Saturday, January 30, 2016

Elevator pit ladder installation requirements – Buyer beware

Off the 99 other posts the Colley Elevator Chicago Elevator Maintenance Blog has had the most readers for elevator pit ladder information!  Yes, we still have pit ladders out there that need to be modified and replaced.  All the pit ladders in the State of Illinois should have been modified or replaced by 1/1/15.  Due to the general confusion and evolving perception of what needed to occur with the pit ladders we still see some lurking around that need to be addressed.

That brings me to the point of this blog post. Beware of who you let do your elevator work and the prices you are getting from them. I was at a building on Friday that a very large elevator company maintains that required some work on the pit ladder.  I open the pit and see the following.

[The only item is the top right hand rail after 42" which after measuring will clear trough with no problem]

We have a qualifying take off for pit ladders to identify what needs to be done .

Existing pit ladder
Does ladder extend 48” above sill?   NO                    
If no how far does it extend? 42”
Do ladder rungs go to sill level?  YES
How wide are existing rungs?  15” GOOD
Distance from center line of ladder to nearest object?  5 ½” GOOD
Side rails/handles 4 ½” clear distance from nearest object?    NO but only ½” off right hand rail – Right handrail 4” and left – Very Clear
Is the hatch door unlocking means within 39” horizontal and 72” vertical from final rung? YES
Does car have any projecting objects r that could hit rigid ladder if moved out?    NO
Does it need a retractable pit ladder?               NO
How deep is the pit?  48 ¾”

After review of the information I told the property manager that he needed to install handrail extensions to bring his hand rail height from 42” to  48”.  He looked at me strange and said that his Intergalatic Elevator Company wanted to install a retractable ladder for $6,000.00.  I told him that we can do that for ½ the cost or install hand rail extensions for a fraction of that cost.  He said “if I get written up after you modify the ladder will you replace the ladder”.  I told him “yes, 100% guarantee”.  He still didn’t believe me and went to the machine room and found the write up

“MODIFY PIT LADDER PER” - The ladder shall extend not less than 1200mm[48”] above the ill of the access door or handgrips shall be provided to the same height.

I showed him the elevator code and got very upset that someone was trying to take advantage of the situation.  We have been seeing a lot of similar predatory behavior by companies.  I’m not sure if the sales people do not know what is required, do not go to the buildings and just send out proposals from their desk or just want to maximize their commission benefit by selling buildings items they do not need.  When you are getting information from your elevator contractor be sure that it is correct, make sure you are working with people that you have a certain level of trust with.   You can always call someone to get a 2nd opinion, you are not stuck working with a company just because you have a maintenance agreement with them.  If the company you have a maintenance agreement is behaving unethically, it may be time to find a new one.

Business school may lead a sales person/management to believe it is always best to maximize a relationship benefit by selling this $6,000.00 pit ladder.  Stop and think about the ethical aspect and the long term relationship implications if someone catches you.   We believe a service providers philosophy should be to sell the building what they need for a fair price.  Make sure that your service provider has the same philosophy so you can always expect fair proposals at a fair price.  A building owner may not like the idea of replacing equipment, modifying equipment or spending money, but contractors should be doing it in a ethical manner so there is a balance on cost/benefit for both parties. In this case there would be no benefit to install a $6,000.00 retractable pit ladder.  In most cases elevator personnel may choose to climb out of the elevator pit rather than use the retractable ladder.  In this case since we have a great pit ladder already installed that just needs modification, once modified will be used more than the retractable ladder that was being proposed.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Elevator maintenance control plan [MCP]

There is a lot of talk about what is required for an elevator maintenance control plan.  An elevator maintenance control plan is required on all elevators in the State of Illinois[including Chicago].  There is some confusion what is an acceptable maintenance control plan and the appropriate delivery method.

What is a maintenance control plan?  The maintenance control plan is the plan that the contractor has with the building to maintain the elevator system.  It should give the owner, mechanic, inspector and anyone else involved a run down on how the elevator is maintained.  It should be similar to a manual for your car.  It will tell you the following;

1.    Equipment age, condition and accumulated wear
2.    Design and inherent quality of the equipment
3.    Usage
4.    Environmental conditions
5.    Improved technology
6.    Manufacturers recommendations for any SIL rated devices or circuits
7.    Cleaning, lubrication and adjusting schedule
8.    Tests on the equipment & schedules per A17.1 8.6
9.    Code required written procedures for maintenance, testing and inspections
10. Maintenance records
11. Procedures for testing
12. Unique product specific procedures required to test equipment
13. Procedures on how to maintain the specific elevator

For a list of all the requirements look at A17.1

There is a lot to a maintenance control plan. While maintenance records are a component of the maintenance control plan they are not THE maintenance control plan, they are only records.

