Multiple levels can present challenges for people living with disabilities. There are a number of modifications to consider if this is your situation. 

Key considerations: amount of access residents require to upper or basement floors, how ambulatory the resident is, presence of other caregivers for transfers or doing activities on other floors

Typical modifications and cost ranges:

  • Stairlift, straight run ($4000 - $5000), with a curve ($10,000-$12,000)
  • Elevator, starting at $15,000 plus cost of construction, with overall costs ranging from $30,000-$45,000
  • Relocating laundry to main floor, starting at $500
  • Constructing a bedroom (wall and interior door) on a main floor, starting at $2000

Assessing your Options Back to Top

Creating one-floor living remains the most effective way to manage the challenges of homes with multiple floors and stairs between them.

If you need to live on multiple levels, movement between these levels brings up several key considerations. 

  • You will want to arrange things to minimize the frequency of your movement between levels and maximize the amount of one-floor living you can do.
  • You will need to consider your ability to transfer in and out of a stairlift.
  • You will need to consider whether you will have caregivers who can help you with these transfers, and do other things like laundry or retrieving items from different floors. 

Typical modifications to homes having multiple levels include creating a bedroom on the main floor, relocating the washer and dryer to the main floor, and installing a stair-lift or elevator.

If your living space is located in a basement, it is important to make sure it is accessible both within the home (i.e. it has sufficient room for circulation and interior doorways), and from outside the suite (access to the living space itself). More than once, well-meaning families or contractors have built internally accessible suites with no safe way in or out.

Before making a decision about stairlifts, elevators or vertical lifts, it is wise to consider the long-term outlook of your disability. Is yours a progressive situation in which a stairlift will work for a few years but, ultimately, an elevator or main-floor living will be required?  Weigh the short-term costs and benefits versus those of the long term before investing in a solution. 

Stairlifts Back to Top

A photograph of an interior stair lift in a stairway with carpet. A residential stairlift
A residential stairlift

Interior stairlifts can be an effective solution if you are able to transfer between assistive devices and the stairlift. 

When considering the installation of a stairlift, an assessment by an occupational therapist is recommended. Many factors will be considered. These include: 

  • the time it takes to transfer between a wheelchair and the stairlift, at both ends;
  • the amount of effort it takes you to make the transfer (whether independently, with the aid of a caregiver or by using a mechanical lift);
  • whether you have the ability to remain in a safe, upright position for the duration using only a seat belt;
  • whether you can operate the lift independently; and
  • whether you need separate mobility devices at both ends of the staircase.

Stairlift pricing varies based on several factors:

  • Design of the stairs – whether they run in one direction from one floor to another without a turn, or incorporate a change in direction with a mid-way landing, or are curved. 
  • Options desired – for example, extra capacity to accommodate heavier weights.
  • Installation costs – always confirm whether installation is included in the price of the lift.
  • Electrical outlets may need to be installed, potentially adding to the cost.

Elevators and Vertical Lifts Back to Top

Elevators and vertical lifts are both the most expensive and universally usable option for solving multi-floor living challenges.

Elevator costs range substantially depending on a home’s design, but typically begin at approximately $30,000 and can reach $40,000 or more.

In many cases, space can be found in a home to install an elevator shaft, and there are new products on the market, including a small profile vertical lift that can be installed in a smaller space than is needed for a traditional elevator.

Home features such as stacked closets can lend themselves to elevator installations and are recommended to be included in new builds if there is an anticipation of the need for an elevator. This way you can ensure that the potential elevator site is built to elevator shaft specifications.

Additions to the exterior of the home also can be used to accommodate elevators. The best way for you to find out if an external elevator is viable with your home is to combine the expertise of an elevator vendor and an experienced contractor.

You can also use inclined platform lifts (also known as platform stair lifts) to transport a wheelchair and yourself up and down a staircase. Inclined lifts can be a good solution in situations where there is sufficient staircase width and head clearance, as well as funding for the investment. 

Safety Back to Top

It is extremely important that you consider emergency evacuation in your decision-making. Main-floor living dramatically reduces the time to exit in an emergency.