Commercial Lift Buying Guide: How to Purchase and Install a Commercial Elevator

Does your commercial space have multiple floors, and a dumbwaiter won't quite get the job done? If so, by law, you are required to make all areas accessible to people of every ability. Thankfully, the experts at Nationwide Lifts are here to make it easy for you to keep your property up to code and accessible to all with a commercial lift. Nationwide Lifts has become a trusted source for commercial lifts and elevators by offering companies only the best products, whether they buy online or shop from our free catalog.

We know that you probably have many questions about buying a commercial elevator: How much does a commercial elevator cost? How much space do you need to install one? What type of commercial lift is best? That's why our knowledgeable team put together this guide to help you make an informed decision. Of course, you can also call us for a free quote of the cost to install a commercial elevator or to learn more about our available elevator lifts. Commercial business owners need not worry about complying with accessibility laws when they purchase our products: Nationwide Lifts has your needs covered at an affordable commercial elevator cost.

Exploring Your Commercial Elevator Options

Whether you operate a multi-level mega-mall or an office building, you cannot do so without a commercial wheelchair lift or elevator. Commercial enterprises of all kinds have turned to Nationwide Lifts for a wide selection of products, from passenger elevators to wheelchair lifts, freight elevators, and dumbwaiters. The commercial elevators and lifts we have for sale are trusted designs that are guaranteed to work to their specifications, and among the commercial elevators for sale at Nationwide Lifts, we have many different sizes, styles, and designs suitable for a number of uses.

For instance, our passenger elevators are ideal for nearly any application, making it possible to transport people and bulky objects from one floor to the next. And our LULA (limited-use/limited-application) elevators are ideal for adding accessibility to churches, small offices, or other spaces up to three levels tall. These elevators are a bit smaller than a typical passenger elevator, making them easy to install in virtually any building. But which type of commercial lift is right for you? The answer will depend on factors including the amount of people or freight you need to lift and the amount of space you have.

Types of Commercial Elevators


Passenger elevators are used to transport people in business and residential settings. They may include features like advertisements, music, or televisions. Buildings with a sky lobby may include an express elevator that travels from the lobby to the ground floor with no stops in between.


LULA stands for limited use/limited application. These elevators are limited in how much weight they can carry, how much floor space they use, and their travel distance. LULAs are normally used to make buildings handicap-accessible. They look and ride just like a typical passenger elevator.

Wheelchair Lifts

Wheelchair lifts are open-air platforms that raise a person in a wheelchair from one level to the next. Some models travel on a track built alongside a set of stairs. Wheelchair lifts have a very limited travel distance. A wheelchair lift can be used in many types of buildings, from shopping malls to office complexes. A commercial lift may be installed for small sets of stairs, but a large passenger elevator may be better for taller buildings or ones that might need to accommodate multiple wheelchair users.

Freight Elevators

These elevators are designed to carry goods, not people. They feature rugged interiors to withstand the loading and unloading processes and can bear heavy weights.


You can think of dumbwaiters as a miniature version of freight elevators. They are also meant to carry goods, but on a much smaller scale. Dumbwaiters are often found in restaurant kitchens, used to transport dishes, and in libraries, for the transportation of books.


Hydraulic elevators are powered by a piston that moves within a cylinder. They are most often used in buildings with five or six floors but can't be used in buildings that exceed eight floors.


Traction elevators move using flat steel belts and a grooved pulley. This is one of the first commercial elevator designs. When it was created in 1900, ropes were used in place of the steel belts used today.

Cable Drum

These elevators use a compact drive system that is both powerful and reliable. These elevators are quiet, ride smoothly, and can travel up to six stories.

Screw Drive

Screw drive elevators use a screw shaft and drive nut to move the elevator platform. These are among the slowest-moving elevator mechanisms. They're favored for residential lifts because they don't require a machine room.


Glass panels can be applied to a few different elevator models. These beautiful elevators are normally chosen for aesthetic purposes.


