A stairclimber hand truck – or stair climbing dolly – is a machine for moving loads and goods up and down stairs. Stair climber hand trucks for goods are not to be confused with stair climbers for wheelchairs, which are used to carry people with impaired movement or disabilities, such as the elderly, up and down stairs. If you are looking for a stair climber for disabled people please see our stair climbers for wheelchairs:
This article is a guide to moving goods on stairs and shows the differences between the various types of stair climber hand trucks to help you choose the one that best suits your needs.
If you have moved house, for example, you have probably had to move various items up and down stairs, some of which may have been heavy and bulky, such as:
- Furniture – cupboards or sofas,
- Domestic appliances – refrigerators, boilers or washing machines.
- Musical instruments – pianos
When carrying goods up and down stairs, it is best to use a stairclimber hand truck. But not all stair climbers are the same, and there are various types. In this article we will talk about the differences between stairclimber hand trucks for stairs with wheels and stair climbing dollies with tracks.
For more information about choosing stair climbing dollies, we recommend you read our post “How do I find the right stair climbing dolly?”
Types of stairclimbers – how many types are there?
Stairclimber hand trucks can be divided into four main groups:
- Stairclimber hand trucks with wheels
- Stairclimber hand trucks with tracks
- Manually operated stairclimbers
- Electric stair climber hand trucks
Stairclimber hand trucks with wheels – the most economical and common type
Wheeled stairclimbers may have two or three wheels. They can be operated either manually or electrically (motorized).
The wheels are normally made of rubber. Stair climbers with wheels are most suitable for moving light loads on stairs, such as washing machines.
Wheeled stairclimbers have several advantages over tracked stair climbers:
- They are normally more economical than tracked stair climbers
- They tend to be lighter than tracked stair climbers, and are therefore easy to transport
- They can be used to move goods on spiral and helical staircases
The main problem with this type of stair climber is their lack of stability. This means they can be used to move light goods, but not heavy or bulky goods.
A tracked stair climber, especially if motorized, is much safer and more stable than a wheeled stair climber.
Remember: If you use a stairclimber hand truck with wheels to move goods on stairs, you need to keep the load balanced on every step when going up (or down) the stairs.
This is especially true in the case of manually operated stair climber hand trucks, whether they have two or three wheels. With these stair climbers, the weight of the load is moved and balanced solely by the physical strength of the person operating them.
This can be dangerous, because the goods can fall off while being moved. Using a manually operated stair climber is a risk to the safety and security of the people moving the goods, or the people on the stairs.
Furthermore, using manually operated wheeled stair climbers for moving very heavy goods can cause damage to the goods while moving them.
How many times has furniture been damaged while being moved up and down stairs during a move?
Often the damage is caused by the fact that the furniture is not moved with a safe stairclimber hand truck. In fact it is dangerous to move heavy or bulky furniture on stairs using a wheeled stair climber, especially if it is not motorized.
This is why manually operated wheeled stair climbers are no longer used by logistics, removals and delivery firms.
Many insurance companies will not cover damage to people or goods moved up or down stairs using a manually operated stairclimber hand truck.
Furthermore, as we will see below, there are specific international standards regulating weight limits when using manually operated stair climbers.
Stairclimber hand trucks with tracks – optimal load stability when moving up and down stairs
Tracked stairclimber hand trucks can carry loads weighing up to 400 kg (approx. 881 lbs) They are therefore suitable for carrying very heavy goods.
If you need to move a heavy domestic appliance, such as a large refrigerator, a photocopier or a vending machine, a stairclimber hand truck with tracks is the most suitable type of stair climber. The same goes for moving other heavy goods on stairs, such as safes, pianos, stoves, winches and even statues.
Tracked stair climbers are normally electric. This means that the weight of the load is moved by the electric motor, not by physical strength.
When the load weighs more than 100 kg (approx 220 pounds) it is always advisable to use an electric stairclimber hand truck with tracks.
These stairclimbers remain exceptionally stable, even on uneven steps such as outdoor stone steps, but also on stairs with very high steps.
A tracked stairclimber is also always preferable when moving loads up a very long staircase, because there is no need to keep the load balanced while it is being moved.
Practically eliminates the risk of damage to your health and to the goods you are moving.
These are the advantages of tracked stair climbers over wheeled stair climbers:
- A load capacity of up to 881 pounds
- Greater load stability on the stairs
- Easier movement on stairs with higher steps
- Suitable for moving goods on very long, steep and uneven stairs, including outdoors, as tracks have better grip than wheels
- Reduced risk of loads falling
- Reduced risk of damage to people
There are two main disadvantages of tracked stair climbers:
- the price, which is normally higher than for wheeled stair climbers
- the bigger bulk, which needs to be transported in a van
But don’t the tracks damage the stairs?
