Attic Elevators: Cost, Safety & Convenience

attic lift or attic elevators carrying tall Christmas decorations

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.)

1. Cost

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.

2. Safety

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.

3. Convenience

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.


SpaceLift Pricing

VersaLift Pricing

Retirement Living Home Elevators Guide:

SpaceLift Blog Ladder Safety

Aladdin Storage Lift

The Attic Lift Company

dumbwaiter for food shown, the SpaceLift attic storage lift is like a dumbwaiter for your attic

It has a funny name. But the dumbwaiter represents an important invention of convenience for homes and businesses. There are actually two types of dumbwaiters of different configuration but similar purpose. Both take their name from the same attribute.

Have you ever wondered how dumbwaiters got their unique name? Tracing its exact origin is difficult. But the concept is widely agreed upon. “The small car performed services in restaurants, allowing the noise and odor of cooking to be isolated from the patrons. No doubt, this was where the silent servant earned the name ‘dumb waiter’! The mini-lift may have been silent but it did not remain dumb,” from the Elevator Museum website.

First the dumbwaiter acted as a silent, inanimate cart acting as a stand-in for an actual member of staff. These days we just call those kitchen or serving carts. Nowadays, we associate dumbwaiter with a mini freight elevator. Dumbwaiters today carry food still in restaurants and upscale homes. You’ll find them in factories and shops moving storage items, dry goods and valuables. One even carries automobiles. And now there’s a dumbwaiter you can install in your home to lift storage items in and out of your home or garage attic.

Dumbwaiter History to Present

Thomas Jefferson used the “silent cart” kind of dumbwaiter during his presidency. He favored them for both his Virginia home and the White House. “These ‘dumbwaiters’ were small tables, equipped with shelves placed at varying heights. Some might hold salads and wine; others would accommodate cutlery and serving utensils. Servants brought in hot food, but did not remain in the room during the meal. Conversation could flow freely, without the possibility that workers might overhear sensitive information and repeat it outside the White House,” from White House History website.

In America, the first elevator type dumbwaiter was hand powered. It used a lifting mechanism comprised of pulleys and weights. According to the United States Patent Office, inventor George W. Cannon of New York City was first. He applied for a unique brake system patent for a dumbwaiter elevator in 1883. Four years later he applied for the patent on a mechanical lifting dumbwaiter. Patents for dumbwaiters are still issued today. Two U.S. patents protect the SpaceLift™ attic lift. It is a dumbwaiter for moving storage items between floors in homes and businesses. It uses electrical power and computer controls. But the basic purpose is still the same.

Dumbwaiter for Items, Not People

As a silent waiter, food and drinks are to this day whisked from kitchen to floors above. They save the manual labor of climbing stairs to deliver the goods. Dumbwaiters provide a simple, space-efficient alternative to carrying items between floors. Unlike elevators, “distinguishing the dumbwaiter was its inability to handle a passenger – no control ever existed in the car,” from the Elevator Museum website.

The White House now has a series of dumbwaiters. They connect the kitchen to various dining rooms. A dumbwaiter connecting the main kitchen to a smaller kitchen in the residence was featured in the 2013 movie “Whitehouse Down.” The president escaped bad guys by shimmying down the dumbwaiter shaft hidden inside the walls.

Dumbwaiter for More Than Food

Dumbwaiters move more than food. Banks use dumbwaiters to move currency, gold bars and valuables securely between floors. Retail stores of all sorts use dumbwaiters to move goods between storage and the sales floor. People install lifts in their homes for transport of food, yes, but also storage, laundry and more.

One SpaceLift attic lift customer uses our dumbwaiter in its model rocketry store. “We usually try to be careful not to reveal any ‘trade secrets,’ but here is an exception,” says the owner of Jon Rocket. “Our office is located in a loft. So, we are often moving products and packages up and down between floors. A few years ago we installed an “attic lift” from Spacelift which works like an elevator or powered dumbwaiter. Not only does it make it easier and quicker to move things between the floors, it makes it much safer than trying to carry things while going up or down stairs.”

Another SpaceLift attic lift customer uses our dumbwaiter in its commercial kitchen. Connie Sun at Tiny Drumsticks says, “We’re so delighted with your Spacelift! The lift has allowed us to provide a machine that has made our tenant’s lives easier. They’re happy, so we’re even happier. Not only does the lift work well, your customer service is even better! Incredibly friendly and very accommodating staff. We sincerely appreciate and rarely come across better service! Thank you so much!”

Dumbwaiter for Your Home?

Another customer installed his dumbwaiter to move a hot water heater into his attic when the old one didn’t work. Another stores a large portable table saw in his attic. Little used but valuable, it is impossible to haul up a ladder. Other customers move a whole artificial Christmas tree in and out of attic storage. Read more on the Testimonials Page.

Storage lifts are an increasingly popular type of dumbwaiter for home use. Having easier access to storage helps you claim more storage space thereby reducing clutter in your living space. Storage lifts are like mini freight elevators. They make it easy to carry storage items between floors in homes and garages. Rather than trying to carry boxes and storage containers up the attic stairs, a dumbwaiter like the SpaceLift attic lift carries the heavy load up and down with an electric motor.

A smart dumbwaiter, the SpaceLift has computer controls for safety features like object detection that automatically stops the lift if it encounters any obstruction. Smart weight detection stops the attic lift from operating if it exceeds the 200-pound weight limit. You can see a video of it in action on our website.

Dumbwaiter for Cars?

Today dumbwaiters serve commercial kitchens, restaurants, hotels, nursing homes, schools, retail establishments and private homes. The automobile vending machine introduced in March 2018 by Alibaba and Ford in Guangzhou, China relies upon a dumbwaiter, albeit a rather sophisticated one. Carvana now sells used cars online. They can deliver, or if you live near one, you can use their car vending machines.

Still silent servants, dumbwaiters are getting smarter all the time.