Viewed as a luxury item for years, only recently has the home elevator become an option in today’s market, as more buyers and builders are incorporating them into their plans.

Residential home elevators have been around since the late 1800s, but until recently, they have been a privilege of the rich and famous. Innovations in electric motors and hydraulic lifts brought home elevators into the range of many homeowners in the late 20th century, though it’s still commonly believed that they are too expensive or an unnecessary addition to ordinary people’s homes.

This is wrong for several reasons. Not only are home elevators more affordable now than they have ever been, they can even pay for themselves by raising a home’s resale value. Elevators in the home can also make it dramatically easier for seniors and people with limited mobility to age in place and avoid costly stays in nursing homes or assisted living communities. Even simple home elevators can lift significant weight with a limited footprint, and enough of the old prestige still clings to them to make home elevators one of the most cost-effective improvements you can make before selling your home.

The Practicality of Home Elevators

Home elevators have been getting more affordable for more than a century. As Americans’ average age increases, mobility improvements in the home are becoming a greater consideration for designers, and many home builders now have an option to add elevators at the design stage. Families with children, or who might have children soon, are also turning to elevators that can lift baby strollers, car seats, and tired parents from floor to floor. Elevators in the home are also a practical safety improvement, as falling down the stairs is one of the leading causes of preventable injury in the United States, and an issue that doesn’t just affect older adults.

“People have always looked for ways to stay in their homes as they aged, but with recent more affordable innovations in technology, the home elevator is a common amenity when building or renovating a home.” Evan Petrower – President of Day Elevator & Lift

7 Factors to Consider When Adding an Elevator to Your Home

1. Space Available home elevator

Space is the major limitation for many home elevators. This is especially true in homes built before the 1980s, which were almost never designed with home elevators in mind. As a rule, you should plan for at least 20 to 25 square feet of space to be taken up, as close to your stairway as possible, or in the corner of the room. Building codes vary across the 50 states, but most elevators take up to 18 square feet of floor space, with maybe another 5 square feet for the surrounding elevator shaft.


2. Application / Purpose of the Home Elevator

Another factor influencing your choice of home elevator is the reason you want it in the first place. Home elevators offer a simple and safe way to move between floors in your house, but the specific purpose of your elevator will affect the model you choose and the place where you put it.

Some people install elevators as an investment, without any particular need for help up and down the stairs. Others choose an elevator to help manage a disability that makes climbing or descending stairs difficult or dangerous. Some homeowners install an elevator to help them manage aging in place, as an option on days when the stairs are too much to manage alone.

Home elevators come in a range of models, but they group into about four major categories: standard retrofit, void of a stairwell, closet-to-closet and thru-cab.

3. Budget Limitations

home elevator

Budget, unfortunately, is a consideration for any home improvement. In most areas of the country, you can expect to pay somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 for a new elevator installation. This price is likely to go up with more elaborate or extensive prep work, such as running hydraulics or adding electrical access to the elevator control box. Glass elevators, the number of stops, and or high-end finishes on fixtures, such as brass fittings, can also drive up the cost of a new home elevator, though this can also increase the value added to the house overall. It’s also generally more expensive to install an elevator in an existing house than to add one to the home during construction.

4. Staying Independent with a Disability or When Aging in Place

home elevator

Aging in place is one of the most cost-effective choices seniors can make when they own their own homes. By adding the home elevator/lift, you will save money by not having to move into a nursing home or assisted living facility. The average cost of assisted living in the United States is $4,051 a month, according to Genworth Financial’s 2019 Cost of Care Survey. The same survey found that even a shared room in a nursing care facility can average more than $7,500 a month.

For a senior with limited mobility, any home improvement that delays admission to a residential care facility could easily save tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Ultimately, you will have the familiarity and comfort of your home. Having a home elevator one can continue to be independent and self-sufficient, allowing you to Age in Place.

5. Resale Value

As much of a consideration as cost can be, the price of a new home elevator has to be weighed against the extra value it adds to your house. New home elevators typically add 10% to the previous value of a house.

