How to Build a Cheap Wooden Handicap Ramp at Home

Written by jim wildman
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How to Build a Cheap Wooden Handicap Ramp at Home
(Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Before you begin building a cheap wooden handicap ramp at your home, check into the local building code. Call your local permit department to find out what is required for installing an inexpensive ramp. As another precaution, call the local utility companies and have them stake the property for any underground utility locations. This will prevent your hitting any buried electric, gas or water line.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • Wooden stakes
  • Carpenter's string or twine
  • Line level
  • Grid paper
  • Shovel
  • Gravel
  • Posts
  • 40-pound bags of redimix concrete
  • 2-by-4 lumber
  • 2-by-6 lumber
  • 3/4-inch exterior plywood
  • Exterior deck screws, 1 1/2 inches and 3 inches
  • Power screw gun
  • 2 by 4 joist hangers
  • Construction adhesive
  • Caulk gun
  • Mitre saw
  • Exterior paint or stain
  • Nonslip surface finish
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk line
  • Circular saw

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  1. 1

    Measure the distance from the top of the sidewalk or driveway to the threshold of the door. Hammer a stake where you want the ramp to start. Pull a string tight from the door to the stake. Clip the string line level to the string near the stake. Raise or lower the string until the bubble in the level is centred between the two lines of the level. Tie the string to the stake at this point.

  2. 2

    Measure the distance from the ground to where the string is tied to the stake. The Americans With Disabilities Act requires that a residential ramp be no steeper than 1 inch of rise for 12 linear inches of run. For example, a 1-foot-high ramp must be 12 feet long.

  3. 3

    Determine where the ramp will start. If this means a ramp that is more than 30 inches in height, you will have to break the ramp into sections with a landing. The code also requires flat landings at the top and bottom of the ramp.

  4. 4

    Make the ramp width a minimum of 36 inches between the railings required on both sides of the ramp. The railings must be at least 30 inches high and no more than 38 inches above the top of the ramp.

  5. 5

    Stake out the ramp location with stakes and twine. Mark locations for the posts every 4 feet along the length of the ramp.

    Construction Part 1

  1. 1

    Dig each post hole 36 inches deep. Put two or three shovelfuls of gravel into each hole.

  2. 2

    Place the posts in the holes. Pour concrete around the first post and tamp it in place with a scrap piece of lumber. Ensure that the post is plumb and straight. Run a piece of carpet twine from the top of the post to the others. Tie it tightly in place. Pour water around the post. The concrete will absorb the water and hold the post in place.

  3. 3

    Repeat the last step for the remaining posts. Make sure the posts are touching the string and that they are level and straight before proceeding. Let the concrete dry overnight.

  4. 4

    Attach a 2-by-6 board from the landing at the top of the ramp down to the landing at the end of this section of ramp. Use construction adhesive and 3-inch screws to attach the 2-by-6 to the post. Do this for each side of the ramp. Make sure both sides are level.

  5. 5

    Attach 2-by-4 joist hangers every 24 inches along the length of the ramp. Place a double hanger every 8 feet. Use a small scrap piece of 2-by-4 lumber to set the hanger so the top of the 2-by-4 is even with the top of the angle of the 2-by-6. Secure it with 1 1/2-inch screws. A power screwdriver works best for this. Cut the 2-by-4 lumber to fit between the joist hangers. Secure them to the hangers with 1 1/2-inch screws. A mitre saw is best for this step.

    Construction Part 2

  1. 1

    Paint or stain the subframe of the ramp.

  2. 2

    Cut a sheet of plywood to fit between the posts of the ramp. Place the plywood at the bottom of the landing working your way up the ramp. The plywood will fall with the ends at double hanger locations. Secure the plywood to the framing with 1 1/2-inch screws. Repeat this for the remaining length of the ramp.

  3. 3

    Measure up from the plywood ramp 34 1/2 inches and mark the corner post of the ramp on both sides. Snap a chalk line between the two marks.

  4. 4

    Cut the post at the chalk line with a circular saw. Attach a 2-by-6 to the top of the post with 3-inch screws for a hand railing. Use at least two screws per post. Apply a nonslip surface to the top of the plywood ramp. Paint or stain the ramp.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a piece of grid paper to help lay out the ramp design to meet the building code.
  • You can rent a gasoline powered posthole digger from the local tool rental yard to make digging the holes easier.
  • Paint the bottom side of the plywood before attaching it to the ramp. Don't forget to paint the edges. This is a lot easier to do sitting on a pair of sawhorses than crawling under the ramp to paint it.
  • Use only galvanised hardware that will not rust and break over time.
  • Many exterior-grade paints and epoxy finishes will give the plywood a nonslip surface. Follow the directions on the products label for specific directions.
  • Wear safety glasses when using power tools.

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