What Is A Dumbwaiter?

A dumbwaiter is a small service lift, typically used to transport objects and essential items from one floor to another. These lifts normally have a capacity of around 50BKG – 100BKG, which varies from model to model.

The name of this small freight elevator comes from when its use was first deployed hundreds of years ago, when dumbwaiters were most commonly used in large houses by servants. The term refers to a waiter who is ‘seen but not heard’.

Ordinarily installed to save time and increase efficiency, having a dumbwaiter system in a building comes with many advantages.

What Is The Difference Between A Dumbwaiter And A Conventional Elevator?

Whilst both types of lift move something from A to B and can come in custom sizes, there’s a key difference between the usage case for the two items. As opposed to conventional elevators, dumbwaiters are more compact and built with the purpose of transporting items from one floor to another, not people. In fact, they cannot carry passengers at all.

The capacity and sizes of conventional lifts vs dumbwaiters also differs, with conventional lifts being much larger and being able to carry at least one person at a time.

How Do They Work?

A dumbwaiter is a movable frame that connects with a pulley mechanism that then transports items up and down a shaft structure from floor to floor. Dumbwaiters have been used for hundreds of years, with the original models being controlled manually with ropes, unlike today’s models, which use electric motors.

How Much Do They Cost?

The exact cost of installing a small service lift will depend on certain factors, such as the location, how many floors it moves across, and how long the installation will take, as well as any aesthetic design required.

In the UK, the cost of a dumbwaiter including install is typically in the thousands – up to tens of thousands, depending on various criteria. While this can be a large cost at the outset, the return on investment from installing a dumbwaiter in your business or home is huge.

Which Places Would Benefit From A Service Lift?

Dumbwaiters can be found in a range of multi-level and small story buildings, such as hotels, cafes, retirement homes and even residential homes.

One of the key strengths of dumbwaiters is their ability to be used across all different settings and environments. In any scenario in which you frequently transport essential items and you want to reduce injury risk, save space money and time, and make life more convenient, dumbwaiters are an ideal solution.


These small service lifts are often used to transport food in settings like restaurants. They terminate in a kitchen, and are ideal for keeping food hot as it moves from floor to floor.

While restaurants are one of the key settings that small service lifts are used in, this is simply one of the many examples of scenarios in which dumbwaiters can prove essential.


In multi-level private homes and retirement homes, dumbwaiters can be used to move such items as laundry from one floor to another. This not only helps staff who work in the home to manage their time, but also ensures that they can work efficiently as a team.

Even for personal use, dumbwaiters present an option for maximum convenience and efficiency. In many homes nowadays, adults are working full-time as well as managing tasks around the house. Being able to load bags of shopping, laundry or food into a small service lift to transport items to your preferred floor presents the opportunity to save on time and labour in any household.

Other Workspaces

In office spaces that require goods to be moved frequently, dumbwaiters can prove invaluable with their ability to connect multiple floors. Dumbwaiters create a safer work environment and improve employee morale, health and productivity by removing the need for heavy lifting.

Dumbwaiter Advantages

Dumbwaiters form an essential part of many business’s toolbox. They are a crucial way to connect multiple floors of a given building in a time-saving and convenient way, as well as avoiding physical strain caused by manual lifting.

Let’s find out why dumbwaiters are so popular by looking at the many benefits they offer businesses and residential homes alike.


A great selling point of dumbwaiters is that they save time on transporting goods. There’s no longer a need for staff or residents to scale various floors of a building ferrying items around. A dumbwaiter system saves time by doing the work on your behalf, conveniently moving items from floor to floor in a speedy manner. In short, dumbwaiters make life easier, and free up both the time and energy of users to get on with other tasks throughout their day.


Small goods lifts are more sustainable than passenger lifts, making them ideal for those who are environmentally conscious.

Their smaller size means they use less energy than conventional elevators and therefore have a smaller carbon footprint.

Minimise Physical Strain

Lugging heavy items up and down stairs and elevators is physically tedious, even more so for people with limited mobility.

Using a dumbwaiter to carry items avoids the need for such manual handling, also offering low injury risks by avoiding the risks posed by lifting items.

Low Injury Risks

Avoiding the need for manual lifting is especially beneficial in workplaces, where injuries at work caused by transporting items can be a huge cause for staff illness and absence.

Reducing the physical strain on employees leads to better health and fewer sick days, as well as improved staff wellbeing all round, avoiding the back ache and pains that can be caused by carrying out physically tedious tasks.

Helpful For Those With Limited Mobility

Ensuring that workplaces and homes are accessible for all is an important step to make buildings more inclusive.

Many disabled people can struggle with taking thestairs or lifting heavy objects, and can’t carry items up and down floors with ease. Employing the use of a dumbwaiter reduces the physical strain on those with mobility issues and helps to ensure buildings are accessible to people with all different requirements.

Save on Space

A dumbwaiter takes up little floor space as it is smaller than a conventional elevator. This means that you can improve the efficiency of any given building without compromising on space.

Due to their compact size, dumbwaiters easily fit into the existing interior design of a space, ensuring that workplaces and homes that want to install a dumbwaiter can do so with minimum disruption to both the aesthetics and the structure of any space.

Minimum Maintenance Support Required

The maintenance support required for a dumbwaiter is less than that of regular passenger lifts, due to its smaller size.

Once installed, dumbwaiters are typically very low maintenance, which lowers costs and saves time. Dumbwaiters may require around two services per year, which is low when considering that these small lifts are normally used all day long.

Save Money

Dumbwaiters are relatively inexpensive when considering the money a business will save in the long term by installing one.

Dumbwaiters are also more cost effective than conventional elevators, so opting for a service lift will save you money at the outset.

Save Workplace Costs

Workplaces will benefit from a reduction in costs associated with workplace injuries that staff may experience when lifting heavy objects.

Installing service lifts in a workplace can also ensure that staff can maintain focus on their main tasks without needing to take time out to transport goods. This means more time for profit maximisation.

In these ways, dumbwaiters offer an excellent return on investment.

Remove The Need for Extra Staff

As their name suggests, dumbwaiters function almost like a staff member of their own in many settings.

Having a dumbwaiter can reduce the need for extra staff in a business setting, as they provide a service that usurps the need for a professional manual handler. Additionally, they reduce the necessity for home help when installed in retirement homes, private homes or homes whose residents struggle with mobility. This in turn lowers costs for any given business.

Improve Employee Productivity

In business settings, using a dumbwaiter lift to transport items, as opposed to employees themselves, means that staff can have their time freed up to perform other duties, therefore leading to a more productive workplace.

The Bottom Line

Dumbwaiters have many advantages and can be used to transport items across various different settings. Their benefits range from saving money on labour costs and maintenance fees to saving space and lowering the risk of injury for residents and staff.

For people without a dumbwaiter already installed, one of the conveniences of opting to install one is that they can fit into existing interior design with ease and without disrupting the building structure.

These benefits make dumbwaiters a worthwhile investment for any individual or business whose day-to-day duties involve transporting essential items from one floor to another.