If it can ride in it, why not on it?
December 17, 2009 11:03 AM   Subscribe

While moving out of an apartment my humongous couch would not fit into the elevator. With the promise of 6 flights of tight stairwell looming, I posited the following: "We're on the 5th floor and have the service elevator to ourselves. Let's put it on the 4th, put the couch on top of it, take the elevator to the basement, and carry the couch out the front of the building on the first floor."

My friends refused and we suffered greatly getting the couch down and out via the stairwell. I still contend my idea would have worked and my friends think I'm insane. Am I?
posted by cloax to Home & Garden (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Aren't there, you know, wires and pulleys and stuff that you really don't want the couch to be pressing on on top of an elevator?
posted by brainmouse at 11:04 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

You are insane. Not carrying a couch down 6 flights of stairs does not balance with potential death, dismemberment, and criminal charges.
posted by Babblesort at 11:06 AM on December 17, 2009 [7 favorites]

Something in that idea would have ended up with one of several options a) couch gets all greasy b) one of you dies c) arrested.
posted by 8dot3 at 11:07 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

And dripping oil? And, in the event that the humongous couch gets caught, what would you do? What would you do if someone got on the elevator on the third floor and the couch gets unstuck and crashes into the elevator, killing the passenger? Or just damaging the elevator? What if, during your shenanigans, an ambulance arrives and EMTs need to use the elevator?

If your question is simply "could something be placed on top of an elevator as a means of transporting it?" the answer is surely yes. If the question is, "would this have been a good idea?" the answer is a jaw-dropping and emphatic no. If this is not apparent to you, please stay after class.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2009 [19 favorites]

You may not technically be insane. But your idea was a very bad one.
posted by The World Famous at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

You are insane.
posted by nitsuj at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

The question "what could possibly go wrong?" is generally asked ironically, and for good reasons.
posted by fatbird at 11:10 AM on December 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

If it wouldn't fit in the elevator, I wouldn't expect it to fit in the elevator shaft, given that you'd have the elevator supports to contend with in addition to the fact that you'd have to be extra-careful to keep it clear of the shaft walls.

What you should've done was simply to pile all your mattresses outside on the ground below and push the couch off the balcony.Kidding.

Anyway, to answer your question: Yes.
posted by contraption at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2009

It's all checks and balances and opposing forces, which would be greatly disturbed by "a humongous sofa" on top of the elevator. Yep, I'm going with insane.
posted by iconomy at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2009

Let me elaborate on my previous answer: You are probably not insane. But if you really thought your plan was a good idea, you are definitely an idiot.
posted by The World Famous at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just asked my dad - an electrical engineer and elevator developer for Thyssen-Krupp. His take was that this is a good way to get yourself killed or seriously maimed.

I will paraphrase him:
There are a number of contacts that can be made on each floor's circuitry that you don't realize. If the elevator is old, then maybe you can hear the result of a contact being made as the elevator goes into motion and you will have time to get out of the way (of the door, of the ceiling, whatever is getting ready to mash or dismember you, but if it is a hydraulic elevator, you probably won't hear it and then "Bye bye!".

If it is an older elevator especially, there are cables and gears that can grab you or get you caught up in them. Rope burn from a piece of twine or clothesline is one thing - rope burn from a moving cable that is made to support upwards of 1,000+ pounds is pretty bad.
posted by Tchad at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2009 [10 favorites]

Sounds like a great way to wind up on the evening news in the "Can you believe this shit?" category.
posted by The Straightener at 11:13 AM on December 17, 2009

Elevators are generally safe when used properly. When not used properly, they can be deadly. Every so often there’s a story about someone who got stuck, pried the doors open, climbed half-way out only to get cut in half when the elevator started moving again. College kids fall to their death “surfing” and whatnot.

Chances are you’d have escaped with nothing but a dirty couch. But you’re basically climbing into the inner workings of a machine, in a place not designed for personal safety. You know nothing about elevator safety.

It’s a couch. A damn couch. It ain’t worth it.

(This post should be read in the voice of Officer Horning, the policeman who would come to my school every year and talk to us about bus safety and the dangers of building snow forts. I was in sixth grade before I realized his name wasn’t Officer Warning.)
posted by bondcliff at 11:14 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Look at this cutaway animation. How do you propose to get a "humungous couch" on top of that?
posted by desjardins at 11:15 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your friends helped you move that couch down six flights of stairs, and as a bonus, protected you from accidental death and dismemberment, and in my mind, at least, I'm imagining that long route down the staircase accompanied by a steady beat of But why can't we???

