The increasing popularity of aging in place and universal design are giving home elevators a boost, spurring innovation and lowering costs.
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A friend of mine once said to me that one of the nicest things my grandfather did for my grandmother was to have a home elevator installed. They lived in a two-story home with the main living area and bedrooms on the upper floor. Her grandmother had become frail enough that getting upstairs from their main entrance on the ground level was a daunting task. The grandparents were not wealthy people, and their home was not large — maybe 1,800 square feet. But the grandfather knew how much she wanted to stay in her home, so he put one in. Now that’s love!
That was around 35 years ago, way before aging in place became a common term. People have always looked for ways to stay in their homes as they aged, but with the Baby Boomers’ influential numbers and recent more affordable innovations in technology, home elevators are becoming a very desirable amenity.
Take a load off your feet and ride up in style. This sleek elevator looks as good as any you would find in a modern apartment building, but when you have one of your own, why not personalize it with art and a place to sit?
In very broad terms, there are three main types of elevators. The first is hydraulic. It takes up quite a bit of space in your home and requires a machine room for the equipment that runs the elevator. If your home is a new construction, then it is a little easier to plan the space needed for that type of elevator.
I like the way the designer used paneling and a gorgeous wood door to blend this elevator in with the home’s decor. A modern convenience doesn’t have to look out of place in a traditional space.
The second type of elevator is referred to as a traction elevatoror MRL (machine room–less) elevator, and as the name implies, it does not need a separate machine room. It works by sliding up and down a track with a counterweight. If you are retrofitting, then this type is a better bet. It still needs additional space above the top of the elevator to house the equipment that runs it.
The pneumatic elevator is the third type and the most recent innovation. This giant polycarbonate tube with a separate tube inside for the cab works with air pressure, pretty much like those deposit tubes at the bank drive-through (although, thank goodness, you don’t whiz through quite that fast). The 37-inch-diameter tube can be installed without any need to build a shaft or a machine room, so if you need an elevator in an existing home, this may be the one for you. It needs no machine room, as the pump box that runs the elevator is only 11 inches tall and the same diameter as the tube.
Although you don’t have to build a shaft, so this is a pretty easy thing to install, you do need to have wide enough doorways to get the tube into your house. It requires a 39-inch-wide opening to go through, and most doorways are about 36 inches or less.
… you can opt for rich wood paneling, stone, mosaic, mirrors, grab bars — oh, and let’s not forget elevator music. Yes, some of these come with the ability to pipe in music.
Another important add-on is a telephone. Since we don’t always carry our cell phones around with us when we are at home, I think any elevator should include a phone for emergencies.
You might create a beautiful, wood-clad central shaft wrapped with stairs. This elevator shaft is so well designed that it works as an attractive architectural element, as beautiful as it is functional.
This design looks like it was part of the original house plan. If you are trying to find a spot in an existing house and don’t want to make it look like you crowded an elevator inside, consider building a shaft along the exterior of your house with the doors opening into the home. A 6-foot by 6-foot addition could be enough, and it would let you preserve the look of your interior.