Our wheelchair-bound teen begs us to do a basement remodeling creating a computer and TV room. An elevator seems the most efficient idea, if added on a ground floor exterior wall. Can we excavate 8' down, break through the cement basement wall, and add an elevator? The ground has deep earth. What should we budget?
Richard ~ Chicago, Illinois
Hi Richard, As I'm sure you already realize, this is a fairly sizable project you're considering here, but I understand why it's important. It's difficult to price something like this without seeing the job-site and also because there are so many variables that can affect an elevator installation.
The elevator is going to need a shaft and with it being below grade it should be concrete. Most elevators also require a pit so the shaft is going to have to be somewhere between 2 and 4 feet deeper than your basement floor depending on the elevator manufacturer. I'll say right now that if you go ahead with the project you need to hire a contractor who has been in charge of a project where an elevator was installed as many never have. The first time I coordinated the installation of an elevator it was quite a learning experience and you don't want someone to learn on your home.
Coordination between your general contractor and the elevator company is VERY important as everything has very tight tolerances for the elevator to work correctly and safely.
A large portion of the side of your home will need to be excavated so that the concrete contractors can get their forms in and work safely in the excavation. Cutting the hole through the foundation is also going to be a complicated job and you will definitely need to get an engineer involved. They will need to figure a way to support everything above the new hole and I would guess that it could consist of over cutting the width of the hole and adding a steel beam as a header, but that's just a guess. The engineer will do some calculations based on everything that's above the hole such as a first floor, possibly a second floor, and a roof system and let you know what needs to be installed.
Since the elevator you are using is going to be rated for residential use you need to ensure the company knows it needs to be handicap accessible and meet ADA requirements. Commercial elevators have to meet ADA requirements, but residential models don't have to meet those minimum clearances.
The best way to approach this project if you go ahead with it is to have an architect draw up plans. They will visit the site and then do their drawings based on what they see at your home and feedback from an elevator company. The drawings will cost a little bit, but they will give all the contractors something to price off of and without them all the contractors will probably quote you high prices to cover themselves against any unknowns. I know I would and you're going to need drawings for your permits anyway.
As far as what I think the ballpark budget should be, the estimating handbook I use gives a range for a residential elevator of $19,000-$35,000 and that's just for the elevator. The wide range is due to the different types of residential elevators and all the variables that can affect the costs, but this range is for a two stop one story elevator. I would figure a range of $40,000-$60,000 for all the other work involved such as excavation, concrete, and electric. I think you should be safe budgeting $100,000 for the project, but costs could vary around Chicago, Illinois and you should have drawings done and get some contractor estimates. Good Luck!