A ramp is a must for any family with a member in a wheelchair or a regular visitor who uses a chair. Ramps also come in handy for individuals who just have trouble negotiating steps. Wood makes the best material for a wheelchair ramp. An attractive, easily assembled and relatively inexpensive medium, it blends well with most houses. The first step in building a wooden wheelchair ramp involves checking local building codes to learn of any required permits and special regulations. Next, research the Americans for Disabilities Act to ensure you conform to those rules.
Design your wooden wheelchair ramp. Measure the height of the landing area at the house and distance from start to house using a tape measure. A ramp can rise no more than 1 inch in 12 inches of run; a house landing 30 inches from the ground will require a ramp 30 feet long. If that distance is too great, plan switchbacks or L shapes and provide suitable landings or turning areas. Your ramp should measure at least 36 inches wide -- preferably 40 -- and have handrails on both sides 36 to 38 inches high. L-shaped turns should incorporate a 5-by 5-foot landing, and switchbacks should incorporate a 5-by 8-foot landing.
Buy your material. Once you know lengths and widths, calculate how much lumber you will need for framing, flooring, rail posts and tops and landings at both top and bottom. Use pressure-treated lumber or even artificial wood, which can resist rot and decay. Never use plywood. Frame your ramp with 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 boards for your flooring to rest on. Use 2-by-2 inch posts with 2-by-4 tops for your handrails. Sink 4-by-4 posts for your side boards to fasten to; set them in concrete at varying depths to accommodate your slope. Fasten 2-by-4 side boards to the posts with 3-inch galvanised screws using a screw gun. Keep in mind that you will have to cut various boards to fit with a circulating or reciprocating saw.
Install your flooring. The size of the lumber will mostly depend upon personal preference and budget -- you can use 2-by-6 lumber or even 1-by-4 or 1-by-6, but it must be sturdy enough to accommodate the anticipated weight. Attach flooring with galvanised deck screws. Secure your handrail posts and tops -- sometimes you can prefabricate sections and install them as a unit rather than attaching each post separately. Add diagonal bracing at key points for additional support.
Finish your ramp with some type of paint or protective stain and sealer. Add sand to any paint on the flooring for additional traction, or install some type of rubber, rolled roofing or other matting. Allow spots in your ramp for water to drain -- a wet or icy ramp will become slick and dangerous.
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