DIY Dumbwaiter

Garage door dumbwaiter being used to carry groceries upstairs.
A DIY garage door dumbwaiter can make carrying groceries upstairs a snap.

Watch this video to see how a dumbwaiter made from a garage door opener can be used to carry groceries upstairs and recycling down. Building the DIY dumbwaiter only cost around $300, much less than commercial models.


Danny Lipford: You have a set of stairs, you know that any time you need something, it’s not where you standing. And you’re having to go up and down the stairs, hauling groceries up stairs and bringing trash downstairs, especially if you’re primary entrance to your home, like this one, is right off the garage and it’s on the lower level.

Now, a dumbwaiter is a great solution to this problem. It’s basically a miniature elevator that can bring the groceries up, trash down, very convenient. But if you’ve every priced one of these, boy, the factory made dumbwaiters are very expensive. Here’s a more reasonable option by using a garage door operator to actually construct a dumbwaiter.

Now, basically what we have is the garage door operator down below mounted to the wall, then the track continues right on up to the next level, and we have a little wooden tray here that’s been constructed, and attached with different brackets to the bracket that should be carrying or moving the garage door itself.

So, with all of this in place, you push the button, and away it goes. Now, instead of this dumbwaiter costing three or four thousand dollars like the manufactured ones do, this one only costs about $300.

Now, you have to have the unique situation where you have a closet directly above another closet that’s down below on the lower level. Here, we had a little pantry in the kitchen, and the closet directly below it in the basement. It worked out perfectly, and that’ll save a lot of time running up and down the stairs with the groceries or trash.

Now it’s very important if you have small children around your house or if you have guests that have children, is to make sure you have a lock on the door both upstairs and downstairs.


  1. Do you have a drawing of what parts are used and how they are installed? Also how about any elevator laws that would apply.

  2. I LOVED this idea. Was additional track added to reach the upper floor? Does it have to be in a closet? Could the lower part just be open on the sides?

  3. We live in a townhome where space is limited-
    what is the minimum space required to install
    the dumbwaiter? We would possibly be using the powder room.

  4. sir.
    I loved this idea. too. Where can I buy parts(accessories)? . Where can I get the plans on how to do something like this?
    please help me. I want to get a design dawing and orhers(accessories name. etc…).
    thank you.
    from korea

  5. From what I took from the video itself it seemed to be a simple installation of a garage door opener, attached to a home made “tray” if you will. Fire of course is always a worry however, that is just one more reason to make sure you have those batteries checked on a regular basis for those of yoiu that don’t have a home security system that notifies a security company. Myself living in a three story home I will give this idea alot of thought, since my son moved out three years ago and my husband isnt always home to help me carry in groceries it would be a godsend. I think the suppplies needed could be purchased at any home center.

  6. AL: The parts and sizes would be different for everyone since the size of the opening, closet or what have you would be different for every home owner. Therefore it would have to be adapted to your own specifications. I have a pantry in my kitchen that I no longer use that is nothing more than a “closet”. It is directly above the laundry room which is attached to the garage and the door that opens from the house to the garage is right there. So for me, that would be the ideal place to put it. I would build a “tray” the size of the opening I made in the floor of my pantry, ( or a little smaller so as not to get stuck) with high edges to hold grocery bags and the like and then attach that to the garage door system. Anyone ever wonder why they were called dumb waiters and not stupid waitresses??? lol

  7. Deb T –
    Dumb refers not to mental capacity, but to ability to speak. It does everything a waiter can do, but will not talk back – a “dumb” waiter.

  8. Where can I get basic plans for this dumb waiter, I know that it will have to be customized, but I am trying to build a dumbwaiter from my basement to my kitchen, I have recently become handicapped and can not carry things up the stairs.

  9. I am interested in getting basic plans for this dumb waiter. We are remodeling and have a contractor working now. I would like more information so that I could add this to our project. Please e-mail the cost and any information that I will need.

    • I would think you can get the weight of the garage door the opener is supposed to lift, and that would give you the carrying weight. This is a great use for a functioning opener from a garage sale.

  10. Hi, I have been searching for a DIY conveyor option to carry food and crockery etc. from our verandah to our dining area by the pool below. Your solution looks ideal. Any chance of receiving further details?



  11. Dumbwaiters and stair lifts are regulated as elevators in Minnesota. As such, only a licensed installer can do the project. The system must be code approved and the installation must be inspected and approved. This DIY solution is clever and affordable, but I would hate to incur the liability of suggesting it. I doubt that suggesting you keep both closet doors locked is going to protect the inventor or the homeowner. Good luck.

  12. I think that is a great solution to a real problem. More people are hurt each year by going up and down stairs carrying stuff than most anything else. When ever you have children you need to add extra protection. Keeping the doors locked is a good safe idea.

