Dumbwaiters - A Smart Idea?

A dumbwaiter is essentially a small elevator installed in your home or business to facilitate easy transportation of materials from one floor to the other. Often seen as an antiquity piece, a good commercial or residential dumbwaiter can be an excellent addition to a home or business and significantly reduce the work involved in ferrying everything from firewood to food to laundry from one floor to another. If you’re in the market for a sensible solution to running the stairs, these handy inventions might be exactly the solution you’ve been searching for.

The Stuff Legends Are Made Of

Be it Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the 80’s sitcom “Webster”, or more antiquated Victorian-era prose, the dumbwaiter has gained its most significant notoriety in the public sphere by secretly ferrying people from one floor to another in luxurious houses. While it’s important to note that the use of these units for human transportation is strongly discouraged for safety reasons, they have long provided an important service to those who need to transport other materials from one level of a building to another.

Residential dumbwaiters can move firewood from a basement to a living room, food from a kitchen to dining rooms in upper floors, and laundry from the utility room to bedrooms on different levels of a home. Outdoor models have even been utilized to ship dog food from living areas down to the yard where a hungry canine awaits his dinner. And in a commercial setting, dumbwaiter elevators are even more prominent, ferrying food from kitchens up to hungry hotel guests, bank documents from one office to another, and medical files and equipment from one floor to another in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Available Models

The most important thing to consider when looking to purchase one of these time-saving appliances is what you’ll be using it for. What will you be hauling? How heavy will your loads be? What is the size of the freight that you’ll be transporting?


For most residential applications a small residential dumbwaiter is more than satisfactory. These models transport anywhere from fifty to several hundred pounds of weight up and down in your domicile with ease. If you have more commercial needs, dumbwaiter elevators are available that transport up to 500 pounds of freight with each load.

Manual or Electronic

The second consideration to look at is whether you want a manual dumbwaiter or electrically driven model. Manual dumbwaiters are cheaper and run on a pulley system in which the operator pulls on a rope or cable to transport materials from one place to another. Far more convenient, however, are the electric motor driven models that operate at the push of a button, though they are more pricey.

New Construction or Retrofit

Finally, consider what you’ll be using it for in relation to the floor plan of the structure you’ll be incorporating it into. Installing a dumbwaiter elevator into new construction is by far the easiest solution, though shafts can be built into pre-existing structures with a little effort. Also, make sure your destination is directly above, or below, where you start from. These elevators only move up or down, so turning corners or going from one of the side of the house or building to another isn’t going to be an option.

Regardless of your freight transportation needs, there’s a commercial or residential dumbwaiter out there that will fit the bill. Contact an experienced contractor or retailer to determine which model is best for you, and enjoy the convenience your new dumbwaiter for years to come.


  1. Deb, January 23:

    I’m ordering a manual dumbwaiter to install in our new home under construction. The hardest part has been trying to get info on them! I went with manual vs electric because I’d prefer something more traditional and the price of electric ones is through the roof.

  2. Vianna, March 29:

    I am in the same situation as “Deb”. The previous emailer. Not enough information.

  3. A good dumbwaiter can add to the benefits of any apartment, residential or official elevator. Transfer of stuff from one floor to other is difficult, especially when you don’t have facilities like dumbwaiters. Thanks for sharing this information here!

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