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Gaining access to a contemporary style home, HOW?

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  • Gaining access to a contemporary style home, HOW?

    I'm a T-5 para, about 7 years post, and my GF is mobility challenged due to various medical issues, including extreme obesity (she is in the 4-500lb range) and has extreme difficulty with stairs. At home she mostly gets around by paddle walking a bariatric manual chair. I use a power chair by preference, but mostly use a manual chair at home...

    When I first got hurt, as what we thought would be a short term solution, we moved our king-size bed into what would normally be a kid-bedroom, and made the first floor bath accessible by replacing the tub with a roll-in shower.... We had dreams of doing an addition to put in a home elevator in order to get access back to the basement and master bedroom on the 2nd floor...

    However the GF has had a problem of periodic unemployment that keeps eating the money we had been saving to do the addition with.

    Our house would be beautiful if we kept it up better, but it is the 'house from hell' to work on or do any modifications to, as it is a contemporary design, sort of like a ski chalet, with a 12/12 pitch roof, and almost nothing that gives a straight shot from basement to 2nd floor without going through living areas on the first floor...

    Since it didn't look like we were going to be able to do the addition, I recently started looking at inclined platform lifts, but the one tentative quote we have gotten was for "at least" US $25K EACH for a Savarian lift. The dealers we talked to said they didn't think the Harmar lifts would work for us because of the GF's weight. I haven't gotten a quote for a Garaventa lift (assuming they are available where we live) but would be surprised if they were a lot less...

    The only place I can see inside the house where an elevator might work would be to rip out the existing straight staircases (which are above each other) and put an elevator in their place - but as I understand the building codes, this wouldn't be allowed...

    One idea I've thought of, is whether it would be acceptable in terms of codes to replace the straight stairs with spiral staircases, which would give enough room to have an elevator next to them?

    Any ideas or suggestions?

    I have some partial floor plans I could post if that would help any...

    T-5 ASIA-B para, currently working on building own power chair, as being in a manual is an EXTRA handicap.

  • #2
    Please don’t be offended, but you do what’s best for you. If the g/f has to sleep downstairs than that’s a choice she makes.

    I see lots of used stair climbers on sites ... is that an option?
    Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12


    • #3
      I think the types of mods you would need to do would wreck resale value of home. I would tend to sell house and look for a ranch house.


      • #4
        Hmm... Not sure why, but even though I checked the send me alerts about responses, I didn't get them... Sorry for the delay.

        Lynnifer - we are both sleeping downstairs, and it has been miserable doing so for 7+ years... I'm sick and tired of only being able to access 1/3 of our house!

        The chair lifter is totally a non-starter, we actually own one, and it is just about the most useless piece of equipment we own... I am the 'stubbornly independent' sort, so a device that requires an attendant is pretty much non-useful, especially one that requires use of a 'transport' grade manual chair. The few times we tried using the one we owned (it was donated to us) the GF found she didn't have the coordination needed to work it safely. We tried traveling with ours, and found it was so heavy we could barely get it in and out of the van, and most of the stairs we tried it on didn't really work well, as it won't go around corners, or handle thresholds.... I'm not surprised to hear that there are lots of them advertised, as IMHO the device is far more useful as a concept than it is in actual use...

        AncientGimp - I'll admit we haven't done a huge effort to investigate, but the house is in a condition such that we could really only sell it as a "handyman special", so I very much doubt that we could get enough for it to move into a comparable ranch... I actually was in favor of doing a home swap when I first got hurt, but got massive pushback from the GF and her family (and she is the one that owns the home) with the insistence that we could make this house accessible...

        What I suspect is that the house would be difficult to sell even if it were in perfect shape, as it is only one of about a dozen 'contemporary' style homes in the entire town. Making it into a "Handicap Accessible" home might actually make it MORE valuable, and salable as a unique feature.... At any rate, I don't see moving as an option for several reasons...

        T-5 ASIA-B para, currently working on building own power chair, as being in a manual is an EXTRA handicap.


        • #5
          Stairlifts are different than what you have. Acorn has one rated to 350 lbs, other brands might handle more. Acorn might be able to push the 350 limit too.

          I have had periodic paralysis all my life. I lost my ability to walk in 2011 beginning with a spinal block, which was used for a hip fracture caused by periodic paralysis.


