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Which Custom Curved Stair Lift Rail is Best for Me? Tube Rail vs. Flat Rail

Posted on by John Burfield

curved-stairlift-rails-Bruno-Handicar-or-Harmar

A curved rail stair lift requires a track that is curved to fit the shape of your staircase. There are several different types of curved rail. When buying a curved stair lift, it is important to consider the pros and cons of each type of track.

There are three types of track styles/designs for a curved rail stair lift.

  • Hollow Tube Rail
  • Modular Flat Rail
  • Custom Flat rail

Hollow Tube Rail

Depending on the manufacturer, a hollow tube design will feature either one or two tube rails that are curved using a pipe bender 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 custom 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 have more flex than a custom steel flat rail. Therefore this type of rail has a smaller weight capacity (typically < 275 lbs.), than a custom flat rail track.

Secondly, the gear rack 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.

Hollow tube rails also offer a smoother and faster ride than modular flat rail, but have a slower and less consistent than a custom flat rail.

Pros

- Less expensive than custom flat rail
- Smoother, faster ride than modular flat rail

Cons

- Lower weight capacity than custom flat rail
- Exposed gear rack

Modular Flat Rail

Beware of curved stair lifts with modular flat rail track designs!! This type of flat rail is not custom made by the manufacturer and instead uses many smaller modular pieces of track that are assembled on site to try and 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 is typically made of aluminum and has a lower weight capacity (266 lbs.) than a custom flat rail. Since the track is not custom and must travel over many modular joints, the chair must utilize a mechanism that regulates speed and pitch over these joints resulting in varying speeds and a slower ride than with tube and custom flat rail chair lifts.

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. But, as they say, “You get what you pay for”, and that is certainly the case with this type of rail.

Pros

- Less expensive than custom flat or tubed rail
- Quicker installation

Cons

- Slow, inconsistent, choppy ride
- Lower weight capacity than custom flat rail

Custom Flat Rail

Bruno-IndoorCurveBruno's custom 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 custom 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 the fastest and most consistent speed (25 feet per minute).

Pros

- Custom curved for a smoothest ride
- Faster than tubed and modular rail lifts
- Highest weight capacity at 400 lbs.
- Gear rack is not exposed
- Sits closer to the wall, taking up less stairway space

Cons

- Typically more expensive
- Longer installation lead time

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 and is money well spent. It allows for a safer, smoother and more precise ride with a consistent speed and is makes for a more enjoyable experience all around.



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