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Dumbwaiter Installation Cost

Dumbwaiter Installation Cost

National average
$10,000
(motorized dumbwaiter installation in a new shaft)
Low: $3,000

(manual dumbwaiter installation in an existing shaft)

High: $14,000

(custom motorized dumbwaiter installation in a new shaft)

Cost to install a dumbwaiter varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from elevator contractors in your city.

The average cost of installing a dumbwaiter is $10,000.

In this guide

Location
Motorized vs manual dumbwaiter
Weight capacity
Size
Interior finish
Installation
Labor
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to install a dumbwaiter?

While originally a small, manual elevator meant for sending food from the kitchens to dining rooms or large houses and hotels, dumbwaiters today have various uses. They can be motorized, hold up to 500 pounds, and used to transport groceries, laundry, or a variety of other materials within your home.

Dumbwaiter installations vary depending on the location, how big the shaft needs to be, and the options you choose for your small elevator. Most homeowners spend around $10,000 on installation of a motorized dumbwaiter with two stops in their home.

Location

Install dumbwaiters anywhere there is room to create a shaft within the wall. That said, the most important criteria for choosing a location is the use of the dumbwaiter. When transporting laundry, it may make the most sense to locate the dumbwaiter in or near the laundry room on one end and the other in or near the bedrooms. For transporting groceries, the garage may be one end and the kitchen or pantry at the other.

Because the dumbwaiter is designed to go straight up without making any turns, sometimes midway locations may be best, such as when a home has a garage and kitchen on opposite ends.

If using the dumbwaiter to carry items from the basement to the upper levels, such as laundry or firewood, you may have more flexibility than when attempting to move items from one small area to another, unless they are directly in line with one another.

Motorized vs manual dumbwaiter

You are most likely to see a manual dumbwaiter in older homes and historic remodels. These small freight elevators are controlled via ropes and pulleys. A pulley attaches to the top of the shaft, and the rope is visible from each stop. At the stop, a second rope with a lock on it is placed so that the dumbwaiter can be held still for loading and unloading.

Manual dumbwaiters hold less, do not require additional space for a motor, and tend to be cheaper. They do not require electricity to run, meaning they continue to run during a power outage.

Most modern homes, however, use a motorized dumbwaiter. In this case, a switch or computerized panel controls the elevator. It easier to use and carries more weight, generally between 100 to 500 pounds, while a manual model only holds up to about 50 pounds. Load the dumbwaiter and then press a button to start the system. When it reaches its destination, the elevator stops and is ready to unload. In a manual system, you load it, walk to the next floor, and then pull it up before unloading.

A motorized system costs more money, about $4,000 versus $2,000 for a manual model. It also requires more space in the shaft for the motor as well as electricity to run. Most people find that the convenience is worth it, however, unless installing in a historic home.

Weight capacity

Motorized dumbwaiters hold up to 500 pounds depending on the model. The standard-sized versions typically hold between 100 and 200 pounds on average, while larger models can hold more.

If you opt for a manual version, they hold considerably less, usually up to 50 pounds.

Size

Dumbwaiters come in several sizes to accommodate different uses and space constraints. A standard-sized car measures 20”w x 20”d x 30”h, but most manufacturers offer a range of sizes. Some also offer a custom option that allows you to adjust the size even further.

Mini car sizes may measure as small as 14” x 14” x 20.” Oversized models may measure as large as 30” x 30” x 36.” And, many companies also offer a mid-sized option of 24” x 24” x 30.”

Interior finish

When you open your dumbwaiter, the interior is typically a powder-coated metal, which has either a white or off-white finish. In some instances, a stainless steel interior may be an option, but this is frequently considered an upgrade by many companies.

For some historic homes, consider upgrading to wood paneling on the interior.

In some cases, the interior may also be tied directly to the door finish and style. Many doors have a standard metal roll-up option, but you can also upgrade to a wooden door.

Installation

A dumbwaiter is essentially a very small freight elevator, so installation is carried out in much the same way as a residential elevator. The first step to installation is building a shaft that the car can travel in.

Older homes may already have this shaft, which can be quickly reopened to accommodate a dumbwaiter installation. But for newer homes, this involves either opening the wall and rerouting plumbing and electrical wires, building the shaft into new construction or an addition, or creating a bump out into the room for the dumbwaiter shaft. Other options include converting an unused closet space or moving an existing duct and using that area.

