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Removing Water in Elevator Shaft

Removing Water in Elevator Shafts: Solutions After a Hurricane

If you live in the path of hurricanes, you know the stress they can cause.

Preparing your home with storm shutters, stocking up on water, gassing the generator, and planning your evacuation route are all essential tasks when hurricane season hits. But what do you do about your office building? More specifically, how will you protect your elevator shafts?

Hurricanes can quickly force water into elevator shafts. This might seem like a minor deal, mainly if your building is located in an area that already receives a lot of rain. But water in elevator shaft floors can cause many problems and often requires special removal tools.

Because of their strong winds and incessant storm surge, hurricanes will likely cause water to pool in your elevator shafts.

What Happens if Water Gets in an Elevator Shaft?

Any water leak is a problem, but water in elevator shafts is particularly concerning. Here are just a few of the complications elevator flooding can cause.

Mechanical Components

Exposing complex mechanical components to moisture can cause issues like rust and increased friction, and this is doubly real for elevators. The hoisting mechanisms are often located at the bottom of the shaft, and water can wreak havoc on them.

Electrical Systems

Electronics and wiring are also in harm’s way when there’s water in elevator shaft floors. Electrical failure is a distinct possibility, and the damage may not stay localized.

Shorting out sensitive electrical systems can cause problems to any other systems connected, so wait to restore power to your elevators until you’re confident it’s safe.

Ironically, water in elevator shafts can be a fire hazard. When the aforementioned electrical systems and their wiring are compromised, it creates the possibility of sparks, which can cause discarded paper trash and other debris to burst into flame.

Mold and Mildew

Even if the elevator’s mechanisms and electronics don’t break or are short, water can lead to another big problem: mold. Tenants, workers, or other occupants can be exposed to harmful contaminants and develop headaches, breathing issues, and rashes. If you’re the owner, these problems could be your responsibility, and you don’t want to face lawsuits or costly insurance claims.


Water in elevator shaft floors can also be a breeding ground for pests like mosquitoes. These insects are more than just annoying — they can spread disease. Larger, more destructive pests like mice and rats can also be attracted to standing water.

Records for Insurance Purposes

If you find water in elevator shafts in your building, document it immediately. Your insurance company will need that evidence when it comes time to fix the issue. You may also be required to prove that you’re handling the situation.

Make it a point to save damaged components and electronics as well. These can show where water seeped in and provide further evidence for insurance claims.

Causes of Leaks

You need to know and be able to prove that your elevator shafts are full of standing water. You’ll also want to find out how it’s getting in.

Older buildings may have sizable cracks in the foundation, and the materials used may not be as sturdy and durable as more modern solutions. Furthermore, poor construction can result in leaks no matter what era your building is from.

Elevator shafts built without waterproofing can collect water during even light rainstorms, to say nothing of full-force hurricanes. Because building codes covering waterproofing are relatively recent, it’s entirely possible that your building was up to standard at the time it was built but is still susceptible to flooding.

If you already have waterproofing, it might be failing. When waterproofing materials are improperly applied, damaged, or especially old, they may lose their ability to block water. It’s a good idea to have your elevator shafts inspected to determine the exact cause of the pooling.

How to Remove Water from an Elevator

It would help if you relied on qualified technicians and experts to ensure the job was done right.

To remove the water, the company you hire will most likely use a sump pump. A sump pump will remove most of the water in elevator shaft floors, but not all of it. Any residual moisture will have to be mopped up manually, though special carpet cleaning equipment can also be used in some instances.

Unfortunately, more than simply removing the water is needed. Significant contaminants may be left behind if the water damages any surfaces of the shaft or leached other substances in.

Crews will have to pressure-wash the affected shaft portions and may even need to expose the bare concrete. Once they’ve done that, they’ll apply an antimicrobial treatment to keep bacteria and mold from spreading. They may even need to treat surfaces with alkaline solutions.

If the water isn’t adequately removed, the elevator can break down. Hiring a reputable company like AOTC means you can trust that any remaining water will be eliminated. AOTC has dedicated equipment for cleaning and removing water in elevator shafts quickly and efficiently.

What Emergency Equipment Is Used to Remove Water

If a hurricane is why you have water on elevator shaft floors, you’ll most likely have abundant water. We use wastewater vacuum trucks to deal with large volumes of liquid. These vehicles can quickly suction up massive amounts of water and are designed to handle even the foulest, most contaminated water.

After vacuuming as much water as possible, we’ll assess the situation to see if further drying is needed. We can also employ industrial-quality fans and large dehumidifiers to ensure the space is arid. We only leave once every last drop has been dealt with.

Is It Safe to Use Elevators After a Hurricane?

Never assume that an elevator is safe after a hurricane, as there’s no way of knowing without inspecting it first.

Contact a qualified technician to perform the inspection. Only after authorized personnel have cleared the elevators should you resume regular use. Even small amounts of water can significantly impact your elevator equipment.

While scheduling an inspection after a hurricane is always wise, you should take preventive measures seriously. There are steps you can perform yourself to minimize the damage your elevators experience.

Have an Inspection Done

Have your elevators inspected during calm weather? A qualified inspector can spot cracks and leaks that might permit water seepage.

Apply Exterior Waterproofing

You can have your elevators waterproofed from the outside. This is typically done with a urethane injection, which works well even in wet environments.

Other methods include using sheet membranes, applying fluids that fill and bind cracks, or installing bentonite-based membranes under the concrete and around the elevator shaft walls. This last method can be costly since the installer must excavate the area around the outside of the shaft.