          • #6
            Both these incline platform lifts on ebay have a 500 limit.




            • #7
              Hmmm.... Perhaps some definitions are in order...

              I see a 'chair lifter' as a somewhat portable device that hooks onto the back of a chair and allows an attendant to boost a user in a wheelchair up and down stairs with power assist. - it is not permanently attached to a staircase.

              A stair-lift is a motorized seat that rides up and down on a track attached to a stairway. It requires a wheelchair user to transfer from the wheelchair to the seat at each end, and presumably either requires that a wheelchair be located at each end, (if it gets moved the user is stuck...) or that the user somehow carry the chair with him.

              An inclined platform lift has a flat platform (most fold to vertical when not in use) that rides on a track, but allows the user to drive a wheelchair onto it, and travel in the chair and roll off on the other end.

              I see the inclined platform lift as the only option that really works well for a person that is in a wheelchair because of inability to walk...

              Thanks for the links Tonyy, I have seen the Harmar lifts, but not the 'New Line product' lift, which might be a better fit from at least a cost standpoint...

              Last edited by ex-Gooserider; 11-08-2017, 10:08 PM. Reason: fix carriage returns
              T-5 ASIA-B para, currently working on building own power chair, as being in a manual is an EXTRA handicap.


              • #8
                Have you looked into an unenclosed "through floor lift" or a barn elevator


                Back in the 80's up north ppl would reassemble a fork lift in the basement to have access


                • #9
                  Have you looked into an unenclosed "through floor lift" or a barn elevator
                  It was one of my first thoughts, but the design of the house is such that it isn't possible - the floor plan of the master suite on the 2nd floor is such that there is no 'straight shot' from the basement to the 2nd floor that doesn't end up in the middle of one of the first floor rooms or the middle of the master suite...

                  The only exception is where the staircases are, but code wouldn't let us just rip those out and put in an elevator, which is why I was wondering about doing spiral stairs in one half the staircase opening and an elevator in the other half back in my first post.

                  T-5 ASIA-B para, currently working on building own power chair, as being in a manual is an EXTRA handicap.


                  • #10
                    Somewhere I have read about a contractor that built an elevator shaft on the outside of the house that opens to the inside of the house on both the first and second floors. I haven't had any luck finding the reference.


                    • #11
                      Costs go beyond the elevator and remodeling the side of house. Other costs may include reinforcing the foundation and roof and upgrading the electricity service. You're talking $50K minimum and more likely $100K. You'd pay less to move to a single story house and also be much happier. Then there's reliability. Elevators are notorious for failing. Just hope you're on the ground floor. But what if you're on the second floor during failure? Or worse, what if you're inside? A person in a wheelchair would require a pretty good service contract for an elevator. The elevator companies often sell elevators at cost just to get the service contract, which is their bread and butter. Service contracts are necessary and expensive.
                      Last edited by August West; 11-10-2017, 07:40 PM.


                      • #12
                        Here is a "This Old House" segment on outside house elevator installation. Only the second story opens directly into the house, but a contractor may be able to figure something out.


                        You will find more ideas if you search "elevator installed on outside of a house" in a search engine with images.
                        Last edited by gjnl; 11-10-2017, 06:56 PM.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gjnl View Post
                          Somewhere I have read about a contractor that built an elevator shaft on the outside of the house that opens to the inside of the house on both the first and second floors. I haven't had any luck finding the reference.
                          There are several of these on the market, usually called "vertical lifts" rather than elevators...some enclosed, some not. I would expect in MA you would want one that is enclosed though. None are cheap. Most home elevators do have a battery back-up system for power failures though. Here are some examples:






                          Here is a good overview of options, and their costs:


                          Ex-Goose, I would also caution you that spiral staircases don't meet code for fire safety in many jurisdictions.

                          I agree you would probably do better to sell your current home and purchase a single level home instead.

                          The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.


                          • #14
                            Batteries enable power during black outs. They don't mitigate all electrical failures nor mechanical failures.


                            • #15
                              Vertical porch/platform lifts with an enclosure is what most people use. When you start talking elevators you're talking a huge amount of money, which are typically used in commercial buildings. I have Bruno platform lift going to my basement which is an 8' model. But, they are painfully slow, some are really noisy, and can conk out at anytime. I tend to avoid going into my basement.