Friday, September 21, 2007
Elevator can keep home livable
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
As baby boomers age, most have plans to keep living in the homes they have now. And as baby boomers prepare for the future, there has been a rise in the demand for home designs and renovations that are more accessible.
One of the most requested designs lately is main-floor living. This means everything a person needs for daily living is on the ground floor. The home itself may have a second story or a lower level with additional bedrooms, baths and game rooms, which become guest spaces as children leave the nest.
But the core of the home — the main floor — allows people to live comfortably and function well, even in their golden years.
But what happens if your home doesn't have a main-floor master suite? What if it has an attached garage on the lower level? Do you go to the expense of a major addition to add a bathroom, bedroom, or garage to the main level?
There are other options to make multiple levels more accessible.
To relieve the burden of hauling groceries or laundry up and down stairs, you can consider a dumb waiter, which is really is a miniature elevator.
Some dumb waiters are manually raised and lowered, while others are electrical and work with the push of a button. The approximately 2-foot by 2-foot shaft can be retrofitted into an existing house, as long as you can locate a space that comes out in a reasonable spot on each level.
When a person can't physically use the stairs, there are several options: stair lifts, wheelchair lifts or an elevator.
A stair lift is a metal rail installed on one side of the stairs that moves a chair up and down from one floor to another. A wheelchair lift is a platform that moves a limited number of feet, allowing wheelchair access to two different levels. Wheelchair lifts usually service levels changes less than a story high.
While both these options are less expensive than an elevator, they are somewhat aesthetically unattractive and usually more of a short-term solution than a permanent fix to a home.
The residential elevator, on the other hand, is the ultimate answer to easy access to all levels in your home.
Once an outrageous luxury in only the fanciest homes, they are now more affordable and are seen as good investments. An elevator can add up to 10 percent of the value of your home (based on the U.S. national home value average) and they are becoming the next "must have" for homebuyers.
Another advantage: A stairway may take up as much as 100 square feet of floor space, while an elevator can use as little as 24 square feet.
Often no larger than an average closet, homeowners can choose interior finishes for the cab. The ride is quiet and smooth, and maintenance is no more demanding than your traditional forced-air furnace.
There is neither a requirement for large equipment on your roof, nor a need for a deep pit below the shaft. New elevator designs allow for the machinery to be mounted on the rails within the hoistway itself. Even if you don't install an elevator now, you might want to think about designating a space in your new design that could convert into a shaft in the future. A closet today could be your future elevator should the need arise. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.