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How to add an elevator or stair lift to your home

This three-story elevator tower, designed by Locust Valley

This three-story elevator tower, designed by Locust Valley architect Brian Shore, was added to a Sands Point house in 2015. Credit: Brian Shore

Elevators are no longer home luxuries — they are being installed in midpriced homes not only to accommodate aging homeowners who want to stay where they are, but also to accommodate a new kind of home being built on Long Island.

“They’re everywhere, especially in the elevated houses that are going up on Long Island as replacements for storm-damaged homes,” says custom homebuilder Eric Daly of Long Beach. “Many have three stories, and an elevator is a necessity.”

Architect Brian Shore of Locust Valley says that clients are asking for elevators more frequently than ever because “investing in an elevator is just clever planning for the future. For those who want to age in place, it can make the difference between people having to make a traumatic move from their longtime home to somewhere much more expensive and unfamiliar.”

An alternate solution to an elevator can be a stair lift, which can accommodate a wheelchair at a fraction of the cost of an elevator, says Tom Knoblauch, owner of StairGlide NY in West Babylon. “A lift can carry up to 300 pounds and the seat can be folded up when not in use, allowing maximum access to the stairs,” he says.


Elevators serving up to five stories require a vertical shaft 6 feet square (a minimum size for a cab that will carry three people or a wheelchair and one attendant).

Architects can choose among several mechanical systems that work the ups and downs of a home elevator; one of the most common is a hydraulic method, which lifts the cab from below.

Stair lifts are seats that ride on guide rails bolted to the stairs. Lifts are battery-operated on continuous charge, providing uninterrupted use during power outages.


Elevators: about $25,000 and up

Stair lifts: $3,000 for a straight staircase


With new construction, architects have many options for locating an elevator shaft, even if the client wants to put off the installation for some future date. In this case, architects use a system called “stacking closets” in which large closets are built on each floor above each other. The vertical space can eventually be converted into an elevator shaft. For remodeling projects, shafts called “bump-outs” or “towers” can be attached to an exterior wall and blended into the existing architecture.

Stair lifts can also be installed on curved staircases.

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