MRL stands for machine-room-less. MRLs are either traction or hydraulic elevators and are favored by people who need to save space.


These elevators are often made of aluminum for durability. Outdoor elevators typically travel a short distance and are often used to transport wheelchairs.

How Does It Work? / Educational Videos

Specifications / BIMs / Drawings

Commercial Elevator Sizes

Within a business setting, commercial elevators can be useful in many ways, lifting objects and groups of all sizes. A commercial elevator can range in size from a dumbwaiter to a freight elevator. Businesses that need to transport small objects from floor to floor, like books and dishes, can make great use of a dumbwaiter. Other businesses will need to move large, heavy loads of cargo brought in with a forklift or other heavy machinery, and a freight elevator is built to withstand this sort of use.

The type of elevator installed depends on your budget, requirements, and space, which is why Nationwide Lifts has an extensive selection of commercial elevators to meet every need. When exploring available elevators, one of the first details to consider is the typical elevator shaft dimensions. Our representatives can help customers to determine the commercial elevator dimensions that would be best for their business.

Nationwide Lifts offers many commercial elevators with varying specifications to fit different needs and applications.

Elevator Type


In-Ground Elevator

This requires a PVC liner between the soil and the cylinder, and commercial elevator installation includes drilling a deep hole for the hydraulic jack. These elevators can travel up to 150 feet per minute.

Standard Elevator

The shaft must have a pit with a depth of at least 4 feet and a ceiling height of at least 150 inches. These elevators can carry between 2,100 and 5,000 pounds. The inner dimensions are between 5 feet 8 inches by 4 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 8 inches by 7 feet 11 inches.

Holeless Elevator

This has a similar capacity and dimensions to a standard elevator, and like the in-ground elevator, it requires a pit depth of at least 4 feet. They are restricted to two-to-four-stop applications.

How Big Is an Elevator Shaft? Lift Shaft Dimensions and Guidelines

  • Size Requirements for Commercial Elevators: At the upper landing, the ceiling height requirement is 106 inches for remodeling installations and 134 inches for new construction installation. These elevators can provide access to as many as three different levels, and they can travel up to 25 feet. The elevator dimensions in feet range from 4 by 4.5 (48 inches by 54 inches) to 3.5 by 5 (42 inches by 60 inches).
  • Size Requirements for Commercial Wheelchair Lifts: A number of lifts are available to move wheelchairs from one level to another in a commercial setting, and these will vary in size. Several different vertical wheelchair lifts have a standard cab size of 36 inches by 54 inches. Customizable sizing is also available for up to 18 square feet. An inclined wheelchair lift provides accessibility on a staircase using a platform that moves up and down the steps. The dimensions of the platform are 30 inches by 49 inches, and customization is also available for larger sizes.

Accessibility Considerations

Commercial elevators offer convenience to their users, but they can also provide accessibility for customers, a crucial concern for businesses. Our elevators can meet ADA standards, allowing people of all abilities to use the elevator and access all parts of your building. ADA stands for the Americans With Disabilities Act, which defines guidelines for making buildings and elevators accessible for those with disabilities. Accessible elevators are important to your business because they create an inclusive culture and guarantee that no patrons are turned away due to limited access. They can also help you avoid fines stemming from a failure to meet ADA standards.

Commercial Elevator Modernization

If you are looking to have your existing lift or elevator repaired or modernized, we can help with that, too, with our elevator repair, maintenance, and modernization services.

Elevator modernization consists of modifications to an older elevator to make sure that it meets code. Elevator modernization helps ensure that your elevator is as safe as possible. As elevators age and new safety measures are developed, your elevator can begin to deteriorate or become out of date. Modernization can consist of updating the brake system, emergency support updates, and other modifications that will either improve safety or function. An elevator must comply with building codes for the safety of its passengers and in order to be used legally. Aspects like elevator size and elevator shaft dimensions must meet safety standards.

