Work With the Right Elevator Interior Partner: 10 Questions to Ask

Company Picture Elevator interiors matter. When clients, residents, and other occupants walk into a building, they assess each detail, even if it’s subconsciously. Elevator interiors provide an opportunity to impress them with high-quality work. Knowing just how much of an impact the inside of an elevator can have, should you stick with the same company you’ve always used – or are better options available? Choosing the right company can mean the difference between staying on budget or going over, keeping to a schedule or getting delayed, achieving the aesthetics you want or ending up disappointed. How do you know if you’re choosing a trustworthy company who can provide the most value? To make sure you’re working with someone who can see to your unique needs, ask these 10 questions.

1. How difficult or tedious is the quoting process?

Will estimates take several days or just a few minutes? Some companies need to schedule on-site visits before they can provide an estimate. Others can accomplish this in as little as 15 minutes. What’s their secret? Experience – and modular systems with pre-established pricing. Small idiosyncrasies drive the cost of custom (and even some modular) systems up. Expert manufacturers, though, have run into virtually every challenge that could increase price, from uneven walls to non-square corners. They are able to anticipate problems and build solutions into their systems. For example, elevator walls are almost always out of square, so the manufacturer should have panels that overlap the reveals by at least 1.5” to allow the elevator mechanics to install properly. Not only does this proactive approach help you correct any irregularities in the cab, it streamlines the quoting process because the components already exist. Some manufacturers offer a simple price list based on the weight capacity and use this chart to generate quotes quickly. The turnaround time is fast, and there’s no need for re-measuring or constant price adjustments.

2. Will the interior models and designs work across all cabs?

Custom is custom. These interiors will usually work because you’re paying a premium for the local company that builds the cab interior, to also install it. But, – and it’s a big “but” – in most cases, custom is not required. A well-designed modular panel system meets the needs – both functional and aesthetic – of the vast majority of cabs. And, even if a custom design element is required, it can often be executed by modifying a modular design.

3. Are all models tested and approved in their end-use configuration?

You hope so! It certainly saves untold time and aggravation. Why? Just because a particle board, glue, and veneer, for example, are all fired-rated individually, it does not necessarily mean the finished panel is ready to go. The panel, as an assembled whole, must be tested to ensure it complies with fire safety and elevator code requirements. In addition, if the property owner wants to achieve LEED certification, those requirements must be considered as well. This is end-use configuration testing, and it is not a standard process for all manufacturers – so be sure to ask whether or not it is included.

4. How long will the installation take?

You need to know – with a good deal of accuracy – how long your elevator will be out of service. But more than that, is there a way to reduce installation time and the disruption to the building? When property owners/managers hire licensed elevator mechanics, they incur a high labor cost. And for good reason: it is an important and highly technical job. Over the course of a typical project, this becomes an expensive proposition. The cost, though, can be significantly minimized when they opt for an easy-to-install modular system. Instead of three or four days, they should be looking at just one day!

5. Do the standard models meet the needs of your projects?

With custom builds, the sky’s the limit – but this won’t always work with your budget or timeline. Thankfully, there are economical alternatives that come in a variety of styles, materials, and finishes. Just ask to see the company’s catalog: an extensive catalog will, in all likelihood, have the aesthetic you need. But be sure to ask if they can modify their catalog models to meet your specific project needs – and how they plan to keep those results on-budget. To accommodate for clients who need modifications, some manufacturers offer in-house design capabilities. This complimentary service helps you navigate code requirements while ensuring design goals are met. A strong design team can provide CAD drawings, detailed specifications, and even sample boards. These tools can really help you and your clients clarify the vision for the elevator interior. As it comes to life in these renderings, you or your client can make adjustments as needed. This saves you time during the actual project and ensures that every detail is ironed out in advance.

6. How do they ensure quality and ASME standards are followed?

Any elevator interior vendor, supplier, or manufacturer with whom you work should be able to point to the specific quality standards and processes they follow to ensure top-quality products. For example, do they follow the standards set by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) or do they practice lean manufacturing? For instance, ASME’s recommendations ensure the interiors are properly and safely designed, end-use configuration tested, and installed with adequate ventilation. Additionally, ask your potential supplier if they will provide specs, drawings, 3D models, weight charts, training videos, fire-rating charts, and other resources to you and your customers. This increases the transparency and provides first-hand evidence that they are committed to safety and quality.

7. What kind of support will the elevator interior partner provide?

Do you expect exceptional service throughout your elevator build or remodel? You should. Ask your potential partner to describe how they will support your project in these functions:
      • Customer support. If you have questions or concerns, at almost any organization, you can call and talk to someone. But you don’t want to talk to just anyone. You want to speak with an expert – and you’ll want to talk to the same expert throughout the project, so you won’t have to waste time explaining and re-explaining your needs. Ask if you’ll have a particular go-to project manager for the length of your project.
      • Installation support. Is your elevator company expected to handle the installation alone or are there tutorials or resources they can consult? Whether it’s in-person field-training, videos or written instructions, ask how your elevator interior company plans to support the installation.
      • Use and care guide. Now that the investment in your building is installed, how do you ensure its beauty will last for years to come? You should be provided a Use & Care Guide with information on how to clean and maintain all the materials in your new elevator interior.

8. What kinds of new materials or innovative products do they offer?

Don’t get stuck with a vendor who’s still thinking in terms of the last decade – or even the last year. Elevator interiors present an incredible opportunity. Look for a manufacturer who strives for continual improvement and who seeks out opportunities to integrate new and exciting materials or who has inside access to innovative materials– so that your results are extraordinary.

9. What kind of reputation do they have in the industry?

Is your current elevator interior company an industry expert? Do they know the ins and outs of all applicable elevator regulations, legislation, and code requirements? How long have they worked in the industry – and are they an approved vendor with the four major elevator maintenance companies? Do they have a reputation as reliable, consistent, professional, and friendly? Do they stand behind their work? Everyone makes mistakes, its how a company handles them that makes the difference. Trust is a critical part of the process: your clients trust you to create an aesthetically-pleasing and functional space for their building occupants. To accomplish this, you need a partner you can trust.

10. What kind of extra value do they provide to you and to your clients?

An elevator interior needs to provide value long after it’s complete to justify the budget. Besides the basics, what does your elevator interior company offer to add value? Some examples to look for are:
    • Building value. Elevators certainly add value to hotels, office buildings, and residences, but as decors change, the interiors can look outdated. How difficult is it to replace individual panels if they get damaged or make style changes?
    • LEED. Do their design options offer multiple opportunities for LEED credits? Do they integrate recycled, regionally-sourced, and low-emitting materials, use ecofriendly lighting options, and create interiors from durable materials that don’t need to be replaced as often as conventional materials?
    • Energy-Saving.Can they make their elevator interiors from long-lasting, lightweight materials, so as to not weigh down the cab or interfere with the precise balance it must maintain?
Elevator interiors are serious business: your customers expect high-quality results from you, and you should expect nothing less from your elevator interior company. How can you assess if a company will meet your needs? Take the time to ask these 10 questions and make the best choice – it’ll make your entire project faster, easier, and more convenient. A win-win for you and your clients. Want to learn more about the expert? Read Brian Godshall’s bio here.