Elevator Modernization Cost: A Beginner’s Guide

Elevator Modernization Cost

In this guide on elevator modernization, we’ll review the scope of work, help you calculate costs and provide free tools to help your decision to modernize. 

Elevator Modernization Cost Calculator

You just heard someone say “that darn elevator is busted, AGAIN!”

Every time you hear that all you can think is that maybe it’s time for a new elevator. Then the next thought through your head is that it’s going to be outrageously expensive.

Not necessarily.

The biggest driving force for elevator modernization cost is the individual elevator components you decide to replace or retain. There might be parts of your current elevator that can be saved/reused to help reduce total elevator modernization cost.

So, what will an elevator modernization cost?

​Let’s discuss the components which make up the total elevator modernization scope of work and total cost.

Elevator Cab Interior Cost

Panel Series 28 from www.myqcab.com

Elevator cab interior cost

The cabs of your elevators are (hopefully) the only parts that your tenants and their guests see. Nothing is more disheartening than to walk out of a gorgeous new lobby into a 30-year old elevator.

A new cab doesn’t come cheap. About 15% of your elevator modernization budget is likely to go to upgrading the elevator cab. This is primarily because the materials that are used have to not only be durable, but they need to be attractive as well. The types of materials used must be able to handle constant abuse and movement.  

An elevator cab upgrade is usually never a requirement of an elevator modernization, and if reducing cost is your primary goal, you can remove the cab upgrade from the modernization scope of work entirely. 
Cost reduction strategyNot upgrading the elevator cab is the most obvious form of reducing cost.  However, there’s still an opportunity to install an inexpensive elevator cab interior.  

While custom cab interiors require expensive materials and take longer to install (high labor costs), there are elevator cab interior companies that offer standard, pre-fabricated, elevator interior packages.  The standard package helps reduce material cost and installation time (lower labor costs). 

SnapCab was one of the first companies to offer standard packages. They offer an extensive collection in their showroom.

MyQcab has fewer standard packages but focuses on low price points.

Are you wondering what the price difference is between a custom cab, a SnapCab, and a MyQcab?  Lucky for you,  elevator codes require specific elevator cab dimensions based on capacities.  By using our free elevator cab interior cost calculator we can estimate the price of your cab upgrade.  ​


Now that we’ve discussed the cab interior, let’s look into the functional components. 

Hydraulic elevator modernization cost

Hydraulic elevators are typically used to move people and goods nine floors up or less. A conventional hydraulic elevator system uses a hydraulic piston/jack to push the elevator up.  Major hydraulic elevator components could be retained to reduce cost.  Cost reduction strategyWork with a professional to go through the checklist, but if you can save on the cab interior, upgrade the controls,  and retain some of the below listed individual components, you can save a great deal of money. 

Elevator Modernization Checklist:
Here is a quick list of things to consider when modernizing a hydraulic elevator:

Power unit – Test the existing unit’s ability to handle the working pressure range. This will let you know if the power unit is need of an update.

Valve – Although not an expensive item, it may have been replaced or upgraded recently.  

Cylinder(s) – Cylinders can last for decades. If you can keep the one that you have, it can save a lot of money on the modernization.  A hydraulic cylinder is an expensive item to replace. ​

Door operators – As an investment in reliability, the door operators may have been upgraded recently.  These can be retained.  ​

Traction elevator modernization cost

Traction elevators tend to be used and then modernized more often to improve performance and enhance safety. Whether geared or gearless, the entire body of the elevator should be inspected, cleaned, and, if need be, updated. Like a hydraulic unit, the cost to modernize a traction elevator can often come down to how much of the elevator needs to be replaced. Cost reduction strategyWork with a professional to go through the checklist, but again if you can save on the cab interior, upgrade the controls, and keep the hoisting machine, you can save a great deal of money.

Elevator Modernization Checklist:
Here is a quick list of things to consider when modernizing a traction elevator:

Hoisting machine – Very often, the hoisting machines can be directly refurbished. These machines are very robust and can last for many decades. Look to refurbish any of the following:

  • Turning and undercutting commutators
  • Replacing brush holders
  • Testing and dressing coils
  • Replacing bearings
  • Cleaning, repinning, relining and adjusting the brakes

Hoisting motor – On geared or winding drum elevators, the typical elevator modernization is to upgrade to modern AC motor and a new AC VVVF drive.

Motor generator set – These generators don’t exist on modern elevators, but before the 1980’s they were common. Often, they need to be cleaned and have brushes replaced.

Buffers – Elevator buffers wear out or will spring slow oil leaks. However, they can be retained if in good condition. 

Guide shoes and safeties – Both these items could be upgraded and updated to ensure the safe, smooth operation of the elevator.

Brake assembly – These are units that can often merely be refurbished and updated for a fraction of the cost of replacement.

Rope brake – A relatively modern safety device, these are now required in some areas.

Car sling – This particular part of your elevator has few moving parts, but it does require maintenance. Often, this part of your elevator can be retained instead of replaced.

Over speed governor – This safety device should be checked and maintained regularly. All you need to do is make sure that it meets code.

Counterweight, frame, and fillers – These can simply be maintained and often don’t need to be replaced.

Door operators – As an investment in reliability, the door operators may have been upgraded recently.  These can be retained.  

Elevator Modernization Checklist

Escalator modernization cost

Escalator modernization is a bit trickier than elevator modernization. This is simply because the escalator arrives at the building site fully assembled. Until the early 2000’s, there weren’t any companies that looked at repairing and upgrading escalators, as opposed to simply removing and replacing them.

Today, most escalator modernization companies, which includes most of the larger elevator companies, can work with your existing escalators and keep as much as possible. Even if the escalator has to be stripped to the truss and replaced, it’s still much less expensive than having to put a new truss in and doing all of the structural changes that that entails. 

As codes have changed, escalator modernizations have become more and more imperative. The codes are stricter in many cases simply because escalators are more apt to injure people.

Escalator Modernization Cost

Cost for permitting and inspection

Some of the unavoidable costs of modernization of elevators and escalators are permits and inspections. No matter how much or how little you need to upgrade, it will all require permits and inspections. 

By using a well-respected firm to do the work, this process can be streamlined simply because the building inspectors are familiar with their work. Nonetheless, these are costs that need to be factored into any modernization.

Other costs/ non-elevator work

Surrounding the elevator modernization process, there are other considerations that need to be included. Many of them are building code issues or electrical systems, which may not be part of the elevator modernization specification and price. This may be an additional cost.  Looking at these issues before starting any elevator modernization can save a lot of time and money.   Make sure you understand if “work by others” is required. 

  • Is the elevator operating on emergency power now? How will it work after modernization?
  • Will the machine room require air conditioning?
  • Can the current electrical system handle the new elevator drive system?
  • Are there pieces of non-elevator equipment in the elevator machine rooms that will need to be removed?
  • What changes, if any, will the hoistway, machine room, or pit need to accommodate the new equipment?
  • Is the elevator connected the fire alarm system correctly?

Looking at all of these considerations can go a long way to smoothing your elevator modernization.

Elevator Modernization Cost

When is the right time to modernize your elevators?

The answer is simple: If elevator failures are inconveniencing or, worse, jeopardizing your tenants, it’s time to invest in elevator modernization.   The timeline for an elevator modernization will vary for each elevator.  Elevator usage and type will determine the useful life of an elevator. 

Elevator loans 

Total elevator modernization costs may be outside of your budget.   Financing an elevator upgrade, or full elevator modernization, is an option.   Working with a lender who’s familiar with elevator projects can offer a specialized product to specifically fit your needs.  

Final Recommendation:

It’s important to know the condition of your equipment.   Deciding which parts to retain and which parts to replace will help you improve long-term reliability, safety, and total modernization costs. 

Get in touch with an expert from ElevatorLab to help you coordinate your next steps.

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