Another aspect of elevator modification to consider is updates to meet ADA compliance standards. If you own a commercial elevator, you must have elevator dimensions that meet ADA standards. These usually involve easily accessible placement of operational mechanisms and ample car sizes to accommodate a passenger using a wheelchair. Other specifications include Braille markings, slip-resistant flooring, and audio cues. Our elevator modernization service can determine whether your elevator meets ADA standards and help you make any needed changes.

Commercial Elevators FAQ

How Much Does a Commercial Elevator Cost to Install?

The cost of a commercial lift will vary greatly depending on the size and capabilities you need, which we'd need to know to calculate a precise cost. Contact us for a free quote and we'd be glad to crunch the numbers!

How Big Are Commercial Elevators?

The average size of a commercial elevator is about 22 square feet, but of course, this can vary quite a bit to accommodate the building and what's needed from the elevator.

How Much Weight Can a Freight Elevator Hold?

A freight elevator is designed to carry heavy-duty loads and can typically hold from 4,000 to 15,000 pounds.

How Much Does it Cost to Maintain an Elevator?

On average, it will cost about $300 a year to have professional elevator maintenance staff check your lift; the cost of needed repairs will add to this. Keep in mind that regular maintenance can help you avoid bigger repair bills in the future as well as safety issues.

How Much Space Is Needed for an Elevator?

A standard elevator will need about 5 to 7 feet of space lengthwise and widthwise for the cab, and the shaft will need at least 4 feet of pit depth.

How Many People Can Fit in a Lift or Elevator?

That depends on the dimensions of the elevator, but a good indication is to look at the listed capacity. In most cases, an elevator can hold more weight than the number of people who can physically fit in an elevator, so it should be easy to stay at proper capacity.

How Wide Is a Typical Elevator Door?

ADA standards, which determine typical elevator dimensions to ensure accessibility for disabled people, dictate that elevator doors should be at least 36 inches wide, so wheelchairs can comfortably pass through.

What Is a Service Lift?

A service elevator is similar to a freight elevator. It's designed for carrying goods from one floor to another. A service elevator is typically used by staff and restricted to employee access only. You'll often see them in hospitals so staff can quickly move carts and supplies from floor to floor.

What Is the Shaft of an Elevator?

The shaft is the passage that the elevator travels through. It's a space that the passenger doesn't have access to in normal circumstances.

What Is the Size of an Elevator Shaft?

This completely depends on the dimensions of the elevator in question. In most cases, the elevator shaft must have at least 4 feet of pit space in the bottom of the shaft, but the length and width will typically be slightly larger than the size of the elevator's cab.

What Is a Passenger Lift?

A passenger lift is exactly what its name suggests: It is intended for the transportation of people from one floor to another.

What Are Freight Elevators?

A freight elevator is designed for the transportation of cargo rather than people. They can usually take on heavier loads.

Does a Two-Story Building Need an Elevator?

Generally, if your building has less than three stories, then you aren't required to install an elevator, but there are exceptions, so you should check the ADA standards. Also, consider that while an elevator might not be legally required, it might still be important to have to allow people to move between floors.

How Tall Are a Standard Elevator and Elevator Door?

A standard elevator door is between 6 and 8 feet tall, with the overall elevator height falling somewhere in that range.

What Is the Standard Elevator Size in Feet?

Typical elevator dimensions in feet range from 5 feet 8 inches by 4 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 8 inches by 7 feet 11 inches. The dimensions of an elevator can be customized depending on your needs.

Need to Know More? Request a Free Catalog or Quote

If you're still not quite sure which commercial elevator is right for your needs, just request a free full-color catalog: It includes the commercial elevator dimensions for every model as well as its capacity, installation requirements, and more. We'd also be glad to provide a free price quote: Just give us a few details of what you're looking for to get pricing for an elevator that meets your specifications. Representatives are also available to assist customers over the phone, answering pertinent questions about the dimensions of an elevator, its capacity, its customization options, and more. Give us a ring: We're here to help!

Page last updated by Andy Darnley