically decorative or available with many options, but they are small and can be installed in more areas, where you may be able to conceal them.

Space

Stairlifts come in a variety of different widths to accommodate different sets of stairs, although not every manufacturer makes lifts narrow enough for all stairwells. In some cases, removing a railing 1 may be necessary to make the lift fit, which may add $50-$100 to the project to patch any drywall 2 holes that remain. Some manufacturers do make lifts for narrow stairways, but your choices may be more limited.

Most will fold up out of the way when not in use so that the stairs can still be accessed. The smallest stairlift has a depth of approximately 15 inches when used with a seat. Platforms that can hold a wheelchair may take up considerably more space, up to the width of the stairwell or about three feet.

Elevators also come in a wide range of sizes and widths. The largest elevator you can install according to code is 18 sq.ft. The smallest is around 12 sq.ft. or 3 x 4 feet. Elevators that use a shaft may require additional space behind, below, or on top of the elevator to accommodate the motor. For example, a typical cable-driven elevator will require a separate room for the motor located behind the shaft. A pneumatic elevator, however, requires only the space necessary for the cab itself and therefore takes up less room overall.  

Installation

Of the two, stairlifts are faster, easier, and less expensive to install. They can be installed within three to four hours typically, and some companies make a DIY kit for homeowners. It is usually recommended, however, that the manufacturer do the installation, particularly if you have a curved staircase or custom chair.

Elevators requiring a shaft take considerably longer to install, up to three weeks. An elevator that does not use a shaft can be installed in a few days. Pneumatic elevators, which use a tube rather than a shaft, are the easiest and least expensive to install because they require no shaft and minimal construction. Hydraulic and cable-driven elevators require a shaft and significant machinery, which takes longer to install and is, therefore, more invasive to your home. There are some newer hydraulic elevators that do not require a traditional shaft. However, they do have significantly more machinery to install than a pneumatic elevator and still take several days to weeks to install.

Costs

In most cases, the cost of the installation of both stairlifts and elevators is included in the final cost you pay to the manufacturer. The average cost of a stairlift installed is between $3,000 and $5,000, with the stairlift itself costing between $1,000 and $3,000 and labor costing around $2,000 on average.

Elevators have a wider range of costs due to the many types and installations available. A pneumatic elevator costs around $10,000 installed when climbing one floor, with the elevator itself costing $5,000 to $7,000. A hydraulic elevator costs around $20,000 installed when going up one floor, with the elevator itself costing around $10,000. The cost can be significantly higher when climbing more than one floor or when using a custom cab.

Noise

Both stairlifts and elevators will make some noise. Cable-driven elevators are the loudest due to the type of machinery used. Pneumatic elevators are quieter, and most stairlifts are designed to create minimal noise.

If you have an elevator shaft installed, you can include some acoustic paneling to help absorb sounds. However, it is recommended to install an elevator away from bedrooms or other sound sensitive areas if more than one person lives in the home.

Maintenance

Both elevators and stairlifts should be inspected on a yearly basis. Some elevators, including cable-driven elevators, require additional maintenance every five years to replace the cables.

Return on Investment

Elevators do add resale value to the home, particularly if they were built into the home at the time of initial construction. Other factors also contribute to the resale value such as if they are concealed from view and have a cab and shaft that are designed to match the rest of the home. Reports vary, but most agree that adding an elevator increases the total value of your home by around 10%, which can give you a 60% to 100% return on investment for the elevator depending on the cost of the project and the current value of your home.

Stairlifts do not add value to the home because they may not be needed by the future occupants, although they can be easily removed.

Was this guide helpful to you?
  

Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Rail: A long bar designed for a person to hold onto, giving them support. They are usually found on the sides of staircases, and can also be found in bathrooms, for example, to help persons with disabilities
2 Drywall: Type of plasterboard, commonly used to build walls and ceilings, composed of gypsum that is layered between sheets of heavy paper

Cost to install a home elevator or a stairlift varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Related cost guides

Ceiling Lift - Install
Elevator - Install
Elevator - Repair
Grab Bars - Install
Ramp - Install
Stairlift - Install
Walk-in Tub - Install
 

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Austin, TX
+13%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Benicia, CA
+30%
Billings, MT
-12%
Boston, MA
+40%
Brandon, FL
-5%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Cincinnati, OH
+6%
Cleveland, OH
+7%
Colorado Springs, CO
-3%
Denver, CO
+1%
Englewood, OH
-8%
Erie, PA
-17%
Fresno, CA
-6%
Houston, TX
+24%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Jacksonville, FL
-1%
Kansas City, MO
+4%
Lansdowne, PA
+26%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Louisville, KY
-7%
Madison, WI
+13%
Mauston, WI
-34%
Memphis, TN
+11%
Miami, FL
+1%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
Nashville, TN
+21%
New Haven, CT
+22%
New York, NY
+77%
Oakland, CA
+36%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Pompano Beach, FL
+2%
Portland, OR
+11%
Poway, CA
+8%
Prattville, AL
-38%
Salem, SC
-17%
San Diego, CA
+11%
San Francisco, CA
+53%
San Jose, CA
+33%
Savannah, GA
-12%
Seattle, WA
+9%
Smyrna, GA
+10%
Tampa, FL
-2%
Tucson, AZ
-19%
Virginia Beach, VA
-8%

Labor cost in your zip code

Last modified: