A Standard Home Elevator

A standard home elevator is what most people historically think an elevator is; a cab or cabin inside a hoist way or shaft. Either taking away space on each floor in your house or adding space to each floor outside of your house. The terms Hoist way or shaft are interchangeable references to the structure the elevator cab moves up and down inside of.

The interiors can be finished in a contemporary, transitional or traditional way. Cab finish vernacular is nearly identical to kitchen cabinet door vernacular. For example a transitional look might be single recessed paneled cabin walls painted white, you can think craftsman or shaker cabinet doors painted white. A contemporary cabin might be flat bamboo, glass or walnut with no embellishments, think European flat foil kitchen cabinet doors. A traditional cab might be raised or double recessed panels with an applied molding.

The finish of control panels, handrails, lighting trim and cabin entry doors whether accordion doors, bi-folding or collapsing panels like at the office strengthens or weakens the contemporary, transitional or traditional style.

The hallway or hoist way doors are also part of the design aspect of an elevator project.

Signature Elevators & Accessible Design displays in our showroom two major standard elevator brands: Cambridge Elevators and Waupaca Elevators.

Non Traditional Home Elevators

It helps to understand standard by knowing what is not standard. Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators and Stiltz Shaftless Elevators are very good home elevator but they are not standard elevators. They are either a shaft & elevator as one product or system or they do not require a shaft at all or only in part and they use different means of movement between stops.

The Home Elevator Hoist Way or Elevator Shaft

In many ways hoist way design, location and considerations are the biggest part of a standard elevator projects. The outside dimensions of the shaft are typically five feet by five feet. This is the width of a hallway bathroom and nearly as deep. Imagine putting stacked bathrooms on each floor. Where would you put them? What stacked spaces the size of a hall bath inside your house could you give up for an elevator? Or if the same space was added to the outside of your house three or four hall baths stacked one upon the other where would you put it?

Residential Elevator Shaft Construction

An elevator shaft is not the equivalent of stacked closets. An elevator shaft must withstand two forces. The forces in tension and in compression. The forces in tension are easy to understand if you think of a tree. Imagine an elevator cab weighting 500 to 1000 pounds plus its capacity lets us say 4 people weighting together 900 pounds for a total of 1400 to 1900 pounds. Now imaging that cab attached to the top of a 30 foot pine tree. What is going to happen to that tree? It is going to be pulled down by the cabs weight and capacity. That represent the forces in tension. The forces in compression is the shear downward force of the cabin transferred to the steel beams it rides on straight down to the ground. Imagine if the elevators steel beams were sitting on the beach. Overtime the steel beams would be driven into the sand such that the third stop would be sitting on the sand. That is the forces in compression at work.

These two forces must be controlled for the rest of time by the way the elevator shaft is built into your house or onto your house. The shaft must be plumb and straight to the ¼ of an inch from top to bottom and must stay that way forever. In other words an elevator shaft must be engineered and built in a far superior & stronger way than the way the rest of your house is built.

The construction of the shaft is where almost all the problems associated with a residential elevator project emanate. Signature Elevators & Accessible Design is unique among elevator contractors because we build our own elevator hoist ways with our own employed carpenters and craftsman. The norm among almost all other elevator companies is to leave the construction of the elevator shaft to you the homeowner. They may provide the names of subcontractors they know but they are ultimately not involved in the construction of the elevator shaft. It may be up to you to:

  • Hire an Architect to draw the plans.
  • Hire a structural engineer to design the construction of the shaft to withstand the forces in tension and compression.
  • Hire a permit processor to husband the plans through the permit office.
  • Hire one or more construction companies to build the shaft.

Signature Elevators & Accessible Design is not opposed to simply being the elevator company which supplies and installs the elevator, if that is what you or your remodeling company or builder wants. But for you the home owner we think one cook in the kitchen supplying a turnkey outcome is simply the better and safer way to go.

Moving a Standard Residential Elevator

How does the elevator cab move up and down the hoist way or shaft? Drum drive and hydraulic elevators are the vast majority of the residential elevator market and are named for their means of moving the cabin up and down the hoist way. There is also the MRL Machine Room Less elevator configuration.

Drum Drive Home elevator

The drum drive residential elevator has been around for a long time. It is simply a drum, driven by a motor that winds a cable onto and around a drum or barrel to pull the superstructure surrounding the elevator cabin, which is called the sling, up the hoist way. Various pulley wheels are often involved to account for the juxtaposition of the motor and drum to the vertical aspects of the hoist way. To lower the elevator the motor turns the drum in the opposite direction unwinding the cable from the drum. The cable, which is called a rope, is typically galvanized aircraft cable rated at 3,000 to 5,000 pounds.

Signature Elevator & Accessible Designs preferred elevator brand for drum drive and drum drive MRL’s is Waupaca Elevators. We have a beautiful Waupaca MRL drum drive elevator with four finishes on display at the showroom.

Roped Hydraulic Home Elevator

Hydraulic residential elevators became very popular beginning about 30 years ago and are still a major part of the market today. A pump motor called a control valve pushes hydraulic fluid from a small tank through a tube or hose into a hydraulic jack or piston. A hydraulic jack is in two parts an outer tube which is called the cylinder and an inner tube which is called a piston. The piston is pushed out of the cylinder by the hydraulic fluid pumped into the cylinder. On top of the piston is a pulley wheel called a sheeve. There is a galvanized aircraft cable, rated at 3000 to 5000 pounds, one side of which is attached to the bottom of the elevator shaft the other side is attached to the superstructure around the elevator cabin which is called the sling. The cable rope goes up and over the pulley or wheel on top of the piston. When the piston rises, pushed up by the hydraulic fluid pumped into the cylinder, the cabin rises 2” for every inch the piston rises. This 2:1 dynamic called mechanical advantage is because the cable is on both sides of the pulley. It is related to the mechanical advantage of block and tackle that can allow a man to lift many multiples of his weight caused by the mechanical advantage of pully systems.

Signature Elevators & Accessible Designs preferred hydraulic elevator brand is Cambridge Elevating. We have an extremely contemporary glass MRL hydraulic Cambridge Elevator on display in our showroom. Including glass collapsing doors and their proprietary remote monitoring system. All in a windowed glass shaft!

MRL Machine Room Less

To some degree the MRL Machine Room Less elevator is more a marketing term than an actual new means of moving an elevator. Traditionally the motor and controller (computer) operating a drum drive, or the motor pump, controller and hydraulic tank operating a roped hydraulic elevator were placed in an equipment room or closet attached to or near by the elevator shaft. A decade or so ago the motors for drum drive elevators had gotten small enough and light enough that they could be moved inside of the elevator hoist way at either the bottom or the top of the shaft. A manufacturers marketing department then rename their drum drive with the motor inside the shaft an MRL Machine Room Less elevator. The controller must still be outside the shaft for numerous safety reasons. Recently the hydraulic elevators tank and pump has gotten small enough and light enough that it to can also be configured as an MRL by moving the tank and pump into the shaft.

Signature Elevators & Accessible Design offers MRL Machine Room Less versions of its two preferred standard elevator brands Waupaca Elevators and Cambridge Elevating.

Other means of moving a residential elevator exist such as traction, counterweight chain drive, sprocket and screw drives however these other means in the residential market are a very small single digit percentage of the marketplace.

To learn more about home elevators spend some time on this site reading about our various projects and products.

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