How Much Does It Cost to Install a Dumbwaiter?

National Average Range:
$8,000 - $12,000
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Reviewed by Nieves Caballero. Written by Fixr.com.

Dumbwaiters provide many advantages to both residential and commercial locations, making them a very popular investment. They increase the resale value and improve the efficiency and safety of residential and commercial properties. Some advantages include reducing the risk of injury, easily transporting material between floors, minimizing the time needed to transport things, increasing security by keeping expensive material out of reach, decreasing spending by eliminating jobs, and requiring little maintenance.

The national average cost for installing a dumbwaiter is between $8,000 and $12,000, with most people paying around $10,000 for a two-stop motorized dumbwaiter installed in a new shaft. At the low end of the spectrum, however, you can opt for a manual dumbwaiter installed in an existing shaft for $3,000, while at the high end you can pay up to $20,000 to have a custom motorized dumbwaiter with over five stops installed in a new shaft.

Cost to Install a Dumbwaiter

Residential Dumbwaiter Cost
National average cost$10,000
Average range$8,000-$12,000
Low-end$3,000
High-end$20,000

Dumbwaiter Installation Cost by Project Range

Low
$3,000
Manual mini dumbwaiter installed in an existing shaft
Average Cost
$10,000
Two-stop standard motorized dumbwaiter installed in a new shaft
High
$20,000
Oversized five-stop electrical dumbwaiter installed in a new shaft

What Is a Dumbwaiter?

A dumbwaiter is an automated lift intended to carry a variety of objects up and down multiple floors. The lift is connected to a pulley mechanism that works to transport the items inside of a shaft structure. They are a very popular option for transporting goods from floor to floor and can help to reduce the likelihood of physical strain due to carrying heavy loads and drastically improve the ease of transporting. There are two different classifications of dumbwaiters: residential and commercial. These two types differ in their use and location and are explained below.

Residential Dumbwaiters

These types of dumbwaiters are installed in homes and are used to transport items such as foods, laundry, and files from floor to floor. Outdoor versions can also be installed to transport larger/heavier items including firewood and groceries into the home. A basic residential car has a weight capacity of approximately 100-200 pounds and features two stops. The standard size measures 20”w x 20”d x 30”h. These measurements and weight capacities can certainly be changed or customized, however. The most important criteria when determining the location of installation is your intended use for it. If you are looking to transport laundry then it would make sense to install the dumbwaiter in or near the laundry room or bedroom(s). For the purpose of transporting groceries, it would be best installed in the kitchen or pantry.

Commercial Dumbwaiters

These types of dumbwaiters are installed in settings including warehouses, manufacturing plants, restaurants, hotels, medical buildings, etc., and aid in transporting heavier items such as machinery, products, and boxes. A basic commercial unit has a weight capacity of up to 500 pounds and features up to 6 stops. The size of the unit can be customized up to 36”w x 36”d x 48”h. These measurements and weight capacities can be changed to suit your needs. The same criteria apply when installing commercial cars in that the location of the installation should be close to the point of use. If the purpose is to transport boxes of food or cooking supplies, then, naturally, it should be installed in the kitchen.

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Dumbwaiter Cost by Size

Depending on the size of the dumbwaiter, your costs range between $2,000 for a mini car and $12,000 for a large installed car. They come in a variety of sizes and weight capacities to accommodate different spaces and uses. The smaller the car and lower the weight capacity, the less you can expect to pay, and vice versa. There are 4 standard sizes of cars including mini, standard, mid-, and oversized models. Weight capacities range from 100 pounds up to 500 pounds maximum. The 4 sizes of dumbwaiters are illustrated in the chart below with their respective cost.

Cost of a Dumbwaiter With a Mini, Standard, Mid-Sized, and Oversized Car

Cost of a Dumbwaiter With a Mini, Standard, Mid-Sized, and Oversized Car

SizeCost (Unit Only)
Mini Car (14” x 14” x 20”)$2,000 - $4,000
Standard Car (20” x 20” x 30”)$4,000 - $7,000
Mid-Sized Car (24” x 24” x 30”)$7,000 - $10,000
Oversized Car (36” x 36” x 48”)$10,000 - $12,000

Dumbwaiter Price by Type

The cost of a dumbwaiter is $2,000 to $4,000 for a manual dumbwaiter and $4,000 to $7,000 for an electric unit. Dumbwaiters transport items like groceries, tools, pets, and other goods between different levels in the home either manually or automatically with an electric motor. Dumbwaiter designs can be classified by their type including manual motorized cars. Both types perform the same function but differ in their characteristics, weight limits, cost, pros, and cons. The biggest difference between the two is their method of operation. These two types of dumbwaiters are explained in detail below.

