You don’t have to live in a spacious estate to add an elevator to your home. Modestly sized residences are perfectly capable of accommodating a residential-style elevator or lift. So, if you’re looking into home elevator size requirements and considering whether or not you can fit a home elevator inside a closet, you may be on to something.
After all, a closet sort of looks like an elevator cabin, doesn’t it? Well, depending on the type of home elevator — and the size of the closet — it could be roughly the correct size. However, the elevator car’s interior space is only part of the overall footprint.
Of course, the car doesn’t magically levitate up and down between floors. So, what takes up space beyond the car itself? The answer is threefold, and it will impact whether or not you can fit a home elevator inside of a closet:
- Running clearance
- Support structure and home elevator drive mechanism
- Thickness of the shaft walls
Let’s examine all three factors, as well as how to proceed if you decide to install a home elevator in a closet.
Home Lift Running Clearance
All elevators and lifts — from high-rise elevators traveling hundreds of feet to stairway chairlifts traveling up three steps — require some degree of running clearance. Proper running clearance ensures that the car, platform or chair cannot rub up against any building walls, thresholds, stairs, or other parts. In fact, depending on the style of lift or elevator, it might require six inches of space on all sides — though home elevators often require less running clearance.
Regardless, it is important to recognize that several inches of space around the device generally allows for enough room so that everything runs safely and reliably, free from obstructions, even after years of use and potential settling of the surrounding construction.
Support Structure and Home Elevator Drive Mechanism
In addition to space for the car and adequate running clearance, there needs to be room for the mechanism that allows the home elevator to move up and down between floors: Two T-shaped rails fastened to a nearby wall and an L-shaped “sling” that rides up and down on the rails.
The elevator cabin then sits atop the L-shaped sling using specifically engineered fasteners. So when the sling goes up, the cabin goes up, and you go up! Likewise, in the down direction.
This “T-rail” structure must also be specifically engineered using the appropriate safety factors and thus takes up another several inches of space. It often amounts to one foot of space, but only on one side of the home elevator shaft.
Home Elevator Shaft Wall Thickness
Lastly, most home elevators require a shaft, similar to commercial elevators. Usually, the shaft walls have a thickness of several inches. For example, 2×4 construction with standard-thickness drywall on both sides typically has a wall thickness of just under 5 inches.
However, if a home elevator shaft wall is not perfectly plumb, it may require adding an inch of space in each direction (accounting for the width and depth of the shaft).
How to Proceed with Fitting a Home Elevator in a Closet
Do not feel intimidated if these space-filling elements seem more complex than you initially considered. The key is to work with an experienced home elevator company that does lift installations day in and day out.
Even if your contractor has yet to gain experience building a home elevator shaft, Arrow Lift can walk them through the requirements. We have done so thousands of times since the 1980s! Alternatively, we can refer you to contractors we’ve worked with on other successful installations upon request.
Types of Home Elevators that Fit into Closets
Now that we have covered the primary space constraints to consider when determining if a home elevator can fit in a closet, one key question remains: What type of home elevator can fit in a closet?
The short answer is: It depends.
Specifically, consider these four factors when determining what type of home elevator may fit in your closet:
- Type and size of home lift
- Number of stories in your house
- Layout of your house
- Size of the closet
Before we go into detail on these considerations, it’s important to remember that home elevators are not simple, plug-and-play devices like microwaves or kitchen mixers. To successfully turn an existing home into a forever home by installing a home elevator, it’s best to involve an experienced, highly regarded home elevator company as early as possible.
So, as you begin your decision-making process, give us a call. Our Home Elevator Experts are friendly, helpful, and easygoing. We are family-owned, and our reputation in the community is absolutely precious to us. If we do not believe a home elevator is right for you, we will let you know — or offer practical alternatives.
Now, let’s review the four factors regarding fitting home elevators in closets.
Type and Size of Home Lift
There are many types of home elevators, and most of them come in several sizes. In some cases, the size is highly customizable to suit your needs, while there are two or three set sizes in other cases.
Here are a few of the most common types of home elevators, along with their corresponding footprints:
Traditional Home Elevator
This type of home elevator requires a shaft, which can sometimes make use of stacked closets. Typically, the existing walls will need structural beams added so that the T-rail structure mentioned above is sturdy and safe from an engineering standpoint. In addition, there is usually some other preparatory work (“rough-ins”) that also needs to be done.
Some of the positive aspects of this type of home lift include:
- Keeping your home looking the way it does now,
- Being able to customize it to suit your taste,
- Staying power of the elevator as a potential luxury feature when the home is sold or passed down to the next generation.
Residential elevator dimensions vary. This type of home elevator footprint is often around 5 feet by 5 feet but can sometimes be 4 feet by 5 feet or smaller.
Shaftless Home Lift
It might surprise you to learn that not all home elevators need a shaft. While a shaftless home elevator is often installed in an open area (because it can be!), you can also install it in a closet space.
Depending on the size and layout, you may or may not want to remove the closet doors. The footprint taken up by this style of home elevator is minimal but can be as small as 32 inches by 44 inches.
Pneumatic Vacuum Elevator
Also called a tube elevator, this modern home lift is powered by air. These home elevators are approximately closet sized, but rather than tucking them away in a closet, our Clients often choose to feature them in an open area as a beautiful showpiece.
Number of Stories in Your House
When researching which type of home elevator might fit into an existing closet in your home, the number of stories the elevator needs to serve is relevant. The main reason is that shaftless home lifts can only serve two floors. In contrast, traditional home elevators and vacuum elevators can travel up to four or even five stories high.
Layout of Your House
Similarly, the home layout might help determine whether a particular home elevator model can fit into your existing closets. Sometimes, the main challenge is finding an adjacent wall to which the elevator support structure can be attached securely. In other situations, the home layout will determine on which side of the shaft the elevator doors must be located and how they open (swing out to the left or the right, for example).
Traditional home elevators offer the greatest flexibility for homes with challenging layouts. On the other hand, shaftless home lifts are somewhat limited in that most models can only have one opening. And, since the door on a shaftless elevator travels up and down as part of the cabin, it must swing out the same way on both landings.
Size of the Closet
Perhaps the most important factor when finding out whether a home elevator can fit into an existing closet is the size of the closet! The answers below are general guidelines and depend on more situation-specific items, such as those discussed above.
|Type of elevator||Closet space needed (approx.)||Maximum number of stories||Added structural support required?|
|Traditional in-shaft home elevator||Varies greatly, but can be 48” x 60” or smaller if needed||5||Yes|
|Pneumatic vacuum elevator||From 30” x 30” up to 52” x 52”||5||No|
|Shaftless home lift||From 32” x 44” up to 39” x 49”||2||Usually not|
Find the Perfect Fit for Your Home Elevator
We hope that this information is helpful to you. Arrow Lift has been making homes more accessible since 1985, and we are experienced at helping find the right location for a home lift or elevator. Depending on the home elevator size and style, sometimes that involves using closet or pantry space. Other times, we install the elevator in an open area or an addition is added to the outside of the home just for the elevator shaft.
It truly is situation dependent, and we would love the opportunity to see how we can serve you. To start the process of buying a home elevator, contact us to set up an onsite or showroom appointment with one of our Home Elevator Experts. We hope to see you soon!