Apply Interior Waterproofing

You can also waterproof your elevator shafts from the inside. Crystalline waterproofing is an excellent option that involves applying a crystalline product to create water-blocking crystals in concrete. Urethane injection can also be used on the interior, as can breathable cementitious waterproofing.

Use Hydrophobic Grout for Brick and Block

Block and brick structures can shift, crack, or degrade over time. Injecting hydrophobic urethane grout into leaks will keep water from seeping in, though it may be best to replace the failing structure if they’re damaged beyond a certain point.

Install Drainage

Many parts of the country require elevator pit drainage to prevent water from pooling in elevator shaft floors. If your elevator shaft is old enough to predate local laws or was built incorrectly, it may need proper drainage. Even if it does, it’s possible that the existing drainage is clogged and needs cleaning.

Install a Sump Pump

Sump pumps actively remove water from elevator shafts rather than relying on gravity to drain it out. Having one installed gives you extra insurance that your elevator shafts will remain dry through hurricane season. Remember that sump pumps require regular inspections, especially when a storm is scheduled to hit.

Prepare for Storm Season

Work ahead of time to protect your elevators and avoid water damage. Ensure the vents in the machine room, and shaft walls are working correctly, and inspect the seals and caulking on entryways. Double-check safety measures such as sump pumps and float switches, and remember to test all alarms.

It can help to have an up-to-date diagram of your elevators with all relevant information at the ready when making sure your machine is in order.

Be Proactive During the Storm

If you find yourself in your building during the storm, there are more steps you can take to keep your elevators safe.

First and foremost, don’t let anyone use the elevators. Ensure the main disconnects are shut off and place sandbags around the machine room door. Finally, cover all openings and vents at the top of all shafts.

Perform Another Inspection After the Hurricane

Once the storm has passed, it’s time for another inspection. It’s best to schedule a professional inspection to ensure your elevators are safe, but there are still some important actions you can take yourself.

First, look to see if there’s anybody trapped in the elevators — if so, call 911. After confirming that the elevators are transparent, open all shaft vents and other openings and check the shafts and control panels for signs of water.

Checklist For Preventing Water In Elevator Shafts After Hurricanes

The following checklist provides a step-by-step guide to help you prepare before the storm, take protective actions during the storm, and perform necessary inspections and repairs afterward.

Before the Storm:

  • Inspection & Repairs:

☐ Check for cracks and potential leaks in elevator shafts.

☐ Seal detected cracks and leaks.

☐ Verify waterproofing materials (e.g., urethane injections, sheet membranes).

  • Equipment Preparation:

☐ Test generators and backup systems.

☐ Ensure sump pumps and drainage systems are operational.

☐ Stock up on sandbags, sealing materials, and emergency lighting.

  • Documentation & Planning:

☐ Update and securely store diagrams and maintenance records.

☐ Develop and distribute a communication plan for emergencies.

During the Storm:

  • Safety Protocols:

☐ Turn off main disconnects to elevators.

☐ Place sandbags around machine room doors.

☐ Cover vents and openings in elevator shafts.

  • Active Monitoring:

☐ Monitor water levels and building conditions.

☐ Ensure elevators remain unused.

After the Storm:

  • Immediate Inspection:

☐ Check for water intrusion in elevator shafts.

☐ Inspect mechanical and electrical components for damage.

  • Cleaning & Remediation:

☐ Remove standing water with sump pumps and manual methods.

☐ Clean and treat areas with antimicrobial solutions.

☐ Address structural damages.

  • Professional Assessment:

☐ Schedule a comprehensive professional inspection.

☐ Consider upgrading waterproofing and drainage systems based on assessment results.

By following this checklist, you can significantly mitigate risks and damages to elevator shafts during hurricane season, ensuring the safety and functionality of your building’s elevators.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How quickly should water be removed from an elevator shaft after a hurricane?

A: Water should be removed as soon as possible to prevent damage to mechanical and electrical components, avoid mold and mildew growth, and reduce the risk of pests. Immediate action minimizes long-term damage and safety hazards.

Q: Is it safe to use an elevator after a hurricane if it appears dry?

A: No, it is not safe to use an elevator after a hurricane until a qualified technician has inspected it. Even if the shaft appears dry, there could be hidden damage to mechanical or electrical systems.

Q: What should I do if I find water in my elevator shaft?

A: Document the water intrusion immediately for insurance purposes. Contact a professional water removal service to handle the cleanup and ensure all necessary repairs and preventive measures are taken.

Finding a Water Removal Service

Hurricanes can cause business-threatening damage and result in catastrophic loss through sheer destruction or the cost of subsequent repairs. That’s why ensuring your building is ready for a massive storm is essential.

Get the waterproofing you need, make sure your drains are working as they should, perform regular inspections, and only use your elevators if you have reason to believe they are safe.

Remember that the water in the bottom of your elevator shaft isn’t just water — it seeped through walls and other surfaces and likely brought a host of unpleasant contaminants.

If you need water removed from your elevator shafts, rely on the experienced professionals at AOTC. We have the specialized equipment required to remove every last trace of water and contaminants from your elevators according to the EPA’s strict regulations.

Time is of the essence, and water damage can happen quickly. If you suspect you have hurt, don’t delay.

Our 24-hour emergency spill response is your first line of defense against water-logged elevator shafts. We offer rapid deployment to take care of your water problems before they have a chance to worsen and guarantee EPA regulatory compliance.

From hazardous chemicals to wastewater to oil spills, AOTC can handle it. Contact us today to get your elevator shafts cleaned and dried fast.


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