Previously considered an expensive luxury reserved only for mega-mansions, home elevators have become far more cost-friendly, customizable and dimensionally feasible for many home and mobility needs. The question is no longer if elevators in your house are realistic — it’s where and when you could install one.
From simple two-story elevators to multi-floor lifts, discover how to calculate enough space for your home elevator. Installing a custom-fit elevator can deliver peace of mind that your home stays your home for years to come, regardless of what life throws your way.
Size Requirements for a Home Elevator
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a residential elevator’s dimensions cannot exceed 84 inches tall, or 7 feet in total height. Elevator width is a bit more flexible, with common dimensions running between 36 and 40 inches, or 3 to 3.3 feet.
These dimensions allow enough room for one to two people to fit comfortably within your home elevator. However, these sizes only determine the interior elevator cab, or the portion of an elevator where passengers ride. Having enough room for a home elevator system requires space for numerous elevator mechanical components, as well as that cozy cab.
In fact, installing an entire home elevator system requires room for:
- The elevator shaft
- The elevator cab
- Clear entry and exit pathways
- Possible machine room or mechanical control system
In total, experts recommend roughly 18 to 20 total square feet of space to build or retrofit a custom residential elevator. Check your state’s specific building ordinances to know the exact sizing maximums or restrictions that exist for residential work.
Now that you have a rough estimate for how an elevator may fit into your home, you should consider several other factors to make sure you get a well-designed, well-functioning unit.
1. Typical Residential Elevator Sizes
There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for building home elevators. Units will first and foremost be designed around architectural features and layout of your home, plus account for local, state and federal residential building codes.
That said, the typical elevator room sizes include:
- 38 inches wide by 48 inches deep
- 36 inches wide by 60 inches deep
- 40 inches wide by 54 inches deep
- 60 inches wide by 60 inches deep
Again, the final size of your residential elevator will be determined by home layout, building regulations and the overall shaft allowance. The shaft and your elevator’s power and control mechanisms must be built first, influencing the rest of the spatial design.
2. Custom Home Elevator Weight Capacities
In addition to the size of your elevator, you’ll also need to select your unit’s weight capacity. Elevator weight capacity dictates how many people can ride in the cab at once. It also gives a reasonable basis to determine additional items or cargo you can transport with you, from groceries or luggage to home goods and even furniture.
Residential elevators come in four typical weight capacities:
- 500 pounds
- 750 pounds
- 950 pounds
- 1,000+ pounds
An elevator’s weight capacity, lift platform design and mechanical powering systems all go hand-in-hand. For example, a 500-pound capacity unit can’t be bigger than 12 square feet.
Because weight capacity, lift design and unit powering method are so interconnected, it’s essential to work with an architect, elevator installation expert or certified elevator dealer to ensure you’re getting a cohesive and safe system that meets your needs.
Do I Have Space for an Elevator Machine Room?
Today, there are two main mechanical powering systems operating residential elevators:
- Machine-room powered: As their name suggests, machine-room powered elevators require dedicated space above or below the elevator to house and maintain the unit’s mechanical pulley and powering cables, motors and similar components. Most elevators are machine-room powered, including the common hydraulic elevator type, as well as machine room-powered track elevators.
- Machine room-less (MRL) powered: Machine room-less elevators do not require system mechanics to have their own dedicated space at the top or bottom of the unit. Instead, their designs tend to rely on pneumatic tube systems to safely raise and lower lifts, with the tubing itself installed into adjacent walls.
The amount of room you have available in your home will be the largest factor influencing if a machine room or MRL system is right for you. Both types of powering mechanisms are one of the most important components for elevators in homes.
Powering systems control your home elevator’s movements, and they influence where in your home you can install your new or retrofit elevator. For this reason, determining if your home has space for an elevator machine room is just as essential as planning for shafts, cabs and cleared door entry and exit ways.
Luckily, both types are available to configure within the vast majority of homes — even for retrofit projects where architects and elevator installation specialists recommend one type over the other. Both types of elevators additionally come with their own pros and cons described below.
1. Home Elevator Models Requiring Machine Rooms
Home elevators with machine rooms remain a popular choice for several reasons:
- Pros: Machine-room elevators are quieter and produce fewer vibrations than an MRL. In a home setting, these sound controls are key to a convenient, comfortable system. Most machine-room backed elevator types, such as hydraulic, can also carry heavier loads and maintain smoother lift rates.
- Cons: Machine-room elevators require a base pit or similar space to house its major power and control mechanisms. In some cases, these pits may have to be specially dug or configured within your home, slowing down the construction timeline.
2. Home Elevator Models Without Machine Rooms
Consider these advantages and disadvantages of home MRL elevators:
- Pros: On average, MRL elevators are more energy-efficient than their traditional machine-room counterparts. This type of elevator uses hoist space better, making them an attractive option when the installation space is tight or narrow. Because of this spatial flexibility, MRL elevators pneumatic components can fit into existing floor spaces, wall spaces or even attached to balconies, trimming down installation timelines and saving money up-front.
- Cons: Still requires additional space at the top of the elevator for the hoist.
In the end, you and your trusted elevator installation team will determine the best type for you based on several factors, from your budget and ideal installation timeline to the spatial availability and energy efficiency of your home.
Do I Have Enough Room for a Home Elevator?
Yes, in the vast majority of cases, your home likely has enough room for an elevator.
