Thursday, November 10, 2011

How residential elevators are becoming more popular in new homes

Residential elevators are being installed more frequently in multi-level. With an aging population of baby boomers who desire to be independent, planning for future elevators make perfect sense. So framing an elevator shaft into your new home as it is being built will cut down on the future cost of the elevator installation and cut down on the reconstruction that your home will have to go through.
Elevators can be a large expense when they are installed. One way to get around this is to have just the elevator shaft roughed in when you have your house built or renovated. This allows you to pay for the cost of the framing and rough in while the house is being built and put on your mortgage. Then 20 years down the road when you require an elevator you will have had lots of time to save up for it. Installation of the elevator should be relatively easy because the house has been framed for this application.
 What you have to do is have an engineer or architect design you a future elevator shaft in the home. It usually consists of extra footings made of concrete in the basement, then larger beams that surround the shaft all the way up to the top floor. This will help transfer the load down to the foundation when the elevator is finally installed.
The great thing about roughing in the elevator shaft while the house is being built is that it cuts down on the renovation costs in the future. Also if you designate a certain area in the home for the elevator you can still use that space for storage or closest. When installing a future elevator you don’t leave it as an empty shaft, you install the floor joist, plywood and flooring on all floors. This allows you to use these spaces until you desire to have the rest of the elevator installed.
When they go to install the elevator they simply remove the drywall, floor joist and floor coverings. Then they install the elevator and all the mechanical means that it needs. What you have to make sure of is that you don’t install any heating ducts, water pipes, structured wiring or electrical lines through the shaft. This will make the installation of the elevator easier at a later date.
A couple of things that your contractor might have to keep in mind for a future installation of elevator;
·         No mechanical, water, structural or electrical lines inside the shaft.
·         Easy access to electrical panel for future motors to run lift. A lot of this equipment runs on 240 V so you need a large electrical cable run to were the motors will be placed. If electrical panel is not easily accessed from where motors are to be installed then install a 240 line that is not active and is for future use.
·         Have the shaft designed by an engineer so that it will meet building codes for your future elevator and not just to meet the standards for you sub- floor now. This can be done by the same engineer that specs all the beams and floor joist in the home.
·         Make sure you leave enough room for an elevator in the shaft. Usually you have to leave a minimum of 5 feet square for the elevator. This could have to be larger depending on the kind or elevator and the number of floors the elevator will have to lift. You should have the elevator shaft specifications done buy an elevator installation company. For a small fee they design you a future elevator and shaft.
·         You must leave enough room in the hallways going to the elevator on every floor. So that means that the hallways coming and going from the elevator shaft area must be considered handi-cap accessible. Local codes are all different depending on where you live but usually the code reads that you need to be able to turn a wheelchair in a 360 degree area.
·         Make sure that the door to your bedroom and all bathroom doors that you think you will be using are wheelchair accessible. Again check local building codes for that size.
·         Your going to want to install the elevator in an area that is out of the way but can be accessed from outside fairly easily. This area that you access the house from has to be able to have a future ramp installed. So choice a location that will allow a long ramp to be installed from the outside door.
·         Make sure you keep the specifications for all the elevators requirements in a safe place so that you can show the building department 20 years from now that it was engineered for that purpose.

The last 3 houses that we have constructed have all had roughed in elevator shafts. It didn’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to do because we were framing the house from scratch anyways. Hopefully my clients will never need them, but its comforting thing to have if you believe you or your spouse will need it one day.
It is also a positive selling feature for the home, a lot of people are now thinking about building bungalows because they don’t want to go up and down stairs in their later years. This is a smart idea if you live on a big enough piece of property to accommodate a bungalow that has enough space for your needs.
So remember proper planning can help you save money in the future and an elevator shaft rough in can help you stay in your dream home years longer!

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders inc.


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