What's Up With Elevators? (Part 1)

When the Crase family's 100-year-old home in a remote region on Michigan's Upper Peninsula got a new elevator in March, the snow was still deep.
Reprinted from PN June 2001

Installing an elevator helps turn a family's century-old house into an accessible home.

View Forum | Print Article | Font Size + / - | Back
Editor Cliff Crase's challenge was to convert his childhood home into a more accessible and livable house. While this would require some serious construction, the real challenge was that the 100-year-old house is located in a remote region on Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP). The structure's existing condition and finding a dealer/installer and an elevator to accommodate building codes would be the final obstacles in making this family house truly "home" again.

Cliff's dad purchased the old house in the mid-1940s and outfitted the upstairs into two apartments, enclosing the staircase for his family's privacy on the first floor. By the 1960s, the last renter had left. After returning home following an auto accident that resulted in his cervical spinal-cord injury, Cliff made more alterations, including a roll-in shower in the old kitchen.

Now, it has become our house. With 4,000 square feet on two floors, we clung to the tiny rooms and made do. Finally, Victoria lamented, "Dad, my bedroom is too small."

Bach Mobilities Manager Tim Fehrenbach installs the rails on a wall of the shaft. The entire process involves much more than just buying an elevator and plugging it in!

The challenge was how to expand to the upstairs, essentially returning the home to its original floor plan.

Rockland now was a charming, friendly town of only 500 or so people, a factor in our decision to restore the house. On the minus side was the difficulty in finding good contractors and the obvious extensive renovations that were necessary.

An elevator would remedy a number of problems, but finding an elevator dealer is difficult in our remote area of the UP. There are no listings for elevators in the most obvious locationthe telephone directory's Yellow Pages. The Internet is useful in locating elevator companies, but not dealers.

While writing this article, I called four manufacturerstwo in Wisconsin, Concord Elevator, and another company that also markets nationally. Concord connected me to its sales department, where a representative's voice mail took my request. The next day, I received a call recommending Bach Mobilities, of Escanaba, Mich., as installers.

Picking a dealer/installer near your location is important for future service. The fact that Bach has a toll-free "800" number is also helpful. Even if you find a better price from a dealer hundreds of miles from you, consider whether your savings are worth the difficulties you?ll encounter if you need service.

Which elevator company should we choose?

We relied on word of mouth from homeowners we knew who had installed elevators. They gave us their opinions on the specific brands they were using and options we might consider. Our friend who has an elevator recommended getting the largest unit that would fit in our home that local or state laws allow.

An independent dealer such as Bach usually installs a number of elevator brands and can advise homeowners as to the basic options each one features that can satisfy the needs of the application. A dealer should also be able to explain the upgrades that can change the unit's price. These options may include various sizes, models, weight capacities, telephone connections, power doors, upgraded surfaces on the cab, light options, and door configurations.

A dealer will also explain your state's code requirements. Usually a state requires a licensed elevator installer and possibly a permit.

Moving eight feet vertically should not be expensive, but it can be. Depending on many factors, the cost of an elevator and its installation can run from $15,000 to $30,000, not including the price of the shaft, which can add an additional $5,000-$8,000.

Initially, these amounts may seem excessive. However, this investment can add value to your home that may enhance your property for resale so equity can be recaptured. In addition, this is a modification that will be used daily, greatly improving your comfort and use of your property. It can be financed in a number of ways, including home-equity loans, and tax advantages are possible if the elevator is medically warranted.

It has been feasible to install an elevator in our 100-year-old home in a remote region of the country. Bach would have handled all the necessary drawings for elevator installation, shaft fabrication, and appropriate permits; however, we had an architect draw our plans because of the additional extensive renovations we were planning to the rest of the house. To assure all aspects of the installation were considered, Bach guided the plans relating to the elevator.

Tim Fehrenbach, manager of Bach Mobilities, Inc., pointed out some of Concord's ingenious mechanisms that allow very finite positioning of the cab and unique safety features in the event of electrical failure. He also noted these features are on all Concord elevator models, not just the more expensive units.

Nancy Crase is editorial consultant for PN's sister publication, SPORTS 'N SPOKES. The next segment of this two-part article will show the finished product and share comments on the ability to again use this family home's second floor.


To read more about this, order the June 2001 PN, Click Here.
To Subscribe, Click Here.

Article Forum

PN Forum discussions are intended to provide a place for free-flowing exchange of information, opinions, and comments and are designed to provide an enjoyable and informative expression for all participants.
Please review our Forum Rules for complete details.

Login with username and password (Forgot Password?)
New Post

What's Up With Elevators? (Part 1)


Be the first to comment on this article.
(Register or login to add comments.)