Once the shaft is constructed, installation is fairly simple. In most cases, a track is installed along the back of the shaft, with the motor installed at either the top or bottom of the dumbwaiter. The dumbwaiter carriage is installed on the track, and control panels are installed at each of the stops.

The shaft construction may take one to seven days, depending on the location and complexity. The actual installation of the dumbwaiter carriage takes only a few hours to complete.

Labor

Labor makes up the biggest part of the total costs for a dumbwaiter installation. Installing the dumbwaiter in an existing shaft costs around $750 on average and is installed either by the dealer or an elevator service technician. However, if you have a shaft constructed, costs for this part of the job typically runs around $5,000 to $6,000 for a total of $10,000 for a new shaft installation with a motorized dumbwaiter. This includes moving or rerouting plumbing and electrical work, constructing the shaft, and finishing the exterior. This may include installing new drywall and repainting the area, as well as installing the access doors.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Access doors

In most cases, the standard access door to the dumbwaiter rolls or slides upward. If you wish to have a cabinet style door, however, they are available for an upgrade, with costs starting at $100.

Corner dumbwaiters

A space-saving way of building a shaft without opening any walls is to use a corner of the room. This builds the shaft out to a kitty corner off the existing corner, so you do not need to reroute plumbing. It restricts the interior size of the carriage, though. Total costs are similar, accounting for the custom shape of the shaft and carriage.

Additional considerations and costs

  • If you have an existing shaft or are prepared to build it yourself, there are dumbwaiter kits available that allow you to DIY the installation.
  • Most dumbwaiters travel at around 20 to 30 feet per minute, but some higher-speed models travel up to 50 feet per minute.
  • All motorized dumbwaiters should be equipped with a lock for safety when not in use.
  • Most manufacturers of dumbwaiters require that they be serviced by licensed elevator technicians.
  • Many warranties do not cover installation by anyone other than a licensed dealer.

FAQ

  • How much does it cost to install a dumbwaiter?

A new, motorized dumbwaiter installed in a newly built shaft costs around $10,000 on average.

  • What are dumbwaiters used for?

Dumbwaiters were originally used for transporting food from the kitchen to the dining room but are now used for a variety of jobs, including hauling groceries, laundry, and firewood.​

  • Why is a dumbwaiter called a dumbwaiter?

The device was originally designed to take the place of a member of the staff, therefore "dumb waiter."​

  • How big is a dumbwaiter?

A standard-sized car is 20” by 20” by 30.”

  • How does a manual dumbwaiter work?

A manual dumbwaiter works by ropes and pulleys, which are attached to the ceiling of the shaft. Pulling on the ropes lowers and raises the carriage.

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Cost to install a dumbwaiter varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Vintage dumbwaiter in metal

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Anchorage, AK
+35%
Arlington, TX
+6%
Asheville, NC
-18%
Athens, GA
-9%
Aurora, CO
+10%
Austin, TX
+13%
Bakersfield, CA
-6%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Birmingham, AL
+6%
Bronx, NY
+32%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Clinton, MA
+11%
Columbus, OH
+5%
Concord, CA
+30%
Corona, CA
+19%
Corvallis, OR
-13%
Denver, CO
+1%
Detroit, MI
+16%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Honolulu, HI
+35%
Houston, TX
+24%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Kansas City, MO
+4%
Knoxville, TN
+10%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Medford, OR
-21%
Miami, FL
+1%
New York, NY
+77%
Norcross, GA
+16%
Oak Hill, WV
-46%
Oakland, CA
+36%
Pasadena, CA
+15%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Phoenix, AZ
0%
Pittsburgh, PA
+9%
Portland, OR
+11%
Reno, NV
0%
Rosedale, MD
+9%
Sacramento, CA
+8%
Saint Louis, MO
+16%
Salt Lake City, UT
-6%
San Antonio, TX
-4%
San Diego, CA
+11%
San Francisco, CA
+53%
San Jose, CA
+33%
San Juan, PR
-53%
Santa Ana, CA
+20%
Labor cost in your zip code
Last modified:   
Methodology and sources