How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp for an Outdoor Deck?
Building a deck ramp for wheelchairs is a thoughtful and practical addition to any home. This is because it ensures accessibility for those with mobility issues. It also makes using the deck safer and easier for everyone. Even older pets may choose to walk on a ramp rather than climb stairs.
To get started, you’ll need to carefully plan the design and dimensions of your ramp, taking into account factors such as slope, landing platforms, and handrail placement. Be sure to follow local building codes and regulations. Materials such as pressure-treated lumber or composite deck boards are excellent choices that are both durable and easy to maintain. Building a deck ramp requires precision and attention to detail, but it’s a project worth doing. This is because it can improve accessibility and inclusivity in your home.
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Materials and Tools Needed
The type and amount of materials needed depend on the size and shape of the ramp. For example, you may want the deck boards to look the same as the steps, or you may want to add lighting to the ramp. You can use this list to help make your own.
- 4×4 pressure-treated lumber or composite decking
- 2×6 pressure-treated lumber or composite decking
- 2×4 pressure-treated lumber or composite decking
- composite decking boards or wood decking
- Non-slip tread tape
- Column bases
- Anchor bolts
- Post-pour anchor bolts
- ½” x 7″ carriage bolts
- 1/2″ x 6″ carriage bolts
- 3/8″ x 4″ lag screws
- 2-1/2″ galvanized deck screws
- Joist hangers and fasteners
- Concrete mix
- Tubular concrete forms
If you prefer to make your own, then you probably already have most of the tools you need to make a wheelchair ramp. If not, use the list below to learn how to prepare these tools.
- Hand saw
- Drill and driver bits
- Chalk line
- Framing cubes
- 4-inch level
- Circular saws
- Sockets and ratchet wrenches
- Masonry line
- Leveling lines
- Back hole excavator
- Lead hammer
- Column leveler
- Cement mixer/mixing basin
How to build a ramp for your wheelchair at home
Get a building permit
In most cases, if you want to add a wheelchair ramp to your deck, you’ll need to get a building permit. This may mean that you will need to show building plans and may even have to wait for a site visit before you can begin construction.
Get as much information as you can from the building officials and local building codes, as these rules will affect how you build and what materials you use. Most homeowner groups will also have rules and standards in place.
Measuring the dimensions of the ramp
There are some important measurements to keep in mind when creating a wheelchair ramp that complies with ADA rules. These include the width of the ramp, the slope, and the height of the handrails.
The ramp must be at least 36 inches wide at its narrowest point, which is usually where the fence meets the handrail. In practice, this means that the ramp deck must be at least 42 inches wide, as each handrail must be at least 1.5 inches from any surface. There must be one handrail on each side of the ramp, 34 to 38 inches from the top of the ramp. For larger railings, the ramp deck must be larger.
Depending on your plans, a 60″ x 60″ step may be required on the ramp. In order to comply with ADA requirements, the ground floor and front door must have the same amount of space. In most cases, the existing deck will provide enough room for the front door. However, make sure the step from the deck to the front door opening is no more than 3/8 inch.
Determine the length of the ramp by measuring the height of the ramp. This is the height from the ground at the start of the ramp to the edge of the deck at the stop. The ADA-approved 1:12 ratio states that the number of inches of rise equals the number of feet of run. If the ramp is longer than 30 feet or is spliced differently, the landing height from the handrail to the railing needs to be 60 inches by 60 inches.
Setting up a ramp
Find your favorite wheelchair ramp style online. Then make a similar style that fits your deck. You’ll have to decide whether to put the ramp on the stairs or attach it to the deck in some other way. If there isn’t much room or the deck is high, the ramp may need to be curved or wrapped around the deck.
Other things to consider include whether the risers should be on the inside or outside of the ramp frame, what type of railing to use, and how to place the railing from the ramp to the ground. Plan ahead and don’t rush. It’s much easier to fix a mistake on paper than to move a post that’s already installed in concrete.
