Many people need a wheelchair ramp at one point or another in their lives. Whether it’s because they’re older and can’t walk upstairs anymore or because they’ve had an injury that prevents them from walking well, ramps allow those with limited mobility to access the home easily. But making a ramp isn’t as simple as just buying some lumber and laying it down – there are guidelines you’ll need to follow to make sure your ramp is safe and legal. In this article, we’ll discuss the steps involved in building a wheelchair ramp, what kind of materials you’ll need, common questions about building ramps that come up frequently on our site, and more!
- 1 What are the benefits of installing a wheelchair ramp?
- 2 Construction of the Ramp
- 3 Planning Your Design
- 4 Building the Ramp
- 5 FAQs About How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp
- 6 Conclusion
What are the benefits of installing a wheelchair ramp?
- Allows those with limited mobility to easily access the home.
- Prevents injury from trying to navigate steps or jutting surfaces in their way.
- Provides a safe, smooth transition for someone who can’t walk long distances and needs assistance getting around.
- Prevent falls due to missteps on stairs (an especially common problem for seniors).
- Allows for a smoother transition between ground and porch or patio.
Construction of the Ramp
Important Factors to Take into Consideration Before Building a Wheelchair Ramp
Before you build a ramp, you need to:
- Check with your local building department to ensure the ramp is compliant with any codes and regulations that apply in your area.
- Consider how steep you want the slope of the ramp to be – typically, a steeper grade will prevent wheelchairs from rolling out or running off an edge. A shallower grade may have a less pronounced incline, but it can take longer to push their wheelchair up.
- Know what obstacles are on the ground before renovating so as not to create more problems by removing them without installing features like handrails, steps, etc., which are necessary accessories for ramps (and required by law).
- Be aware of other possible hazards that might impede motorized wheelchairs’ ability to access areas of the home.
- Try to avoid placing ramps in locations where they would be visible from the outside, as this can make a property more appealing for thieves and burglars.
- Be aware that you’ll need space (at least two feet) on either side of your ramp to grant clearance for safe passage – this is especially important if going up or downstairs since it’s difficult to walk alongside someone who has limited mobility when their chair must navigate steps in addition to being pulled along behind them.
- Consider adding lighting fixtures before building your ramp so that it remains accessible during nighttime hours; lighted paths are also helpful additions to any outdoor area.
- Check with local zoning ordinances about how certain close types of structures may be to property lines.
- Check what type of material will work best for the incline when building your ramp, as some materials perform better than others over time (for example, asphalt could make a good surface, but concrete provides more traction).
Decide where you will install your ramp.
The best place to install your ramp will depend on the current landscape of your home.
- If you have a backyard, it’s likely that there would already be ample space for installing a wheelchair ramp – and this is also an ideal location because any renovations won’t disrupt what neighbors or property owners on adjacent land might see (as they can if toward the front).
- Check with renters about where their lease allows them to make alterations before following through so as not to violate agreements later down the road.
- Keep in mind how you’ll want access from both sides of the house when deciding which side of the driveway or walkway you’d like to build ramps onto – try to check with other family members before building anything too permanent!
- Consider if you want to make the ramp more accessible for those with limited mobility or who are elderly – this might mean starting on a higher level before descending an incline.
- Be aware of how close your home is to power lines and other overhead hazards that could impede safe passage by someone in a wheelchair, as well as any underground utilities near where you plan to build ramps.
Get approvals and permits.
Before you start building your wheelchair ramp, it’s important to:
- Turn in plans and get approvals from the landowner or property manager.
- Get permits for any work that needs to be done with your local community board (which is often needed).
- Make sure the ground can support a new slope before starting construction – especially if you’ll use materials like wood which may not withstand heavy weight over time.
- Check with planned power outages about how they might affect wiring near where ramps will go up.
If all of these steps seem overwhelming, don’t worry! You can always contact professional contractors who specialize in constructing safe and accessible pedestrian walkways for people of all levels of mobility – make certain they are certified by the National Association of Home Builders!
Rules and Safety Guidelines
- Be sure to install a ramp that is wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to navigate safely.
- Make sure the incline of your ramp isn’t too steep, as this can make it difficult for those with limited mobility who are pulling their chair up or down an incline (and will also cause wear and tear on tires).
- Install ramps at least two feet from any wall, so no one gets caught while trying to walk alongside them – be aware if you’re going stairs!
- Remember not to place ramps near power lines, visible locations where they would create safety hazards like tripping hazards for people outside, or anywhere else that might impede safe passage.
