Admit it: We take elevators for granted. Like answering machines or calculators, elevators are one of those conveniences that are so woven into the texture of our lives that we're barely aware of them at all - that is, until they go on the fritz - at which point we're rudely reminded of just how dependant we are. Whether you've got a pre-war manual with open grillwork or a stainless steel box rigged with bleeding-edge technology, it's crucial that you keep things running smoothly. Simply put, nothing will make your building seem worn at the edges faster than a sickly lift.
An elevator needs constant love to keep it working properly. So your first line of defense is a basic maintenance contract. Kenneth Breglio, of BP Elevator Company, a Bronx-based firm that installs and maintains elevators, suggests monthly or bi-monthly service visits, depending on the model and age of your machinery. A typical service contract should run about $3,600-$5,000 per year for a small, one-elevator residential building, he says. Make sure to go over what's included in your maintenance agreement before you sign. "A routine maintenance call should include cleaning, lubrication, adjustments on relays, and a general once-over to make sure everything's in order," Breglio advises. It's also wise to look for a company with experience. "Don't be shy about asking for references, and look for a union company with depth of experience," says Al Milo of Brooklyn's Dunwell Elevator, a company that does maintenance, repair and modernization. "Make sure they offer 24-hour service," he adds.
Preventive maintenance is imperative, says Don Gelestino, president of Ver-Tech Elevators in Richmond Hill, Queens. An average elevator life span is 25 to 30 years so it is important to keep the entire system in shape so that safety doesn't become an issue. A lot of older gear traction elevators still running in many of the city's historical or landmarked apartment buildings are anywhere from 30 to 50 years old, says Gelestino.
As for your day-to-day role, George Johnson of Triboro Technologies, an elevator consulting firm based in Bayside, Queens, recommends that you "Keep your ears open for any strange squeaking or grinding noises in the cab, and have your superintendent check the machinery periodically for oil leaks or anything unusual that could signal trouble."
According to Breglio, automatic elevators are "pretty self-sufficient," and there's not much you can do to prevent wear and tear, but with a manually operated elevator, it's important to make sure the operator runs it with a gentle touch. "You need to make sure the operator slows down as he comes to a stop. If you run it into the pit, you put a strain on the equipment," he warns.