Ramps Lifts Stairs

Main differences between ramps, lifts and stairs

Ramps, Lifts and Stairs are all methods of getting from one level of a building to another.

You must use one of these three building components, a ramp, a lift or a stair, but how do you know which method is best?

Read on to discover the basic definitions of each and what makes them all so different at performing the same function.


Ramps are useful in their own right as they allow access for wheeled items such as wheel chairs and trolleys but they take up a great deal of room. They have certain angles or gradients (usually 1:12) that make them possible to be used by those who are wheelchair bound or if pushing objects such as trolleys without struggling to do so. To get to any height the length of the ramp must be obtained by multiplying the height by 12. For example to rise 1 foot you need a twelve foot ramp which is why they tend to take up a great deal of room. If you wanted to ramp up to the second storey in a house you would need about 108 feet of ramp ( ie 13 feet at 1:12 =108) which in most cases is impractical. The 1:12 gradient is mandatory in most countries for disabled wheel chair access, which is why I have used these examples.


Lifts do the same and are fast people movers but are relatively expensive to install and run. They are also dangerous to use in case of an emergency, as they are a mechanical machine that is subject to failure in some circumstances. An average commercial lift over two or three floors can cost upwards of $100,000 and they have to be certified and maintained. Domestic lifts are somewhat cheaper but still far more expensive than the stair, which is still required for safety as well.

ramps, lifts and stairs - Stairs often become and architectural feature of a building

Stairs often become an architectural feature of a building.


Stairs of course are the most economic and practical for the majority of uses. They come in many designs and sizes and finishes. They are very adaptable to the building into which they must go and they can be made (and should be made) into architectural features. This website focuses on the staircase – a major component of any two or more level building and is part of the interiordezine.com, interior design and decorating network.

Note: The difference between a step and a stair

A step is the portion of movement that changes height by a single riser where as a stair is the change in height or elevation of two or more risers.


More Information about Stairs

Stair Design Photos

Stair Information

Stair Construction

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