Either Get it, or Move Out
When I learned that I would need wheelchair access to our home I was told that I would have to have a ramp that was over 120 feet long. It would have to snake back and forth above my driveway and into the back door of our home. I would have to use the outside ramp in all sorts of weather just to go upstairs or downstairs. Alternatively, we could move to another house which was already accessible, or, we could install an elevator. The elevator is far more convenient than using a wooden ramp. It was less expensive than moving into a new home. But not by much!
We replaced a stairway with the new elevator. We had to hire a contractor to take out the stairway and install some flooring as well as a false wall for the elevator downstairs. It holds two people plus a power chair which is the equivalent of three people.
The elevator is just wide enough to hold my power chair. It is just narrow enough to fit into the stairwell without having to do major renovation to my wife's brand new kitchen cupboards that were Very close to the stairwell. You back into the elevator so that you can reach the controls. That takes a bit of learning, especially with the power chair. The caster wheels tend to make the power chair move in unexpected directions when reversing direction. It tends to bump into the sides of the elevator.
The controls are on the inside of the elevator door. From left to right they are Up, Down, a Keyed Lock, Emergency Stop, Alarm, and Overhead Light. In addition, there is a regular telephone on the wall of the elevator.
The elevator is fitted with special sensing switches which stop the elevator immediately if anything is either above or below it. It stops if someone is below the elevator when it descends. The elevator will stop if someone is standing on the floor above. If adjusted correctly, it will stop when it senses your cat or dog on the floor cap above.
The descending elevator is replaced by a solid floor cap. The floor cap is made of a 3/4" plywood base with flooring on top. Molding creates a finished look. The floor cap can easily withstand the weight of the power chair and occupant. The elevator itself cost about $18,000. (In 2001) The work for stairway removal and wall installation was another $5,000. A ramp would have cost somewhere around $2500 at the time. Depending on your individual requirements, the cost could be greater or less. Hopefully, less!
Looking back, the elevator was the best choice for us. The elevator has been used by more than just me. I have had friends and relatives who needed the elevator and would not have been able to use the ramp. And I like the house we're in. It has a beautiful front view of the Cumberland Mountains.