Cost of a Manual and Electric Dumbwaiter

Cost of a Manual and Electric Dumbwaiter

TypeDumbwaiter Cost (Unit Only)
Manual$2,000 - $4,000
Electric$4,000 - $7,000

Manual Dumbwaiter Cost

The cost for a manual dumbwaiter is between $2,000 and $4,000. Manual dumbwaiters, also referred to as hand-operated dumbwaiters, are often found in older homes or historic remodels. These types of small cars are operated using a rope and pulley system. The pulley is attached to the top of the shaft, and the car is moved by pulling the rope to lift or lower the car. Manual types hold considerably less weight compared to motorized types and can generally only withstand up to 50 pounds.

The advantages of manual dumbwaiters include their cheaper cost, minimal maintenance requirements, automatic braking system that can prevent the unit from accidentally dropping, and the fact that they do not require electricity and therefore can continue to run during a power outage. Additionally, the smaller size opens up many options of where they could be installed. The disadvantages include the manual work it takes to move the car, the smaller capacity and weight limits, and the fact that they do not have interlocks so the doors can be opened even when the car isn’t there.

Electric Dumbwaiter Price

An electric dumbwaiter costs between $4,000 and $7,000. Although manual dumbwaiters are still on the market, the most predominant and common type today is powered by electricity. Electric dumbwaiters, also referred to as modern dumbwaiters, are raised and lowered by the push of a button. The motor is found above or below the unit and can drive it up and down. Some models in commercial buildings have the motor housed separately. Motorized cars can hold up to 500 pounds.

The advantages of the electric type include the capability of transporting items with a lot of weight, reducing the amount of strain put on workers and thus their risk of injury, they are very easy to use, and they use an interlock system that prevents the doors from opening when the car isn’t at a particular level, increasing safety. While there are great advantages, modern dumbwaiters have a few disadvantages, including their increased cost and their inability to work during a power outage.

Dumbwaiter Elevator Price by Location

A dumbwaiter can cost between $2,000 and $12,000 for the unit only. The intended use and location of the dumbwaiter determine its size, which is the biggest factor that makes the dumbwaiter cheaper or more expensive. You want to have the dumbwaiter installed in a practical location in order to perform its duties efficiently. There are some locations where dumbwaiters are most efficiently used for transporting goods, pets, and other items, mainly the kitchen, garage, stairs, attic, or exterior. The chart below lists these common uses and locations along with their respective installation costs. Each is then explained in detail.

Dumbwaiter Elevator Price by Location: Laundry, Kitchen, Garage, Stairs, Attic, and Outdoors

Dumbwaiter Elevator Price by Location: Laundry, Kitchen, Garage, Stairs, Attic, and Outdoors

UseDumbwaiter Cost (Unit Only)
Laundry$2,000 - $7,000
Kitchen$2,000 - $7,000
Garage$4,000 - $10,000
Stairs$4,000 - $12,000
Attic$7,000 - $12,000
Outdoors$7,000 - $12,000

Laundry Dumbwaiter Cost

The cost of a laundry dumbwaiter is $2,000 to $7,000 for the unit only, which is typically a mini car or standard size car. Having to bring your laundry up and down the stairs can be much less of a headache with a dumbwaiter. These are designed to move piles of laundry, or even the whole laundry basket itself (depending on its size), to and from the laundry room with ease. The best location for this is right in the laundry room. This can help to reduce the risk of carrying a basket up and down multiple flights, while speeding up this timely chore.

Kitchen Dumbwaiter

The cost of installation for a kitchen dumbwaiter is between $2,000 and $7,000 for the material if you opt for a mini or standard size car. A kitchen dumbwaiter is very common and found in many residential kitchens. These are beneficial in multi-level households to assist in bringing your groceries to the kitchen or across different levels and areas in the home. This type of unit can help to reduce the risk of injury due to strain or injury in carrying in your groceries, especially for those with strength or mobility issues.

Garage Dumbwaiter

The cost of installation for a garage dumbwaiter is $4,000 to $10,000 for the material only. Garage dumbwaiters are typically standard or midsize. Having a dumbwaiter in the garage can be helpful in transporting items into your home. Oftentimes, they are used as a firewood dumbwaiter to transport heating materials to the fireplace area. You can also bring in materials, groceries, or heavy items with it, making it convenient for transporting a variety of goods from the car or the garage into the home. This greatly reduces the risk of tripping or falling while trying to bring items indoors.

Dumbwaiter for Stairs

The cost of installation for a dumbwaiter for your stairs is $4,000 to $12,000 for the dumbwaiter only. Its size usually ranges from a standard sized dumbwaiter to oversized one depending on the intended use. Stairs can be an obstruction for those individuals with mobility issues. Lack of accessibility should never be an issue in a home. A dumbwaiter for stairs, however, can solve this issue by enhancing mobility and equalizing accessibility for everyone. These units are installed right on the stair railing and are designed to lift a person up and down the stairs. Sometimes, stair dumbwaiters can also be used as a dog dumbwaiter to transport elderly or disabled dogs from the ground floor to the upper levels of the home without using the stairs.

Attic Dumbwaiter

The cost of installation for an attic dumbwaiter is $7,000 to $12,000 for the material only depending on the size, which is most commonly mid to oversized car. An attic dumbwaiter is an increasingly popular addition to homes. These types of dumbwaiters provide a convenient, back-saving solution to moving household items and boxes in and out of the attic. Just place your item onto the car, secure it, and with the push of a button, it can be brought up and down between levels.

