Are Home Elevators Worth Adding to Your Property? 

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Your home is your sanctuary. Planning for future mobility needs is crucial, especially if you intend to age in place. 

Incorporating a home elevator into your new construction or remodeling project is worth considering as the addition can preempt the need for disruptive renovations later on. 

Here’s why investing in a home elevator before it becomes a requirement can make both practical and financial sense for your property.

The Benefits of Home Elevators or Lifts for Outer Banks Homes

Adding a home elevator or lift offers numerous benefits to current and future needs. Some key advantages include:

  • Seamless mobility and accessibility to all levels of your home for residents and visitors with physical limitations, particularly elderly family members or people with disabilities 
  • Increased resale value of your property with prospective buyers viewing elevators as a luxurious and practical investment that enhances your quality of life over time
  • Future-proofing your home so you can “age in place” comfortably as mobility issues arise with age
  • Unparalleled convenience especially for multi-story homes, simplifying the process of moving heavy items such as groceries or laundry between floors

All in all, adding a home elevator early on in your lifespan of home ownership is a valuable investment that can keep you living independently longer as mobility issues arise with age. 

Home Lifts vs Home Elevators

Before enhancing the accessibility of your home, you should understand the differences between home lifts and home elevators. While both serve the purpose of improving mobility within a home, they have distinct features, mechanisms, and suitability depending on your home’s requirements.

Home Lifts

Home lifts, also known as platform lifts, are designed primarily for personal use most often between two floors for short-distance travel. Lifts are ideal for homes with limited space and to transport people with mobility issues or carrying heavy items like groceries.

Some key features to know about home lifts include:

  • They generally require less space, structural modifications, and money to install and maintain than traditional elevators
  • They operate on a simple platform that moves vertically along a guide rail system using an electric motor
  • They are generally slower, have lower weight capacities, and are not suitable for frequent and heavy-duty transportation. 

Home Elevators

Elevator of a Modern Colonial House Design and Construction by Premiere Contracting, Inc. Outer Banks
The car of a residential elevator.

Home elevators are designed for more extensive use, capable of servicing multiple floors within a home. They have a higher level of convenience, capacity, and speed when compared to home lifts.

Be aware that home elevators:

  • Require more space during installation for the elevator shaft and potential machine room
  • Use complex systems such as hydraulic pistons, traction cables, and winding drums to move the cab 
  • Ideal for frequent use, moving more passengers and weight faster than lifts

Home elevators are generally more expensive to install and maintain than home lifts. They also can be customized to match your home’s aesthetic, while lifts have more utilitarian purposes.

The Design-Build Approach to Elevator Installation

As an Outer Banks design-build construction company, our firm often sees clients who want to build a new home or remodel an existing one to include home elevator or lift installation to make accessing oceanfront raised properties easier. When thoughtfully planned through blueprints and 3-D renderings, a home elevator can be aesthetically pleasing and ultimately add to the overall value of a home. 

Our job as a general contractor is to lay out the plans of the home around the elevator and outsource an elevating industry expert to manage the installation and certification of the equipment while providing beautiful results that maximize the use of your space.

Modern Colonial Home Second Floor Plan
Floor Plans used in designing and building a home elevator in a new construction home.

How To Plan For Home Elevator Construction

Our design-build construction approach provides a step-by-step plan to add a home elevator to your project. There are four key phases to our process including:

Step #1: Initial Project Assessment & Feasibility Study

Before we can discuss the overall design of your home elevator, we have to conduct an initial project assessment including a feasibility study. Our assessment helps us identify the optimal location for an elevator by considering the overall space, the structural integrity of the feature, and other factors.

The findings from our preliminary studies determine if the location will comply with North Carolina building codes and safety regulations.

Step #2: Elevator Design and Space Allocation

Interior residential elevators need to be functional, but the elevator design and space allocation need to match your home’s floor plan. Some key design considerations we make before any elevator installation project include: 

  • Machine Room Location: Some elevators like hydraulic lifts may require a dedicated machine room to house the pump and other equipment. Holeless elevator models can eliminate this need, but installation can involve more complex excavation work.
  • Pit Depth: Elevators may also need a pit below the lowest floor level to accommodate the piston’s full extension.
  • Headroom Requirements: Ensure sufficient headroom is available at the top floor to accommodate the platform and its travel within the hoistway.
  • Elevator Shaft Material Selection: We choose from materials like glass, metal panels, or wood veneers to complement your home’s interior design.
  • Elevator Door Styles: We work with you to find elevator door styles that harmonize with your existing doors or create a unique focal point. Elevator doors can also open automatically or manually from the platform.
  • Lighting: We can incorporate LED lighting within the elevator cab or shaft to enhance both visual appeal and safety.
  • Weight Capacity: Elevators and lifts use designated weight limits to ensure safe operation. Before you select an elevator model, consider the average weight of all users, if you need to accommodate wheelchairs, and the potential cargo you need to support.
  • Platform Size: Platform dimensions should comfortably hold all users and their weights with ample space for standing and cargo. While standard platform sizes are available, some manufacturers offer custom options if you need more room.
  • Lift Speed: While faster speeds are convenient, they are often more expensive. While you want to prioritize safety and user comfort, the speed the lift transcends and descends should be evaluated before selecting an elevator model for your project. 

Our blueprint designs will map out where the elevator will be housed and the structural requirements needed to support it. As a general contractor, we lay out the plan for the elevator and build the housing around it before passing along the elevator installation to a licensed and insured elevator company. 

