99 – Have You Ever Considered Installing A Lift In A Residential Home

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domestic lift

In this 99th episode, I’m going to be talking about putting a lift into a domestic renovation. I asked Stephen to join me today because there are few things that are slightly technical that he understood better than I did.

Having a residential lift is something that I’ve often thought about. I felt it is quite a luxury but I’m thinking that there may be some possible opportunities for us renovators to add value to our renos with a lift.

Listen to Episode 99: Have You Ever Considered Installing A Lift In A Residential Home?

Podcast: Download (Duration 23:32 — 32MB)

Episode Highlights

  • [00:00:40] Installing a domestic lift
  • [00:02:15] A domestic lift is not as expensive as we thought
  • [00:03:27] Two types of lifts
  • [00:05:06] The newer type of lift
  • [00:06:07] Things to consider when purchasing and installing the lift
  • [00:08:35] Customising your lift
  • [00:09:45] Put something that creates more function
  • [00:10:24] Disability Accredited Lift
  • [00:12:16] Having a lift can exempt you from GST
  • [00:13:45] Height and floor restrictions
  • [00:15:05] How to meet the needs of your lift designs
  • [00:16:17] Determining the doors of the lift
  • [00:18:08] Adding value by putting a lift in
  • [00:19:47] Consider the utilitarian approach rather than architectural feature to reduce the cost
  • [00:20:40] Residential lifts can be a reasonably economical alternative
  • [00:20:40] A review entitled, “My Guilty Pleasure”

Transcription

“I realised that as we get older, we get quite vulnerable and I would not want to be forced to move because of  that. So, we decided that as a way of future proofing our home, we would install a domestic lift.”

Intro

Hello renovators! It’s Bernadette back with another episode of She Renovates. We’re on episode number 99. Now, who would have thought? But here we are.

Today I’m going to be talking about putting a lift into a domestic renovation. It’s something that I’ve often thought about and felt it is quite a luxury but I’m thinking that there may be some possible opportunities for value adding with a lift. For this episode, what I want to talk about is what we learnt about domestic lifts when we went shopping for one for our own reno.

I’ve asked Stephen to join me today because there’s a few things that are slightly technical that he understood better than I did. So I thought that might be a good idea if he came along. We have the master with us today. What I’m going to go through is 10 things that we learnt when we went shopping for lift for our own renovation.

Bernadette: I’ve always thought it was good that we had four levels in our home because it keeps us running up and down them but when I broke my knee, I realised that as we get older, we get quite vulnerable. I would not want to be forced to move because I did something like that. So we decided that as a way of future proofing our home that we would install a domestic lift along with some other renovations.

Of course, in our minds, we were thinking this is going to be a very expensive exercise, which brings me to the first point. They’re not as expensive as you think. Would you agree, Stephen?

Stephen Janson: Hi, everyone! Yes, we were a little bit surprised as well. We have this conception that lifts are a very expensive nature and they certainly are for large lifts, but a lot of domestic ones I think they’ve recognised the need for this. Also with the disability components that I think they’ve started to price them in a more competitive way. So, yes, they weren’t as bad as we thought they would be.

Bernadette: No. So we got a quote for a lift to go into our home, to go over four levels and it was around about 50 thousand for the actual lift and its installation, which we both thought was very reasonable. And of course, you’ve had a lot of experience with installing lifts in commercial settings. So your lifts would cost a lot more, would they not?

Stephen Janson: Well, yes, it’s the size of them as much as anything else. They generally use the different technologies than what some of the smaller lifts use these days.

Bernadette: Yeah, which brings us to the next thing. There are two different types of lifts. The first type is a hydraulic lift and I think traditionally that’s what they’ve most of them been up to this point. Would that be correct?

Stephen Janson: In the smaller lifts they would generally hydraulic the larger lift used to have very large lift motor rooms and you often see them sticking above the height of the building when a building is complete. And that is the lift over on the pit, on the motor rooms and everything else. But the hydraulic lifts do have a limitation because you it was only as long as the hydraulic ram could be that the lifts would be. So they’d often be up to four or five stories high, but they weren’t generally anything much higher than that. They’re all done with the normal pulleys and and cabling and everything else to get in the older style of lifts.

Bernadette: And you also need to have like a plant room even now, don’t you?

Stephen Janson: You don’t need a plant room but for the hydraulics, you need a sort of an area for the oil.

Bernadette: And what goes in that?