Residential Dumbwaiter Cost Outdoors

The cost of installation for an outdoor dumbwaiter is $7,000 to $12,000 for the material only, which is usually midsize or oversized dumbwaiter. Aside from indoor dumbwaiters, various types of exterior dumbwaiters serve different purposes. Some assist in bringing items from the exterior to the interior, while others are solely located outside and assist in transporting items onto a deck or higher platform. These units are great for transporting things such as firewood, groceries, or even cocktails.

Residential Dumbwaiter Cost by Manufacturer

Depending on your dumbwaiter brand, your costs will range from $2,000 to $7,000 for the unit only. When conducting your research on residential dumbwaiters, you will find multiple manufacturers on the market. Depending on the manufacturer and brand, you will notice that some are more expensive than others, but the same products are fairly competitive between manufacturers. Below is a chart comparing residential dumbwaiters across some of the top brands:

Cost of a Matot, Inclinator or Harmar Dumbwaiter

BrandDumbwaiter Cost (Unit Only)
Matot$2,000 - $6,000
Inclinator$3,500 - $6,000
Harmar$4,000 - $7,000

Dumbwaiter Installation Labor Cost

The average cost to install an electric two-stop dumbwaiter is $10,000. Out of this cost, $6,000 is the cost of the dumbwaiter unit, while around $4,000 is the cost of installing a dumbwaiter. Installing a dumbwaiter in an existing shaft takes about four to six hours and averages $750 to $2,500 while installing a dumbwaiter in a new shaft takes up to two days and costs approximately $3,000 to $6,000. Expect around 40% of the project’s cost to go into labor and the other 60% for materials. This includes rerouting electrical, moving plumbing, installing the shaft, and finishing the exterior. If needed, this would also include new drywall and paint for the area and access door installation.

The process of installing a dumbwaiter is very similar to that of a residential elevator installation. The process begins with building a shaft for the car to travel in. Some older homes may already have a shaft installed, but for newer homes, this involves either opening the wall and possibly rerouting electrical wires and plumbing, or building the shaft into your new construction. Other options include moving an existing duct and using that area or converting an unused closet. Constructing the shaft is the hardest part of labor, and installation from there is fairly simple. A track is then installed at the back of the shaft with a motor. The dumbwaiter car is installed on the track and control panels are installed at each level. The process of shaft construction can take anywhere from 1-7 days depending on the complexity of the project and location. The installation process for the car itself only takes a few hours to complete.

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Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Dumbwaiter Door

A dumbwaiter door costs between $500 and $1,000. Changing the standard door is a great way of making the dumbwaiter more visually appealing. It is also a great option to conceal the dumbwaiter and blend it with the surrounding interior. Many different styles of dumbwaiter doors are available. In most cases, the standard model includes slide or swing doors. There are also other options, including bi-parting or motorized door options available for an upgrade.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • DIY. If you feel comfortable or have the knowledge for building a shaft yourself, then you can opt to purchase a dumbwaiter kit that allows you to DIY the installation or even use a garage door opener to power a dumbwaiter wholly of your own design.
  • Safety lock. All dumbwaiters should be equipped with a lock for safety when not in use.
  • Speed. A typical dumbwaiter travels at around a speed of 20-30 feet per minute. If you have a higher speed model then you can expect it to travel up to 50 feet per minute.
  • Warranty. The warranty on most dumbwaiters does not cover installation by anyone other than the licensed dealer. It usually ranges between 1 and 3 years for some or all parts of the dumbwaiter.
  • Licensed service. Most manufacturers require the dumbwaiter to be serviced by licensed elevator technicians.
  • Finish. The interior finish of most dumbwaiters is powder-coated metal. In some instances, a stainless steel finish may be an option, but at an additional cost for the upgrade. The option of wood paneling is sometimes available and would make a great upgrade for a historic home.
  • ROI. Dumbwaiters increase the resale value of residential and commercial properties, especially for buyers with mobility issues. They help homeowners sell the property faster and provide a highlight selling point that increases the sale price.

FAQs

  • Are dumbwaiters dangerous?

Dumbwaiters do pose a safety risk if not used properly. It is vital that people recognize the potential dangers, especially when it comes to children and pets. All dumbwaiters come equipped with a lock to help limit any unfortunate incidents from occurring.

  • How much weight can a dumbwaiter hold?

A basic residential car has a weight capacity of approximately 100-200 pounds, while a commercial car can hold upwards of 500 pounds.

  • Why is a dumbwaiter called a dumb waiter?

The name ‘dumbwaiter’ originated from its function–dumb meaning silent, and waiter, acting like a waiter carrying things from place to place.

  • How long does it take to install a dumbwaiter?

If you have an existing shaft, the installation takes four to six hours. However, if the contractor has to build the shaft from scratch, it takes up to two days to install the dumbwaiter.

Cost to install a dumbwaiter varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

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