Give Yourself a Lift: Improved access for high bank lots

Filed in Lakeside Living, On The Lake by on February 19, 2014

Which system is best for you depends on your property, since each project is as unique as Minnesota lakeshore is diverse. Photo courtesy of Hillside Lifts

Which system is best for you depends on your property, since each project is as unique as Minnesota lakeshore is diverse.
Photo courtesy of Hillside Liftsby Amy ChaffinsLake living is all about the water. It’s about walking into your lake home and being greeted by the view – that lovely expanse of peaceful water. It’ s about walking out onto the dock to breathe in sun-kissed lake air.

Lake living is all about the water. It’s about walking into your lake home and being greeted by the view – that lovely expanse of peaceful water. It’ s about walking out onto the dock to breathe in sun-kissed lake air.

The view is easy to get, but getting to the water can be a challenge for folks who own property with a steep slope to the shoreline. For them, lakeshore lift systems are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to a set of stairs as a way of getting to and from the water.

The mechanical, motor-driven systems provide smooth trips on a platform up and down your hillside setting – they’re like an outdoor elevator that provides easy access for anyone, including the elderly, physically challenged and small children. Plus, the lift also does all the work of carrying your gear to the lake.

If you’re considering a lakeshore lift for your property, local industry experts have some advice on what to look for when you’re hiring an installer.

What’s available

There are several upper Midwest companies that offer a variety of lakeshore lift systems. Which system is best for you depends on your property, since each project is as unique as Minnesota lakeshore is diverse.

Companies like Hill Hiker, based in Orono, Minn., offer residential, commercial and industrial systems. Bill MacLachlam, president of Hill Hiker, says the company has a variety of residential applications, including a primary use lift system which is a good fit in situations where the garage or parking area is elevated above a cottage built below, closer to the water. They sell commercial systems, too.

Marine Innovations, a lift manufacturer based in Frazee, offers lifts equipped  with a drum drive for hills of up to 120 feet, or a traction drive system for hills over 120 feet. Owners Mike and Lori Botzet say their traction drive systems allows for more creativity in design if there is a unique embankment and a long distance to cover.

Hillside Lifts Vice President, Becky Hoefs says their lifts “offer a variety of options and carriage styles to accommodate any hill length or angle. Anything from out standard carriage with two flip-up bench seats to an ADA accessible 32-inch sliding door to accommodate wheel chairs or power scooters.” They company has a cantilever style carriage that provides benefits as well. “Many customers are concerned because they dno’t have a clear path or straight run down to the lake. We have the option to add a hydraulic self-leveling system or even bow the track in order to accommodate for the uneven or changing angles,” says Hoefs. “every hill is unique so it’s important to find the style that’s right for you.”

Installation and maintenance

Lift system companies take great pride in safety installing their products. Most companies install their own or send trained, authorized distributors to do the work.

An onsite visit is the first step in determining if a hillside elevator is a good fit for your property. An in-person visit also allows a representative to determine the best equipment for your setting, the soil conditions crew will have to work with when it comes to setting footings, and the measurements necessary for planning your lake lift system.

Installers will do the work with as little impact to shoreland as possible. Some companies will assist with permitting requirements for the installation project, depending on shoreland ordinances or environmental standards in your county. Some systems also require state elevator permits.

Lift system companies offer a variety of warranties on their products and some maintenance and annual inspection services, as well.

Advice from the experts

Mike and Lori Botzet of Marine Innovations offer this advice: Look at the structure of the system, plans for installation and whether service is available after your purchase.

“Be careful who you’re buying from,” Lori Botzet says. “Do they service their own product? Will a person answer the phone when you call with a questions? Does the company have a good reputation? And be sure to get referrals. We work very hard on competitive pricing in the industry, but I’d discourage people from making up their mind based on cost alone.”

The company also offers commercial applications for marinas, as well as residential systems.

Hill Hiker’s MacLachlam advises, “People should look for reliability, service down the road – because every year your lift should be serviced – and make sure the people who put it in for you have  experience in the industry.”

Lakeshore lift systems also increase property value and may help when it comes time to sell your steep lake lot.

“This is something that will last the rest of your life, and it stays with the property if you decide to sell,” says Mike Botzet. “A lift system will have a huge impact on selling your real estate.”

by Amy Chaffins

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