Many companies in the Chicago area use stickers saying “call 1-800-Elevator-Company for the maintenance control plan”.  This is fine as long as you have a delivery method for the maintenance control plan for the elevator personnel that is on site.  This would mean it can be delivered or emailed quickly to the inspector WHEN HE OR SHE IS ON SITE.  This would also mean the inspector would need to have email and a device to read the maintenance control program. Some companies have a CD in the elevator room, unless the inspector has a device to read the maintenance control plan this may not work as well as it most likely is not for that specific elevator in that specific building.  Some companies have books that include hydraulic elevators, traction elevators and escalators this may not pass as it is supposed to be for one specific elevator in that specific building.

In the City of Chicago they most likely will be requiring a hard copy of the maintenance control plan in the elevator machine room soon.  I believe the hard copy in the machine room is the most logical delivery device for the required information.

The requirement for a maintenance control program is being rolled out in many states and if you do not know what it is get familiar with it, ask your maintenance company and get one in your elevator machine room.  Inspectors will be requiring this shortly if they have not asked for it already. 

The requirement for a maintenance control plan has been in the elevator code for a number of years.  Why now?  After a few accidents in the State of Illinois it brought the importance of a maintenance control plan to everyone’s attention.

If a building does not have a maintenance program with a elevator contractor you will need to get one in order to have a maintenance control program.  You need a State of Illinois license to work on elevators therefore it would be appropriate to have an elevator maintenance provider write your maintenance control program.

When an elevator is altered or modernized an updated maintenance control program for that specific equipment should be in the elevator machine room.  The maintenance control plan is a living document that will change due to equipment replacement, age, usage, etc.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chicago elevator single bulk head cylinder replacement

This is a reminder to all building owners that have older buildings to make sure they have replaced the single bottom elevator cylinders at their buildings.  The cylinder replacement mandate was due 1/1/13.  We are completing quite a few elevator cylinder replacements for some lagging buildings right now but I do know many buildings have not approached the cylinder replacement issue.

[General information on elevator cylinder replacement]

As a building owner you have the responsibility to prove that the elevator’s cylinder has a safety bulk head.  What is a safety bulk head or double bottom cylinder?  It is a second button on the elevator cylinder all the way at the bottom of the cylinder.  This could be 50”+ underground.

[This is a 56' cylinder that is being removed]

Why do I have to replace my cylinder?  If you have a single bottom cylinder there is a possibility of catastrophic failure which could lead to an elevator free fall.  This is very rare but it has and does happen.

How do I know if I have a single bottom cylinder?  You should talk to your elevator maintenance provider and they should help you obtain the information.  If you elevator maintenance provider is not helpful you can use a rule of thumb that if the elevator as installed prior to 1972, it most likely has a single bottom cylinders.  There were some elevator manufacturers that did install safety bulk heads in the 1960’s.  

Is there any way you can tell if I have a safety bulk head without pulling the cylinder out?  If you do not have any information from the manufacturer of the cylinder you will need to replace the cylinder.  We do not have technology to X ray underground to identify if there is a safety bulk head.   Perhaps the technology is out there but it is cost prohibitive.

How much does it cost and how long does the replacement take?  Each elevator is different but it may cost $20,000 to $60,000 depending on how far the elevator goes up and down and the environment.  The process will typically take 1-3 weeks.  There can be underground conditions that cause a longer period of shut down and increased expenses.  Please pay attention to the “cylinder hole clause” and have your elevator contractor explain this to you.  If you have a hole that is not cased, has water, collapses, boulders, crooked, etc you may pay additional to remedy the situation.

How to pick a contractor to replace your cylinder?  If you are not comfortable with the person when they walk through the door or they do not have references, do not work with them.  Ask the contract what would they do if the hole goes bad and have them tell you about some cylinder holes that didn’t go as planned.  If they do not have knowledge of what they need to do, perhaps they are not a good fit for you.  Once you begin working with a company and the elevator is out of service you are pretty much stuck with them. When the elevator cylinder is out of the ground if you don’t like what they have to say when the hole goes bad you are pot committed.  Get plan b information before you sign a contract so when you have an issue you know the protocol and it isn’t a surprise when they tell you it may cost you $20,000 to $50,000 to have a well driller come in.

Are there any options besides replacing my cylinder?  Yes you can install a safety device to prevent free fall.  There are two that I am aware of the Adams Life Jacket and installing safeties on the elevator car[similar to traction elevator safeties].  Both options have their limitations and cannot be installed on all elevators depending on the hoist way environment. 

[Adams Life Jacket]

If all else fails, hire an elevator consultant to help you with the cylinder replacement process.  You can always get in touch with Colley and we can help you out, while we are local company in the Chicago area we can point you in the direction of some reliable contractors across the county if you are not in the Chicago land area.  We do the most cylinder replacements in the Chicago land area and have run into pretty much everything.  If it has happened we most likely have experience with it.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Chicago elevator maintenance needed!

