A wide selection of elevators is now available, and with the smallest having a footprint of just 12 square feet, they’re suitable for urban home retrofit projects.
Home elevators, once thought to be a luxury feature for large new builds, are becoming a more common addition to smaller homes.
Residential elevators are a brilliant idea, and not just for seniors or those with mobility issues, but for everyone, every day, says Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto. He specializes in accessible real estate.
A wide selection of elevators is now available, and with the smallest having a footprint of just 12 square feet, they’re suitable for urban home retrofit projects, says Katrina Maheu, marketing director of Savaria Home Elevators. (The smallest model has a 36×48-inch cab and requires a 41×56-inch hoistway.)
Savaria’s least expensive model is the Eclipse, priced from $22,000. The company says it offers a smooth ride and doesn’t require a separate machine room.
The space-saving Telecab17, a two-stop elevator that travels through the ceiling/floor, has a vanishing effect. It can be installed in the corner of a dining room, for example, to connect it with a master bedroom above. When visitors arrive, it can be “parked” on the upper floor, out of sight in the dining room.
Traditional elevators require a hoistway (which supports the weight of the elevator) to be constructed by a contractor, with installation of the elevator separate, Maheu says.
It’s important to find a qualified contractor to construct your hoistway, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build. An architectural technologist will determine how to accommodate the retrofit (some projects may require structural work or the relocation of mechanical systems) and create the drawings. After permits are obtained, the shaft will be built to specifications.
Cabs for traditional elevators can be tricked out with a variety of finishes, colours and types of doors, and are even available with a glass wall for extra light and views. A super modern MDF finish has a high sheen for a modern look, while paneled wood cabs offer a more traditional touch. Or cabs can be left unfinished, and the homeowner’s contractor can finish it to match the rest of the house, Maheu says.
A traditional two-stop elevator costs about $25,000, not including the hoistway construction. The cost to install the hoistway can vary greatly depending on the work required, but Maheu says the average is about $25,000. It takes less than a week to install the elevator once the hoistway is in place.
The Vuelift is a futuristic glass elevator in either a cylindrical or octagonal shape that has a self-supporting hoistway, so there’s no need to hire a separate contractor. The Vuelift is modular, with small components that fit through traditional doorways, she says. Prices start at $70,000.
They can be installed in less than a week.
Safety features are built into all of the elevators, with back-up systems in case of power failure. They can be lowered manually, Maheu says. As with all elevators, regular maintenance is important part of safety.
When shopping around, Maheu says to ask the following:
1. How long has the company been in business? An elevator is a big investment and once it’s installed, you want to have it properly maintained in order to be safe. You don’t want to go with a company you can’t count on down the road.
2. Does the company have more than one type of product? If it has just one, it may try to sell you their only product whether it’s good for you or not.
3. Can I try before I buy? Can I ride the lifts to see what they feel like?
Residential elevators are a new trend. More people are installing them when they are middle aged and can afford them, even though they don’t need them, Maheu and Kerr say.
That’s what one client, who is in his 50s and is mobile, active and not ready to use an elevator, had in mind when he installed one. It came in handy when he suffered a sports injury and wasn’t able to use the stairs for several months, Maheu says.
Kerr says people in their 30s are installing elevators so their home is “visitable” by everyone they know, regardless of their age and mobility.
Elevators offer a lot of benefits, safety being number one. “Most falls occur around stairs,” Kerr says. “An elevator will allow people to stay in their home.”
The trend is being driven by an aging population that doesn’t want to move or go to a retirement home.
Although the cost may seem prohibitive, it’s a great option for those who love where they live and want to stay in their neighbourhood. The cost to move is substantial. It may be wiser to put that money into retrofitting the home rather than moving and paying land transfer and other moving costs. And when compared to the substantial cost of a retirement home, installing an elevator may even leave you farther ahead, Kerr says.
If possible, try not to take space away from a bedroom. If you dedicate a full bedroom for the elevator, it could affect future property values, he says.
Professionally renovated and modified homes increase in value when marketed and sold to the right buyers, Kerr says, provided, of course, that a bathroom and entrance are accessible.
“Plan ahead. Be proactive, not reactive and make decisions rather than having them made for you,” Kerr says.