Whether you need to build a wheelchair ramp for domestic use or you’re a business owner and need to do that in order to provide access to your building, setting up a wheelchair ramp is not that difficult if you follow a few specific steps.
If you’ve read various folding wheelchairs reviews, decided which one to buy, and you’ve reached the ramp part, there are some things you need to know before building it and a few essential steps you need to follow to get the job done properly. We have covered them in today’s post.
Safety measures and rules
Building a wheelchair ramp in order for people with disabilities to reach your home with greater ease is an admirable thing to do. Before starting the building process, though, you need to check in with local authorities and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
Depending on the state you live in, you may need a permit to build and install such a ramp from the local building authority and comply with ADA standards. If you don’t have to build the ramp following these standards, it is still best to do so as they will help you get a safe ramp.
According to the ADA standards, such a ramp should have a width of at least 36 inches. Plus, if you want to build a ramp that is higher than 6 inches, then you need to use 6-inch high handrails on both sides in order to make it safe for the wheelchair user.
That’s why planning the ramp longevity at this point is also required. It is even best to draw a ramp plan including its length, height, width, and the location before securing a permit. Make sure to check the local building codes as in some communities such a plan should be designed by a carpenter or a professional engineer.
Building a temporary ramp is easier whereas a permanent one might require professional services as well as additional government approval. In some states, a permit is required no matter the type of ramp you want to build.
Ramp materials and layout
Once you’ve secured a building permit and checked the local building codes, you need to stock up on the needed supplies yet before that, make sure you measure the space you have at disposal again and choose the most appropriate ramp layout.
There are three main ramp shapes – the straight, L-shaped, and switchback ramps – and the layout should be chosen depending on the way your house is built and the shape and size of your yard.
You need to consider the ramp’s slope, too. However, to make it safe, the ramp should have a minimum ratio of 1:12. This means that the ramp should extend 12 inches outward for every inch of vertical rise.
The material usually used for DIY ramps is wood, given its ease of use. Treated wood is a popular choice yet composite planking for the floor is worth considering if you want to reduce warping. In case you decide to build a wood ramp, you might want to use some non-skid strips in order to avoid accidents that may occur when the floor gets wet.
Concrete ramps are more difficult to build and they require professionals to do that. They may cost more yet they provide extended durability. The market now offers premade ramps that are removable and don’t require a building permit. Such ramps are made from galvanized metal or aluminum and their design should allow them to fit over existing steps.
Earth-berm ramps are another option yet building one involves compacting lots of soil. Plus, you should use concrete to build the ramp itself and the soil used should not come in contact with wood as termite infestation and rot may occur.
Building a wood ramp
If you’ve decided to build a wood ramp, you will also have to consider the landings, handrails, and guardrails needed for safety. The handrail placement and size depend on the primary user’s arm strength and height whereas the guardrails should be mounted depending on the seated knee height of the wheelchair user. Metal handrails provide enhanced durability.
It is best to use treated wood as it is more durable and will keep up with weather changes better than untreated wood. In case you want to build a permanent structure, you will have to dig holes for the posts and they should sink into the ground 30 inches or so. Securing the posts with concrete is recommended. Make sure that you check for underground utilities before you dig.
The most popular posts used are 4×4 inches in size and you should space them 6 feet apart. The lumber boards used should be of medium size, that is, 2×4 and 2×6 inches. Once the posts are secured into the ground, you will have to attach stringers to them.
Try to use screws instead of nails for extra stability and durability. Nails may come undone at some point and that poses a great safety risk. You can use nails for joist hangers. Make sure to attach the interior joists and rim joists properly. If you want enhanced stability, employ cross braces every 4 feet.
Once you’ve installed the framing, you can take the next step and install the decking. The material used for this part should be properly screwed down to the joists in order to keep the boards in place and prevent them from lifting. To install the railings, it is recommended to follow the ADA guidelines even if they are not required for residential construction.
After the railings have been properly installed, you should also install the landings. A ramp usually includes a top landing and a bottom landing. However, some of them include an optional intermediate landing.
Once everything mentioned above is in place, add an anti-slip surface over the entire length of the ramp. Since a wheelchair ramp should be stable, durable, and safe, make sure you ask for a professional’s help if you’re new to this or you’re not sure about how to build it.