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Thread: Elevator Replacement of Spiral Stairs to Daylight Basement

  1. #1

    Default Elevator Replacement of Spiral Stairs to Daylight Basement

    We're looking at purchasing a home that has a daylight basement with two external doors for access to the outdoors. The main floor has access outdoors directly and via external stairs in the back. Not sure when, but a VERY SMALL set of circular stairs was installed between main floor and basement. I'm sure it met code, but it might as well be a ladder -- it's about that functional, and my husband's Vietnam injured knee won't allow him to use them at all. Seems kind of silly to buy a home where you'd only be able to get to the basement by going outside to get there!

    I have researched a number of sites and found that we could install a residential elevator from a variety of vendors that would fit in the space where the circular stairs is located. I know you typically can't replace stairs with an elevator, but I wondered if there would be an exception since the basement has external/outdoor access on it's own as does the main floor?

    I am aware we'd need permits for electrical, etc, but there don't appear to be lots of good info on residential elevator code requirements that I could find.

    I thought about meeting with the county building inspectors, but thought one of you might have some other alternatives we hadn't considered as well. Any other ideas?

    Thanks for your help and potential suggestions!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Kent, WA


    I don't believe circular stairs count as legal egress stairs as far as fire codes go. So if you're OK with the outside access, then whether you have circular stairs or an elevator shouldn't matter. The issue to research now is whether you need two egress paths out of the basement. Windows, if large enough, can count as an egress path. An elevator won't count.

    Residential elevator electrical codes are the same as commercial ones, and there' s whole section of the NEC dealing with them -- NEC 620. I've never had to read that section before. Installing an elevator is probably not a DIY project, and an elevator contractor should be able to tell you whether what you want to do is feasible.
    Kent, WA

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Living in, not from North Carolina


    Elevators are an very expensive addition, there are a few companies here in NC that deal with them, the one I've actually seen installed was from this company www.residentialelevators.com they do a lot of work towards the beach.
    Have you considered removing the spiral stairs and replacing them with conventional stairs with a landing ? it would be much cheaper if you have the room.

  4. #4

    Default Thanks for Input!

    I know it's expensive -- with contracting costs probably around $20K for the elevator, but sadly, there is not enough room given nice upgrades/wood floors/etc around the circular stairs to put in a convential stair case, so for usability we'd probably upgrade the home value if we added the elevator.

    Only munchkins can use that circular stair. We do have two egress doors as well as two egress windows in the basement, so I think we're safe as far as fire codes are involved.

    Thanks for the tips on residential elevator company. Got a call from their rep today too. So I'm probably on track there. He seems to think that since we have a "cellar door" situation, we're probably okay from a code standpoint, but I always like to doublecheck myself, since I'm ulimately the one that gets stuck with the bill if it's not done right!

    We'll try to do some of the grunt work diy, like digging out the pit for the elevator: 12" deep since we'll take out a 4" slab, go down an extra 8" and then allow room to put in another 4" slab for a total of 8" pit. But putting in the final pour for the pit, the electrical and support for the hoists will be left to the professionals!

    Thanks again for all of your help and input!

  5. #5


    Single family dwellings only require one egress / ingress or entry door. This door is usually your front door. Basements are not required two entry exits. Now if that basement has bedrooms then you are required emergency egress / ingress window inside each bedroom or a door to the outside inside each bedroom. There is no residential requirement for single family dwellings to have two exits to a basement. Your elevator is fine if you want to install it. Now residential elevators are normally a packaged assembly UL listed for residential use. There is normally only one connection hard wired to this elevator and is not really technical in nature due to the packaged unit listed and labeled for residential use.

    There are different types of residential elevators varying from screw to hydrolics to even air driven. Your manufacturer will help guide you for your goals. Checking with your local inspector is always a good idea.

    Good Luck


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