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Living in a multi-story home can raise some concerns about navigating the stairs, especially if family members or yourself face physical limitations and mobility issues. Even though it may be tempting to consider selling your home and move into a single-level home, you should consider the cost and time involved. Between hiring a moving company and paying fees to real estate agents and brokers, the cost of moving is often higher than the cost of installing a home elevator.

Rise Above Elevator, a home elevator company offers a range of home elevator installation from the industry’s leading manufacturers. We have a model to fit your home’s needs as well as your budget, aesthetic and lifestyle. We have created this residential elevator guide to help understand the different types of elevators, cost, and function.

Types of Home Elevators

There are four common types of elevators power systems, though some minor differences may exist between models and manufacturers and whether it is a residential elevator or commercial elevator:

Cable-Driven Elevator

Cable elevators are powered by a cable wound around a drum. These are the most well-known types of elevators, typically seen in commercial buildings and can be built with metal or glass shafts.

There are a variety of cable-driven elevator styles available, ranging in complexity and space requirements. An elevator with dedicated shafts requires a pit and machine room in addition to the shaft itself in order to operate. This style is more cost-effective when it is built into new-construction.

However, elevators without shafts have a smaller footprint and are easier to be retrofitted into existing homes with only a few minor modifications. Depending on location in your home it could be as easy as cutting a hole in the floor where the elevator cab will travel.

Depending on the style, a cable-driven elevator cost between $20,000 – $35,000.

Chain-Driven Elevator

Similar to a cable-driven elevator, chain drive elevators are powered by a chain, not cable, wound around a drum. The benefits of the chain over the cable is durability. Chain driven elevator requires less maintenance and does not need to be replaced as often. This style elevator does not require a machine room ultimately saving space.

The reduced space requirements make these elevators easier to include in a retrofit, but it is still most cost-effective to include in new construction. When built into new construction, chain-drive home elevators cost between $20,000 – $50,000.

Hydraulic Elevator

Hydraulic Elevators use a piston that travels inside a cylinder. The cylinder connects to a system that pumps a fluid, typically oil, to control the elevator’s movements. They do not require a separate machine room as the drive system is contained entirely within the elevator shaft itself. However, they do require a pit to be dug below the elevator shaft. For this reason, they are relatively simple to retrofit into an existing home. Unfortunately, the cost of digging the elevator pit may vary based on the existing home’s structure.

When there is an elevator installed in new construction, hydraulic elevators cost between $20,000 – $50,000.

Pneumatic Elevator

Pneumatic vacuum elevators utilize a vacuum system within a tube to power the elevator car’s movement and air pressure. Typically, pneumatic elevators cannot be hidden, but their attractive and modern design adds to any home’s decor.

Because the elevator is entirely vacuum-powered, it does not require a pit or machine room, making it easier to retrofit in an existing home.

Regardless of whether it is installed in new construction or retrofit to an existing home, pneumatic elevators cost between $35,000 – $50,000.

Traction or MRL (machine room-less) elevators

A MRL elevator works by sliding up and down a track with a counterweight. This type of elevator is an excellent choice for existing homes as they do not require machine rooms or pits extending into the ground. However, traction units will still need additional space over the top of the elevator to house components necessary to raise and lower the car.

New Construction vs. Retrofit

When possible, it is ideal to build a home to accommodate an elevator rather than trying to retrofit an elevator. Architects can include the elevator shaft into the home plan, thus, providing greater options and allowing the elevator to fit seamlessly into the home design or be easily concealed.

When building a cable-driven elevator into new construction, the cost is typically in the lower end of the price range, between about $20,000 and $30,000. Whereas, on the other hand, retrofitting an elevator shaft into an existing home can require a great deal of construction. It could include demolishing walls and excavating concrete, which could result in a much higher cost for this type of elevator – in the $45,000 – $80,000 range!

This is why it often makes more sense to opt for a hydraulic elevator, pneumatic elevator, or electric motor elevator when you are retrofitting an existing home. Since they do not require dedicated machine rooms and some do not require pits. They take up much less space and can be installed nearly anywhere in the home and are more cost-effective.

Depending on your home’s layout, you may be able to install this type of elevator to be hidden within a closet, but most of the time it will be placed in a corner of a room where it will be highly visible. The benefit of this type of elevator is that, even when retrofitting it into an existing home, the cost is typically only about $15,000 – $35,000.

Home Size

Generally, standard elevators are made for two-story homes. For homes with three or four stories, adding additional stops will be required. However, select elevator types are not made to go beyond two stops. For those that can accommodate the longer travel distance, cost typically increases by about $10,000 per additional stop.

Next Steps

Home Elevators are complex pieces of machinery, but they can be surprisingly affordable and can even add value to your home. Talk to a specialist at Rise Above Elevator, who can assess your home as well as your physical needs and let you know what type of elevator would best suit you.