Replacing Paneling in an Elevator

      Rules and standards related to elevators are so complicated and strict that the jobs tend to be quite expensive and difficult. March 4, 2007

I'm bidding on a job that requires removing the existing panels (stainless steel) and floors of an elevator. How does this stuff attach? The fasteners are all hidden. Looked for z-clips, kd ties, etc. Any ideas?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor C:
You will most often find a z clip, either a screwed or riveted Monarch type, or a welded strip in two or three horizontal places per panel. Each manufacturer of the coaches differs somewhat. We always lift up with one man down low for lift and one standing to prevent dropping and chipping the bottom corners. Panels almost always have a reveal all around for slight centering adjustment.

From contributor R:
Many of the elevators we do have panels attached for outside the cab. If this is the case, you will have to have the cab held by the maintenance company while you go into the shaft and try to get at the fasteners. We rarely do elevator work unless the maintenance company is involved and we try to have them do all of the removal work before we arrive. Also, when we sell to the cab company or maintenance company, we can get them to specify the fire rating, which gets the liability off of our plate. Fire rating is something to watch out for.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the info. Contributor R, can you be more specific? I know that the elevator will be parked in the basement while I am upgrading it. If I am putting up wood panels, do I need to have them fire rated?

From contributor R:
Codes differ by state and I can't tell you what the situation is where you are. We use fire rated materials on all elevators unless we are specifically told by the architect or elevator manufacturer/installer in writing that it's not required. Fire rating doubles the material cost and the lead times. For veneer panels, you would need fire rated cores; for solids, a fire rated finish.

From the original questioner:
I'm located in So Cal. Why are fire rated materials double the price? What if you are using MDF cores coated with a fire retardant? These are the materials that they are specifying.

From contributor R:
We do a lot of laminate panels and both core and plastic are much more than standard materials and are special order, often with freight. Veneer with fire rated core usually has to be laid up by a specialty house, not just off the shelf. If you can find a coating that meets code and does not interfere with the veneering process, or is in the form of a finish that you can use over veneered stock, then you may be able to manage for less material cost. The key is knowing your local codes and getting either an architect, an elevator installer/manufacturer, or maybe an inspector to put in writing that what you are doing meets code. I have found it simplest just to work with our local Thyssen Krupp office (formerly Dover Elevator) and let them specify what is needed.

From the original questioner:
Didn't know I had to get all those folks involved. Both the design and materials are their specs, and I don't think it is a professional rendering. Never considered the inspector aspect, nor the elevator engineer other than to have the unit counterbalanced once the new materials were installed. What is typical of FR materials - 20 min, 40 min?

From contributor P:
I'm bidding on a paneling job in Calif. The project manager said there is a new law that requires that you have a certified elevator mechanic present while you are doing the install. You might want to check this out also.

From the original questioner:
Thanks as well. Am I reading correctly - this guy must be standing there or in proximity the entire time? That means that I am paying him his rate to stand and watch?

From contributor P:
That is my understanding. This job isn't in the elevators - he mentioned it in passing.

From contributor F:
In most states, elevators require a UL listing and specs. I don't know current California law and I don't think I'd even consider a job in a California elevator cab.

From contributor T:
As mentioned, elevators are governed by stiffer codes (ASME A17.1). If you’re not in tune with the specifics associated with elevators, you can/will find yourself in trouble with the union boys and the local inspectors. In most cases, you should be signatory to the union to do work associated with elevators; otherwise you are required to have standby mechanics while the work is performed (yes, your price includes their pay rate). If the union or inspectors find out you have used non-compliant materials, you will need to replace them at your cost.

It’s not only the panels you need to be concerned with but also code requirements associated with upgrading the elevators (e.g. new panels, ventilation requirements, handrails, etc).

Also be aware that just because someone tells you to provide certain types of materials and sizes doesn’t mean you can. It’s your responsibility to insure they are code compliant in their end configuration. If the materials requested are not compliant, you need to make them aware and quote code only compliant materials and interior configurations.

From contributor R:
The above post is why I prefer to be a materials supplier only on most elevator jobs. My customer orders a specific product from me and my only obligation is to give him what was ordered. What the customer does with it afterwards is not my responsibility. This can be very lucrative work but must be handled properly.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the info, especially the code issue. I think it's hogwash, plain and simple. I understand why codes are in place and follow them to a T. While my Reed Light and Residential Construction book does not cover elevators, I did take in mind most of the standards/codes that are applicable. The bid is to rip out the existing SS panels and flooring and replace with veneered panels/molding and tile for the floors, rails, etc. Sounds to me with all the extras might as well bid 20k per elevator.

From contributor T:
The codes do seem a bit extreme but they are the requirements. Since you are replacing the existing panels with new veneered panels, make sure the finish on the veneer is fire rated along with the core. There are not a lot of suppliers who understand the whole flame and smoke spread requirements.

From the original questioner:
I was opting for 3/8 HDF, the fire spread, fuel cont. and smoke den are pretty good. Coating is pre-cat lacquer, so I should be safe in that area. Going to manufacture the panels in shop, then install on site. Lay out tile in shop, then install on site.

From contributor T:
It's not about being pretty good or having fire ratings prior to the end configuration. You are either within the range for the requirements or you're not. Even the lacquer finish applied to the veneer panels has to meet the flame and smoke spread requirements. That's why there are specific companies who specialize in doing elevator interiors.

From contributor A:
Also, in most locations, the panel attachment must meet a drop test. Take contributor R's advice - either hire a mechanic or sub the materials to an elevator contractor. We haven't worked in elevators in over 10 years because of all the code requirements. I have provided the panels to match lobby paneling in a manner similar to what contributor R does.

From contributor P:
On the job I was talking about, the GC had a company who specializes in elevator cabs do the interiors in stainless steel. He said the cost was 30k for 2 cabs.

From the original questioner:
What I don't understand about the fire ratings/drop tests is, suppose you have carpet… isn't it more flammable than wood? What does a drop test do - what does it simulate?

Wow - 30K on two. I was way out of the water.

From contributor T:
Even the carpet would need to be fire rated. That's the problem with elevators, most materials requested do not come with the required fire ratings.

From contributor A:
A drop test is performed to insure the panels and trim stay on the wall in case the elevator drops and comes to a sudden stop. Any hardened fastener would shear and break in that circumstance.

From contributor G:
I am very impressed with these responses. I have worked for a company that specialized in building and remodeling elevator cabs in the Downtown Chicago area. There are a lot of things to consider. I think the number one thing is adding or removing too much weight. You have to work with the elevator company that has the contract to service the elevator. Don't piss them off!

If you are just replacing panels, then you shouldn't have to worry about the rest of the materials in the elevator, like the floor and ceiling. Just make sure you know the weight of what you are taking out and putting in. Also know the codes in your area. Fire rated material and the drop code are very important. My advice for your first job is to go above and beyond what is expected. It could go a long way.

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