The convenience and improved safety of an elevator is just part of the reason for this increase in value. Another is the aesthetic improvement most elevators make to a home. A visible elevator near the stairs still carries the allure of the Gilded Age townhomes that were the first application for home elevators, nearly 100 years ago, and today they can still set a home apart in a competitive housing market.

“Whether installed at the time of new construction or retrofitted years later, a residential elevator will increase the marketability of your home and make it more valuable, since the added feature could attract a variety of potential home buyers.” -Evan Petrower

6. Disabilities

Installing a home elevator also helps people recovering from surgery or injuries stay in the comfort of their own home. A major trend in modern rehabilitation and post-acute care is to keep people’s daily routines as close to normal as possible. For people with a limitation that makes climbing stairs a barrier to staying at home, even a simple stair lift could prevent inpatient admissions to long-term care facilities and encourage faster recovery times.

Home elevators also reduce the dependence many seniors and people with disabilities have on in-home caregivers. If you live in a multistory house without an elevator, even simple chores that require climbing a flight of stairs may have to wait until your caregiver can come over to help. Having an elevator that can easily transport you upstairs helps preserve the independence and dignity most types of modern senior care are built around.

7. Construction Time/Timing of Installation

The type of elevator you choose, how many floors you need it to access, and whether you are building it into new construction or retrofitting your existing home will influence the installation time and cost. The on-site time for elevator installation ranges from two weeks for an accessibility lift to four weeks for a hydraulic elevator and six weeks for a traction elevator. Prep work, such as hanging the hoistway doors and installing electricity, also needs to be done, which increases the time for the actual installation to up to eight weeks for a hydraulic elevator

What’s Needed for a Home Elevator?

A lot of planning goes into adding a new home elevator. As a rule, it’s generally easier to have a lift system incorporated into the blueprints before breaking ground on new construction. If you have a home already, you can make plans to install your elevator well before you commit to the work.

Because people’s homes are nearly as diverse as the families who live in them, there is no standard elevator installation everybody can bring home. When planning to install your own system, consider the variables that affect what type of elevator you can get, where you can put it and how long it should take to get moving.

Common Types of Home Elevators

Once you’ve made the decision to install a home elevator, research can begin into the type of elevator that fits your home best. Home elevators vary in the details of their designs, but they generally work on five major principles:

  • Traction Drive system
  • Hydraulic drive systems
  • Pneumatic vacuum drive systems
  • Winding drive or cable driven lifts

Each model has benefits and drawbacks, and there is no single best solution for everyone.

Type of Elevator Cost Mechanism Type Pros Cons Best Suited For
Traction $25,000-60,000 Motor mounted above rail system to raise and lower rail Less machine room space Less expensive Minimal pit Slightly higher noise levelRide not as smooth All homes. Especially homes where compact design is needed. Either new construction or retrofit
Hydraulic $20,000 – $60,000 Power driven by a piston that moves within the cylinder to raise the cab up & down Smooth rideEase of manual lowering at all timesQuietMinimal use of energy Full size machine room needed located at the lowest level adjacent to the elevator shaft (additional space is needed)ExpensiveMore detailed Larger homes can be used in new construction or retrofit
Pneumatic / Prefabricated Elevator $40,000 – $100,000 Vaccum suction raises and lowers cab. through a sealed tube No pit required, can be surface mountedNo maintenance A small foot print is good3 sizesQuick installation No custom size The delivery path can be challenging No solid walls needed.
Glass Elevators/Acrylic Elevators $40,000-125,000 Winding drum drive with steel aircraft cable to raise QuietMulti shapes, custom size & custom designMinimum PitEnclosure prefabricated by manufacturer No custom sizeThe delivery path can be challengingHighly Aesthetic Makes a Design Statement. Retrofit homes with open space, walls would impact the accessibility

With so many reasons to install an elevator in your home and so many models to choose from, almost everybody could use professional advice from expert home installers. If you live anywhere in the New York or New Jersey area, call Day Elevator & Lift at (800) 758-5438 or fill out our online contact form today to consult with a home elevator expert.