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A Do-It-Yourself Home Elevator Or Stairlift?

All over the Internet, you'll find pages glibly claiming that it's a breeze to install your own home elevator or stair lift. You'll also find plenty of online vendors who will sell you the unit or plans with no questions asked. The price point on these deals can be highly tempting, but is this really a good place to use your DIY skills? Let's look at the facts and considerations.

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DIY Home Elevator Safety

Before downloading some plans and getting out your tools for a DIY installation, it's a great idea to pause for a moment and consider the stakes of the project you're about to undertake. Some DIY projects are unlikely to cause much harm even if they go awry. If the paint peels off the toolshed - or for that matter the whole toolshed falls down - no one is likely to die.

An incorrectly-installed piece of accessibility equipment, on the other hand, can have grave consequences for the most vulnerable people in your life. Every year, people are killed in elevator accidents, often in old or homebrew units that should have been retired long ago, or never brought into operation. Obviously, this isn't a statistical group where you want to find family members.

Parts, Repair, And Warranty

Apart from considerations of safety, there are simple economic reasons to carefully consider the wisdom of building or installing your own home elevator. These reasons have to do with parts, repair, and warranty on your new unit.

A self-installed home elevator is likely to have no effective warranty, period, regardless of what the manufacturer says on its website. This is because self-installing tends to void whatever warranty the unit might have started out with. Same story with parts: if you can get them at all, you'll most likely have to hunt down and order them on the Internet, resulting in downtime for your elevator. (And that's assuming you can get the right parts the first time.)

As for repair, you'll find that most reputable elevator contractors will hesitate to touch a self-installed unit. This leaves you either working on it yourself or hiring a local handyman to do so - options which, depending on the handyman, may be equally bad.

Home Value

While a professionally installed home elevator adds significantly to the value of your home, a DIY or jerry-rigged elevator does just the opposite. No responsible home buyer will be eager to take on a property with the unknown variable of a DIY home elevator - which is very unlikely to pass inspection or conform to code.

Insurance Concerns

Given the high volume of injuries and insurance claims produced by self-installed home lifts, insurance companies are working more aggressively than ever to limit their exposure. Many now require a third-party elevator inspection to be completed before they will cover the home. This is just one more way that a DIY lift detracts from the value of your home, and may in fact make it impossible to insure or sell.

What About DIY Stairlifts?

A stairlift looks so much simpler than an elevator, it should be safe and easy to install yourself. Right? Not exactly. DIY stairlifts are insanely popular on the Internet because most people think this way. Once they've tried to install their first one with no training, however, they often change their minds.

Apart from all the above drawbacks such as user safety, parts, repair, and warranty - which apply equally to stairlifts as home elevators - stairlift installation is simply harder than it might look. For example, a stairlift installation tech should be able to lift an eighty-pound unit and hold it steady, midair, while mating the gear and rail system. If anything gets dropped during this phase, the consequences could be far more serious than just a busted stairlift. You could have a permanently busted installer as well.