How to Build a Dumbwaiter With a Garage Door Opener

James B. Carp

Dumbwaiters are helpful, but rarely installed appliances. A dumbwaiter can significantly ease the daily hassle of carrying goods up and down stairs. It can also be attractively hidden in a closet or pantry so that the machinery won't mar the aesthetics of your home.

Some dumbwaiters have custom built shafts.

Installing a garage-door opener-based dumbwaiter is much less expensive, but also a little more complicated, than a prefabricated dumbwaiter. While it may be a daunting project, with care and attention it can significantly improve the livability of your home.


Do not cut through any floor joists to make room for your dumbwaiter without first consulting with an engineer or a licensed construction professional.

Be careful not to damage any water or electrical lines when removing sections of the floor.

  1. Determine the placement of your dumbwaiter. If you have two closets, one above the other, that is an ideal location. Otherwise, you can frame in the space where the dumbwaiter will be. Open up the floor where the dumbwaiter will pass through and clear a shaft at least 3 inches larger than the box you will be using.

  2. Install the garage door opener in the shaft. You can locate the motor either above or below the space you want your dumbwaiter to move through. Mount the motor securely to the wall with an angle iron and screws. Install the track along one side of the shaft, so that it does not pass in front of any of the doors you will be using. Make sure that the track is level, and then attach it to the walls of the shaft. Install the automatic stops so that your dumbwaiter box will stop at the appropriate openings.

  3. Build the wooden box for the dumbwaiter so that it fits inside the shaft with space on all sides when placed up against the track. Use the carriage assembly and curved door arm from the garage door track to fasten the bottom of the dumbwaiter box to the track. Add additional support, such as angle iron bracing, to ensure that the box will not move or tip with a full load.

  4. Install two switches for the garage door opener, one at the top where the dumbwaiter will deliver goods and one at the bottom where it will pick goods up. Check that the automatic stops are working properly and the dumbwaiter stops in the right place. Have locks on both of the doors to the dumbwaiter shaft so that when children are around they cannot accidentally fall in.