Russ Ward


Elevator 101 is about the basics. See, being around elevators all the time can warp your perspective. You begin to think that everyone has a pretty high base knowledge of elevators and elevator lingo. We tend to forget that most people’s knowledge of elevators in the construction industry is limited to, “They are a pain in the rear end”. So, every once in a while it is a good idea to review what the basic terms mean. Reviewing this info is especially needed if you are going to be chatting with people in the elevator business about a specific project.

Too Much Jargon

Overall there is too much jargon. Like talking to a doctor or lawyer, elevator people sometimes skip over things that are basic to them, but may confuse folks not immersed in the field. The intricacies of brain surgery or the meaning of habeas corpus (I think its a city in Texas), can easily pass us by and so can terms regarding elevators. We hope this will help.

So here is a list of basic terms that you should review, or bookmark before you talk with an elevator consultant, elevator sales person or even an elevator mechanic.

  1. Floor Travel – This is defined as the distance in feet and inches from the bottom finished floor to the top finished floor. Measure from the floor to the floor not from floor to ceiling. Believe it or not this is a common problem.
  2. Number of Stops – An elevator must have at least 2 stops. If it only had one, it would be a broom closet with a fancy door. Every floor the elevator will stop at needs to be counted. Likewise, do not count floors the elevator does not stop at even if there are additional floors in the building (express elevators skip lots of floors).
  3. Front Stops – When you enter an elevator at the primary floor, entry or egress, every floor that has a door that opens on same side of the elevator is called a front stop (see chart below). 
  4.  Reverse Stops – When you enter an elevator from the primary floor, any floors that has a door that opens on the opposite side of the car is a reverse stop. If you can exit either the front or rear at a stop it needs to be counted as both (see chart below).
  5. Hoistway – Hoistway is the way elevator folks say elevator shaft. I have no idea why, but the two terms are interchangeable.
  6. Rails – These are heavy beams that run the height of the hoistway (or shaft) that the car rides along. It is crucial these are aligned properly for ride and to reduce maintenance issues.
  7. Ropes –  These are not what cowpokes use to lasso cattle or magicians use to tie up all too willing assistants. Ropes are cables or highly engineered strands of wire wrapped together. A typical cable or rope can have over 150 strands of wire designed to be strong and flexible.
  8. Proprietary Components – This is crucial. Never buy an elevator with proprietary components. They restrict anyone from repairing your elevator. Their entire purpose is to prevent you from shopping around for other maintenance agreements. This is where traditional elevators profit are made. See this Article.
  9. Pit – This is the area below the hoistway or shaft. Every commercial elevator has one. In most cases they are around four feet deep, but that can vary.
  10. Elevator Cab/Car – The cab is the room that people ride in. The car includes the platform it sits on, the frame and the doors. These terms are often used interchangeably.
  11. Hydraulic – This is a mode of conveyance that has one or two hydraulic jacks. In some applications they can be above ground or in ground depending on travel distance and other variables. Hydraulic units are pushed up from the bottom. See the chart below for travel distance info.
  12. Traction – This is the type of elevator you see Bruce Willis hanging from in the movies. It has ropes. Along with a motor and sheaves (or pulleys) they pull the elevator up. Counter weights are used to make the work easier.
  13. Roped Hydro or Hydraulic – A conveyance system where a sheave is raised or lowered at the top of a hydraulic jack. The jack pushes the sheave up and down and that raises and lowers a rope. This in turn raises and lowers the car. This is the least common type of conveyance.
  14. MRL – It stand for machine roomless. They can be traction or hydraulic and can be a space saver. The space for the equipment is found usually in the walls of the hoistway, the pit or in the space at the top of the shaft. Depending on the location, they can be noncompliant for some jurisdictions.
  15. Modular Elevator – It the superior choice for all low and mid-rise applications. They are factory built, high-quality, commercial elevator factory installed into a prefabricated, structural steel hoistway. The hoistway is sheathed with materials to meet your building requirements. The modular elevator is trucked to your site and craned into place in a pre-poured elevator pit. You have to see it to believe it so here is a short video of one being placed.

Other Resources

That above list is a good staring point. However, if you ever have a question feel free to call us whether you have the intention of buying a modular elevator or not. As geeky and weird as it sounds, we like talking about elevators.

Below is a handy diagram, a chart based on travel distance and some links.

Analysis chart of the various elevator dimensions needed for fast budget numbers.
Elevator conveyance is a an important determining factor when deciding on the right elevator.

Additionally if you want to know more about the modes of conveyance. Just click here for a full explanation. You can also click here for information on hydraulic units. You can also look at the dozens of articles we have available on our blog.

If you would like to know a bit about pricing for a project just click the button below to get a Fast Track Quote. But if you really want to know more about elevators, schedule a live, virtual tour of our factory. It is open to anyone with questions about elevators. We love showing off!

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2 thoughts on “ELEVATOR 101

  1. Jeff Bell

    Can I get your email newsletter?

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