While previously seen exclusively as a high-end luxury item, elevators are becoming a more popular feature in today’s homes. Perhaps due to the wave of baby boomers that are planning for their long-term needs and recent innovations that have made the technology more affordable, residential elevators are now seen as a practical solution to many home challenges.
Homeowners who wish to age in place, have existing mobility issues, or will soon be caring for older parents, often think about adding on a ground-level master suite. However, if the added square footage isn’t otherwise necessary or if lot space is at a premium, then this option may be less than ideal. Instead, installing an elevator can be a great solution. Even if you do have the lot space, often times building up, rather than out, is less expensive. Installing a home elevator can actually be more economical in the long run, and may resolve the challenge within the existing footprint of the home. Many folks don’t anticipate how much they’ll actually use an elevator until after it’s installed. Transporting laundry, groceries, luggage, and seasonal storage items throughout multiple levels of the home are just a few of the ways they can help make life a little easier.
Location, Location, Location
When considering installing an elevator, a common homeowner question is “where should it go?” The answer is usually dictated by the configuration of the available space. Unless it’s new construction, the elevator will obviously need to be retrofitted into the existing design. A recent renovation in Arlington involved carving out a corner space of the home, and framing the elevator within its envelope. If the current space does not lend itself to the installation, some homeowners choose to build a small addition to create a dedicated space. A recently finished project in Chevy Chase bumped out an area of the existing envelope just large enough to incorporate a three-story elevator into the home. A stop on the outside allows the homeowner to easily access the backyard via the elevator. The new structure is perfectly blended to match the exterior of the home.
Types of Elevators
The allotted space will also determine what type of elevator you can install, as different styles require a different amount and type of space for the mechanics. Hydraulic elevators typically provide the smoothest and quietest ride, but the 4’x4′ units do require a separate machine room that is often located at the lower level or garage. If space is limited, a winding-drum unit is a popular option as it is more flexible in terms of where the machinery is located and offers cabs as small as 2’x2′, about the size of a phone booth. While that size will not be able to fit a wheel chair, as the minimum cab size needs to be 3′ x 4′ to accommodate one, it would work well for someone with other mobility issues. Another common style is a counter-weighted chain drive elevator, which is a machine-less room system where all drive equipment is contained under the finished ceiling in the shaft. This type of system is very energy efficient and is recommended if you are looking for one that is LEED certified.
Adding the Bells and Whistles
If you’re picturing an elevator in your home and it garners up images of drab office building or sterile medical center elevators, think again. Whether your style is more traditional or sleek and contemporary, you can find an assortment of materials and finishes that will reflect the rest of your home. Most homeowners choose the most public space, such as the foyer or living room, and transition the flooring into the elevator. Other elements such as wallpaper, trim, chair rails, and wainscoting can be incorporated as well. Rich wood paneling exudes a warm look, and adding mirrors can make the interior space seem larger. The above mentioned Chevy Chase renovation has a stop on the main floor in the living room, which features an art gallery. The homeowner wanted the elevator to be as unobtrusive as possible, so the doors of the cab were made flush with the walls of the gallery. For added ambiance, consider installing a music system to pipe in your favorite tunes.
If you would like to discuss an elevator solution for your home, please let us know. As experienced design build experts, BOWA’s professionals can help you determine which type of elevator is right for your home.