Ask the Expert

Home elevators

Q: We live in a multi-story house and are considering adding an elevator. (A convenience now but could be a necessity down the road.) What are the different elevator types, and can they be retrofitted into an existing space?

An elevator is a great way to add value to your home and increase convenience and luxury, while meeting present and future needs.

Yes, a home elevator can certainly be retrofitted into an existing space. To decide which model might work best, we look at several factors: your existing site/structural conditions, what footprint of space is available, and what your goals and priorities are.

General Requirements:
For an elevator you’ll typically need a pit 8” deep, a shaftway built, structural framing in the walls, and electricity supplied per manufacturer’s requirements. Within the Municipality of Anchorage, a home elevator requires an elevator permit and inspection, so be sure you are working with an elevator contractor familiar with all of the code and safety requirements.

Traditional hydraulic models need a dedicated machine room for the elevator controller and machinery. Hydraulic models are a little quieter and require less overhead clearance than other models – typically, 8’ ceilings are fine.

Winding Drum:
Modern winding drum models do not need a separate “machine room”; the machines are in the elevator shaft with the elevator. They are quiet, robust and require 9’2” of ceiling height at the top landing. This preserves valuable floor space in your home.

New Technologies:
Vacuum elevators are the latest technology; they are self-contained units that require minimal site preparation. However, these units are still under review in the Municipality of Anchorage for code compliance; they may be possible outside the Anchorage area for the time being.

There are several options for cab styles and finishes – from basic flush walls in white to raised Cherry wood panel walls, or even a Willy Wonka style glass cab.

A professional elevator contractor will always meet with you to listen to your needs, share information, and assist you in the decision-making process.

Darcy Bennett is a lifelong Alaskan and co-owns Alaska Stairlift & Elevator with her husband, Kevin T. Bennett. They have been providing accessible solutions for Alaska for the past 20 years. Visit