Page Reviewed / Updated – January 05, 2021

For anyone with mobility issues, enjoying the outdoors may be restricted because of obstacles such as cement or wooden patio stairs, rocky ground or a sloped yard. Installing a stair lift outside makes it possible for adults with mobility limitations to enjoy the outdoors, visit the garden or make it out to the driveway for a car trip or excursion. Outdoor stair lifts work much like indoor stair lifts, but they are manufactured to withstand outdoor elements.

An outdoor stair lift allows homeowners to join the family for a barbecue on the veranda, sit out by their rose garden or even ride down a steep, winding stairway leading to a dock on the lake. These specially installed lifts remove the feeling of being a prisoner in their home and provide freedom for those less mobile to go where they want in their yard. Outdoor stair lifts also relieve seniors from having to use stairs that are wet, icy or snowy in the winter, preventing dangerous falls.

Read this helpful guide to learn about the options for purchasing and installing an outdoor stair lift.

Outdoor Stair Lifts Have Many Uses

An outdoor stair lift isn’t limited to the front entrance of a home. There are many applications for an outdoor lift to allow a homeowner to travel freely around their yard and property. One common use is to install a lift on stairs that go up and down a patio, porch or deck. Other areas include the following:

  • Garden areas
  • Steps down to a picnic spot
  • Uneven or rocky paths through a wooded area
  • Steps for a basement with an outdoor entryway
  • Steps that lead to a dock or pier
  • A long sloped driveway

Outdoor stair lifts, like indoor lifts, are also available for straight, curved or multi-level configurations. Custom technicians install them, creating a plan to work around the terrain and any obstacles. They can be used all year as they’re built to handle a wide temperature range and withstand many weather conditions.

What to Look for In an Outdoor Stair Lift

When looking to purchase an outdoor stair lift system, there are several factors to consider. It’s important to check for the materials used to manufacture each lift assembly. Unlike indoor stair lifts, these lifts must be weatherproofed and have proper seals to protect water and dirt from getting into the motor or gears.

  • The guide rail: Guide rails are typically made of aluminum or steel. Hollow extruded aluminum is less prone to corrosion and the preferred material for guide rails. Be sure the rail system is made with thick metal. Thinner metal saves the manufacturer money but may bend or crimp rendering the lift inoperable. Look for an anodized finish on the guide rail, which is a chemical surface treatment for aluminum that creates a stronger metal.
  • The carriage: The carriage drives the chair up and down the guide rail and should be made from steel not aluminum. The pressure of lifting the user up and down the rail while possibly handling turns or curves is too great to trust aluminum, especially for the die castings used for the chassis. Rollers glide the chair along the rail and need to have sealed ball bearings for durable use. Stay clear of a lift made with plastic rollers without bearings. A quality lift will have 12 rollers but cheaper stair lifts may have only eight.
  • The seat and cover: The seat should be made from marine-grade materials to withstand fluctuating temperatures and UV sunlight exposure. It should be able to swivel, making getting on and off the chair safer and easier. The seat covers are important to keep the seat dry and protect it from dirt and debris. Covers need to be waterproof and fit properly so they don’t get blown off with the wind. Most covers protect the seat and hang low enough to also protect the motor. Heated outdoor chair lifts keep the seat and motor warm. The seat, armrests and footrest should all fold for storage when not in use.
  • Controls: Outdoor stair lifts need to have controls at the top of the lift and the bottom to make it easy to call or send back the chair. The remote controls can also be used to bring the chair back and are either infra-red or work on a radio frequency. The problem with infra-red is the remote control has to be in the line-of-sight with the controller under the carriage. Remotes that work on radio frequency are similar to a car fob and can communicate with the controller through obstacles including windows or walls.

Installation and service: Outdoor stair lifts often come in multiple colors to match your outside landscape, and when working with a consultant, be sure they know the property and where the stair lift needs to be installed. Outdoor lift installation presents challenges not encountered when installing inside stair lifts. It may be tempting to try a DIY outdoor stair lift system, buts it’s not recommended. These systems are complex and are meant to move people safely up and down the stairs. Check the installation and after-sales service provided to be sure the reseller will address any breakdowns or problems promptly.

Warranties: Warranties normally include two years on parts and one year for labor costs. A lifetime warranty on the motor and gearbox is typical but ask about what this encompasses. Like indoor stair lifts, outdoor stair lifts need to be inspected regularly. They require inspections and service more than once a year due to unseen wear or corrosion caused by weather conditions.

For people with mobility restraints, access to the outside is an important reason for having an outdoor stair lift installed. Whether needing a cane or walker or if the person is confined to a wheelchair, a lift outdoors on their property allows them to enjoy activities and events and to remain active.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What temperatures can outdoor stair lifts be used in?

Most outdoor stair lifts operate from 0 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

How much of an incline can they be installed on?

Most stair lifts cannot handle anything steeper than a 50-degree angle.

Do outdoor stair lifts come with batteries?

They do not usually have batteries. They work on electricity and need to be near an electrical outlet or hard-wired.

Can the remote call the stair lift up or down when the cover is on the seat?

The remote works only if it’s on radiofrequency. Infrared cannot penetrate a cover.

How much does an outdoor stair lift cost?

Outdoor stair lifts are more expensive than indoor lifts. A starting price for the lift is around $5,000 to $6,000, and curved or custom installations with long stairs begin to push the price upwards of $10,000 and higher for a unit and complete installation.