The ultimate guide to platform lift solutions for accessible homes

From Sean O’Sullivan, Managing Director of the Platform Lift Company

The NHS estimates there are 1.2m wheelchair users in the UK, the charity Scope claims there are 14.1 million disabled people in the UK and yet 93% of homes in the UK do not meet basic accessibility standards, according to Independent Living.

Last year 72% of people polled by YouGov agreed that homes should as standard be built to be suitable for people of all ages and abilities. This means building homes that have wider doors, roomier corridors and different layouts for inclusive design. Ground floor homes are ideal, but the introduction of a platform lift solution allows for independent living on more than one floor.

Level changes 

Overcoming level changes within the home and outside spaces such as an incline to the front door, or a slope into the garden can be resolved with ramps, however, these can take up valuable space. An open style platform lift has a much smaller footprint and can reach short distances of up to 1.25 metres. These types of lifts can overcome a change in floor level without having to make major structural changes to a property. All they require is a level floor for the fixings and a power supply for the control unit. The platform lift is typically battery motorised and operated by a remote control, push buttons or a control panel.

It is also possible to future proof a home by installing a flight of steps which transform with a touch of a button into a platform lift. This clever new product which can be finished in a variety of materials is suitable for both internal and external environments.

Floor changes 

Creating access to a level higher than 2 metres requires an enclosed residential platform lift. Whereas traditionally a stair riser would have been installed to overcome flights of stairs, there are now a variety of lifts designed specially for the home which are stylish, sustainable and provide a dignified and faster way to travel between floors.

Through the floor lifts can be positioned virtually anywhere within a home as they have a self-supporting structure. They are easy to install as no major structural alterations are required.

A slightly more expensive option but infinitely better in terms of user experience as it feels more like a passenger lift is a residential platform lift – also typically called a home lift. The residential platform lift is marketed as elegant, life-enhancing and chic. There are endless design options for this type of lift which comes with its own shaft;  the external facing doors can be any RAL colour to match the surrounding décor and  glass panels can be used to give a feeling of more space within a room.

Again, this type of lift can be easily installed by creating a shallow pit (as little as 50mm). Alternatively, a ramp can be fitted to the front of the shaft on the ground floor level instead of creating a pit. Residential platform lifts can travel up to 12 metres.

For luxury style living, housebuilders may want to consider a cabin style residential platform lift. This type of lift shares all the quality and aesthetics you would expect from a luxury hotel. The design possibilities are endless as you can choose your desired material and colour for the shaft and cabin.

Small footprint 

One commonality lifts designed for the home share is a small footprint. Unlike the commercial lift, a domestic platform lift does not need to comply with Part M of the Building Regulations. This means there is scope to make a vertical platform lift much smaller than the standard 1400mm by 1100mm size.

For example, a residential style lift can be as compact as 950mm x 1150mm, taking up no more ground space than a standard armchair. The cost of a residential platform lift starts around £12K which in some cases is much cheaper than a bespoke platform style stair riser. The maintenance requirements are the same as a stair lift because they also come under the Machinery Directive – servicing twice a year is recommended (depending on their usage).

Energy efficiency 

Platform lifts are incredibly energy efficient compared to passenger lifts and can help with BREEAM rating. They are either hydraulic, chain driven, screw and nut or in the case of an open style platform lift, battery motorised.

There are many eco home lifts available on the market, however, there is one stand out product which has a motor size of 0.55kW and uses about a quarter of what equivalent lifts might use.

Accessible homes for the future 

The need for accessible homes has been heightened further by the recent pandemic because people are spending more time at home and ease of living is paramount especially if your home is doubling up as an office.

The installation of a platform lift for many is a life-changing experience because it helps to support independent living. Thankfully, there is now a huge range of home lifts which can be made to specification and installed easily.