Stephen Janson: There’s a large oil tank and then there’s the controls and pumps and things like that which drive the mechanism which actually drives the hydraulic rams which lift it up. If you visualise what a forklift looks like, that’s effectively what they’re doing. They’re like a forklift lifting it up into the up to the respective levels within the house or homes.

Bernadette: And they’re powered by oil, like oil flows through pipes.

Stephen Janson: Yeah.

Bernadette: Even still they use quite commonly domestically, our neighbours have a lift and theirs is hydraulic.

Stephen Janson: Yeah.

Bernadette: However, we found that there’s another more common or not more common, but a newer type of lift and that’s an electric lift. Now what’s the difference with those?

Stephen Janson: Well, the electric lifts tend to run on a rail system and the motor and the like is really attached to the body of the car. Some of them do have the motor at the top but basically, you don’t need the tank for oil, obviously. They’re more compact and I think on this day they’re becoming more liable. But it is important to note that they do require a reasonable amount of electricity, which I’m sure is one of the points we’ll touch on in a moment about making sure that you’ve got adequate power. But having said that, the hydraulic ones aren’t alone there, are they?

The pumps are still quite large. Some of those are also required to be three phased. But generally the electric ones can be a single phase mode, which means it’s more common in a domestic environment.

Bernadette: So, yeah, and then when it comes to installing the lift, purchasing and installing the lift, you got to think of it in two parts. Is the actual purchasing of the lifting customised to suit your needs? Then there’s the construction of the shaft that can be done in a few different ways. So the most common way would be that you’re forming up in bricks. But we found that one particular company had a prefabricated option, which was a metal shaft. It was like a  framework that can be installed. Obviously, you need to have your opening cut, which costs around 10 thousand dollars.

He was suggesting that, that was a good way of being economical but I think we decided that we didn’t need to do that because we only needed one plumb wall that had the capacity to support the lift, is that correct?

Stephen Janson: So with the electric ones, because they run on a rail system, they actually really only run on one of the four walls. They obviously the other walls around it to to finish off to but in reality, most of the load just goes to one of which is normally the back wall or back of side. On that basis, all you need is that the wall needs to be structural and obviously be able to take the load of the rails and the running gear and everything else on that way to the lift.

As I said, if you visualise them, it is like a forklift arms going up and down. That’s pretty much what they’re doing, running on a back rail, which is how those operate. So this frame, another ten thousand dollars gets you part of the way there. But you do still need to look at the finishes and they’ve got to be rigid surfaces you can’t just cut them in and things like that. They need to be something which is impenetrable so no one could accidentally sort of put something through the wall or damage it while it was operating, from a safety point of view.

Bernadette: And I think that’s the way we’ve decided to go, isn’t it? Create the openings, but run the lift mechanism.

Stephen Janson: We’re quite lucky because we actually have a steel structure in the building that we live in. In any case, it’s an old warehouse. And for a lot of the supporters already there, there may need some columns and some additional trimming the steel trimmers, but basically a lot of the structure is already there so it does make it a little bit easier in that case.

Bernadette: The next thing that we discovered is that you can do lots of customisation with your lift. So, if you want to line up with pink wallpaper, you can do that. You can do all sorts of buttons and panelling. The thing that I discovered is the sexy options, like the glass walls can increase the price exponentially because you’re not just glazing the walls of the car, you’ve got a glaze the walls of the shaft as well. It ended up being about 60 thousand extra, didn’t it?

Stephen Janson: I mean, it also if you go for the biparting doors, as opposed to like a hinged or where in a normal lift, if you visualise when you walk up to them as a pair of doors and they are sliding doors and they bipart on the middle and those done in glass are expensive. Again, you do end up with double the amount of doors because you’ve got the doors on the outside, you’ve got the doors on the inside, one attached to the car, one attached each level that you stop it so it does add to the cost.

Bernadette: Yeah. So I think we decided that we didn’t need the glass panelling, we are, however, going for a glass door, but we’re going for a swing door. We’re putting it in as something that creates more function. We can still get it to look quite good, but without going over the top. Speaking of customisation, recently, we stayed in quite a funky hotel in Sydney. They did actually have the inside of the lift clad, it was like contact, pink flamingos or something all over. It looked quite good. We may get carried away, but we’ll wait and see.

