ATLANTIC CITY — A few years ago, Jeff Colmyer’s construction company was building perhaps one home a year that included an elevator.
“This year, we’ll do probably 10,” said Colmyer, president of Little Egg Harbor Township-based Colmyer & Sons Construction. “It’s totally different now.”
What Colmyer sees at his construction company represents a trend stemming from new flood elevations, raised houses and Hurricane Sandy, said builders and elevator companies at last week’s Atlantic Builders Convention in Atlantic City.
“When you raise a house and you have a predominantly senior citizen environment, you can’t go up the stairs, so you need something else,” said Colmyer, of Little Egg Harbor. “The elevator market is skyrocketing right now. … I have a customer right now, the first thing he said is, ‘I want to build a house, but I need an elevator.’”
Elevators and wheelchair lifts are practical. Homes raised or rebuilt after Sandy mean steeper treks up stairs, said Luke Lesniowski, sales manager for Handi-Lift in Carlstadt, Bergen County.
“When you start elevating homes, people have to wonder, ‘Now, how am I going to get the groceries upstairs? How am I going to get Grandma upstairs?” he said.
Residential elevators have long been favored in construction in seashore locations where second floors increase square footage on relatively small lots, said Paul Jones, a manufacturer representative for Residential Elevators.
Kitchens are on the second floor in many homes there.
“Just the logistics of coming to a shore house and loading all your Costco goods to the kitchen becomes tricky. The elevator is a major factor in convenience for the shore family,” he said.
Their costs can vary significantly and are related not only to the elevator but also to construct ion or retrofitting of an elevator shaft in the house.
Lesniowski said a residential elevator can start about $20,000.
In some cases, the reported increase in elevators is being driven by replacements of existing elevators damaged or destroyed during flooding.
Flooding from the storm also affects what people buy. Jones said traction elevator systems have the equipment and electronics at the top of the shaft rather than at the bottom.
Elevators can have “float switches” that raise the elevator if floodwater is detected, he said.
The competitiveness of the elevator market today was apparent at the Atlantic Builders Convention, where about six elevator and handicapped-lift companies had booths on the show floor at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
The industry trade show draws about 6,500 participants annually from seven states and includes residential and commercial builders, contractors, remodelers and developers. It ran Tuesday to Thursday.
When it comes to selling elevators, Total Access Elevators & Lifts, based in West Chester, Pa., took a hands-on approach at the trade show. The company brought a fully functioning one that towered over other booths.
The model resembled something from a science-fiction movie. The pneumatic vacuum elevator lacked pulley and cables, instead using air pressure and vacuums to raise and lower the cart.
“It has been around for about 10 years, but it’s newer to New Jersey,” said E.J. Panati, who works for the company.
The elevator can be put inside the house or attached outside to a balcony, he said.
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