    I enjoyed reading this article and am thankful there are people that use the good sense God gave them to make their lives easier. Thanks for sharing a good idea.

    And for those that are worried about being sued. Anyone at any time can sue you. It matters not what you have done to prevent it from happening. So don’t worry be happy!

    Mark Jones

  13. I would like to try and use this idea to install a dumbwaiter.
    If anyone has done this and has more information on how to do it could you please e-mail me information.


  14. It looks like folks have been requesting plans.materials lists/hints for building this dumbwaiter for a couple of years – has anyone received anything or come up with a solution? If so, can you share? Thanks!

  15. Brilliant! I have allowed room for a dumbwaiter in the house I’ve just built and I wanted to use a roller door opener but your solution is many times simpler than mine. Can I get plans or more detailed instructions, please? Are there any electrical wiring issues?

    Ian Cunningham

  16. Hi:

    It would be great to find plans that show even a “manual pulley system” with a platform. Where you can transfer say picnic supplies and food from an upstairs deck to a lower level. If anyone knows where to buy one or make one please email!


    Christine Hopko

  17. Hi,
    I’d appreciate it if you could let me know the types of garage door openers that work the best, the weight carrying capacity, and plan details.
    Brenda Deming

  18. I don’t know why everyone is asking for plans, it looks as simple as pie. If you can install a garage door opener on the ceiling just turn it vertical and add a basket and your done. I am remodeling a master bathroom and included a laundry chute directly into the laundry room in the basement. I am now going to add this right next to it to bring finished laundry up.

    • Hi James,
      As you indicated, Danny said that the dumbwaiter he installed in his house, which is shown in the video, was not hard to do and didn’t require plans.

    • I’m with you. People are too unable to figure out their own solutions it seems. I urge folks to look at their own space requirements, weigh a few things they would be using it to move, and think. Leave the sides of the chute open until all details are worked out and it runs smoothly.

  19. Danny,

    I had considered using a garage door opener to power a lift in my own home and was glad to find your article while doing my research. I assume it is better to use the quiet motor type opener. Did you use a chain drive or a screw drive? How did you create the stops? Are there any plans available for the eletricat components. I realize that every installation application will be different because of height and size ranges as well as weight constraints. Thanks for any information that you can provide.

  20. Do you have a drawing of what parts are used and how they are installed? Also how about any elevator laws that would apply.

    • can you learn to do your won research? Expecting others to solve our dilemmas will not always work. And why elevator loads in your state? You are the only one who won know what they are in your locale. A stranger from across the country will not know what your states regulations are.

  21. I had thought of this idea for our beach house. I have the shaft in place, just need to construct the dumbwaiter. Do you have any plans, etc. I mainly wanted to know about the wiring, sensors, etc. Any idea of the weight restrictions with different hp units? We plan to transport groceries, platters of food, etc.
    Thanks, Mike

  22. I belong to a group that is buying a commercial building and we are going to convert the building to a Animal Shelter. There are stairs to a mezzanine room that is huge and we would like to use it for storage for our annual Rummage Sales and our other fund raisers. How much weight can a dumbwaiter bear when constructed with a garage door opener? We store items in the plastic boxes you can buy at Wal Mart and wome of them can get very heavy.

  23. I believe the very best solution, for true safety and convenience, is to invest in a product that is designed from the ground up to do this very job. A company in Oklahoma City saw the need for a economical home storage and transport lift and spent years designing and developing their product called Versa Lift specifically for this application. If you would like to see video demonstrations of this wonderful technology go to: for complete information

  24. Being disabled and having the garage in the basement is such a pain delivering groceries/garbage. I’m seriously thinking this garage/dumbwaiter is the way to go. Thanks!

    • Hi Kathi,
      We do not have plans for the DIY Dumbwaiter, but Danny said that it’s not hard to figure out how to install it using a standard garage door opener. Thank you for your interest.

  25. Hi –

    I too would like some kind of detailed plans. How do you build the shaft? How do you build the dumbwaiter car? How do you put it all together? What about safety features? I saw the response to Kathi, but based on the number of requests for plans it must not be quite as easy as it seems – especially for those of us who are not mechanically knowledgeable 🙂 I have friends who can help, but would love to have some plans to get started with. Any chance you could put together some kind of plans for those of us without a clue how to start?

  26. Well I like the dumb waiter idea and not the advertisement for the winch (versa life). I don’t want my groceries in the atic–near the kitchen would be nice. This was really a simple solution to help me with the problems with my kinees I am beginning to have. Really, it installs the same way a garage door does. You have the adjustment for travel which is usally on the opener itself. You can install limit switches or other protections such has the door has to be closed if you so desire. The possibilites are limitless. Thanks Danny for a great idea that gives me something to run with.

  27. Hi Danny great idea. Although you say we don’t need plans it would be good to see a full size photo of the underside to see how you worked out the box supports. I tried to pause the video but it’s pretty small and there’s a big arrow and circle over the photo.