We were quite keen to have disabled access, certainly to have the possibility of being able to get a wheelchair in and out. And there is a big difference between being able to get in a wheelchair in and out of the lift and having an accredited disability accredited lift. So initially we went for the disability accredited one until we discovered how much space it would take up, because you need to be able to wheel the wheelchair in and turn it around inside the lift.

Stephen Janson: Yes. So to be fully compliant, you need to have enough space to be able to turn the wheelchair and that adds to the size of the lift considerably. You can still have one which can easily take a wheelchair and can certainly meet all of those requirements but it’s not that uncommon for a chair to go in forwards and come out backwards, which of course would be the case with the smaller lifts.

And you can appreciate if you tried to turn a wheelchair around in a normal room, how much space you need to be able to rotate that through. The chairs with the foot resting in the heels are longer than what they are wide so you need the room to be able to turn the wheelchair around within there to make it fully compliant.

We’ll probably go for the compromise position, which is it will take the chair, but it will probably not be a fully compliant one and only from a space point of view. It still provides the function for most people without it being a fully compliant lift, because this isn’t just a residential property, it’s not a commercial premises. There is no obligation for us to provide that additional service.

Bernadette: Yeah. The other thing that I discovered since then I was doing a bit of research on it, if you have a valid reason, like a medical reason for requiring a disability lift, then there are some circumstances where it can be GST exempt. So if you’re in that position and you’re thinking about putting our lift in, make sure that you explore that. There are some conditions, but they’re not particularly onerous. I think a medical certificate I read so that you can make that saving. Obviously for the power supply, you have touched on that so they don’t all necessarily need three phases?

Stephen Janson: No, it is important that if you are going to go down this path, you really do need to meet with or have a look and probably get two or three quotes where possible in any case, we haven’t quite completed that exercise at this point in time. But just see what the differences are, what the advantages are. You do find that some of them tend to push one type more than another, a hydraulic or the other but I think the trend is moving towards electric loops. That’s where the technology is moving to both commercially and domestically. So that’s why our preference is to run with electricity, but something to consider.

In addition to that, you also just need to think about one of the structures we’ve touched on, but there’s also height and floor restrictions. If you want it to finish flush with the floor on the ground floor, you actually need to have like a little overrun pit where the mechanism and all of the floor supports and everything else actually sort of sink below the floor level. To do that, you need to,  if it’s on a concrete base, you would need to excavate down. It’s only about two or 300 millimetres deep. They do vary so again, it depends on the manufacturer, but that allows it to finish flush with the ground floor.

Again, for wheelchairs and things like that, if you didn’t go down that option, you’d have to build a ramp in the floor and again, to be compliant, it has to be a one in 14 ramp gradient ramp leading up to the floor of the lift. That can take up quite a bit of room in your house. It’s another cost so it’s something to bear in mind you need to do. You also do have to have the height at the top. You need to have on the most from the floor of the uppermost room, there needs to be roughly two points seven metres from the floor up to the sort of the top of the car. Mainly because there’s some mechanisms and motors and other controls and things which sit on top of the roof of the car. And you need room for all of that to be housed. So if that makes sense as well.

Bernadette: Yeah. So you’ve launched into some of the installation process. The main thing to know is that you need to let your architect design your renovation to meet your needs for that particular lift that you choose. So part of it is in the building work and then the lift comes in last once the space has been created for it. The biggest thing I got from that is those walls or the shaft needs to be completely plumbed and it needs to be smooth.

Stephen Janson: Yeah, well, they certainly have to be within the tolerances and they have quite tight tolerances. I mean, they do have some leeway, but they need to be pretty close to being plumbed and that’s critical. Otherwise, it just can’t run in a shaft that’s going to lean or bend or anything like that in it.

And if there is a bar in the wall or something like that, they would actually have to pack it all out off the wall, which means it increases the room size or the lift room size to accommodate that. So it needs to be done professionally.

Bernadette: Yeah. The other thing you need to think about is what side of the lift the doors open. So if you are particularly if you’ve got  the bipartisan doors, the ones that slide open, like in David Jones, if you’ve got them on different sides, it can be quite expensive because you’ve got, is it two sets of doors? The doors inside and the doors outside so that can add significantly to the cost.

Stephen Janson: It can increase the size of the car as well, because there needs to be enough room in the shaft for the doors to slide and open to give you the space that you require. If you have a look at most of the cars that they make, if the doors were only on one side, if you come in and out of the same side of the thing, you’ll find that it’s more like a rectangular floor plate. But when you go for the doors on one side and sort of a front on the side or front, but not so much a front on the back, it’s not a problem, but the moment you go to a front and the side, the floor plate looks more square and not rectangular, which means the whole thing increases in size.

