Tips for Building a Dumbwaiter

Lead Image

Used to carry heavy loads from one story to another, a dumbwaiter is priceless in a two or three-story home. You can place your dinner on it, and easily lift it up to the second story den or dining room without worrying about spilling a drop of food on the floor!

1. Map Out the Design

Building a dumbwaiter is usually done prior to the completion of the house, certainly before the application of the finished surface, such as drywall. This type of lift is built inside the walls themselves.

If you are putting a dumbwaiter into a remodel, it might be a good idea to build a lift that goes on the outside of the wall so you don’t have an extremely complicated task ahead. Make a detailed drawing of the project including the box for the lift itself and the frame that will encompass the column where it will reside. Make notes on the illustration regarding your dimensions and supplies and take it into the home center when you go shopping.

2. Know Your Materials

You will need three pulleys, rated for the loads that you plan to carry on the platform. You also need enough solid wood to construct the box, and the upright guides that will encase it. Use very heavy fasteners for safety, not drywall screws. Finally, you will need cord that is rated for the load, four times the height of the total lift.

3. Learn Your Basic Construction

If you are going to insert the dumbwaiter inside the wall structure, you will need to remove the finished surface in the work area. Be careful not to damage any water or electrical lines.

The main frame can be made from straight wooden stock, typically panels forming a three-sided box. This will extend from the ground floor to the desired floor level. The size of the frame will be determined by the openings in the floor joists and just how big you need the dumbwaiter to be.

At the base of the frame, to the rear right end, you’ll want to fasten a heavy pulley to the floor. This should be a swiveling pulley, not a fixed one. At the top of the frame, attach two fixed pulleys to the rear right into a joist or a sufficient load-bearing member.

4. Size the Box Appropriately and Make Sure it Is Stable

Make the box out of good wooden stock, sized to be ½-inch smaller than the inside dimensions of the dumbwaiter frame. This allows for the clearance of the rope that you will be using to raise and lower the box on the right-hand side. The box should be extremely stable too, so use dovetail joints to make sure that it won't fall apart during the operation.

5. Install a Heavy Cord to Lift the Box

Attach a heavy cord, rated to the weight you had specified, at one end with a good figure-eight knot to an eye bold 1/2 inch right of the middle on your box.

Place the box inside the frame, and run the cord up over the first pulley in the upper frame, then down to the bottom pulley. Now, run the cord again up to the top, this time going through the second upper pulley (the one to the right).

Drop the remaining cord to the bottom and tie it off to a cleat. When you pull on the cord, the box should easily lift up to the upper frame area.