Building amenities such as elevator systems are sometimes taken for granted. What goes up, after all, must come down, and vice versa, right? But elevators are not just for convenience and awkward silent moments, they also accommodate residents unable to climb stairs, and are critical for deliveries and facilitating maintenance workers. At a certain point, no matter the age of the building, the elevator system will need maintenance and/or replacement. The key is identifying signs of wear and tear before a breakdown occurs.
“A new elevator should be treated like a new car in that it should be properly maintained and lubricated on a monthly basis,” says Frank Livoti, president of Brooklyn Elevator Inc. in Brooklyn. “A well-maintained elevator should last anywhere between 15 and 20 years, however depending on the type of elevator application, certain major parts might need to be changed in the interim.”
Even if a building owner is diligent with elevator maintenance protocols, there may come a time when the equipment becomes unreliable and the down time is increased. The resulting work required could be an upgrade or an overhaul.
“Any modification to an existing system is characterized as a modernization, which can be partial or full. A job is considered new construction when new rails are added to an existing job, or it is installed from the ground up,” explains John Miller, director of operations for the Liberty Elevator Corporation in Manhattan. He added that hydraulic elevators typically last between 25 to 30 years. Traction applications, he noted, have controllers that last 25 to 30 years as well, although the machinery may last even longer. The life span of elevator ropes are typically 10 to 15 years.
“If you’re adding an elevator to an existing building, this would be considered new construction, otherwise you can replace all elements of an elevator, besides the rails, and it would be considered a full modernization,” says Miller.