A house elevator might seem like a substantial investment, but the truth is having an elevator installed in your home doesn’t cost as much as you may think. In fact, depending on the type of residential lift or elevator you choose, you may not even have to alter your home’s basic layout or floor plan.
An elevator is an investment that dramatically improves your quality of life, especially if you need help navigating different floors.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything that goes into purchasing the right elevator for your home, from comparing the different types of elevators available to what to look for in your warranty.
Common Types of Home Elevators
The most common types of house elevators are hydraulic, machine room-less (often referred to as inline gear drive), winding drum, and shaftless. The amount of space required for installation and how much your elevator costs will differ depending on which drive type and location you choose, as well as your customization preferences.
Hydraulic elevators feature a hydraulic pump connected to a piston and pulley arrangement. A series of brackets hold the rail structure, which is connected to the pedestal and supports the piston. Two steel cables are anchored to the elevator shaft floor and stretch around the pulley at the top. The cables then attach to the bottom of the L-shaped sling below the car. If you want the smoothest ride possible from your elevator, then a hydraulic elevator is one of your best options.
Machine Room-Less Elevators
When space is a consideration, machine room-less elevators, equipped with an inline gear drive, provide an excellent solution. While traditional house elevators require a machine room or closet at the lowest level of the elevator system, a machine room-less elevator utilizes a mechanical gearbox at the top of the elevator shaft to raise and lower the elevator car. With no need for a machine room, a machine room-less elevator can be installed in smaller spaces.
Winding Drum Elevators
Winding drum home elevators use a more traditional drive system similar to a revolving winch. With this type of elevator, an electric motor winds the cable around a drum, with the car being raised or lowered depending on the motor’s directional rotation. This is a popular drive choice when considering an in-house elevator because the drum and motor can be placed at the top or bottom of the hoistway.
The pneumatic vacuum elevator is one of the newest types of home elevators. This elevator type is innovative because it doesn’t require cables, chains, pistons, or counterweights. Instead, it features a tube-shaped hoistway that maintains specific atmospheric pressures above and below the car. The car lifts and lowers when the pressure above or below the car changes.
Shaftless elevators are compact elevator systems designed for travel between two floors without the need for an enclosure. Capable of fitting into extremely tight spaces, shaftless elevators operate with “push and hold” buttons, which must be held down to keep the car in motion. A winding drum drive is typically used to move the car between floors. Without the need for an enclosure, the shaftless elevator is typically a quicker install with fewer installation costs.
Standard home elevators require a hoistway extending into a pit below the lowest level the elevator services. This pit, required to accommodate the height of the L-shaped sling, may be between 8-14 inches deep and can be difficult or expensive to excavate. In some cases, elevator pits can be avoided. Pitless elevators do not require any costly excavation, and typically employ an inline gear drive or winding drum drive at the top of the hoistway.
Choosing a Location for Your Elevator
The location of your elevator is as important as the type of lift you choose. Luckily, you can easily add most home elevators to your existing floor plan. However, the location you desire may impact your elevator options.
For the greatest convenience, try to install the elevator near your home’s stairs because this location is usually structurally reinforced. It also allows you to meet the person taking the stairs at the top. Another critical aspect to consider is where you want to enter and exit the elevator. For instance, do you want the elevator to take you from the garage to the living area, from the living area to an upper hall near a bedroom, or from lower levels in the home to the upper levels?
Think about your home’s layout and where you most often travel through it and use this as the starting point when choosing the most convenient location for your new elevator. In cases where location or space may prevent larger elevator installations, pitless or shaftless elevators may be an ideal solution.
Choosing the Functional Elements of Your Elevator
In addition to considering the type of drive system desired, you’ll also need to consider a few other functional elements, such as choosing the doors or gates desired for your elevator. Options include sliding doors, collapsible gates (previously known as “scissor” gates), and accordion doors. You can also choose between doors that open/close manually or automatically.
Another element to consider is the type of car opening you want. Standard cars feature a single opening, but, with dual opposing doors and 90-degree openings available, you have different enter/exit configurations available to suit your unique needs.
Customizing Your Elevator
Your home elevator should fit the design aesthetic of your home and reflect your style. Getting it right from the start ensures you’re satisfied with your elevator and that you enjoy it for years to come. Customizing your elevator allows you to create a one-of-a-kind unit that serves your wants and needs. It also impacts your home elevator’s total cost, so keep your budget in mind when making your choices.
Below are several elements you can customize:
- Elevator car panels (wood, glass, or mirrored)
- Elevator controls (car operating panel and hall calls)
- Recessed telephone cabinets
Understanding Your Warranty
As important as it is to have a solid warranty, it’s also essential to know precisely what it covers. Elevator warranties vary by manufacturer, but most cover the costs associated with repairing or replacing parts that fail due to defective material or workmanship. The average duration for most warranties is up to 3 years.
Most standard warranties don’t cover cosmetic issues caused by usual wear-and-tear, such as broken glass, damaged or worn upholstery or trim, or stains on the paint or panels. They also don’t cover malfunctions in equipment if the problem was caused by vandalism, misuse, overloading, or weather-related issues.
Another item to take into consideration is the labor for any warranty work your chosen elevator contractor may handle. As each elevator contractor may handle warranties a little differently, it is best to discuss your warranty options with them to understand what is or is not covered.
Choose an Elevator Contractor You Can Trust
Your home elevator is an investment, so make sure you choose a contractor you can trust to handle your installation. Symmetry Elevating Solutions has the largest network of independent elevator and accessibility contractors in North America, so we can help you find a reputable elevator contractor in your area. Connect with a certified Symmetry dealer today!