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Lifeway Mobility Blog

Curved Stair Lifts: Tube Rail vs Flat Rail Track

Posted by John Burfield on 5/25/18 11:09 AM

A curved rail stair lift requires a track that is curved to fit the shape of your staircase. When buying a curved stair lift, it is important to consider which type of track will work best for you.

Basically, there are three types of track for a curved rail stair lift.

  • Hollow Tube Rail
  • Modular Flat Rail
  • Custom Flat railSchedule a Free Consultation

Hollow Tube Design

Depending on the manufacturer, a hollow tube design will feature either one or two tube rails that are custom curved to fit the contour of your stair case. One advantage of the tube rail design is that it can be less expensive than lifts with a quality flat rail track. This is due to several characteristics of the hollow tube track. For one, hollow rail track tends to be less rigid and therefore have a smaller weight capacity than flat rail track. Secondly, the gears on hollow tube designs are typically exposed which can cause some concern. Exposed gears mean a higher chance of getting a limb or piece of clothing caught in the gear rack. This can be especially worrisome if young children live in or visit the home. Manufacturers such Savaria, Stannah, Harmar and Handicare use tubed rail designs. Due to its custom bend, a tube design curved rail will likely take 2-4 weeks to be fabricated by the manufacturer.


Modular Flat Rail

Beware of modular flat rail track designs. This type of flat rail is not custom made by the manufacturer. This type of flat rail uses many small modular pieces of track that are assembled on site to fit the curves of your stair case. This means it is not a precise fit and the chair must travel over many more joints than a custom curved flat rail which results in a bumpy and uneven ride. This type of track also requires the chair to utilize a mechanism that regulates speed and pitch over these joints resulting in varying speeds and a choppy ride. The only advantages to a modular flat rail is a lower cost and quicker installation since the rail is not custom made for your stairs.  As they say, “You get what you pay for” and that is certainly the case with this type of rail.




Custom Flat Rail Design

Bruno Independent Living Aid’s flat rail design is custom curved by the manufacturer in the factory to have a precise fit for your stair case. This is done using measurements taken by a special photo system during the evaluation process. Flat rail is typically stronger and more durable than tubed rail and the gear rack is hidden by a flange on the track. This means it is safer than the exposed gears of a tubed rail. A quality flat rail also has a higher weight capacity of 400 lbs. but like a tube rail design, a custom flat rail will take 2-4 weeks to be fabricated by the manufacturer. While Bruno’s unique flat rail design may cost more than other tubed rail and modular rail models on the market, it allows for a smoother and more precise ride with a consistent speed and is money well spent.



Final Thoughts

When buying a curved stair lift, it may be tempting to go for the least expensive option with the quicker installation turnaround. However, spending the extra money and waiting to to have a custom curved rail fabricated is well worth it.  It allows for a smoother and more precise ride with a consistent speed and is makes for a more enjoyable experience all around.


Topics: Accessibility, Aging-In-Place, Accessibility Equipment, Customer Questions, Stair Lift, Independent Living, Mobility, Safety, Product FAQ