Planning Your Design
Calculate slope and endpoint for your access ramp
To calculate the slope and endpoint of the ramp, you need:
- The total number of feet your ramp will be
- How high you want the end to be from the ground.
- For example, if our access ramp is 16 feet long and we want it to end at the height of three inches, we would need a slope of about 37 degrees (16 x .03). We’ll also need an area where someone in a wheelchair can stop safely before starting up or down this incline – so for safety reasons, don’t make ramps longer than 22 feet with a slope over 38 degrees.
- We could measure how many tiles it takes for us to get from one point on the flooring to another point by using as many small squares as needed until all tiles are covered, and we can’t go any further.
- We would need 12 tiles for our ramp to be 16 feet long and end at the height of three inches: (16 x .03) + (12×0.02). This means we’ll need about 25 sq ft of a flooring tile or other material before starting construction on the ground.
If you want your access ramp to have a lower incline, measure out how many squares it takes until you reach the top point – in this case, it will only take four tiles worth of space!
For those with limited mobility who are pulling their chair up an incline over time, ramps should never exceed 38 degrees as that could make things difficult for them when navigating down again after reaching their destination.
This means that if the slope of your ramp is 38 degrees or greater, it needs to have a bottom height of at least two feet for someone in a wheelchair to stop safely before they start up again!
Space and Landing Requirements
- If you’re building a ramp that is more than 24 inches wide, make sure to include at least two feet of space on each side for people walking next to the ramp.
When it comes to landing requirements, ramps should always have:
- At least one foot of clearance in between any raised surfaces where someone might get tripped or fall off while navigating around them; and
- A surface area no less than 30″ by 48″. This means if your access ramp has an inclined slope over eleven degrees but under 38 degrees – like 12 degrees (12×0.03), then you’ll need 20 sq ft of flooring tile before starting construction on the ground. And this includes adequate safety buffer zones!
Choosing the Right Ramp Materials
- Wood ramps are good for those who have a budget of $500 or less because they’re usually the least expensive and durable.
- Aluminum is strong, lightweight, affordable, and easy to work with but not great in cold climates. It can be brittle if exposed to extreme weather conditions; aluminum may also need more maintenance over time than other materials such as wood.
- Steel pans make an excellent option when you only need one ramp at your house – these require skillful welding by someone certified for this type of project so that all joints will hold together solidly without leaks!
- Composite ramps made from plastics like PVC pipe offer affordability (as well as versatility) while being easily assembled onsite by people with basic carpentry skills. When you’re using composite ramps, make sure to find one that has been certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or equivalent international bodies.
- Plastic ramps are lightweight and easy to assemble – however. They might not be as durable over time, which means you’ll need extra caution when walking up to them if they have a high slope!
Building the Ramp
Prepare a Cutlist :
Some stores have catalogs and software that will help you find an appropriate catalyst to use.
If you’re using tiles, make sure to get the right size and type of tile before starting your cutlist. You can always ask for help from someone who knows how or is experienced in this area!
When measuring out tiles – especially if there are a lot of them needed (like for larger access ramps) it’s good practice to lay out what we’ve done so far on paper while taking measurements with a ruler as well as making notes on where things go; that way when construction starts, everything will be easier.
This process may take some time, but once we have all our supplies together, building the ramp itself should only take about an hour!
Stage the Tools
Get the necessary tools together and lay them out in a way that makes it easy to access things when needed.
You will need the following tools:
- Measuring tape or ruler
- Circular saw, or table saw – if you’re using wood and it’s a large piece of lumber. (A circular saw is best for smaller pieces)
- Utility knives, hand tools such as hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, safety goggles are also necessary in many cases because there might be sharp pointy objects onsite!
- Safety equipment such as gloves, masks
- Tiles or a ramp surface (depending on your chosen materials) – should be laid out in the right order so that it’s easy to find things when needed. Be sure not to leave anything behind by accident!
Pickup the Lumber
If we’re building the ramp from wood, then at this point, it’s best to bring home lumber such as pine (or any other type of softwood) so that measurements can be taken and cultists developed.
- If possible, try not to use pressure-treated – or PT lumber because these types of boards are often made with chemicals that might give off toxic fumes if they come into contact with moisture in the air.
- It’s also important for homeowners who have pets and children around their house to choose non-toxic materials like cedar which is rot-resistant! While cedar and redwood will eventually need some kind of treatment over time (usually paints), this isn’t necessary right away unless you want to, and it’s better for the environment.
- When using these types of materials, use a circular saw to cut them up into smaller pieces that are easy to handle while you’re working onsite!
