How to Make Wheelchair Ramps

Written by g.k. bayne
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Making a wheelchair ramp for the home or business is a straightforward construction process. By following procedures for ramp framing and support posts combined with hand-railing design you can create safe access for the wheelchair user. Certain elevation angles should always be kept in mind when calculating the incline angle. Ramps for powered wheelchairs should be between 6 and 9 degrees. While ramps for manual wheelchairs should never exceed a 3-degree incline slope.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Carpenters square
  • Circular saw
  • Outdoor-rated plywood 4 by 8 feet, 1/2-inch thick
  • Outdoor-rated 2 by 4s, 8 feet long
  • Power screwdriver with Phillips head
  • 1 1/4 inch Phillips head outdoor decking screws
  • 3 inch Phillips head outdoor decking screws
  • Adhesive-backed antiskid matting

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Instructions

    The Ramp

  1. 1

    Measure the height of the rise to which the ramp is going to be attached and use the appropriate inclined angle for the wheelchair. Use the calculator listed below in Resources or an appropriate substitute to determine the overall length of the ramp. The ramp will be built in 8-foot sections. These sections can then be joined using the screws and 24 inch 2 by 4's to join the sections of ramp along the outside frame.

  2. 2

    Cut two 2 by 4s 4 feet long and four 2 by 4s 93 inches long. Measure each with the tape measure and mark with a pencil. Square a line across the board with the carpenters square. These will be used for each 8-foot section of the ramp. The 4-foot pieces will go across the top of the plywood and the 93-inch pieces will go the length of the ramp between the top and bottom plates.

  3. 3

    Construct the frame using the 3-inch long screws and drive them using the power screwdriver. Two of the 93-inch long 2 by 4s will be attached to the end of the 4-footers and the remaining two will be equidistant from the outside. Each 93-inch 2 by 4 should be 16 inches on centre from each other. Use two screws for each attachment through the 4-foot 2 by 4 into the 93-inch, running lengthwise.

  4. 4

    Attach the plywood to the 2 by 4 frame using the 1 1/4 inch screws. Place these screws every 8 inches on centre through the plywood into the 2 by 4s. You should have one complete section of ramp constructed. Make as many as you need to fulfil the overall length requirement.

  5. 5

    Attach the ramps together by screwing them to each other through the top and bottom plates. Cut a 24-inch long 2 by 4 for the outside joint and attach the centre of the board, 12 inches, on the ramp section joint. Screw the joiner into place with the 3-inch screw. Use at least four screws evenly spaced for each side of the joint. Do this with the ramp upside down and the framework facing up.

  6. 6

    Flip the ramp over and set into place. Measure from the bottom side of the 24-inch board joiners to the ground and cut the appropriate length post supports. These posts should be placed at every ramp section joint and also screwed into place with the 3-inch screws..

  7. 7

    Cut a short ramp from the plywood to make a mini-ramp that runs from the ground to the base of the ramp. The height will be 4 inches and a short section of 12 to 16 inches in width should be sufficient for a minimal incline from the ground to the top of the ramp base. Attach with the 1 1/4 inch screws.

    The Handrail

  1. 1

    Construct a handrail that is comfortable for two-legged pedestrians. The common height will be between 30 inches to 36 inches from the ramp floor to the top of the rail. Another rail will be laid horizontally at a height of 18 inches to 22 inches from the ramp floor for the wheelchair user. This handrail should have uprights every 4 feet, running the length of the ramp and be screwed together. The handrail's uprights can run to the ground and be used in place of the support posts listed in Step 6.

  2. 2

    Attach the top and middle handrails to the uprights using the 3-inch screws. The horizontal handrails should be staggered from each other and the ramp sections. In other words, starting from the bottom of the ramp, if the ramp section is 8 feet long, then the first section of the middle handrail should be 4 feet long. Then the centre of the full-length handrail, 8 feet, will span the ramp joint. The same should be done for the top rail as it should be staggered from the middle rail. This will give the handrail extra strength.

  3. 3

    Attach the antiskid matting every 12 inches on centre. This matting should run the entire width of the ramp and can be 3 to 4 inches wide. The piece of antiskid mat should be 3 inches wide by 48 inches long. The antiskid mat will help on rainy days and keep the surface of the ramp safe. The matting will also aid in gripping the rubber tires for better wheelchair control.

Tips and warnings

  • Some governing bodies will construct approved ramps for the home if financial assistance is required. Check into your state's tax-funded programs for these and other Wheelchair Access Assisted Platforms and Ramps.
  • Some local regulations may supersede the angles given. In other words, the angle may be more gradual for certain areas, less than 3 degrees for manual and less than 6 degrees for powered chairs.. Check with all governing bodies for special considerations.

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