How To Build A Handicap Ramp In A Weekend

by Editor on May 29, 2013


Intro change suggestion: A properly-constructed home ramp can greatly improve the safety and mobility of a disabled person. Building a permanent ramp may seem neither practical nor cost-effective, but it is a safer, sturdier and longer-lasting option than is a portable ramp. Here’s how you can build a handicap ramp for the home, with a minimal expenditure of time, effort, and money.

DIY Ramp
When planning for a handicap ramp, it is important to keep in mind both the user’s needs and the actual ramp site. You may choose to hire a professional contractor to build the ramp, but the project can be far more cost-effective if you are able to build it yourself.

Ramps must be built in compliance with any construction ordinances and laws in your area, but as you can see from this video, it’s not an impossible task for a weekend project! All you need is a group of willing friends and a few basic handyman skills.

Things to Consider
Here are a few questions to think about before you begin the project:

  • Who will be the primary user(s) of this ramp?
  • What kind of assistive device does he or she primarily use?
  • Cane
  • Walker
  • Wheelchair (manual or electric)
  • Will his or her mobility issues or assistive device change in the near future?
  • Are there local laws or zoning requirements to follow?

Advice from the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act provides specifications for ramps in public places. Homeowners can also benefit from consulting these guidelines to ensure that the ramp being built is sturdy and safe. (View the guidelines here.)

Once you have received the necessary building permits from your subdivision and city/county, pay a visit to your local home improvement store for advice and suggestions. Local soil conditions, building supplies availability and other factors can influence the materials you’ll need when building your ramp.

Basic Tools and Materials Checklist
Before starting your project, make sure you have these basic tools on hand:

  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Tape measure
  • Framing nailer
  • Chop saw
  • Level
  • Power drill
  • Masonry bit
  • Circular saw
  • Belt sander
  • Pressure-treated lumber
  • Galvanized roofing nails
  • Joists
  • Shims
  • Concrete mix
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow


1. Determine the Best Location for the Ramp
It should be placed by the entryway that is the easiest for the user to access. Measure the width of the doorways to ensure access will be possible. Will it be at the front door or back door?

2. Prepare the Ramp Site
Remove any existing porch or stairs railings and level the ground if necessary. If you live in a wet area or have sandy, soft soil, you will need to sink the ramp’s supports using concrete.

3. Measure Twice…
Before you start assembling your ramp, measure everything. The landing should be at least 5 feet by 5 feet to ensure that a person who is in a wheelchair can completely turn around on the landing without becoming stuck.

4. Cut Once
Once you have determined the appropriate measurements and sizes that you need, cut the frame pieces from the lumber using the circular saw.

5. Assemble the Frame
Lay out the pieces to create the basic frame. You will need to cut and attach joists to the inside of the frame using the framing nailer. Attach the joists approximately 16 inches apart to provide added stability.

6. Place the Frame Flush Along the Edge of the Doorway or Existing Decking
Make sure that the frame is level both vertically as well as horizontally. Use a level for precise accuracy rather than eyeballing it!

7. Add Shims Made from Pressure Treated Wood as Necessary
The shims will help to both level out the frame and provide ventilation.

8. Attach the Frame to the Building
Using the nailer, nail the frame approximately every eight inches to help ensure that the deck is properly secured.

9. Measure the Distance from the Top of the Landing to the Concrete Base
Cut the boards to be used as ramp supports using this measurement. Fasten the supports to the side of the landing frame.

10.  Add Braces to Make the Ramp more Stable
Do this by securing wood cross braces between the ramp supports. Secure to the concrete with a drill (use the masonry bit) and fasten with concrete anchors or screws. Fasten the braces to the ramp supports.

11. Add the Deck Planks
Place a full board at the spot where the ramp’s angle changes, making sure that the boards are cross or perpendicular to the ramp. This will ensure that a wheelchair does not get stuck in the seams between the decking boards. Nail the planks down and trim any overhang with the circular saw so that the planks are even with the frame.

12. Smooth the Ramp
Use the belt sander to smooth the ramp surface and railings and remove any jagged wood pieces.

13. Protect the Wood by Coating it with Sealer
To protect the ramp from moisture and sun exposure as well as everyday usage, you may want to stain and seal the deck. There is a wide variety of stains and sealers available in various colors. It is a good idea to wait a few months before staining to ensure that the wood has dried out.

14. Add Texture to help Prevent Slips or Falls
After the stain and sealer have dried, you may also want to add texture to help prevent slipping or falling. This can be in the form of textured indoor-outdoor carpet or mats that are specially made to assist handicapped people.

Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy your handiwork!

About the Author

Chris Turberville-Tully, who writes for Newbury Mobility, looks forward to working on construction projects when his young son is older. When not spending time with his family, Chris enjoys football, cricket, rugby and F1. Follow Chris on Google+.

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