If you're planning to build a two or three-story home, you might want to seriously consider an elevator. Even if you're young and energetic now, it's likely the day may come when you'll appreciate avoiding the stairs. Or perhaps that day has already arrived, and you'd like to add an elevator to your existing home.
Is it a major project? Yes, but it can be done.
Is an elevator a good investment? Can I afford it?
Putting an elevator in the home you plan to build or remodel isn't cheap. Estimates range from $25,000 to $32,000 or more, depending on how fancy you want it to be.
If you plan a $500,000 home, then another $25,000 or so isn't that bad, says John Day of Access Conversions.
"An elevator will also increase the value of a home and expand the number of people who would be interested in a multi-level home," say Gary and Joe York of A.L.L.Lifts, LLC.
If your home is being constructed on a hillside, consider laying it out so that each floor has egress and access to the outside, suggests Day. If you do that, you can just go with the elevator, skip having a stairway and thereby save on square footage. And you'll reduce the overall construction cost.
There are three kinds of elevators — chain driven, cable driven and hydraulic. Your installer can recommend the best unit for your home. "Consult with an elevator contractor early on," suggests John Day of Access Conversions. "Get an idea of what you are looking at." Day, co-owner of a Klamath Falls firm that's done numerous projects in Jackson County, stresses the importance of working with someone familiar with code and manufacturer specifications.
At the outset, you have to apply for and receive a state of Oregon permit before starting construction. "It's important to go through the permit process and follow code. It protects you," says Day. "If there is a problem later and you didn't follow the code, your insurance might not pay up."
Every installation has to be inspected and approved by a state elevator inspector with the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.
Unlike commercial elevators, which are required to be inspected regularly, home elevators aren't subject to such a requirement. But it's a good idea to have your unit serviced annually, says Day. "That will save money over the long run."
The first decision, of course, is where to put the elevator and its shaft called a "hoistway." The size of your lot isn't an issue, say Garry and Joe York, owners of A.L.L.Lifts, LLC of Medford, because your construction goes up rather than out.
If possible, install it so it goes from the garage to all floors, suggest the Yorks. That will make it easier to move packages or groceries from your car. Also, getting an elevator with one door rather than two opposing doors will save you money, says Day. "It's better to have the entrance and exit on the same side."
Day would also advise placing it near the kitchen. An exception would be if you are building or remodeling to accommodate a handicapped person, in which case the elevator should be near rooms used by that person.
Besides the hoistway, you need to find room for an adjacent machine room, usually 4 by 4 feet. And in most cases you need to construct a pit, 8 to 12 inches deep, so that when the elevator reaches the ground floor it can land on solid ground, adds David Fisse, president of Northwest Design & Restoration of Medford.
If you're adding an elevator to an existing home, placement of the hoistway may be the biggest problem. "Some homes have walls that don't line up," says Day.
The average in-home unit can carry up to 950 pounds and the elevator floor typically ranges from 12 to 16 square feet. Some of the available dimensions are 36 by 48 inches, 36 by 60 and 40 by 54. Day suggests going bigger and says he's never had anyone complain that the elevator was too large. A larger unit adds only about $190 to the cost, he adds.
Elevators are required to have a phone in them, for use in an emergency. Fisse also advises homeowners to have a battery backup for their elevator so if the power fails, it will go to the nearest floor.
If you have children or grandchildren and worry about them playing in the elevator, worry no more. You can get a unit with a key system, so the elevator can't move unless you unlock it.