Planning for a Future Home Elevator



Insider Tip:

Dimensions and specifications may change without notice, so don't build for the future based on a set of plans you find online today. Give yourself room to adjust for tomorrow's elevators.

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  • How can you plan for a future elevator in the home you are building today?

    Shaft Size - Since you don't know which home elevator or what size cab you may want in the future, if you plan for a large cab now, you leave your options open. The U.S. code allows for residential elevator cabs be up to 15 sq. ft. in size. You may find that someone will want to use a scooter or a wheelchair with leg extensions on it. Don't limit your options by building a shaft that is too small today. You can either use the space reserved for your elevator as closets or create a cozy reading nook with the front wall left open. The ideal inside shaft or hoistway dimensions from face-of-sheetrock to face-of-sheetrock should be 5 feet wide by 6 feet deep. This extra width will allow a contractor to install a furred out wall to accomodate your rail backing wall in the future. Rail backing is wood installed in a specific location where your elevator system attaches to the wall. Every elevator has different backing requirements. Make sure your contractor knows that there could be a new furred in wall on either side of the shaft, so that they will add extra supports to tie the new wall into in both the front and back walls and horizontal blocking halfway between the sill plates and top plates on each side wall. There should be a one foot deep pit in the foundation with 12 inches of concrete below that to support your elevator. If you leave an area for machinery adjacent to your home elevator shaft at the lowest level, this could be built into a machine room later. Not all residential elevators require machine rooms, so you may not need it, but it's best to think about it now.

    Door Openings - Doors are not centered on an elevator shaft. They are always slightly to the left or right of center, depending where your rail wall is. If you have your contractor span the central 4 feet of your 5 foot openings with a header, you will have room to move the 3 foot wide door around once you choose your elevator in the future.

    Power - Some elevators require only a 110 volt 20 amp circuit and others need a 220 volt 30 amp circuit in addition a separate 110 volt 20 amp circuit. If you bring both over to the elevator shaft, and more specifically to the assigned machine space, you can decide later which elevator you would like. You will also need a phone line connected to your house line brought over to the shaft area. Some elevators require power at the lowest floor and others at the top of the shaft, so just terminate your power in a junction box where it can be made to go to either location.

    Exceptions- The higher end elevators will actually be on commercial systems and have different requirements. If you are considering a heavy duty elevator of 1400 lbs. for heavy cab materials such as stone flooring, a high-end custom cab or a commercial grade elevator with sliding doors, you should proceed with the elevator installation at the time you build your home due to increased pit depth, rail backing requirements, overhead and power requirements and the difficulty of getting the large pieces into the house. Otherwise, you may alternately choose to leave a space on the exterior of your home where a hoistway may be built in the future. Leave a 6 foot wide space between windows and doors on all floors of the home where doors could be cut in later. Make sure there are no electrical, plumbing or HVAC lines in this section of the wall. Also make sure the air conditioners and power panels do not enter the house in the area you are reserving.