  28. Thanks for aq great idea. I took that idea and ran with it. I have a bad knee and was having a great deal of difficulty getting groceries up the stairs in my split level house. I had been reaseraching ideas and saw this. I used a 3/4 Craftsman opener I puchased on ebay. Used just the track it came with. Had a friend cut a hole in the floor and run supports for joist that were removed. It runs from the garage up to the spare bedroom closet. Framed it in right next to door going from garage to basement where stairs are located. It works fabulous-grocerices goes up-garbaqe comes down. Just used the two remotes-one at the top and one at the bottom. The opener doesn’t allow you to just bypass the photocells–so just pointed them at each other. If something in the basket hits-just like the door, it reverses. As far as fire is concerned, this opening is a lot smaller than the open staircase that goes upstairs–and of course the staircase has no firedoor. All of the protection and adjustments are built into the opener itself–I controlled the raise and lower with these controls.

  29. I’d like to use this idea for a 2 story home that we are building, but I need it to go from the basement up to floor above and then continue up to the attic (so 3 stops total). Would I just need to buy extra track for the extra travel required and also get one extra remote?

  30. Yeap–that is what I would do. An extension track can be purchased separately that would allow it to go to the basement, Separate remotes are also available. The only thing is you might have to use the remote to stop in the middle, or set up some type of limit switch. The opener has adjustments to adjust how high and how low, but nothing for the middle stop. Mine still works great. BTW, I never used the side rails–just the track itself and attached a shelf to it.

    • Hi Rosie,
      I tried playing the Dumbwaiter video by pushing the play button on the video player above, and it worked fine for me. Try it again and let us know if it still doesn’t work for you.

  31. I’m hoping to build this dumbwaiter but I’m wondering how the infrared sensors that come with all garage door openers since 1997 are disabled. I called one manufacturer and was told that the infrared sensors can’t be disabled. If that’s the case, how do you set them up so that they don’t shut down or reverse the motor?

  32. My son needs the video on installing a “versa lift” like you showed on TV. He is having to carry laundry up and down narrow stairs leading to the basement.

  33. …And here I thought I was having an original idea, only to find out that my dumbwaiter idea has been around for years! I notice from comments that viewers/readers have been asking about plans or instructions for almost 10 years. Has anything been developed that could be sent out to those of us who aren’t naturally “handy”? If so, I’d love to see them, too. I’m also putting together your gutter cleaner/leaf blower idea for my sister. Thanks for your great shows! Judy Catron

  34. This is fantastic! That will be so helpful in my house with the kids always complaining about hauling things up the stairs. Thank you for the post!

  35. This is a great idea! I had never thought to use a garage door opener to lift things upstairs. This would make things so much easier for my wife when she comes home from grocery shopping and even when she tells me to carry furniture upstairs. What is the weight limit for the dumbwaiter?

  36. did you ever come out with the plans that everyone was asking for for the dumbwaiter installation. if so, how do I get a copy?
    great idea! thanks

  37. Rich asked “Seems like a huge waste. What’s so hard about carrying a bag up or down?”… Please allow me to answer for you, Rich. My mother is 86 years old, very independent, still lives by herself, maintains 3 acres, including mowing the pastures, feeding the chickens and shooting the critters eating her veg. garden. She “does” have COPD ( if you don’t know what that is, take a minute and google it) which is a horrible illness. Not to mention she’s 86. LOL She’s almost run circles around “you” if she didn’t have COPD. The task of walking, is made much worse if you have to carry something, UPSTAIRS! Stop being so critical of people wanting to make their lives a little easier. Learn something as you age. 🙂

  38. To Rich: “seems like a waste” , and Thermal R50 “lazy”- I’m 70, independent, and have a back problem. This would keep me self-sufficient. Going up and down stairs is do-able, but carrying – not a good idea for me. I was hit by a drunk driver. AM

  39. how much weight will this hold, I need to know, seems like every time I go to my x-boyfriends 2 story art studio ,he has bags of food to carry up the stairs HELP!

  40. For everyone asking about weight, the answer to increasing the limit is to use a counterweight that weighs more than the platform, and less than your expected maximum load weight.

  41. I built a Laundry Chute, from our En-suite Cupboard to our Laundry Room/Pump Room Closet, 13 years ago and have been looking to build a Dumbwaiter ever since; thx for saving me a pile of Frustration and Heart-Ache?

    • Hi, Joseph,
      We haven’t tested this for a specific weight limit because the homeowner just needed to move groceries (or trash) from one floor to the next.
      You need the perfect combination because a standard garage door opener can lift about 300 pounds, but the wooden tray needs enough support and reinforcement to hold what you need.
      So, depending on your specific needs, adjust these plans accordingly.
      Good luck!


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