DIY Projects

DIY Dumbwaiter

By: Danny Lipford
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.

Video Transcript

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.


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69 Comments on “DIY Dumbwaiter”

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  • sean Says:
    February 15th, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    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.

  • sheila kiper Says:
    November 5th, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    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!

  • Abram Morris Says:
    October 5th, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    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

  • Rob Whatley Says:
    April 1st, 2018 at 10:35 am

    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. 🙂

  • Rich Says:
    January 21st, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Seems like a huge waste. What’s so hard about carrying a bag up or down?

  • dennis fron Says:
    July 22nd, 2017 at 12:01 am

    having gotten older, I believe I should look into a dumbwaiter. are they being made today? electric or manual?

  • doris Says:
    June 22nd, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    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

  • Yilliang Peng Says:
    February 10th, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    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?

  • Tom Strong Says:
    January 5th, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Here is a better solution:

  • Patricia Anderson Says:
    August 29th, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    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!

  • Judith Catron Says:
    July 27th, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    …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

  • Michael Says:
    March 30th, 2016 at 6:25 pm


    I believe that’s simple enough English, I think it’s English, anyway appreciate the video.?

  • meme Says:
    May 16th, 2015 at 9:45 am

    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.

  • Chris Says:
    November 19th, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    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?

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    May 17th, 2012 at 11:12 am

    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.

  • Rosie O'Bourke Says:
    May 17th, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Can’t download the video. Where is it?

  • butch McBride Says:
    January 14th, 2012 at 9:31 am

    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.

  • Marcy Says:
    January 13th, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    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?

  • Butch Says:
    December 7th, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Thanks Ben for your comment. This thing is a godsend.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    December 7th, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Hi Butch,
    Thanks for the feedback on your dumbwaiter project! Glad to hear it worked out great.

  • Butch Says:
    December 6th, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    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.

  • Jim B Says:
    December 6th, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    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.

  • butch Says:
    October 22nd, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    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.

  • Lori Says:
    July 28th, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    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?

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    April 24th, 2010 at 8:54 am

    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.

  • kathi wahl Says:
    April 23rd, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    can I get plans for this great idea

  • tom edelman Says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    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!

  • Richard Byers Says:
    April 2nd, 2010 at 9:58 am

    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

  • Richarde Bauer Says:
    February 28th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    This type of dumbwaiter would be ideal if we can use it in our Animal Shelter.

  • Richarde Bauer Says:
    February 28th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    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.

  • Michael Davenport Says:
    January 25th, 2010 at 11:31 am

    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

  • keegan Says:
    January 4th, 2010 at 9:18 am

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

  • Thermal_R50 Says:
    December 20th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    This should be called the lazywaiter lol

  • Sidney A. Rader Says:
    October 29th, 2009 at 9:54 am


    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.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    September 16th, 2009 at 9:53 am

    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.

  • James Smith Says:
    September 15th, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    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.

  • Paul Wrolstad Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I would like to have detailed plans of this project, soon if they are available.

  • Brenda Deming Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    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

  • Christine Hopko Says:
    April 12th, 2009 at 9:09 am


    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

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    April 3rd, 2009 at 7:33 am

    We do not have plans available as of now for the dumbwaiter, but hope to post them in the future.

  • Ian Cunningham Says:
    April 2nd, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    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

  • dave Says:
    April 1st, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    can you send me plans?

  • Tom Says:
    March 27th, 2009 at 7:12 am

    What is the weight/load capacity of a 1/3 hp garage door opener/dumbwaiter?

  • Marijka Stasoff Says:
    February 8th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I am impressed with the dumb waiter, could you please contact me with more information.

  • Frankie Says:
    February 8th, 2009 at 4:46 am

    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!

  • barry torrance Says:
    January 12th, 2009 at 10:29 am

    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.


  • Mark Jones Says:
    January 6th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    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

  • Tom Sweeney Says:
    January 4th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    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.

  • Fiona Says:
    October 20th, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    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?



  • Diana Says:
    October 16th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Do you have plans for the dumbwaiter project? Please Email a reply

  • Louis Says:
    September 22nd, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Any chance you can post or email the plans/specs?

  • Larry Reeves Says:
    September 4th, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    How much weight will this dumbwaiter handle?

  • Cari Says:
    September 2nd, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    So, where do we get the plans????

  • terry hollingswroth Says:
    August 16th, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I also would like a set of instructions/drawings for this project. Where can I obtain them?

  • Phyllis Turner Says:
    July 10th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    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.

  • Carole Says:
    May 16th, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    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.

  • CHRIS Says:
    May 13th, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Iwould like all the specs and plans.How much weight can this carry?

  • John W Says:
    April 11th, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    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.

  • Deb T Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    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

  • Deb T Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    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.

  • MEL Says:
    March 24th, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Where can we buy/get the plans on how to do something like this?

  • M Chase Says:
    March 9th, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Do you have plans/spec available?

  • jang, dong jin Says:
    January 31st, 2008 at 5:38 am

    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

  • michael Says:
    January 5th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Hi Danny how did you extend the door opener rail past 8′?

  • Stephen Houmard Says:
    December 29th, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    What about fire walls? Fire could travel from the garage to the second floor?

  • Roger C Says:
    November 5th, 2007 at 1:25 am

    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.

  • Kris P Says:
    October 22nd, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Where can we buy/get the plans on how to do something like this?

  • Pam B Says:
    August 30th, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    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?

  • Al Pipkins Says:
    July 29th, 2007 at 11:06 am

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

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DIY Dumbwaiter