- Be sure not to forget any tools when picking up lumber – such as gloves or safety goggles in some cases since there might be sharp pointy objects around where we’ll be cutting boards (which could include nails). Safety equipment is always important, so make sure you have your protective gear before building the ramp!
Unload the Lumber
When unloading the lumber, you should take care not to damage anything on your way. Make sure that there’s a flat and even surface for our boards to be laid out on so we can measure them without difficulty!
If using tiles as part of the ramp, it might also be best to lay them down now in order (since they’re typically much smaller). This is because laying all of those first will make measuring easier since everything else we’ll need but still waiting at home – like wood or metal brackets – will have been set aside already by this point!
- If using wood, be sure to have it laid out in a way that’s easy for you and your helpers to work with.
When cutting boards or tiles, use safety goggles since there might be pointy objects around the site, which could injure if not careful!
Build the Platform
- Get the necessary tools together and lay them out in a way that makes it easy to access things when needed.
- Measure for dimensions of wood or metal brackets – then cut into small pieces with a circular saw if using lumber, utility knife if not.
- Lay boards down on a flat surface so they can be measured easily without any difficulties; tiles should also be laid here (if this is what we’ll use). It might also be best to measure these before making other cuts since there’s less chance of ruining anything while cutting smaller items like those!
- Use safety goggles at all times when working with pointy objects, which could create injury (especially when cutting!) but always wear gloves too whenever it feels necessary.
- Attach metal brackets to the wood, making sure not to tighten bolts or screws too much where they won’t be able to move on their own later!
- Lay tiles down when attaching wood so that there’s less chance of cutting them in half by mistake!
- Level ramp surface with a torpedo level or similar equipment – then put boards into position and attach brackets as needed using pliers (depending on the type). Be careful here since tightening hardware can make it difficult for adjustments after we’re finished; never overdo things while putting together materials like this because it might inhibit your ability to adjust anything else you’ve done later if need be!
Build the First Ramp
- Stay on the ground level when installing your first ramp section. Measure and mark where you want it to go, and build that portion of the wheelchair ramp before going higher. It’s easier to level a surface than an incline.
- Keep in mind that a 36-inch tall person can use up two ramps for every three they need because their height is lessened by about one foot with each step taken down from the top of the stairs or other impediment. You may only be building half as many sections needed if you’re not accounting for this difference in height between walkers and wheelchairs users.
- Each inch in height requires one more foot (or 16 inches) than it would if it were level ground to accommodate this difference.
- A 45-degree angle has enough room from side to side and headroom up front; however, any angle greater than 30 degrees will need additional width by considering how much distance needs to be traveled per inch.
Built the Second Ramp
- The second ramp will be perpendicular to the first so that you can use the same measurements from earlier, flip them over.
- Place a level on either side of each section before placing any screws or nails into it to ensure that they are all as close to level as possible.
- Be mindful of each section’s width, height, and incline, as they all have to be level.
Sheath the Ramps and Platforms
- Cover your ramps and platforms with a layer of plywood to keep the ramp from deteriorating. Plywood is the least expensive option, but you can substitute other materials if they are more affordable for you, such as OSB (oriented strand board), MDF boards, or even recyclable product alternatives like used pallets.
- Keep in mind that whatever material you use will need something to cover it. This could be carpeting, paint on top of wood grain finishes, metal roofing panels over asphalt shingle roofs…anything!
- If using new materials: seal them first so that water does not soak through the surface and lead to rot later down the line; then sheath it with an additional protective layer like plywood or the second layer of OSB MDF, etc.
- If using recycled materials: seal them first so that water does not soak through the surface and lead to rot later down the line; then sheath it with an additional protective material like plywood or the second layer of OSB MDF, etc.
- Cover your ramp with something for traction in case you choose not to use carpeting as well! This is especially important if you live in an area where snow melts quickly because this will make it slippery when wet. You can also paint on non-skid surfaces (like alligator grip) directly onto the wood before painting overtop with whatever color best suits your needs.
- Install edging to keep the ramp from slipping off the platform or down onto a lower section. This is important because wheelchair ramps are often steep and need extra help staying in place!
- Use any metal trim that can be cut with scissors for this purpose; it’ll have a lip on one side, which will prevent the edge from sliding outwards but allow rainwater to flow away freely.
- You should use quarter-inch by half-inch galvanized nails or screws to secure your sheathing into position. Ensure you drill pilot holes before screwing them into your surface, as they may split if driven all at once without first being prepped accordingly.
- Nail or screw the metal edging onto either side of your ramp’s platform in a zigzag pattern to make it more difficult for someone standing on top of this semi-level surface to step out and over.