By consulting with an elevator manufacturer or representative, you can determine the perfect-fit residential elevator size, including:
- Proper height, width and depth
- Necessary load capacity
- Appropriate home placement
- Installation and ongoing costs
- Energy efficiency tips and best practices
- Machine room or MRL
In addition, working with a residential elevator manufacturer directly introduces a range of customizations to make your elevator look and feel as cozy as your home. Possible home elevator cab customizations might include:
- Walls: Wall paneling and finishes feature hardwoods, exotic woods and clear glass panes or unfinished panels for you to make a true custom mark.
- Flooring: Commercial-grade, durable yet aesthetic laminate floors to match your hardwood or unfinished flooring prepared for custom floors.
- Rails: Handrails that offer form and function, from wood fixtures to upgraded metal pieces in a range of tones and glosses.
- Ceiling: Ceiling panels and tiles to match the rest of your elevator and bring cohesion to your overall elevator. Here at Inclinator, most of our residential elevators carry the option for customizable grained ceilings.
- Lighting: Custom LED lighting can be installed into your unit, or choose to configure your own fixtures for added detail.
- Operating panels: Pick accents and finishing styles for your elevator’s operating panel to match the rest of your look.
Other Regulations for an Elevator in the House
Aside from state and local building ordinances, a few other regulations pertain to fitting an elevator in your home.
1. Special Needs and Accessibility
Given its private, residential setting rather than a public or commercial one, elevators in homes do not need to meet the ADA’s full list of detailed size, placement, dimensional and aesthetic qualifications.
Logically, though, a home elevator does need to be designed for wheelchair accessibility. This includes designing platforms and cabs capable of fitting wheelchairs, plus providing enough room for wheelchair spins, movements and changes of direction without great hazard or inconvenience for the rider.
Other safety and building regulations may still apply, particularly at the local level. However, to get the most out of your home elevator, you may invest in additional elevator components or add-ons, such as:
- Braille text on operating panels to assist those with vision impairments
- Automated doors or gates to simplify entries and exits
- Motion-activated lighting
2. Safety Regulations
Home elevators are a safe and secure form of in-home transportation. With today’s advancements in mechanical engineering, architecture and technology, there’s never been a safer or more convenient time to install one in your house.
What’s more, general safety regulations exist guiding elevator manufacturing and installation best practices. Ask all elevator businesses you’re vetting if they follow 2016’s ASME 17.1/CSA B44 ordinances. Following these codes is voluntary, so you’ll want to find out early if a manufacturer adheres to them. In doing so, you proactively take your safety into your own hands.
At Inclinator, we outfit state-of-art elevator technology that meets the utmost safety standards. We install our elevators like they’re going into our own homes, carrying our own loved ones. This means elevator safety features such as:
- Code-compliant safety gates
- Backup battery-powered cabs
- Emergency backup lighting
- Full-time cab monitoring
- Optional door safety guards and light curtains
Benefits of Having Space for a Home Elevator
While adding or reinstalling an elevator in your home is a significant renovation to take on, it comes with proven benefits.
1. Stay in Your Home No Matter What
Home elevators provide assurance that you can reside at home whatever your future physical or health circumstances.
Few people enjoy considering these realities — and too many avoid it until it’s too late. Adding a small, custom residential elevator to your home provides true comfort that you’ll never have to give up the place you call home.
2. Have Uninhibited Home Access
It’s your home, after all. Enjoy every floor, nook and cranny with a residential elevator fitted to size and ready around-the-clock for easy home navigation.
Home elevators minimize current and potential mobility issues impairing your ability to travel up or down flights of stairs. Without such an option, many are forced to rearrange room functions, such as creating a makeshift bedroom in the main floor living room if all bedrooms are on the second story.
Preserve the integrity of your home — and your full, unimpeded enjoyment of it — by considering a custom home elevator.
3. Increase Your Home’s Value
Yes, adding an elevator to your home can increase its overall value.
Many prospective buyers may specifically look for homes with elevators. Plus, with the aging U.S. population, it’s arguably never been a better time to install a unit in your home to attract potential homebuyers who will require an elevator to have freedom in their home.
Other situations where adding a properly sized residential elevator to your home will up its value include:
- Those looking for a multi-generational-ready home
- Aging individuals, couples and their families
- Individuals with mobility impairments
- Larger, multi-unit or multi-family homes, duplexes or apartments
- Vacation properties you rent
In total, the cost of outfitting a new elevator in your home will vary. Estimates depend on your location, the cab or lift style selected, the drive style selected, hoistway needs, local regulations and more.
However, the cost of paying or retrofitting that elevator is calculated into a home’s resale value. What’s more, installing an elevator for residential purposes still requires minimal construction, even compared to other home improvement projects.
4. Have Lifelong Peace of Mind
The peace of mind afforded by a simple home elevator is unparalleled.
Your home is your sanctuary — the place where you create memories, share experiences, host events, celebrate holidays and milestones and experience the everyday pleasures of life. Aging and mobility impairments may be inevitable, but leaving this special place because of them shouldn’t be.
With the right elevator manufacturer, support is always nearby. Local elevator repair teams are right around the corner to address any mechanical issues as soon as they strike, plus provide annual checkups delivering even further peace of mind.
Does My House Have Room for an Elevator?
Turn to an Inclinator dealer for clear answers on whether your house has room for an elevator. Our nationwide network of elevator experts can give you a personalized assessment of the viability of an elevator in your house, as well as price estimates, installation guidance, best-fit elevator types and so much more. Find your local dealer today.