Elevator Repair and Replacement Projects Maximizing Safety, Minimizing Disruption

The invention and adaptation of vertical transportation – otherwise known as the elevator – in the 1850s changed the face of architecture, space design, and apartment living forever. Unfortunately, like any mechanical system, every so often elevators must undergo a major repair, refurbishment or replacement. If you live on the first, second, third, or even the fourth floor, that’s an inconvenience, but perhaps not a life-changing event. If you live on the 20th floor, or live with a disability...well, that’s a different story.

Depending on what the problem is will dictate if the elevator will be modernized or replaced. In both cases, the undertaking is expensive and time consuming. “A well-maintained elevator should last anywhere between 15 and 20 years,” says Frank Livoti, president of Brooklyn Elevator Inc. in Brooklyn, New York. “However depending on the type of elevator application, certain major parts might need to be changed in the interim. With respect to the age and condition of an elevator, a modernization can be either recommended or required in order to pass mandated annual safety inspections. Replacing or modernizing an older elevator is recommended to make it safer for its passengers, and as well as to make the device more energy efficient, thus cutting down on energy costs for the building.”

Elevator Components and Their Maintenance

According to the pros, it’s not the entire system or even the elevator cab that will necessarily need replacement or refurbishment. “You replace the components,” says Jacquelyn Duggan, an account executive with Gumley Haft Property Management in New York City. You might have to replace the cables, the control board, or upgrade other mechanisms, she explains.

Elevators are composed of lots of moving parts.  According to the website elevatorsource.com, the component parts of an elevator include the electrical switchgear; wiring; controller/dispatcher; cab interior; machinery; shaft doors and shaftway; hoist rails; cables; hydraulic pistons; call stations; and operating panels. These components have useful lives ranging from 15 years for an elevator cab interior to 50-plus years for elevator switchgear. Most of the components have useful lives of between 20 and 25 years. 

“Twenty years is the rough approximation for the life of elevator mechanicals, though there are many variables,” says Eveline Smythe, an executive manager with AKAM On-Site, the managing agent for The Tides condominium community in Hollywood, Florida. “Any time you do any kind of significant upgrade – like a mechanical upgrade – you may not be doing an entire modernization, which requires upgrading the cables, and a whole lot of other things. But, if you do a portion of the work at a time, it can significantly increase the life of the machinery overall. Alternatively, if you haven’t touched the elevator machinery at all, the useful life is about 20 years.”

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