I hope you bought them dinner.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:17 AM on December 17, 2009 [9 favorites]

FWIW I once had someone chainsaw a couch to avoid having to move it anywhere. The pieces were neatly picked up and thrown in the dumpster.

A couch that big doesn't deserve to live.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:19 AM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who has done this twice. It is possible.
posted by chicago2penn at 11:19 AM on December 17, 2009

I have heard of this being done. A really large conference room table was carried to the intended floor on the top of the elevator. What I also believe is that there were professionals involved in this process.

Elevator cables are well greased, in order to prevent wear between the strands as the cable flexes. That grease would be bad for your couch.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 11:34 AM on December 17, 2009

I too have destroyed a couch to avoid having to move it. And I only had a couple hammers, a crowbar and some people very excited to destroy things -- a chainsaw would've been a much better idea.

A couch isn't worth it. My dad's an electrical foreman whose guys routinely get asked to fetch keys and other misc stuff that has fallen down the elevator shaft. From the stories I've heard, you do not want to go screwing around in there.
posted by cgg at 11:35 AM on December 17, 2009

A question: how did you get the couch into the apartment in the first place?
posted by dnesan at 11:36 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

@chicago2penn -- Don't encourage him, for the love of all that's holy.

Nthing the bad, bad, bad idea response.
posted by liquado at 11:37 AM on December 17, 2009

How the hell did the couch get up there in the first place?
posted by mareli at 11:38 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

How the hell did the couch get up there in the first place?

The same way they brought it down?
posted by alligatorman at 11:45 AM on December 17, 2009

You've heard of the Darwin Awards, right?
posted by so_gracefully at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's possible that you're insane, or an idiot. What's more likely, however, is that you simply didn't know the first thing about what's inside an elevator shaft. That's nothing to be ashamed of—lots of people can say the same about what's underneath an escalator, or inside their television, or under the hood of their car.

So now you've seen how these Darwin Award accidents occur: Somebody with limited knowledge thinks to himself, "Hey, this seems like it would work..." And he tries it, and things go horribly wrong, when what should have happened instead is that he should have realized, "...but actually, I don't really know the first thing about elevators. How can I possibly know the risks?" Hence the adage, A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I'm going to venture a guess that you're not very old. Part of growing up is realizing the vast spheres of your own ignorance—and sometimes, the risks that you're not able to see. Now you know that elevators aren't just boxes sliding around inside shafts—that there's equipment that could be damaged, wires that could be exposed, substances that could ruin your couch, danger you hadn't considered, laws you might be breaking, etc. It was a bad idea. The trick is to learn to step back and think wider in the future, so that hopefully you'll be able to recognize your next bad idea (because you'll get another; we all do) if your friends aren't around to help.
posted by cribcage at 11:54 AM on December 17, 2009 [10 favorites]

You could probably do this with a lot of duct tape and twine. Plus a total lack of fear over the possibility of sudden maiming, death, fire, and the lawsuits sure to follow.
posted by diode at 11:54 AM on December 17, 2009

For future reference, there are furniture knockdown services that can make your move a lot easier in this regard.
posted by rhizome at 12:40 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have only ever used one particular freight elevator, but I did so many times for many years. It had some mechanism that prevented you from opening the outer doors when the elevator was not at that level. It was a hydraulic elevator FWIW.

Please do yourself a favor and always ask some one before you do anything more adventurous than putting on pants. It seems your instincts are a little off.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:51 PM on December 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

[comments removed - hello I am back from food shopping, lulz need to go to email, thanks!]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:06 PM on December 17, 2009

How did the couch get into the apartment? If it was via the stairs, then there was a very good reason for it.

I had a couch in my apartment that was going to be a pain to move when I left, so I bought a reciprocating saw and chopped it into small pieces and carried it to the trash.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:08 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been on top of elevators, in elevator shafts, with 12 foot sections of sheetrock standing upright, leaning against the cables as we went up. Downtown Chicago, 1971? 1972? The elevator had a (small -- god-DAMN that thing was small) railing built around it, so as to keep us 'safe' and it was lowered down BY A BUILDING ENGINEER so we could get our materials on top of it. I'm not sure how many floors we went up, could be ten twenty, doesn't matter, it was plenty high, not really terribly scary but ... sortof. If I recall correctly the building guy rode up with me, running the show, I was the kid on the jobsite, carrying up materials while the other guys had started the show already. It was a fairly good-sized building, it was pretty cool watching the other elevators go up and down as we trundled up and down ourselves.

