A patch of land was once limited by a person’s tolerance to ascend stairs. The introduction of a zippy “vertical transportation system” in the 1850s broke through that ceiling.
Elevators impacted the value of top-tier single-family homes, too.
The first residential elevator — a counterweight lift — was built for Louis XV for his personal chambers in Versailles. Mansions in the United States in the early 1900s had them. But the biggest push for push-button human hoists happened in the 1980s when public buildings, two-stories or higher, were required to have elevators to comply with guidelines outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Compact hydraulic versions made for commercial building were also a good size for homes.
Home elevators are rising in popularity now as people want to age in place with style. About 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day and as more people stay in their home for life, elevator manufacturers are pumping out more personal-size elevators.
Even so, elevators are still a novelty in homes. Neighborhood kids ask to ride in them. Some adults do too.
This week’s real estate gallery takes us on a ride through properties for sale or recently sold with a trophy feature: a private elevator.
If you haven’t stepped into a home elevator lately, you may be surprised.
Traditional home elevators try their best to look like miniature versions of commercial style elevators you typically see in a high rise building or shopping center. They are hidden behind a door that matches all the other doors in the home. The interior is clad in wood. You push a button, the door closes and you smoothly move up or down. Most residential elevators move at 40 fpm.
But home elevators have received a modern facelift. Now, if you want, you can select a private elevator that is clad in glass, stainless steel or your favorite wood species. With styles of contemporary, classical or a country flair, the creation of a personalized home elevator is limitless.
Developers and homeowners are designing spaces for an elevator shaft and an elevator can be installed later, when an accident, illness or age makes it necessary. When building a new home it is a good ideal to plan for a future elevator by stacking two closets in line with the future option to open the floor and install an elevator.
As an everyday convenience, it makes it very easy to travel safely up and down household floors as well as haul laundry, pets, groceries and other household items in your personal elevator.
Craig Jones, a spokesman for the National Association of Elevator Contractors and a founding partner with Symmetry Elevating Solutions added a couple of motivators: Home builders see that the aging market has the buying power and needs accessible home designs. And architects see that universal home design can create more livable and functional home across all age and need categories.
“The industry saw a major increase in popularity from 2004-2007. Then the housing market crashed and home values dropped and the volume of speculative town homes and condominiums dropped significantly,” says Jones. “In the past year, Symmetry has seen approximately 30 percent increase in residential elevator sales.”
There are two categories of elevators: Traditional and glass. Traditional elevators are powered by hydraulic, electric and counter-weight electric. Electric elevators with modern variable frequency drives are able to mimic the smooth starts and stops that once only hydraulic units could accomplish.
Electric Drive Elevators are less expensive to install and don’t have oil or piston seals that wear out.