Attic Elevators: Cost, Safety & Convenience
Updated August 19, 2021
Attic elevators, also called attic lifts, come in a wide variety of styles and capacities. This article covers the most popular type. These attic elevators are smaller units meant to carry freight only. No people allowed on board. Instead, these motorized platforms carry storage items and other cargo between floors. Most are installed for home and garage attic storage. Even so, they work equally well for basements. Plus, you’ll find them in commercial settings too. Lifts act like mini freight elevators. They’re dumbwaiters for your stuff. Typical carrying capacity ranges from 200 to 500 pounds per trip.
Attic elevators carry storage items from living spaces and garages into,
and out of, attic storage. (Shown is a SpaceLift™ attic lift. Note attic ladder in foreground.)
Popular attic elevators designed to carry storage items cost from $1,895 to $3,797 (2021 pricing).
On the lower end of the price range is the SpaceLift attic lift. The SpaceLift™ attic lift Model 5222-SC costs $1,895. That includes free shipping and a two-year warranty. The unit is 22 inches wide by 57.5 inches long and 7 inches high. Capacity is 200 pounds and 24 cubic feet per trip. It comes with two controls, one mounted on the unit and another for wall mounting. (SpaceLift Products offers a second model 28 inches wide with the same length and height for $100 more.)
VersaLift Systems lifts start at $2,597 for the smallest model. That unit is 20 3/4 inches wide by 44 inches long. It carries 15 cubic feet per trip and up to 200 pounds. Its largest model goes for $3,597 for 28.75 inches wide by 69 inches long and 60 inches high. Capacity is 250 pounds and 35 cubic feet per trip.
Also allow for Installation costs. Professional attic elevators or attic lifts installation starts around $500. Moreover, some models like the SpaceLift are often installed as do-it-yourself, DIY, projects. The SpaceLift is designed to fit between floor joists in the attic. Installation requires basic carpentry and electrical skills.
As a side note, there are full-size home elevators that can carry people and freight. But the average cost of this type of home elevator is $10,000 — $40,000. Add $20,000 or more to install it, according to Retirement Living.
2a. Personal Safety
There are many good reasons to install an attic elevator. Firstly, safety is a big concern. Carrying storage items up and down an ladder or stairs is dangerous and difficult. Most storage is bulky: boxes, containers, bins, clothing, furniture and such. Instead, attic elevators carry all those items in and out of storage. The only thing going up and down the attic ladder is the homeowner. Above all, protect yourself.
Moreover, as described in a SpaceLift Products blog on Ladder Safety at Home, half a million people fall from ladders annually. About 400 of those accidents are fatal.
The National Safety Council stresses always maintaining three points of contact with the ladder or stairs at all time. Think of two feet and one hand. Or two hands and one foot. Carrying anything makes it impossible to have hands free for stability and climbing.
Plus, it’s not just falling. Also consider weight and bulk. Ever tried to carry an artificial Christmas tree up the ladder? As Lisa Winkler from Alabama, said, “SpaceLift saved my back.”
Then, there are some items impossible to carry on the ladder. For example, more and more homes include utilities in the attic. Imagine lugging a hot water heater up the attic ladder. Other people use attic storage for heavy tools. For example, Bill T. uses his attic lift to store a portable, but heavy, table saw in his attic. Bill lives in The Villages retirement community in Florida. Safe attic storage helps him “age-in-place.”
2b. Safe Operation
Secondly, safe operation is critical. Some attic elevators like the SpaceLift attic lift have built-in, computer-controlled, safety features. SpaceLift smart attic lifts detect any obstruction to movement and stop. They also detect if there’s too much weight on the platform and will not operate. This way they protect you and your appliance.
To clarify, not all attic elevators stop automatically if something – or worse yet someone – is in the way. One company’s user manual warns of broken bones and amputation danger.
In the same vein, not all attic elevators detect load weights beyond motor capacity. Overloads can damage or burn out the lift motor.
The essential challenge: moving items in and out of attic storage safely and conveniently. Carrying on those rickety attic stairs is not the safest choice.
While function of all attic elevators is similar, designs vary a lot. Some lifts have high loading platforms. You must lift storage items up onto, and again out of, the lift. All but the SpaceLift have framing or straps protruding into the attic space. In turn, this limits your attic lift location choices. Attic roof pitch affects available height above the attic floor.
3a. Overhead Bar
VersaLift uses a platform topped by a four-post upper frame. That is then connected to a center overhead bar. Two cables on either end of the center bar pull it into the attic. Plus, in the attic is a larger receiving frame protruding into the attic space. It houses the motor. You need attic ceiling height of 49 to 60 inches above the unit, depending upon model.
Above all, that overhead bar restricts how high a load the user can stack on the lift. Something tall like an artificial Christmas tree or clothes rack will not fit. Load height limitation on the most popular model is 39 inches. Yet at just 29 inches the four sidebars begin to bend toward the center overhead bar. That encroaches on the available cargo space. It also uses a chain around three sides of the frame to contain items. Working around the fixed frame restricts loading and unloading the unit. Access is from one side only. By comparison, you can load a SpaceLift from any side.
3b. Four Corner Pull
By comparison, SpaceLift attic lift offers an elegant, concealed design. Its compact housing fits between attic floor joists. It rests flush with the attic floor. Poly-web straps rated at 500 pounds pull from all four corners. The microprocessor-controlled motor balances the load. It comes in two sizes, 18 and 22 inches wide, both 57 ½ inches long. Unlike others, the box housing motor and computer controls is just 7 inches high. Its low profile means there are many placement options in your attic.
The SpaceLift attic lift has no vertical height restriction for loading storage items. Stack items as high as your ceiling clearance allows. As noted before, its low profile loading platform can be easily accessed from all four sides.
SpaceLift attic elevator drawing showing entire mechanism. Motor and controller fit between attic floor joists.
Other Attic Elevators:
Aladdin Storage Lift has a very large raised deck with a metal box frame around the bottom. The attic opening required is 82 by 46 ½ inches. It pulls from all four corners with cables. In the attic space, one must install ceiling support straps. The motor box sits above the attic floor. It has a high deck and side railing. Loading and unloading items requires extra lifting. Aladdin even sells a loading ramp as an accessory.
The Attic Lift Company makes semi-custom lifts. Most are larger sizes and capacities. Models use either steel frames or posts that protrude into the attic space. They have only one side open for loading a high deck platform. In fact, some come with a built-in loading ramp.
Retirement Living Home Elevators Guide:
SpaceLift Blog Ladder Safety
Aladdin Storage Lift
The Attic Lift Company