I don't know for certain but I'd bet I've been on top of others in those years -- how else are you going to get long construction materials up and/or down? -- but that was the first one and it sticks in my mind of course.

One of the worst things in working as a commercial carpenter (to me -- I just don't like heights, scares me pretty badly, I'm always too well aware of wtf) was in building out the inside of elevator shafts. You don't think that double sheet of 5/8 inch firecode drywall got stuck onto the walls by magic, did you? Nope, some poor bastard was in that shaft with a screwgun and an insane partner, both of them likely hung over, if it's a good job they've got safety stuff on, probably by now everyone has to wear harnesses to even work around the damn things, as they should have. I didn't even like working on the exterior buildout of the things, you're always right on the precipice, as it were, stepping next to death. One of my apprentices became quite a carpenter, and he was fearless, he did almost all the entire 80 stories of elevator shafts on the Texas Commerce Bank building in downtown Houston (no idea who owns it now, probably Chase, I think Chase) -- he was a madman, one of the most fun people I've ever known, totally alcoholic and drug addicted. I hope he's alive -- I used to watch all the speed freaks use the same needle on jobsites, this was in the early 80s, just as AIDS was coming to awareness, he knew that he'd had hepatitis of course but no one knew the storm that was coming then...

Rambling. Yes, you could have put the damn thing on top of the elevator. It'd have been foolish to do so without the building guys right there and I'd bet dollars to dimes they'd tell you to buzz off. Either toss it off the building -- the most fun option -- or cut the thing up and take it down piece by piece, or suffer the pain as you did and drag the piece of garbage down. I agree with whoever upthread said that the thing deserved to die, just hack it up and toss it into the dumpster and walk.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:23 AM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

If anyone is still reading this or stumbles across the thread in search of a way to do it, I talked with Dad and he said:

It can be done, but you need a few things:
1. Get permission from the building owner/management.

2. Find out who has the elevator's contract. This can be either a local union outfit, or just an authorized elevator repair company. Usually you will see the name in the elevator or on a plaque on the ground floor or near the control panels. If you find someone outside of the contracted company to do it, beware! No one in their right mind will work on or with an elevator to which they are not contracted and if they do it opens everyone up to a slew of liability and contractual issues.

3. Contact them, after you have the building's permission (you may need to contact them through the building or management), asking how much it would cost to shut the elevator down and how much the price would be for their labor (and you need their labor).

4. Double check that both your insurance, the building's insurance, and the contracted company's insurance are all in place if something (damage, death, dismemberment, etc) occurs so that everyone's asses are covered.

5. Get ready to pay pay pay. You will probably be buying the labor of 1-3 elevator repair/maintenance/technical people (depending on the systems, infrastructure, and union regulations or lack thereof), the building's maintenance folks, professional moving people, as well as any liability issues that need to be insured on top of the insurance already in place (this depends on the item and the whole set-up). He estimated that it would be at least $1000 for the whole thing, but could go up substantially if there were issues.

He also wanted me to mention that neither you nor any of your moving help would have been allowed in or on the elevator at any point in time during the whole process.

Thought I would throw that in before the thread goes stale and closes.

As a funny side note, I now know what it takes to get my Dad to visit the city. It took 15 minutes to keep him from dropping what he was doing and driving the 400 miles up here to make sure I didn't get myself killed. So I have that in my back pocket now the next time I miss him and would like a visit.
posted by Tchad at 8:46 AM on December 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

I was one of the friends involved in the OP's move, and I'd like to thank you all for vehemently confirming what we were telling him at the time.

Also, for those saying he's young, he's almost 30 and has several advanced degrees in computer engineering. (Which just means that you can't fix stupid.)
posted by zap rowsdower at 10:08 AM on December 22, 2009

> he's almost 30 and has several advanced degrees in computer engineering.

Oh. This new information might lead many above to change their assessments re: insanity, if only because "several advanced degrees" correlates pretty strongly with "fucking crazy" to begin with.
posted by contraption at 10:35 AM on December 26, 2009

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