Over the last week we have been to a few buildings that either do not have a maintenance agreement or have elevator maintenance and the company is not showing up.  The reason a building has elevator maintenance to ensure you have a safe and reliable elevator system.  Over New Year’s we had another elevator related death in New York City.  Make sure your building has a reliable elevator company performing maintenance and completing the annual testing of the elevator system.  If we all work together we can prevent some of the accidents from occurring. 

I went to a building in the City of Chicago and saw an elevator was about 15 – 20 years old.  A 15-20 year old elevator is not a very old elevator system and elevators can last a very long time if they are maintained properly and cared for.  It appeared at one time maintenance had been performed at the building but as of late nothing had been completed. The last maintenance company of record at the building was a non union firm.

I surveyed the elevator equipment and found some common items that needed to be taken care of for buildings that do not have maintenance with a reliable elevator service provider.

[This water has been in the elevator pit for so long there is a film on the top]

                                                    [Cables starting to rouge]

                                                      [Machine gear wearing]

Noted items
Water in the pit
Emergency phones not working - Very important
Cables starting to rouge
Machine gear wear
CAT 1 testing over due
Fire testing not being completed monthly[last fire service exercise 6/19/15]
Light bulbs out
Basement door needed new door gibs and sill vacuumed out - Elevator shut down looming

This is a reminder to building owners to make sure that you have a maintenance agreement with a reliable elevator service provider.  Many times you may be getting bills in the mail but no one is going to your building, have the company put a log chart in the machine room.  Having a log chart in the machine room not only helps the building understand when the elevator technician comes out, it also is a code requirement in the State of Illinois and City of Chicago.  It is our job to make sure you get all of the life out of your elevator system by performing preventative maintenance and correcting issues before they become a large expense.  The first picture shows water in the pit which has rusted the pit equipment significantly.  We should catch that immediately and help the building move on removing the water.  Now the pit equipment needs to be sanded and painted or replaced.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Cold weather and your elevator system

We have been having a warm winter until the last few days which have been more of a typical Chicago winter.  This is a reminder to building owners to keep your machine rooms warm to avoid any head aches from cold weather.  This is a repost from last year when we had extreme cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time.

 We have been visiting the same customers in the morning the last few days that indicate their elevator “does not work”.  When we get to the building we discovered the elevator room is ice cold and the hydraulic oil needs to be heated up.  We typically have the same conversations with building ownership about keeping their machine rooms warm.

The temperatures that hydraulic elevators fluid should be is

Operating temperature  - 80 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit
Operating temperature  - 100 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit

Source - Maxton Valve[] - Maxton valve is one of the largest valve suppliers in North America.

Oil composition when it gets cold – When hydraulic elevator fluid gets cold it becomes thicker or has a higher viscosity. 

Viscosity definition - The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its resistance to gradual deformation by shear stressor tensile stress. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness". For example, honey has a much higher viscosity than water.

How does this translate to your elevator – In our Chicago area environment we use a certain hydraulic fluid that offers more flexibility between hot and cold environment because of our seasons in the Chicago area.  Due to significant swings in temperature in our environment when it is very cold the oil gets thicker and the valve and elevator system will not operate correctly causing a potential issue with leveling or entrapment.  The reverse occurs when it gets very hot and the oil gets very hot.  Both scenarios cause safety issues for the elevator riders.  If we always had cold or warm temperatures we could use a different hydraulic fluid that would be more appropriate for a hot or cold environment.  But! We live in Chicago.

What not to do – As a building owner it is very important to have your elevator running.  Some building owners take it upon themselves to improvise to get their elevators running on cold days with space heaters.  While the installation of space heaters is a short term solution, it isn't a safe long term solution as you will see space heaters in non-occupied machinery spaces that can malfunction causing smoke and fire hazard.  The space heaters also can overload your electrical circuits causing your breakers to trip.  The electricity costs to run multiple heaters in one year would probably be significantly more than the installation of a elevator tank heater.

[Space heater on the valve]
[Space heaters on the valve and oil tank]
                                              [Space heater in the elevator pit]

Recommended solution – Install a tank heater to be turned on during the winter months.  This is a safe alternative to what you see above.


Hydraulic tank heater[can cost $500.00 to $1,000.00] - The heating element goes into the hydraulic tank and will maintain an constant temperature.  There will need to be a 110vac outlet available adjacent to the elevator machine to plug into.

Take away - If your elevator machine room is 30 degrees on cold days, your elevator will not work properly.  If you cannot safely heat the elevator machine area to an appropriate temperature contact your elevator maintenance company to give you a price on a tank heater.

If you have an questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.