According to AARP, more than three-quarters of adults over 50 prefer to age in place rather than move to an older-adult community. Residential elevators allow homeowners with mobility issues to access their entire homes conveniently and comfortably.
But unfortunately, many older Americans don’t consider in-home elevators because they’re intimidated by the elevator installation cost and process. While home elevators are complex systems, getting one installed can be simple and affordable.
Understanding the elevator installation process and how long it takes is an essential part of fitting it into your life and schedule. If you’re considering a home elevator installation, review the steps below to learn what to expect and how to prepare.
Step 1: Choose Your Elevator Contractor
Perhaps the most important part of your project is locating a qualified professional to turn your elevator dream into a reality. You’re likely to find several companies with the skills and experience needed for your project, but making a thorough comparison is crucial to choosing the right one for your installation.
There are specific criteria to consider when selecting a home elevator company, such as their years of experience, the elevator brands they offer, and their credibility through their industry affiliations.
Step 2: Choose Your Elevator
Unless you’re installing an elevator in a new home under construction, the size and style of your home will influence which elevator is right for you. Typically, residential elevators feature one of three different drive systems – inline gear, hydraulic, or winding drum. Some manufacturers offer shaftless elevator and/or pitless elevator options too. The best choice for your home depends on your desired elevator location, the amount of overhead clearance available, and your available space.
Before your contractor can plan your home elevator installation, they’re required to ensure your elevator meets all the necessary building and safety codes enforced in your jurisdiction. It’s important to confirm this information early in the project because it can impact your home elevator choice.
These requirements include:
- Hoistway layout requirements: Regardless of which type of elevator you choose, the hoistway needs to be square, plumb, clear, dry, clean, and built to the required dimensions.
- Woodframe blocking requirements: Work closely with your dealer or contractor to ensure your woodframe blocking meets all established code requirements.
- Minimum pit requirements: Your elevator requires a minimum pit of 8 inches and needs to withstand a specific impact load depending on the type being installed. Again, discuss these specific requirements with your elevator contractor.
- Machine room requirements: Not all home elevator types require a dedicated machine room, but some models do. If your elevator requires one, then your home needs to support a space at the lowest level in your home that is still above the flood zone. The size of this space is traditionally 4-feet-by-4-feet, but can be altered by local codes. Make sure your dealer confirms all local codes before installation. The machine room may be located away from the elevator shaft, but doing so will require additional pipe installation, which will increase your cost.
- Safety requirements: Your contractor needs to ensure specific safety measures are met during installation. For instance, ASME A17.1-2016 code, Section 126.96.36.199.2 specifies the distance between the gate and the sill and between the gate and door of the elevator (no more than 3/4 inch). The gate also needs to be 4 inches or less from the landing door that faces the hoistway.
- Ceiling or floor requirements: These requirements depend on the type of home elevator you and your contractor decide is best. There are options that require minimal construction, with a cutout between floors, all the way to options requiring a full hoistway being constructed. You may be somewhere in the middle, in the 90’s architects began building homes with stacked closets that you can repurpose into a hoistway.
- Electrical requirements: Certain electrical and telecommunications requirements must be met before installation begins. Confirm these specific requirements with your elevator contractor before performing any work. Additional electrical power may be required if you’re having a powered swing door installed on your elevator. The elevator will also need an active telephone line installed.
Step 3: Customize Your Elevator Car
Once you choose your contractor and type of elevator, your next step is customizing the elevator’s car. Here you have the creative freedom to give your project a personal touch. You’ll choose the panels, flooring material, ceiling, lighting, gate or door type, and hardware included in your car. You’ll also choose custom colors and finishes on a wide range of elements to bring it all together.
Step 4: Prepare for Your Elevator’s Arrival
Before your elevator arrives, you or your contractor should create a dedicated space to store it before the installation. The space should be at least 10-by-15 feet, safe, clean, and on the home’s ground level. The elevator should have a clear pathway between it and the hoistway, so it can be moved into position quickly and easily.
Step 5: Prepare for the Installation Process
Understanding how long the installation takes is vital in preparing yourself for the project. Total installation time depends on several factors, some of which you can control and some you can’t. Recognizing the difference is important.
One factor directly impacting the length of your installation that you can’t control is your home’s current design and layout. If your home has stacked closets, your contractor can easily retrofit them for an elevator or lift because their dimensions are usually sized to fit an elevator hoistway’s dimensions. In this case, installation can be much smoother and quicker.
You also won’t be able to control how long it takes the manufacturer to physically construct your elevator car. Depending on your customization choices and specifications, it can take several weeks before your elevator is ready to be shipped to your home. Of course, while you wait for your car to be constructed and delivered, your contractor will build the shaft and hoistway in your home, so progress is still made during this time.
One way you can directly impact the installation’s timeline is by keeping the lines of communication with your contractor open. Having open communication and responding to each other quickly is crucial to minimizing delays and efficiently overcoming issues when they arise.
When everything progresses as expected, a home elevator can usually be installed in two or three days. Your contractor will provide you with an anticipated timeline before starting the installation, so you know what to expect.
Place Your Trust in Your Elevator Contractor
Successful and safe home elevator installations are complex because they require expertise in a variety of skilled trades. However, the process is much easier when you have the right elevator company involved in the project. While some folks might consider purchasing a home elevator kit online and taking on the installation themselves to save money, this is not advised. Read more on why Home Elevators are Not a Do-It-Yourself Project. Find a professional near you using the Symmetry Find a Dealer Form and put your trust in quality and experience.