Choosing the materials to use
For posts and frames that go into the ground, it is recommended to use a composite decking material that has excellent water and mold resistance. This material can last longer than pressure-treated materials. Use hot-dipped steel nails or exterior specialized structural screws to put these pieces together.
You can also use pressure-treated wood, it’s up to you. Traditional wood materials require regular maintenance and care or they can become susceptible to moisture and mold. In severe cases, wood materials can also rot and lead to safety issues. Therefore, you need to regularly check its health and fix it in time.
Putting up signs
With a board and some Mason’s twine, you can create a square grid using the 3-4-5 method. You may use any number of cards from this deck of playing cards. Use a plumb bob and writing paint to mark where to dig post holes or lay braces.
Dig the holes to the proper depth, or lay the foundation, and have someone check to see if any adjustments are needed. You can place a 4″ x 4″ post into the hole with the concrete, or you can level the concrete and wait for it to set before attaching the post with post brackets and concrete screws. You can also place the footing bolts into the wet concrete and wait for the concrete to dry before placing the post clamps. The concrete is easily leveled after the cardboard tubes are placed in the holes.
If the post was not cut at a sawmill, be sure to place the end of the post in the hole. In fact, if you are cutting treated lumber, never put the cut side into the ground without applying a wood sealer. This is because the process of the wood being processed at the mill will only go deeper into the wood. Cover the top of an uncovered post or cut the post at an angle so that water can run off.
In most cases, it’s easier to build the sloped sections first and then attach them to the supports. Once you’ve put the frames together, get help putting them where they belong. If the ramp goes through the deck steps, you will need to cut holes in the struts so that the end of the ramp is flush with the deck.
The depth of each hole depends on the steepness of the ramp, the height of the steps, and the thickness of the deck boards. Try to place the crossbeams where the handrail posts will be, between the crossbeams. This will allow you to secure the posts to the top, bottom, and sides with antler bolts.
Adding Deck Boards
Regardless of the type of wood you use, ramps should not be slippery in any weather. If you want to use wood decks, you should ask the company that makes them if they can be used for ADA ramps. If they can’t, you can add “grip tape” (wheel straps that won’t slip) to make them compliant.
Do not use plywood to install a ramp deck. This is because plywood is too slippery when wet or cold and is more likely to crack or rot than wood at room temperature.
Composite deck boards with grooves are recommended. this type of composite decking material is both durable and slip-resistant and can be used for a wide range of ramp decking needs.
To be ADA compliant, handrails must be at least 1.5 inches in diameter, have at least 36 inches of horizontal space between them, and be 34 to 38 inches above the ramp deck and extend from the top of the ramp to the bottom.
Ready-made wood or metal stairs are easy to assemble, at least in a straight line. If the ramp goes in a different direction and the handrail has to be turned, it’s even more difficult. With a handrail kit, you can get a more professional look and save time. They sell parts that are easy to assemble and can cut down on installation time.
If the ramp is 30 inches or more off the ground, you must put horizontal planks or vertical rails between the posts. The boards or rails should be no more than 4 inches apart. Adding railings to your ramp will also make the ramp look more aesthetically pleasing.
How much does it cost to build a ramp?
If you build your own wooden wheelchair ramp, you will need to pay for tools and time. Add up the prices of the items on your list to figure out the cost of the items. If you build a wheelchair ramp out of ADA-compliant lumber using simple tools and a simple plan, it will cost $40 to $50 per foot. The price goes up when you add lights, railings, or other architectural features.
Estimating how much time you’ll need is more difficult. It depends on the size and shape of the ramp, your skill level, and how much help you can get. The larger the ramp, the longer it will take to build. It can be difficult to install a wheelchair ramp on uneven ground or in tight spaces.
If you don’t want to build the ramp yourself, you can hire a construction worker. Anyone who knows how to build a deck can build a wheelchair ramp on an outdoor deck. ADA-compliant wooden wheelchair ramps cost between $100 and $250 per square meter.