The answer is that this depends on the rubber mix used for the tracks. Over the last 20 years the Zonzini Lab has developed a special non-marking, non-slip, scratch-proof mix that does not damage stairs. And this goes for any type of stairs and for any load weighing up to 400 Kg.
The importance of international standards for lifting and handling manual loads on stairs
The ISO 11228-1:2003 and ISO/TR 12295:2014 standards regulate the manual handling, ergonomics, lifting and carrying of manual loads.
These international standards state that, in order to avoid damage to health, in particular to the spine and joints:
- Men aged between 20 and 45 should not carry loads weighing more than 25 kg (approx. 55 pounds)
- Women aged between 20 and 45 anni, and men over the age of 45, should not carry loads weighing more than 20 kg (approx. 44 pounds)
These standards also apply to carrying goods on stairs.
This means that if you have to carry a load weighing more than 25 Kg (approx. 55 pounds), you should use an electric stair climber (with wheels or tracks), but not a manually operated stair climbing hand truck.
Wheeled or tracked – Zonzini electric stair climbers
We have been manufacturing electric stair climbers for over 40 years that now sell worldwide.
In 2018 we set up the Zonzini Lab, where we design and make the prototypes of all our stair climbers for goods and stair climbers for wheelchairs. Innovation and safety when moving loads up and down stairs are the principles underlying our company.
Domino Automatic and Skipper – our tracked stairclimbers
The Domino Automatic electric stair climber is a powerhouse of technology. The ideal solution for carrying heavy and bulky goods weighing up to 400 Kg on stairs.
It is called Automatic because it resolves some of the most critical issues of carrying goods on stairs totally automatically. You just press a button and the load is automatically tilted while travelling up or down stairs.
This means the goods are perfectly balanced while being carried, ensuring maximum safety for both the load and the operator.
Domino Automatic is a stair climbing robot. A single operator can carry loads weighing up to 400 Kg effortlessly.
It is equipped with an electric motor, with independent tracks, and therefore can be manoeuvred easily even on spiral or helical staircases.
Unlike many other tracked stair climbing dollies on the market, Domino Automatic can rotate 360 degrees. This means the load can be easily manoeuvred on stair landings, in maximum safety and stability.
Skipper is the ideal solution if you need to move large goods that cannot be transported upright on stairs, such as doors and windows, which normally can only be moved horizontally, i.e. parallel to the steps.
Skipper has a load capacity of 350 Kg ((approx. 771 pounds) and is perfectly suited to carrying heavy loads. Loads can also be tilted at a variety of angles to the stairs.
Together with its high level of stability during operation, these features led to Skipper being chosen by London Underground. Skipper is the only stair climber in the world to have been approved for use by London Underground. See this powered stair climber in action
The tracks on our motorized stairclimbers are made from a special mix of rubber that does not damage the staircase.
Buddy and Buddy Lift – our two-wheeled (electric) stair climbing dollies
Buddy and Buddy Lift are our wheeled stair climbing dollies. Both have an electric motor. Buddy Lift is probably the best stair climbing dolly in the world when it comes to carrying “light” domestic appliances such as washing machines or refrigerators. The load lifted electrically, so you can load and unload your washing machine by yourself.
The electric lifting system means a single operator can load and unload the washing machine directly from the van and take it to the top of the stairs of a building. It has a foldable structure, and is easy to transport. The feet automatically position themselves when moving up and down stairs.
Both stair climbers are fitted with two non-marking wheels and front stabilizers.
They also have a weight sensor which automatically manoeuvres the stair climber when traveling down stair
Buddy and Buddy Lift stair climbing dollies can climb steps as high as 26 cm. There are two versions, one with a load capacity of up to 120 Kg (approx. 264 pounds), and the other with a load capacity of up to 160 Kg.(approx. 352 pounds)
Stairclimber hand trucks with wheels are more economical than stair climbers with tracks. They are also lighter and more easy to transport. Electric stair climbers with wheels are the ideal solution for moving light goods weighing up to 100 Kg, such as washing machines or dishwashers.
Manually operated wheeled stair climbers can only be used to transport very light loads weighing up to 25 Kg. They are not recommended, as the load has to be kept balanced using only physical effort. The risk of damage to people or goods is much higher than with a motorized stair climber. Another thing to bear in mind is that ISO 12298 and TR ISO 12295 standards set a weight limit on the manual handling of loads, beyond which an electric stair climber may be mandatory to comply with laws on health and safety in the workplace.
Wheeled stair climbers are not suitable for transporting heavy goods on stairs, such as furniture, vending machines and many types of industrial goods.
In such cases a stair climber with tracks would be ideal. Tracked stair climbers have better grip and are also suitable for very steep, irregular stairs, including outdoor steps.