Did you know that elevators have been around since 300 BC? Although modern, mechanical elevators have a shorter history, the concept of lifts has deep roots. One of the earliest patents for mechanical elevators indicates that 1853 might be the magic number for the first traction elevator. Since then, we have come up with all kinds of uses like passenger elevators, freight elevators, and personal lifts.
Commercial elevators for small buildings with fewer than five floors cost around $20,000 to install. By comparison, commercial elevators for tall buildings with 20 or more floors cost about $100,000 to install. The size and style of the elevator make the biggest impact on price.
Between catering to convenience and operating a legal business, many business owners find themselves in the market for a commercial elevator. As a mechanical device that lifts people, there are some requirements like certifications, maintenance, and weight capacities that must be met.
- Types of Elevators
- Elevator Size
- Elevator Safety
- Elevator Inspections
- Elevator Maintenance
- Other Costs Associated with Installing an Elevator
- Elevator Features
- The Bottom Line
Types of Elevators
Commercial elevators are designed for different purposes. Some models are meant to lift people, and some are only intended for things. Elevators provide accessibility for the disabled, convenience for patrons of buildings with many floors, and efficiency for manufacturing facilities.
The most common type of commercial elevator is a passenger elevator. These are lifts designed to carry people from floor to floor of a commercial building. These elevators are typically powered by hydraulics, requiring an elevator machine room on the property. And buildings that are very tall often have express elevators that move between floors very quickly.
These elevators are typically used in manufacturing plants to move materials from floor to floor. Freight elevators are specifically designed to move large or heavy objects like pallets and furniture. The average cost to install a freight elevator is between $75,000 and $150,000.
Hydraulic elevators are a type of elevator suitable for buildings with less than eight floors. This type of elevator is powered by an electric motor that pumps oil into a cylinder. The mechanics are typically located in the space below the elevator or in an external machine room. The average cost of a hydraulic elevator is between $20,000 and $50,000, depending on its size.
Traction elevators operate on a system of belts and pulleys. These elevators were the first style invented and still continue to be used today. These elevators are designed to use a counterweight for lifting the elevator car. And although they typically have a motor, it is less stressed because of the counterweight design. The average costs for installing a traction elevator are between $50,000 and $80,000.
Machine room-less elevators (MRL) are specifically designed to save space by not requiring large equipment to operate the lift. These elevators are either traction elevators or hydraulic elevators. MRL elevators use up to 80% less energy compared to traditional hydraulic models. They make a good choice for “Green” buildings.
Elevators come in many different sizes. For example, a dumbwaiter may be as small as a tray of food, while a freight elevator may be large enough to hold a freight truck with pallets. The size depends on the task at hand. Most commercial elevators intended for lifting people are similar to a four-foot by eight-foot box that can hold up to 600 lbs or more.
Generally speaking, elevators are very safe for transporting people and things between floors. However, accidents can happen if they are not used within basic safety guidelines. For example, elevator doors open and close automatically. Patrons should always stand clear of the doors to avoid being hit by a closing door. For example, patrons should avoid using their bodies to prop the doors open. Instead, there is a button designed for this purpose that tells the mechanical features to hold the doors open.
In order to legally operate an elevator in your business, the machine needs to meet all current building codes for elevator lifts. This requires annual inspections by a third-party engineer who will assess the condition and maintenance of the unit and recommend repairs.
Failing to make repairs will cause your elevator to fail the inspection and subsequently endanger your visitors. This creates a considerable amount of risk for your business. Elevator building codes and maintenance requirements vary by state. Consult with your state inspector prior to installing a commercial elevator.
Inspections are required annually and are a good part of your maintenance plan, but there is much more that goes into it. Elevators should always be maintained in excellent working order through proactive maintenance. Your commercial elevator may come with a maintenance contract. Make sure you understand what is covered and what you will be responsible for and plan accordingly. If your visitors are frequently stuck in your elevator, the safety risks alone can irreparably damage your business. Many businesses spend between $250 and $500 per year on elevator maintenance. Modernizing older elevators can cost much more, up to $2,000 or $3,000.
Other Costs Associated with Installing an Elevator
In addition to the cost of the elevator, there are some additional costs associated with installing and operating a commercial elevator. From renovations to optional finishes, here are some of the other costs of installing a commercial elevator.
Major additions to your property require a building permit in order to be legal modifications. This includes installing a commercial elevator. Building permit costs vary by the local issuing authority, but costs typically range between $200 and $1000.
If a new elevator requires any remodeling in the building, you can add this cost to your initial price tag. An architect might cost around $2,000 to draft up plans for the redesign. And hiring a contractor can cost between $3,500 and $5,000 for labor and materials.
Mechanical Room or Hoistway
Most mechanical elevators require machinery to power the elevator. This equipment is either located in the shaft below the elevator car (lowest floor) or in a separate mechanical room. The average cost to install mechanical devices ranges between $2,500 and $9,000.
The main component of your commercial elevator is the car. Purchasing this unit is typically a base price between $20,000 – $75,000 with an additional $10,000 – $15,000 for each additional floor.
You will need to hire a licensed electrician to do the wiring for a commercial elevator. You can expect to pay between $50 – $150 per hour for labor, with work taking between 3 and 5 hours. You may also need to hire labor to finish carpentry or additional fixtures.
Choosing the right finishes for your elevator will depend on the type of business that you operate. Most models come with a set of standard features and a set of optional upgrades. Here are the components to consider when choosing finishes to style your commercial elevator.
In most commercial elevators, the doors are stainless steel. These are easy to clean, professional-looking when polished, and hygienic. For a more decorative finish, you can opt for textured metal doors.
The interior walls of the elevator are typically laminate panels designed to look like wallpaper. These can be finished in a variety of colors and styles to match any aesthetic. Glass panels, stainless steel, or textured metal would be available as optional upgrades for interior walls that add to the overall cost of the elevator.
Providing safety handrails inside the cab of the elevator is common since occupants are standing while the car is moving. This bar is usually made of flat steel. A tubular grab bar or a high-end wood handrail would be optional upgrades.
The flooring material inside the elevator is typically a tile or carpet installed by a general contractor. The flooring does not come with the elevator. However, you can expect to spend between $1.50 – $3.00 per square foot for material and an additional $300 – $600 for labor for flooring.
The ceiling tiles and lighting that are overhead in an elevator are for aesthetics. The drop ceiling is usually about a foot lower than the ceiling of the car. And it typically comes with LED or fluorescent lights and metal louvers. Optional upgrades include recessed lights, polished metals, and plastic laminate ceiling panels.
The Bottom Line
Installing a commercial elevator is not optional for many businesses. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), multistory buildings need to provide equal access for tenants and visitors regardless of disability. This typically means installing an elevator in new and existing renovations.
However, the cost of installing a commercial elevator isn’t limited to the cost of the machine. There are additional costs for permits, construction, electrical, and maintenance that need to be factored in as well. For small buildings, the total cost is typically under $30,000, and for buildings over five floors, the cost is between $75,000 – $150,000.