A residential elevator helps you maneuver between the floors of your home without having to navigate a stairway or ramp. These home transport systems improve vertical mobility in the home and can help seniors or disabled individuals maintain their independence. The space you need for a residential elevator depends on how many levels you need to go and where you plan to install the elevator.

What are the Minimum Space Requirements for a Home Elevator?

In general, you need at least 20 to 25 square feet of space to install a residential elevator. You might also need about 8 inches of pit space dug into the ground beneath the elevator, depending on the style of residential elevator you plan to use. The smallest kind of home elevator is usually a pneumatic vacuum elevator, which is also “pit-less” by design.

Standard residential elevator cabs typically measure about 3 feet wide by 4 feet deep, which necessitates a hoistway measuring at least 4 feet wide and 5 feet deep. Some smaller home elevators measure just 3 feet by 3 feet, around 9 feet square, but designs this small may be unable to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair or multiple people.

4 Size Considerations for a Residential Elevator

There are a few things that affect how much space you need for your residential elevator. The type of elevator you want matters, and the constraints of your home design may determine where you put a home elevator. A few things to consider when deciding how much space you really need for a residential elevator include:

1. Wall Width

A home elevator typically uses a rail system attached to a wall, so the width of the wall matters when considering whether you have enough space. Having 30 square feet of available space might not be enough if you don’t have a wide enough wall to hook the rail onto.

2. Door Width

Residential elevators often have doors measuring 36 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair, although some smaller models may have doors as slim as 21 inches wide.

3. Clearance Around the Elevator

In addition to the space taken up by the physical cab, the elevator housing, and the mechanisms that make the elevator run properly, you also need running clearance around the perimeter of the car. There should be enough room for the doors to open correctly and for passengers to get onto the elevator and disembark at each level. You also need clearance above the elevator. Many models require at least 6 inches of overhead clearance above the top of the elevator. Local building codes may specify a certain amount of clearance at the top or sides, so you need to take those requirements into account as well.

4. Space for Drive Components

You may need room for any exterior electrical system and drive components that power your elevator. Some home elevators have a drive system mounted in the hoistway, minimizing the necessary space outside the shaft. Other elevators require an external machine room for the drive.

For existing homes trying to retrofit, you might also need to rewire part of your electrical system to accommodate the home elevator, so you need sufficient space behind the walls to route new electrical wires. In some cases, installing a home elevator means rerouting other systems in your home, such as an HVAC system or water pipes in your walls. When considering space requirements for your home elevator, you need to account for these changes and where you plan to move duct work or plumbing as well.

5 Personal Considerations Affecting Elevator Size

Aside from the physical constraints present at your home, there may be personal considerations that affect how big your residential elevator has to be:

1. Elevator Capacity

Most residential elevators are designed to carry multiple people or up to a thousand pounds, you may need more space if you want a larger elevator that can handle moving more people than that.

2. Medical Equipment Transport

If you plan to transport personal medical equipment, such as a wheelchair, portable dialysis machine, or oxygen tank up and down on your elevator, you might need more space than if you only plan to move a single individual at a time between floors.

3. Number of Floors

Most residential elevators are designed with a shaft length of 25 to 50 feet, so moving between two or three floors is possible with a smaller home elevator. If your home includes more than two or three levels, you might need a larger elevator with a longer shaft. Remember to count finished basements and attic space as a level if you want the elevator to go that far.

4. Weight Capacity

The weight capacity of your elevator may limit how many people or what equipment you can bring into the cab. If you plan to move heavier items (1,000 lbs.) between floors, consider whether you need a larger elevator with a maximum weight capacity.

5. Extra Features

The more features you want on your residential elevator, the more space you may need. Exterior doors that slide into the wall adjacent to the elevator need wall space to accommodate the door panels. Doors that swing outward may require more clearance in front of the elevator.

Automatic door operation devices mounted inside the elevator cab take up space, which may necessitate a larger cab for comfort. If you want a seat inside the elevator, that also requires a bigger cab, which increases the overall footprint of your residential elevator. In some cases, there is a trade-off between desired features and size, so you need to decide what things are most important to you in a home elevator and whether your available space can accommodate those features.

Types of Residential Elevators and Size Constraints

The type of home elevator you choose might affect the minimum or maximum size you can get. Some types of elevators are designed for smaller buildings, while others are built larger and intended for bigger residential spaces. (Maximum square footage for home elevator = 15 ft2 per code)

Hydraulic Elevators

Hydraulic elevators tend to be larger than other models, so you won’t get the smallest sizes with this type of residential elevator. Luxury elevators, such as the Savaria Infinity Luxury Home Elevator, and residential elevators with larger weight capacities tend to use hydraulics. Minimum pit sizes of around 8 inches and minimum overhead clearance heights of 92 inches or more make the space requirements for hydraulic elevators even larger.

In-Line Drive Elevators

An in-line drive elevator eliminates the need for a separate machine room, minimizing the necessary space for installation. Glass and birdcage elevators with a cable-driven system are designed for placement in the center of a room instead of along a wall, so you don’t need to find wall space to accommodate them, just sufficient floor space.

Pneumatic Elevators

Ideal for retrofit, a pneumatic vacuum elevator takes up minimal space and requires little in the way of home construction to install. Curved inline door openings, a slim external cylinder, and a pit-free design make this one of the smallest home elevators available.

Some models have an external cylinder size of 30 inches and a door opening of 21.5 inches. They accommodate a single person standing up, so adding a seat or using a wheelchair generally isn’t possible with this type of home elevator. A pneumatic elevator can be installed through balcony or floor landings. Pneumatic elevators also tend to cost less than systems that require a full shaft built into your home or separate space for a drive mechanism.

Other Options for Smaller Spaces

If your home doesn’t have enough space for a full residential home elevator, there may be other options to consider. A wheelchair lift lets you move easily between two levels and tends to take up less space than an elevator. Wheelchair lifts may be particularly useful for spaces where the levels are not a full floor apart. These systems work especially well to transport a wheelchair user from the ground to a porch or between a sunken living room and the rest of the house.

Stair lifts are another alternative to residential home elevators that take up less space. These systems attach to a rail installed along the side of a stairway and let users sit on a specially designed chair for transport up or down the stairs.

Determining the Right Size Residential Elevator for Your Home

If you’re installing a home elevator in an existing home, retrofitting the space to accommodate your new residential elevator may take some work. Some people use an existing closet or alcove as the initial space where the elevator is installed. Building a residential elevator in a newly constructed home lets you adjust the space to fit the elevator you want. The overall installation takes from two to six weeks, depending on the specific type of residential elevator you choose.

Because home elevators are custom installed to fit your particular house, you need to consult an expert to decide which elevator works best in your space. Let the professionals at Day Elevator & Lift help you find the right fit for your home and family. Contact us at (800) 758-5438 or fill out our online contact form for more information about home elevator options in your area.