woman waits in elevator lobby to enter in elevator lift

What is in an elevator pit?

If you’re not keen on climbing flights of stairs to get to your apartment or to the doctor’s office, then you’ve used an elevator.

With the click of a button, an elevator is at your disposal to get you there in less than a minute. There is more to an elevator than sleek floors and buttons with numbers.

Have you ever wondered what makes an elevator travel vertically?

There are two types of elevators: Hydraulic and Traction– and underneath these elevators is a pit.

Hydraulic Elevators
Hydraulic Elevators are powered by a piston that travels inside of a cylinder pumped by hydraulic oil. Spring buffers on the sides of the pit cushion assist in the descent of the elevator cab. The pit ladder allows you to go in and out of the elevator pit safely and easily. Because pits are dark, pit lights are important for visibility. The drain bucket collects any minor oil leakages around the elevator seal.

hydraulic elevator pit with five parts labeled

  1. Hydraulic Cylinder
  2. Spring Buffers
  3. Pit Ladder
  4. Pit Lights
  5. Drain Bucket

Traction Elevators
Typically found on buildings with eight stories or more, traction elevators are lifted by ropes which pass over a pulley. A counterweight is a counter balance to the elevator full load capacity. Oil buffers soften the descend of the elevator cab and counterweight. The tail sheave is part of a governor which activates the brakes if the elevator car were to over speed.

a traction elevator pit with six parts labeled

  1. Counterweight Frame
  2. Oil buffers
  3. Pit Ladder
  4. Pit Lights
  5. Tail Sheave
  6. Pit Channel

Maintained elevator pits allow technicians and elevator pit professionals to easily identify the problem sources such as water intrusion, electrical damage and oil leaks.

There are minor differences regarding water intrusion in an hydraulic elevator pit versus a traction one. The only differentiating factor is that in a hydraulic elevator pit, the cylinder that powers the elevator car is drilled far into the ground for support. This hole increases the chance of water intrusion.

TG Oil Services has over 25+ years of experience and specializes in elevator pit waterproofing.


Written by Natalie Bauta, technical writer
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