Choosing a home lift

Steve Hill of Terry Lifts discusses the benefits and specifications for modern home lifts, and what you should consider when futureproofing your home

Whether you are planning a self-build or renovating your home, it’s likely you will want the house to meet your needs now and in the future. 

A good starting point is the Lifetime Homes standards, a series of design criteria compiled to make homes suitable for lifetime use. The guidance addresses topics such as the approach to all entrances and adequate circulation space for wheelchair users.

The standards also recommend provision for a through-floor lift – identifying a space in a suitable location from the ground to the first floor. 

Planning for these features early can help you and your family later in life and it may also improve the desirability of your home if you ever move. 

Design stage 

Many futureproof elements, like a through-floor home lift are best considered and factored in at the design stage, whether you wish to install it now or ensure that the property can accommodate one in the future. Either way, this can save both time and money.

If you are building with a timber frame, for example, your architect and timber frame designer would need to factor in where the through-floor home lift could be installed later. They can design the floor structure to make it simple to cut through the floor in the future – allowing the lift to travel from ground to first floor without compromising the structural integrity of the first floor. 

Which lift? 

Long before the design stage though, it is good to have an idea of the type of home lift you want. A little research early on will make life easier down the line.

Coming in all shapes and sizes, many home lift systems cater for a wide range of mobility issues and accommodate a variety of equipment, from wheelchairs to walking frames. Maintaining safe, smooth and stress-free access allows people to continue with their routine and preserve familiarity e.g. sleep in their bedroom, use upstairs facilities etc. 

What to consider 

Let’s start with a few practical questions. How many passengers does the lift need to carry? Does it need to accommodate a wheelchair user, now or in the future? How many floors does it need to serve? How big is the property and how much space is/can be made available for the lift? Where could the lift be located?

Answering these will help determine the type of lift you will require. 

Space and survey 

While it may seem sensible to focus on your needs when selecting a home lift, space is probably the second most important consideration. A domestic lift system needs a suitable amount of headroom on each floor and early planning can make all the difference.

Many lift suppliers can advise and guide you through the selection process, with most offering a free no-obligation survey. 

The survey can help identify any potential structural changes, for example. Building Control approval is necessary if the installation involves the alteration of the structural integrity of the property such as forming an aperture in a ceiling. 

A reputable lift provider will look after this if they are doing the building work but the obligation to check that the approval is in place rests with you, the purchaser. Good news though, planning permission is not required for the installation of a vertical lift system.

Fire protection 

A through the floor lift requires an opening to be created for the lift to pass through when travelling from floor to floor. This instantly breaks the fire integrity and removes the fire protection of the first-floor structure – potentially enabling fire to move freely between floors. 

To minimise risk, it is crucial that you choose an independently certificated through the floor lift. Look for one that complies with BS 5900:2012 (Powered home lifts with partially enclosed carriers and no lift way enclosures) and is independently tested by an approved Notified Body. A compliant product will maintain the fire and smoke protection between floors, whether it is parked upstairs or downstairs.

Certificated installation 

The installation of a through the floor lift raises some important safety considerations, that’s why it is critical that a compliant home lift is installed by a certificated engineer and electrician. 

To comply with British Standards, a lift must have a dedicated electrical supply and not be plugged into the nearest socket. 

Style and personalisation 

Modern home lifts are not only simple to install, with many fitted within just two days, they’re often an attractive yet practical addition to the home. They can be used for everything – not only giving access to other floors but taking the strain out of heavy lifting – transporting laundry, heavy household appliances, shopping and luggage. 

There’s also plenty of choice to be had. From sleek, slimline home lifts – designed for standing or sitting – through to more spacious options which can accommodate wheelchairs and mobility equipment, and more people.

Many lifts can easily be customised to match your decor perfectly – with your choice of colours, upholstery, flooring and accessories. Some manufacturers also offer different glazing, lighting and door options. 

So, whether it’s for now or later, you’ll be well placed to include a through-floor home lift in your project.

Steve Hill is national sales manager for Terry Lifts