What Is A Dumbwaiter Elevator?

A dumbwaiter elevator is a type of small service lift that is used for transporting items from one floor of a building to another. Due to their smaller weight capacity, these service lifts are distinctly different from passenger lifts in that they carry not people, but items.

Which Places Use These Small Service Lifts?

Dumbwaiters are commonly used throughout the hospitality industry, with their use also being deployed in private homes.

The employment of residential dumbwaiters as a tool originated in large houses hundreds of years ago, with House Staff using them to transport items such as food and laundry around the house. The phrase ‘dumb waiter’ comes from its ability to act as a staff member who is seen but not heard.

Nowadays, one can find dumbwaiters in a range of different settings including restaurants, warehouses, banquet halls and retirement homes.

Is A Dumbwaiter Right For You?

If your workplace or home is a multi-storey building that requires the movement of goods from one floor to another, then yes, a dumbwaiter is right for you. They can lower injury risks by removing the burden of manual handling from staff.

Other benefits include saving space and saving costs associated with maintenance support and staff labour.

Things to Consider When Choosing A Dumbwaiter

Dumbwaiter lifts typically come in a couple of different car sizes and types to suit your various needs. Different models and sizes are better suited to some settings than others.

The following factors should be taken into account when choosing the right dumbwaiter for your desired usage case.


The natural first step in deciding whether or not to install a dumbwaiter lift is to check whether it can be installed within the building’s existing architecture. You’ll need to ensure it can travel vertically through the floor and terminate at the correct landing.

Dumbwaiters require a hoist-way with enough space for the guide rail and cables, so making sure you have that space available is crucial before committing to purchasing a dumbwaiter. The space must be free of any obstructions that would prevent the dumbwaiter from travelling up and down. Whilst the site dimensions can be customised for different installation environments, this may incur extra costs so this is worth considering before you begin.


Evaluating your preferred location of the dumbwaiter in advance of installation is key.

Due to their mass employment in the service industry, many commercial dumbwaiters terminate in a kitchen. However, in other settings such as private homes or warehouses, you may require the dumbwaiter to terminate at a different floor level or room, such as the utility room.

Capacity Of your Dumbwaiter

The Carrying capacity of a dumbwaiter translates as the weight and size of the items that can fit in a dumbwaiter lift. Average weight capacity varies from 50KG to 100KG, though there are models with smaller than 50kg and larger than 100kg. The weight capacity you’ll need depends primarily on the weight of the items you’re intending to transport. The weight capacity will need to be heavier if it’s to be used for groceries rather than for laundry for example.

Generally, car widths range from 35cm to 100cm, car depths tend to be from 32cm to 100cm, and car heights from 60cm to 120cm. These different sizes allow for a varied range of uses.


How far will your dumbwaiter need to travel? This is an important factor to evaluate when choosing the right dumbwaiter, as you’ll need to ensure the travel distance is accurate.

Travel is measured by calculating the distance from the floor of the car at the lowest landing up to the highest landing. Most dumbwaiters can travel 6 meters with some being able to travel up to 30 Meters.

Number of Stops

Most models of dumbwaiter allow for up to 8 stops. When choosing a dumbwaiter for installation, you’ll have to take into account how many floors it will need to stop at.

Finishing Touches

There is a range of aesthetic tweaks that can be made to your dumbwaiter to change how it looks, these include bi part doors and landing doors. These doors can be made to match your house’s decor so that the dumbwaiter blends in seamlessly with the rest of your home.

In terms of materials and finishes, dumbwaiters are available in a variety of options, with powder-coated steel being the default. Stainless steel is another option that can add a classier touch to your dumbwaiter elevator but may cost more.

For those wanting to use a dumbwaiter in a restaurant or banquet hall setting, another option is investing in a heated cabin tray which will keep the food warm whilst it is transported through the levels.


Setting out a budget before going ahead with an installation will help you decide which type of dumbwaiter is right for you.

If you want the dumbwaiter to be customised or have any of the aesthetic tweaks mentioned above, this will cost extra. The larger models also incur greater costs, so it’s worth considering what you’ll be putting into your small freight elevator before evaluating which size models is best for you.

How To Choose the Best Dumbwaiter For Your Needs

A dumbwaiter is always a worthwhile investment for any business that wants to reduce injury risk as well as save time and money.

Once you’ve evaluated the needs of your particular usage case, the next stage is to pick the model that best matches those needs in terms of size, weight capacity and appearance.

What Happens Next?

Once you’ve chosen the right model of dumbwaiter for you that fits your budget, installation can take anywhere from 1-5 days, with some sites requiring a site survey beforehand.

The first part of the installation involves erecting the lifts framework, starting at the lowest level and building the frame up to the top of the shaft.

Once the shaft has been built, the motor is installed, then finally the actual dumbwaiter unit. The final stage of installation connects the unit to electricity. After the lift has been installed, the cladding will be required to make sure the unit is secure.

As soon as your dumbwaiter is installed you’ll start to reap the rewards and benefit from a safer and more efficient workplace.

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