So you just need to make sure you’ve got the available space, if that was the configuration you wanted to choose. But there is no restriction on, they appeared from what we could see to be able to do almost any configuration. But it just adds to the costs with the more doors that you have with different doors that open on different levels.

Bernadette: Yeah, and so one of the reasons why we decided to pull back from the fully disabled lift is because as part of this renovation, I’m getting a podcasting studio and the bigger the lift got, the smaller my studio got so we had to compromise because I really wanted to make sure that I stood my ground on my little space in the renovation.

The last thing is when we were talking to the salesman and he talked about the opportunity for adding value to properties on real estate sites by putting a lift in, was he referring to external events?

Stephen Janson: Yeah, these can be installed externally as well, so that they obviously have different cladding in a different structure, but basically they just need to be waterproof. He was right. He was looking particularly on very steep sites where you could, people often look at it and think, ah, that would be just terrible. You’re always having to negotiate,  multiple staircases and come from your car park and all those sorts of things. If it was sixty or seventy thousand dollars for lift in the price of a piece of real estate in Sydney, in any case, that’s not a lot of money is an additional add on cost for the value it can add in the fact that you’ve got easy access to your property, even though it may be on a very elevated or sloping site.

Bernadette: Yeah, so if you think that you may have the application for putting a lift in, I actually love the idea of going around and finding something with a real estate incline because I think that’s a massive value add. It just makes it so much more accessible and just opens up a much broader market.

So you’d think, you know, what a huge buyer objection if you’ve got a really, really steep approach to the property, if you could whack a lift, in spend, say, 60 grand, I think that would pay you back in spades. So, yeah, interesting to think about.

Stephen Janson: Just be careful with the costs. You really do need to meet with the people and have a look at the individual sites. There’s a lot of factors which can affect the costs. Need to be a little bit careful saying they’re fifty or sixty thousand dollars. As we found out, it wasn’t very hard to creep up to 100 thousand dollars without sort of as much of a blink. You know, once you start going for anything that is a little bit architectural with glass and sliding doors and all the rest of it, the price soon creeps up. But as is more of a function rather than anything else. And therefore, I think, you know, ours can be a little bit utilitarian in its approach rather than the architectural feature that some people might be looking for.

Bernadette: Yeah. Well, thanks for joining me, Stephen, because I probably would have bumbled my way through that. I appreciate that you’re able to add the finer detail to the conversation.

Stephen Janson: That’s alright. I hope that was some value to you. I know it’s not for everyone, but it is just interesting to know what is available out there. And they’re certainly becoming more and more popular. And you’re also finding that as people in an ageing population, we find that a lot of people don’t necessarily want to leave their home. In some of the smaller lift installations, they are really quite economical. I mean, ours is across four levels but a lot of people, if they’re just in a two story place that they can live in their home and stay in their home for many, many years longer.

And if the only reason they’re leaving is because they can’t negotiate stairs and things like that, it’s a bit of a shame that they’re forced out of the home for those reasons. But frankly, fairly, a reasonably economical alternative.

Bernadette: Exactly. OK, so just before I go, I got a very lovely review this week and I’d like to share it with you. So it’s five stars from the Tanned Greek, and it’s entitled My Guilty Pleasure. I love this person’s language.

Just dropping by to show my support for your podcast, Bernadotte. I look forward to each episode and I’m never disappointed with the content. It’s such a generous offering and compared to many other property podcasts I subscribe to, yours is a clear winner. Perfectly suited to people embarking on a new renovator journey, but equally suited to more experienced folk like myself. There’s something for everyone.

Keep up the great work. Your honesty is so refreshing. I look forward to future learning and hearing more student success stories.

Best,

David Michaels
(and yes…..a bloke)

Well, thanks so much for that, David. I really appreciate your review. We read all of them and it just really floats my boat and  it encourages me to keep going. And obviously it’s been very successful because now that next week is going to be episode number 100.

As I mentioned, I actually did say I would be recording Episode 100 at our She Renovates live event, which was last week. I did, but I’ve decided to rerecord it. I did a new presentation last week, but I’m going to rerecord it before we publish just so the quality is really good and you get great value from it.

On that note, I’m going to close. Thanks again, Stephen for joining me and I’ll see you all next week.

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