Your guide to home elevators, presented by Craig Jones of Country Home Elevator

Home elevator gates

Not to be confused with the hoistway doors – ordinary doors positioned on the outside to keep the shaft secure while the elevator is operating – the gates of an elevator are built into the cab and are designed to securely contain its occupants during their trip. As with the other cab elements, you’ve got some choices.

The ubiquitous basic cab gate is the manual accordion-fold type, which is generally made of wood and folds out, as the name suggests, somewhat like an accordion. This looks fine and is perfectly functional, but it’s smart to at least upgrade it with an automatic opening and closing device. If you don’t, somebody will sooner or later (probably sooner) forget to close it on their way out – and then no one will be able to call the elevator from any other level, because the safety device will not allow it to move, even unoccupied, without the gate being closed.

The scissors-style gate, which is often metal and works much like a baby gate, allows for a more open feel than the accordion-style, but cannot be equipped with an automatic opening and closing device because of safety concerns.


Accordion fold gate on the back of a two-entry installation

Upgrading from here usually means a roll-top style “tambor” gate, which wraps around the side of the elevator when open. Because this design requires modifications on the cab – and a lot of work – to install, it is among the most expensive home elevator gate options. It is also, however, among the most aesthetically pleasing.

For extremely large installations, a two-speed sliding door system, like those on commercial elevators,is sometimes used. This is the most expensive option available, and requires a much larger hoistway than other types.


Transparent tambor style home elevator gate

Gate configuration for residential elevators

We tend to imagine all elevators as having just one set of doors, but with home elevators this is not always the case. In certain situations, it is advantageous to enter the elevator through one side and exit on another floor through the other side. Naturally, an additional entry brings with it a duplicate gate assembly and additional complexity.

The number of gates needed depends on the configuration of your home, and also on the intended use of the elevator. If a person on a scooter or in a wheelchair will be using the elevator unassisted, front entry and back exit is often beneficial. That way, the user does not have to turn around and back the device into the elevator cab in order to be able to reach the controls on exit.