Step #3: Figure Out Budget and Financing Options

Before beginning the installation process, it’s crucial to determine your budget and explore financing options. Home elevators can range significantly in price based on the type, customization options, and complexity of installation. During this phase, you should evaluate the total costs of the project, consider financing options, and plan for future expenses beyond the initial installation costs for things like maintenance and repairs.

The average home elevator can vary from $20,000 to $30,000 for a basic model including the construction of the shaft and other modifications. The more customized your elevator is the more expensive it may become. 

Many financial institutions offer loans for home improvements such as these, while some elevator companies may provide financing plans to make your investment more manageable.   

Step #4: Obtain Residential Elevator Permits and Approvals

Once you’ve completed the design, planning, and budgeting for your elevator project, the next step is securing the necessary permits and approvals. This crucial phase ensures that your project complies with all local building codes and regulations.

The elevator company you work with will handle the permit acquisition process, ensuring all components of your project comply with relevant building codes and local permitting requirements. Consulting with an architect or elevator specialist is recommended to navigate this process smoothly.

With permits in hand, the installation of the elevator can commence. This typically involves adding the elevator shaft, motor, cab, control systems, safety features, and any chosen customizations. Technicians will oversee every aspect of the installation, ensuring meticulous assembly, alignment, and testing for functionality and safety. After installation, your contractor will conduct rigorous testing and inspections in collaboration with regulatory bodies and local authorities.

What Elevators Are Best for Residential Use? 

Each type of residential elevator has its own unique benefits and considerations based on your specific needs, space availability, and budget.  Each type offers distinct advantages and operational mechanisms suited for different home environments.

There are four main types of residential elevators Shaftless Elevators, Hydraulic Elevators, In-Line Gear Drive or Machine Room-Less (MRL) Elevators, and Winding Drum Elevators. Consulting with a professional Outer Banks elevator company, like our friends at Atlantic Elevators, will help you determine the most suitable choice for your home, but here are some of the more common elevators we use for residential applications.

Shaftless Elevators

Shaftless elevators are compact in size and are best for homes with limited space. The design requires minimal construction work and is ideal for retrofitting existing structures

The overall operation, design, and installation of shaftless elevators include:

  • A simple platform that moves between two floors
  • A guided rail system and electric motor to move the platform

All in all, shaftless elevator Installation is more cost-effective and easier to install than other models. The process only takes a few days and requires smaller areas including corners or along a wall. 

Hydraulic Elevator

Hydraulic elevators are best known for their smooth and quiet operation in residential homes. A hydraulic piston smoothly and quietly moves the elevator cab up and down.

A hydraulic pump pushes fluid into a cylinder to move the piston that lifts the elevator cab and heavy loads inside. Hydraulic elevators require a pit and machine room to house the hydraulic pump and controller making installation more complex and costly, but they are relatively easier to maintain than other models.

Hydraulic elevator with override at the top. Car on a guide rail beyond the Piston into the Pit and Piston Well past each floor or landing with a machine room on the back.
Hydraulic Elevator Diagram

In-Line Gear Drive or Machine Room-Less (MRL) Elevator

In-Line Gear Drive or Machine-Room-Less (MRL) elevators are a space-saving alternative to traditional traction elevators. Unlike Hydraulic elevators, MRL elevators eliminate the need for a separate machine room by integrating the drive mechanism within the hoistway.

MRL elevators typically:

  • Use an electric motor and gear system to move the elevator cab along a rail
  • Have an electric motor installed to the top of the shaft, so there is no need for a machine room and they are more energy-efficient
Machine-Room-Less Elevator with control room at the top, override above the car and a guide rail and counter weight down to the pit past landings or floors.
Machine-Room-Less Elevator Diagram

Winding Drum Elevator

Winding drum elevators are a tried-and-true option for residential use! The elevator model dates back to residential use since the 1920s. Today they operate using a modern winch and pulley system driven by a motor.

The mechanics of winding drum elevators include:

  • An electric motor and gearbox wind cables around a drum to move the elevator cab up and down
  • A motor and gearbox are located inside the hoistway, eliminating the need for a separate machine room

Winding drum elevators offer space-saving benefits, but their transcends and descends may not be as smooth as a hydraulic elevator. As a result, the model requires more regular maintenance to ensure reliable operations in-home use. 

Considerations for home Elevator Construction & Installation

Adding a home elevator is a strategic investment that enhances both the functionality and value of your home. Some other key considerations to keep in mind for your elevator construction project include:

  • Be sure to choose the right elevator type: Closely evaluate the pros and cons of both traditional elevators and home lifts. Different home elevator types such as shaftless elevators, hydraulic elevators, machine room-less elevators, and winding drum elevators may suit your home better based on your needs for space, budget, and operational capacity.
  • Work with a home designer or architect to incorporate the elevator seamlessly into your home’s design
  • Ensure safety and compliance during your project so your elevator installation meets all local building codes and safety regulations.
  • Plan for regular maintenance and service with a trusted Elevator Contractor to ensure your elevator operates smoothly and safely throughout its lifespan.

A well-planned home elevator construction and installation project will enhance the accessibility and convenience of your home offering future-proof home design solutions that turn your property into a valuable asset for years to come.

Whether you’re building new or renovating, investing in a home elevator ensures that your home adapts to your needs as they evolve. Contact our Outer Banks home contracting team to learn more about how we can help.

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