Residential elevators are becoming a staple in the High Country
September 26, 2008
The mountains aren’t the only things elevated in Colorado’s High Country.
Many remaining vacant land options are interspersed between steep mountains, narrow valleys and public lands, leaving many builders with nowhere to go but up.
The elevator industry in the mountains ” and nationwide ” is booming. Sure, people building homes in many mountain communities have the kind of money to spend on the little extras, but some speculate the elevator trend isn’t just for the wealthy anymore.
“All of the people I know who are building right now, it’s almost like you have to (include an elevator),” says Stefan Schmid, a West Vail homeowner who has an elevator in his four-story home. “It’s becoming a necessity.”
Schmid says home elevators are not only convenient for things like bringing in the groceries, but also for Colorado’s high elevation and less oxygen in the air. An elevator eliminates the huffing and puffing that could come from walking up the stairs.
Residential elevators can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000, but the money goes a long way, says Jeff Buckley, owner of Summit Home Elevator in Parker.
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“Especially if (the home) is somewhere they’re going to be the rest of their lives,” he says. “The cost of an elevator is a drop in the bucket compared to what you put into the house.”
Chris Keller, owner of Aspen Meadow Construction in Summit County, says he’s building elevators in just about every house with a lower level garage. People need to be able to get to the main living space in the home without having to climb a bunch of stairs, he says.
“We (build with elevators) because our customers want it,” Keller says.
There are other options to help make in-home mobility easier, such as stairlifts and dumbwaiters. Dumbwaiters are only good for transporting items, not people, between floors. And stairlifts pose some safety concerns. For people in wheelchairs, stairlifts are not the wisest choice, says Doug Watson, of Colorado Custom Lift in Denver, which installs elevators all around the state.
“Something with wheels at the top of the stairs that you’ll be transferring in and out of is probably not the best idea,” he says.
And, though a stairlift might be cheaper, it’s not as permanent as an elevator, which adds a lot of value to a home, Buckley says.
Planning for the future
The mountain communities in Colorado have experienced an influx of retiring baby boomers. Many are building multi-story homes where elevators are a natural amenity, both for convenience and for safety.
“It takes the risk of falling down and breaking a hip out of the equation,” Watson says.
Statistics show that most accidents in the home happen on or near the stairs, he says. So the question for baby boomers buying homes they could live in for the rest of their lives becomes, “Why not build an elevator?”
“Sometimes people don’t want people to know they can’t walk up the stairs,” Watson says. “They feel inadequate.”
That’s where some of the different design options come into play. Home elevators aren’t big steel doors that may as well have a bull’s-eye on them like those in hotels or office buildings. Homeowners can custom build them just like any other home appliance or decor.
A typical residential elevator is about 3 feet by 4 feet, Watson says.
There’s usually an accordion gate, but a home elevator doesn’t have to follow any design standards. It can be as pretty as you want, even down to the kind of telephone you decide to install in it. And the inside of the elevator cab can have whatever look you desire.
“We’ve done so many different types of designs,” Buckley says. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we can match whatever look is done in the house.”
On the exterior, some elevators blend into the home, with a normal looking door disguising the entrance as just another room down the hallway. Other residents like to showcase the elevator, however, drawing attention to it with its design or doors, Watson says. “The sky is the limit really,” he says.